Plan Ahead

June 15, 2011

Plan Ahead

Almost every week, I get an email that goes something like this:

“I’ve got a (job interview / wedding / new job / funeral / black-tie event) coming up next week. My budget is ($300 / $500). Where should I go to buy my suit?”

And I am forced to say… “uhm… H&M?”

I’ve never spent more than a couple hundred dollars for a suit. I’ve got a couple J. Crew summer suits that I bought for about $200 each. I’ve got a lovely Chester Barrie that was about $80 (on eBay). Two store-branded suits from a local menswear shop that I thrifted for $35 each. A Savile Row number that I thrifted – a bit more expensive at about $60. A tweed number from Abercrombie & Fitch, circa 1950 that I bought at Goodwill – $20. A pinstripe Paul Stuart that was $25. A Polo suit I bought on eBay for $300. My black tie options – a tuxedo from the 30s and a tropical dinner jacket from the early 50s were both bought for less than $100. And that’s about it.

I have a pretty full suit wardrobe, at least for a guy who doesn’t wear suits every day. Two in solid navy, two in solid gray, two striped, two for summer and the tweed. Not one of these suits could I have gone out and bought at a store with a week’s notice and paid less than $600 for. Most of them would have cost more like $1200.

I don’t wear suits all that often. I do, however, wear suits from time to time. I generally wear a suit on stage when I do live shows. I wear a suit if I’m headed to an important business meeting. I wear a suit to weddings and funerals. That sort of thing. These are events that I know will happen. I know people will marry and that I will have shows and that I will have important meetings. So I planned ahead.

Remember the adage: fast, cheap, good: pick two.

By definition, there are no bargains at retail. If you have the money to buy at retail, and only want to buy one suit, just head into Brooks Brothers and buy something conservative in solid gray. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and get yourself something decent. If you’ve got $1500 to spend, get yourself something made by WW Chan or another traveling tailor. If you’ve got $3000 to spend, head to Savile Row or another, similar artisan. Done.

If you don’t, you will have to be patient, invest some time, and get some knowledge. And you’ll have to buy when the opportunity strikes, not when you have an event tomorrow.