Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Reader Question: Summer Business Suits, Off-the-Peg, Suspenders and More

Let's start 2016 with a BANG! By dropping some practical menswear knowledge: Christopher C asks:

Thank you for responding.  It’s quite gratifying to see someone taking an authoritative interest in the finer points of fashion for men.
Your blog is appreciated.

If you could advise on the following, I would be grateful:

1.       I live in Durban.  What, in your opinion, is the best fabric for suits, except linen, considering our hot and humid climate?
2.       Do you have a preferred supplier for ‘off the peg’ suits?
3.       I am quite partial to three piece, single breasted suits but these are quite difficult to come by ready-made.  Do you know of anywhere I may purchase these or are you able to recommend a good tailor who is able to craft a suit from scratch?
4.       Have you had any experience with the online service
5.       I am always on the lookout for attractive belts and cufflinks but most of the shops keep the same boring items.  Where do you recommend?
6.       Speaking of belts, I have recently considered moving to suspenders.  What is your opinion on this?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time.

Hi Christopher

1.       I’m glad that you consider linen to be a suitable fabric for summer suiting because I enjoy it immensely. I like wearing it casually and I think it is the best fabric for a man to counter the summer heat and humidity. So, besides linen there are many other fabric choices like cotton, hopsack, silk and tropical wools. Let’s talk about the fabrics I have experienced besides linen. I’ve had a cotton suit before and it was a practical garment, which was very soft and comfortable. I like how it felt against my skin and I rarely broke a sweat in it. What I didn’t like however is the fact that it lacked structure and shape, and this prevented me from wearing it in a business or professional environment. I also noticed how non-durable it was even though I didn’t wear and dry clean it much. At some point it started losing its lustre and because it was light grey it developed white patches after I wiped off some stains. I do fully endorse it for casual suits.

Last year I had the opportunity to purchase a wool suit and what prompted the buy was a small, negligible detail which has a lot of bearing on the overall wear and performance of the suit. I have profiled it before on the blog; it is a 130’S wool suit. The ‘S’ is very important because it indicates the quality of the wool and its fineness. Actually, I have a navy 120’S and a grey 100’S and they are all suitable and lightweight for summer. The 130’S however is the lightest and it is quite breathable as well. I wear all of these suits throughout spring and summer; the navy is a more structured fit and it’s appropriate for business wear. I also find that with all of them, they are crease-resistant and retain shape quite well.

2.       I don’t yet have a particular supplier of off-the-peg suits because I buy suits from everywhere; factory shops, retail shops, men’s stores. Whenever I find something I like, I buy, as long as it makes practical and monetary sense. The three suits I spoke about in point one are Trenery or Country Road. They were in the R2000-R2500 range and I consider them to be great value for money.

3.       When it comes to three piece suits I have never owned one. The few waistcoats I have, I purchased as separates and wear them as odd waistcoats when I pair them with a suit. The few three piece suits I have seen in stores were not to my liking and this made me shy away from such purchases. I would recommend that you have one tailored so that it fits to your body shape. Another advantage of having a three piece suit tailored is the fact that you can wear everything as separates, which allows for mixing and matching with other garments and combinations. For a three piece of your own I would recommend visiting Vic Gobrie at the Tailor Shop in Montclair, south of Durban. He runs a very professional service and has been in the men’s tailoring business since his teens. I have never had a suit made by him however his professional service is what makes me vouch for him. They really listen to instructions and carry them out with precision.

4.       Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with Instichu therefore I can’t say anything about them. I have some experience with US based Combatant Gentleman and after measuring at The Tailor Shop and submitting my order online, I received a suit which was almost the perfect fit with few alterations needed. One thing about Combat Gent is the fabrics. They use Italian fabrics which are top quality. They have really endeared themselves to me. You can however take a look at this Men's Flair review of an Institchu suit.

5.       There was a time when all I wanted to wear was cufflinks because I thought there was a certain style superiority about them, but I’m well over that now. I’ve come to understand that cufflinks are an accessory which can be used to inject some fun into an outfit as well as an extension of one’s personality. It’s been a while since I bought cufflinks because I rarely wear double cuff shirts. I am partial to silk knots though. Most men’s stores sell the same types of cufflinks and belts; therefore, I suggest you try exclusive men’s stores that aren’t replicated much. Stores such as Grays and T.M. Lewin should be able to fill that need. You can also try Belmondo in Johannesburg at Rosebank Mall; Levison’s also never disappoints.

6.       In all honesty Christopher, I hardly wear a belt. Even when I’m wearing trousers with belt loops, I make sure that the waist is tight but not restrictive, so as to obviate a belt. Going beltless helps with maintaining a clean line between the upper and lower body. Since a belt cuts the body into half, I wholeheartedly support suspenders. They are fun, versatile, functional and practical. I wouldn’t go out in public wearing a shirt and tie without a jacket, but, I would try the same combination with suspenders sans jacket. That’s just how much I rate suspenders; they add to an ensemble and they draw attention in the right way as opposed to a belt. They do require some consideration because you don’t want them to stand out in a garish way, therefore blending and coordinating them with the rest of your outfit is advisable. 

                                                      PG: Man to man, generation to generation.


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