Archives for February 2009

Reader Question: Wearing Suit Jackets Separately

Ted: In reference to your post on building a wardrobe, if the man in question mostly gets navy and grey suits, does he need to buy sport coats? He can just use the suit jackets and mix and match.

The short and simple answer, Ted, is no. He can’t.

Suit jackets rarely look right as odd (or sports) jackets. Think about the material of the suit jackets we are talking about. It is smooth, worsted wool (at least with the first five suits in the wardrobe). An odd jacket is normally made of a rougher material – flannel, tweed, linen. Or at the least, thicker material – cashmere, cotton.

An odd jacket works well with casual trousers such as chinos, flannels or jeans. This is because they are rougher materials and more casual as a result. A suit jacket looks out of place.

Not all suits are of fine, worsted wool of course. The thicker and rougher the material of the suit, the better the jacket will work separately. So a flannel suit, a tweed suit, a linen suit.

Material is the most important factor. Next most important is pattern, followed by colour. Any check on a jacket makes it look more casual; a pinstripe is intrinsically formal. As to colour, the paler the colour the more casual it is.

So a flannel jacket in dark-grey pinstripe would not work well separately, despite its rough material. And if you really want to wear a worsted wool jacket separately, best to have it in tan with a windowpane check.

I myself have a navy blue, worsted jacket that is all that is left of an old suit. It fits very well and would be a shame to throw out. Despite its smoothness of material and dark colour, it is helped by having a wide windowpane check: that makes it a touch casual. I think it works as a separate jacket, but only just. Only when worn with relatively smooth trousers – cream cotton, for example.

So the long answer to your question, Ted, is maybe – as long as you keep the relative formality of the jacket and trousers close together. The safest option by far is to keep your odd jacket a casual one, in a casual material, colour and pattern. That increases the number of combinations available.

Review: A Suit That Fits

On the fifth floor of an office block near Liverpool Street station is the measuring room of A Suit That Fits – a UK suit and shirt ordering service that has been advertising widely across London in recent months.

Actually, that’s not true. You have to take the lift to the fifth floor and then go up another set of stairs. But at the top is a small studio occupied by two very personable, young measurers and a good few books of cloth. A colleague of mine had decided to try the service and I wanted to accompany him, fascinated by the new made-to-measure or bespoke services that are being set up as men take a greater interest in suits and an even greater interest in how they fit.

The facts: A Suit That Fits takes your measurements at its London studio, advises you on fit and cloth and then has the suit made by tailors in Nepal. Each customer has his own paper pattern cut – to that extent it is bespoke. But there is no fitting. The suit comes back complete and is adjusted in the UK. The company does have a ‘perfect fit’ guarantee, however, and will change the finished garment ad infinitum.

The number of measurements take is good, with several around the leg and more than two across the jacket body. Some only measure the waist and length of trousers, and only the chest and waist in a jacket.

Prices start at ₤200. There is, however, a ₤25 measuring fee and quite a few extras that cost – the number of buttons, pockets and vents, for example. Delivery can also be guaranteed in four weeks by an additional cost of ₤75. Otherwise it takes six to eight weeks.

My friend wanted the tuxedo he was having made to be mohair, which added another ₤100. In his case, the extras cost over ₤50 on top of that. So a basic suit would effectively start around ₤275.

A Suit That Fits offers its customers a choice of three fits – regular, slim or very slim. Each gives a certain degree of “tolerance” around places such as the chest, waist and arms. While this may seem like opaque shorthand to purists out there, I sympathise.

Few men going in to be measured will know exactly what they want. And unlike Savile Row, they are less likely to trust the tailor and his house style. This system, therefore, and the recommendation that you bring in a jacket that you like the fit of, fills the communication gap between client and tailor.

The finished suits awaiting collection showed a OK level of handiwork – about the level I would expect from mid-range tailors in Vietnam, Hong Kong etc. The cloth was nothing spectacular, but then for ₤200 in London you would get a similar quality that wouldn’t fit.

So the service is best seen as a way for people in London to access the kind of service they could get from these tailors in parts of Asia. I look forward to seeing my colleague’s complete suit and assessing its fit.

5 Questions to Valentino Ricci

I’m sure many of you recognize this gentleman from the Sartorialist. Valentino Ricci, an attorney by profession is also the owner of sartoria Sciamat but most of all he is a gentleman with an impeccable style and when I saw his pictures I just had to get in touch with him. So I did and asked if he would like to answer some questions for me. As you can see below, Mr Ricci was very kind and accepted my inquiry.

How old were you when you first found out about your passion for clothes?

I had bought in a shop of fabrics a cut of chalked brown flannel and for the first time I crossed the threshold of a tailoring for man where I commissioned a custom suit for me: I was sixteen years old.

How would you describe your style?

Original contemporary classic style.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find the best inspiration on those old people sitting on benches in gardens and/or walking aroud the South Italy villages.

Name one well-dressed person that has influenced your life and taste (if there is one) ?

l’Avvocato Agnelli.

What do you think about fashion in general?

I think it has taken a wrong direction and you are following a wrong business: the business of that who finances fashion itself instead of final consumer’s one. If the latter were considered much more, things would improve.

Valentino’s website:

Discussion between Mr. Hackett and Mr. Ricci
Interview (in Italian)

Images by source:

This is guest post by Cristoffer N. from Sweden who currently blogs at about well dressed gentlemen all over the world.

Black Tie: What Does Correct Mean?

During comments on a recent posting, discussion of the use of the word ‘correct’ came up in reference to black tie. Unfortunately, that word has almost no firm meaning today in reference to menswear. Even with regards to black tie, which as an area where the dress code is specifically stated, you would assume would hold onto ideas of correctness. Have you followed the dress code or haven’t you?

Black tie can mean many things. Or rather, it means a range of things, some of them far more formal than others.

Correctness was a question of propriety. It depended on dress being so unsuitable for certain situations that it would be punished. If you are a Member of Parliament and turn up to the House of Commons in flip-flops and swimming trunks, you will be punished. But gone are the days when the Duke of Wellington can be refused entrance to a club because he was wearing trousers, not breeches. Even a traditional men’s club in London, which requires a neck tie for entry, will provide you with one rather than punish you in any way.

There is very little propriety and so very little that is not ‘correct’. It’s an easy word to use, as I have done myself on occasion, when what you mean is nothing so definite. Like saying rule when you mean tradition or guideline.

So, black tie. A white waistcoat is the most formal thing to wear underneath your jacket. Next down the list is a black waistcoat. Last is a cummerbund. If you’re not going to wear anything under your jacket, it makes sense to wear a soft-fronted, pleated shirt. A stiff-fronted shirt will leave space underneath it specifically to be covered by one of these items.

These are grades of correctness. But then, most men today would take their jacket off at some point anyway, which is beyond the pale for anyone that established these grades. What’s the point in anything on the front of your shirt if you take your jacket off?

A black single-breasted jacket is the most formal. Next down the order is a shawl-collar jacket. Next a double-breasted jacket (odd that it should be less formal, but then tails or a frock coat – obviously more formal – are open as well). Next a velvet jacket, not matching the trousers. And last is a smoking jacket.

These are more grades of correctness. To the men when these grades were established, some would only be worn for entertaining at home, some just for dining alone at home. But then, most men today would wear any single-breasted jacket with notch lapels. Which is absolutely beyond the pale. No black-tie jacket should have a notch collar.

So what’s the point in arguing over the propriety of a velvet jacket when no one’s got the collar correct?

Oops, did I say correct?

Reader Question: Edward Tam, Tailor

PK: I have been following your blog for some time and this is my first message. I am spending some days in Hong Kong on my way to Australia and would like to have a couple of suits made and some shirts. I am toying with the idea of trying Edward Tam whom you recommended. May I ask a couple of questions:
• have you tried him since you had the suit made?
• have you heard of any other success/disaster stories about him?
• how many fittings did you have?
• how much did you pay for it?

It seems strange to me that I have only referred to Edward Tam once or twice, as I have been using him exclusively as my tailor for over two years now. In that time he has made for me:
• A double-breasted flannel suit with spare pair of trousers
• A collared waistcoat in the same material to be worn without jacket (The Logical Waistcoat Theory in practice)
• A three-piece worsted suit with a double-breasted waistcoat
A cashmere blazer (the Norfolk Blazer)
• A pair of cotton trousers
• Five shirts, in two instalments

I have been very impressed with the fit of all these clothes, particularly the jackets. The most impressive thing has always been the shoulders, which not only look good as they follow the line of my (sloping) shoulders but also fit much more comfortably through their fit. The second most impressive thing is the trousers, which are heavily darted to deal with my rather large bottom and small waist. No ready-to-wear trousers have fit so well for this reason.

I deliberately don’t have belt loops on any of the suit trousers. But I regret the fact that I did not have a strap-and-buckle style of side fasteners on them. I have lost weight since the first suit and they are now too big (though the heavy darting helps to keep them in place). Edward has offered to add side fasteners the next time I am in Hong Kong, though, at no cost.

The quality of the wool has always impressed me, though it is one of Edward’s cheaper ranges. He also has Ermenegildo Zegna and Loro Piana, which are around twice the price for a suit.

The only thing that lets down the quality is some of the buttons – a few have come off the shirts and one off a pair of trousers. As long as nothing else goes wrong, sewing these back on is a small price to pay I think.

The price of my suits has been around 3000 to 3500 Hong Kong dollars. The price of shirts is around 350 HK dollars. Cotton trousers and waistcoats were around 600.

I had one measurement session (the first time I visited), then a fitting with the part-made suit, then a final fitting of the complete suit – where I requested one or two small changes. So the first time you go expect four visits, and at least five working days.

Four friends that I know of have visited Edward and I have heard no criticisms (the only one is probably that he speaks very fast and it’s hard to get a word in edgeways!). I plan to use him again in March.

[PK also requested some images of the suits. I will endeavour to do this in the near future. My old Norfolk Jacket post also has some images.]