Fashion is something you buy, style is something you have.
Clothing is an art, not a science.
Updated August 2017
Tips, Tidbits, and All-Round Good Advice for Dressing Better:
Rule #1: it is generally better to be over dressed for an occasion than under dressed.
Rule #2: be creative and try something new: who knows, you might like it. There is more to life than jeans or khakis and a blue oxford shirt.
Many years ago there was a very popular and comprehensive book out called “Dress for Success” and for many people, it was the bible for dressing well. I cannot begin to cover all the details of that book in a couple of pages, and as so much has changed since it was written, I suspect much of what was in that book would no longer be applicable.
I will try to give some of my basic guidelines for dressing well in the pages below. Please remember that this is not a one style fits all kind of business. It is important to take things into consideration such as skin tones and color (see below), body type, even personality when selecting your attire. Whether pleats are in or out, or the modern fit is the hottest thing, remember that each of us is unique and it is not necessary to have to wear the "latest" or "hottest" styles. What is needed is to find that style, fit, color assortment, etc. that is appropriate for YOU.
Fabrics: This is a difficult topic as there are so many variables and it is hard to have definitive rules. We do recommend a fine all wool, or a wool and silk blend for sportcoats. Suits are almost always 100% wool and there can be huge differences in the quality of wool so just because it is 100% wool is not necessarily a plus. The mill the fabric derives from is very important and tells a lot. We like fabrics from a number of mills including Zegna, Reda, Barberis, EH thomas, Lora Piana, and others and these are fabrics that are used by Jack Victor and HSM. We have normally disliked poly-wool blends, but that has changed somewhat with some new fabrics such as the Traveler pant from Jack Victor. So like with a lot of thing in life, it depends on the details.
Suits & Coats:
Purchasing a suit or coat is a big investment and the three most important things to consider are the fit/style, fabric, and tailoring. When possible we advise the 100% wool tropical fabrics for the best all round use in most climates. Some blends are excellent alternatives but the nicest suits are almost always 100% tropical wool. The fit of the suit is critical and each company has their own ideas about how a suit should fit. This can vary depending on whether you choose a two-button, three-button, double-breasted, traditional cut, modern fit, slim fit,etc.
One question we get asked a lot is how long should the coat be or what size am I: Short, Regular, Long, or Extra Long? Your decision has to be based on the cut of the jacket and your own body proportions. If you're selecting a suit, you have to take into consideration the fit of the trousers as well. As a tailoring rule, the most flattering jacket length for each individual is that length that gives the wearer the longest leg line and still covers his rear end. We recommend finding a balance between the upper and lower torso so you don't look disproportionately long in the legs or appear that you are all upper torso and no legs.
When shopping for suits, you will find three options:
1. "nested" suits:
this is when the coat and pant come as a set and have to be sold that way. HSM offers nested suits for their "Off the rack" suit program. Most of the OTR Jack Victor suits are also nested with flat front pants.
2. suit separates:
this allows you to purchase any combination of sizes in the coats and pants that you need. S Cohen from Canada are one of the best and offer a great range of options. JV offers a suit separates program in 10 fabrics available with flat front pants. For a more basic and moderate price suit, we carry an American made line that has a really great collection of suit separates with both FF pants and pleated pants.
3. custom or "made to measure" suits:
this allows you the most flexibility in terms of fit, styles, fabric, etc. In many cases, we can make a customer a beautiful custom suit for less than an "off the rack" suit from Brooks Brothers or the big designer labels. With this option, you not only can get a better fit, but your fabric options are very extensive, and you can choose the design of the coat and pant the way you want it. If you want a double breasted coat with flat front pants: NO PROBLEM. "Made to Measure" and "Custom Made" are terms often used to mean the same thing, and for the most part that is correct. It really depends on the manufacturer and how they define the terms.
Fit & Style:
Currently the 2 main styles being offered by most companies are:
2 button-center vent for a more traditional look
2 button-side vents for a more contemporary look
For the past couple of years, there has been a strong trend towards clothing being more fitted with a cleaner and leaner look. Gitman Brothers, for example, have changed the fit of their shirts and they are now about 2" smaller in the chest and waist. Even the old standard, Hart Schaffner Marx, is offering more fitted suits and coats. I think, as with most things, that it depends on your build. If you are a fuller figure, so to speak, some of these new cuts may not be the best choice. However for a lot of men the new look is very flattering. Essentially most of the more forward fashion lines such as Jack Victor offer many different shapes and cuts. It can be a bit intimidating which is why it is important to work with someone versed in these various cuts. Just because you like the fit of a Jack Victor suit from 5 years ago, does not mean that what you purchase now will fit the same. Please call us and we can guide you into finding out what "fit and style" you like.
Lets break the suit options down into the four major fit options with examples:
Classic Traditional (the fullest cut): The Chicago cut from HSM and the older L body from Jack Victor-this model is often sold with pleated pants.
Modern Traditional: the G body from Victor, and the New York Body from HSM-usually sold with flat front pants but not always. Our most popular fit these days.
Modern Trim: the N or C body from Jack Victor eaturing trim flat front pants only. Jack Victor offers a great suit separates program in 10 fabrics with this fit.
Slim Fit: This is a style that is popular with younger men who are very trim and want their clothing to be very fitted. We sell this occasionally but it represents maybe 5% of our business.
We advise wearing a spread or collar when wearing a suit: A button down collar is more casual and is fine with a sport coat or blazer, but generally is not our first choice when wearing a suit.The point collar used to be very popular but has gone out of style in favor of the spread collar.
We recommend 100% cotton shirts because they last longer and are more comfortable than blended fabrics. Gitman Brothers offers the finest pinpoint on the market in their TTX fabric, but it is NOT wrinkle resistant. While white is always the number one color, consider blues or other colors such as yellow or pale pink. Avoid heavy starch when cleaning your shirts as it generally cuts the life of a shirt in half and makes the fabric stiff. In fact, the only shirts that should be starched are the heavy oxfords (2X1 fabrics), and not the finer pinpoints or broadcloth fabrics.
For dress trousers we advise going with 100% wool for a better feel and drape. For the ultimate in comfort we think that any dress pant by Jack Victor or Ballin is as good as you can purchase in the USA. For a dress casual look, try the new 1946 stretch cotton from Ballin. It is the best cotton pant we have ever carried and is a favorite of any man who wears them. We also offer Bill's khakis for a more traditional customer, and while they offer lots of different fabrics, our favorite is the Chamois Cloth.
What size do I wear?
Most of us buy our trousers based on the waist size and of course that is very critical. However what is more important is how a trouser fits the seat and legs. Except for jean construction, the waist is the easiest thing to alter for a better fit. A lot of men lose their butts as they get older and then the pants get really baggy back there and it looks sloppy. We often suggest buying either a shorter rise or a smaller size, and if need be, let the waist out. Or if you have a larger than average butt and/or bigger legs, buy a bigger size pant to accommodate that, and then take the waist in. Lots of ways to slice and dice it for a better fit. Please call if you need more advice.
Transitioning from pleats to flat front:
Over the past five years, we have had many customers who have transitioned from pleated trousers to flat front. We still sell a lot of pleated pants in all wool, but think that most men are better off buying their cotton/casual pants in flat front. Our suggestion, and it works for many men, is to go up one size when transitioning. For example, if you buy your dress pants pleated in size 36, then go to a 38 FF. The waist may need a little taking in, but the seat and legs should be a good fit. When in doubt, just try one pair to start with and remember that many companies are now offering flat front pants in both a regular and a modern fit.
Trouser Rise: A lot of men are confused about the rise on a pant and what is the correct one to purchase as there are three rises available; short, regular, and long plus the new "modern fit" (see below). So how do you tell which you need and how do you measure the rise of a pant? We recommend taking your favorite best fitting pant and measure the out-seam and then the inseam and the difference is your rise. To measure the out-seam, lay the pant on a table or bed with a side pocket facing up so that you can measure the full length of the pant. Use a hard ruler or tape measure and measure from the top of the waist band to the very bottom of the pant. Measure the inseam from the inside of the leg to the bottom. Let's say that you measure an out-seam of 42" and an inseam of 30". Then the rise is the difference which is 12". This will help you determine what rise you need based on manufacturers specs. All specs are based on a 34"pant, so you will have to adjust from there as the rise is graduated up or down from that size.
Short rise versus modern fit: We are often asked what the difference is between a short rise and a modern fit. A traditional short rise pant is essentially a regular rise pant but with about 1" less in the rise or crotch. The rest of the measurements such as thigh, seat, and knee are about the same. A modern fit trouser is not only shorter in the rise, but it also is trimmer in the areas mentioned above. If you have really large thighs or a large seat, a modern fit may not be the best fit.
Pleated & Flat Front: We sell about one third of our pants with pleats. However flat fronts, in both a regular fit and a modern trimmer fit have been the best sellers for the past few years. If you are in good shape and have a slender build, a flat front pant should be a fine style. Also if you wear your pants below your natural waist, it might be worth considering flat fronts. Some men may have to go up one size when buying flat fronts as the rise will be shorter. We are selling modern fit very well and are worth a try if you like a trim clean look.
We have some customers who really like their dress pants to be pleated and that is fine. However I strongly encourage my customers to purchase their cotton pants in a flat front model if at all possible. Cotton is not as supple as wool, and can often get very "bunchy" in the front. This is especially true of the heavier cotton pants from Berle and Bill's Khakis.
Most always, flat/plain front pants will be tighter and have a shorter rise than the same pant in the pleated model. Typically the rise is usually about 1" shorter in the flat front version.
Many of our Berle pants now come with a "self sizer" waistband which allows the waistband to stretch up to 2". Ballin approaches it differently with their "comfort-eze" waistband which is a built in stretch for 1" of additional give.
All of our dress pants come with an unfinished bottom for more precise alterations. Only cheap dress pants come pre-finished.
The very bottom of the tie should at least touch the top of the belt or waistband. The knot should be pulled fairly tight and tied with a four-in-hand knot for a button-down, straight collar or modified spread ( our best seller by far). For wide spread collars a 1/2 Windsor or full Windsor knot might be an alternative. Our first choice for most men is the classic four in hand knot. Click HERE to see how to tie one.
All of our ties are 100% silk which is the fabric of choice for ties. However there are many different levels of silk quality so not all 100% silk ties are the same. Yellows and golds are a wonderful alternative to the traditional red or wine colors. Woven neckwear is a great alternative to prints and is much more elegant and dressy. About 95% of what we sell are woven fabrics. Neckwear is a great place to express some individuality in your wardrobe. There is a trend to more narrow ties but we would advise not going smaller than 3.25". It does depend to some degree on your body type. If you are a 34 waist or smaller or you wear up to a size 40 coat, a 3" tie would be fine. However if you are a bigger guy, the thinner ties look our of balance with your body. Also the width of the tie should be close to the width of the coat lapel at the widest part. Try to keep the measurements at 1/2" difference or less between the two factors.
Please do not take the tie off by pulling the fabric through the knot. Instead, take the tie off over your head and then UNTIE the knot. Blot up spots when you spill something on the tie: Do not rub. Dry-clean as a last resort because ties usually do not look great after being dry cleaned.
While black is always correct, browns have been strong for many years and we highly recommend them for almost any occasion. They generally look more interesting because of the shadings in the leathers. There is nothing sharper than a charcoal gray or navy suit with a dark brown shoe. The lighter shades work great for dressy sportswear and for casual evenings out. The belt color should closely match the shoe color. While we do not sell shoes anymore, we recommend Allen Edmonds and Johnson Murphy as two really good dress shoe lines.
Socks: One of the most popular questions we get asked is "should the sock match the shoe or trouser?" We recommend matching the pant if you are wearing a suit or something that is business oriented. For sportswear or a more casual look, it is fine to wear a sock that does not match the pant but works with it. For example if you are wearing a dark olive casual pant, you might consider a sock in a light tan, or something with some color or pattern.
Pocket Squares: Nothing is quite as classy as a nice white linen pocket square with a navy blazer or suit. Our preference is for 100% linen as it is much better looking than those flimsy silk squares. Please never ever wear a pocket square that matches your tie in the same pattern.
Bowties: Not my cup of tea, but on the right man they are a great look. Just do not wear a pre-tied one unless it is to go with a tuxedo.
Sport shirts: We have carried some really nice lines over the years, but since 2015 we have flipped over the Stone Rose line of shirts. Great fabrics, detailing, and fit, make this a killer line and one that most men really like. They offer seven sizes for a more precise fit. Try one sometime, you might like it.
Leather Coats and Jackets: We carry only one leather line, but since it is the absolute best that we know of, why carry anything else? Remy Leather is without a doubt the most amazing leather you will ever wear. They are lovingly made in California by a small dedicated group of workers, and the business is now third generation family owned. We are able to take any style Remy jacket and make it with any of the skins and colors they offer. Plus we can make adjustments to the fit of the jacket.
What are your best colors? Men do not think much about what colors are flattering to them near as often as women do. Women get their colors "done" and are usually told they are one of the four seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter. That is too much for most men but I have a simple guideline which can help. Basically we divide men into two groups: warm tones and cool tones. I, for one, am definitely a cool tone person, while my brother Keith is a warm tone person. So how do you tell? by using my little dress shirt trick. Basically most dress shirts are either white, blue, or ecru (also known as cream or bone). All men can wear blue shirts and they flatter most men, so we remove it from the equation. Now ask yourself, do you look better in white shirts or ecru? If white is it, then you are a cool tone person and should wear blue, black, greys, purples, red, and teal. If you look best in ecru, then you are a warm tones person, and should wear camel, olive, brown, gold, greens, and rust. Of course there are other colors for both groups, but this is just a guideline and really only applies to the colors worn around your face. The trouser colors are not relevant to this discussion.
Dry-clean all fine fabrics but only when necessary. Dry-cleaning is particularly hard on the coats due to the interlinings, padding, fusible, and other internal parts of the coat. Please find the BEST dry cleaners possible when cleaning your coats and dry clean only when actually needed.
Ramblings, Musings and things your mother might have told you:
Do NOT believe all you read in GQ or Esquire or even your local newspapers about the "latest fashions" for men. Some of the silliest looking clothes are what they show as the next big thing in menswear. Most likely, you are not a New York model who is 6'4" tall and weighs 160 lb. Just because it is "in style", does not mean it is right for you. This is not a one size fits all business, and just as each of us are unique and different, so should be the clothes we wear. A good clothing consultant will help you find the items, styles, and colors that work best for you. I do not wear a bow tie or braces/suspenders, but on the right man they look great.
If you are going to advertise get paid for it. Avoid wearing designer brands across your back or chest, and unless you are on a golf course, avoid that little alligator or whale on your shirt unless you like the ultra preppy look and are under 30 in age.
Just because it is expensive does not necessarily make it better. On the other hand, just because it is inexpensive does not make it a good value. As with most things there is an optimal price/quality relationship. The trick is to find out where that is for you and your needs. We have seen suits advertised at a retail of $850, but on sale for $400. Unless it is a true quality product from a reputable store, it is probably just a $400 suit at best. Indochina's website is guilty of this as is Jos. Banks and other discounters.
I am constantly asked “will xyz still be in style next year?” Don't worry too much about it. If it looks good on you now it will look good on you next year providing your weight does not change. Men's clothing is not a “here today gone tomorrow” kind of thing. More than likely it will wear out or you will get tired of it before it really goes out of style. The Hub does not carry trendy or novelty looks, but carries clothes that will look classy for many years to come. If you want novelty, let it be a necktie or sport shirt, which are not big investments.
Be willing to try something new. There is more to life than a navy blazer, white button down shirts, and khaki pants.
Dress appropriately for the occasion. you would not wear a suit to a picnic, so why wear sloppy clothes such as tank tops or baggy cargo pants to a nice restaurant or concert?
Remove caps and hats when in a nice restaurant or other dressier places.
Turn off beepers and cell phones when in public places or put them on vibrate.
Untie your necktie before taking it off. do not pull the tie through the knot. your tie will thank you.
Do not wear the same shoes two days in a row: give them some time to "relax". use cedar shoe trees if your feet perspire a lot.
Do not wear pants frayed at the bottom unless you are mowing your yard.
Do not carry a big fat wallet in your back pocket: it wears the pants out, is bad for your back, and looks terrible. Try carrying a money clip with essentials such as money and credit cards, and then keep the wallet in your desk or glovebox.
Buy quality rather than quantity.
If you have not worn something in two-three years, consider giving it to charity or your son.
Consider investing in a good quality floor standing steamer by Rowenta. It can work wonders on wrinkles on almost any garment. Just be careful about the chest portion of a coat as too much moisture could cause the front to bubble or pucker.
If you are over 40, do not dress like you are 18. Grown men look silly trying to dress like teenagers.
Unless you are camping or fishing, avoid cargo style pants. They are unflattering and quite silly looking.
When in doubt, it is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed for an occasion unless you are going to the beach.
Thanks for reading.
Kent Tager head clothing guru and general know-it-all.