Zenith: I need to expand my wardrobe for a new job in London. I own a light charcoal, faintly blue-pinstriped French Connection suit, and a solid beige Ted Baker suit, but need:
– A traditional navy-blue single-breasted suit
– A trusted location to take my existing suits, to be examined and adjusted
– A pair of brown shoes to accompany my beige suit
– An entire selection of shirts/ties/cufflinks to match my current suits and the third I intend to buy
Is Jermyn Street way above my station? Are the likes of TM Lewin or Hawes & Curtis ‘high street’ by tailoring standards? I am not sure whether £25 buys me a half-decent shirt, or £200-£300 a half-decent suit? Whether I should be getting traditional leather as opposed to suede for the brown shoes if to be worn for business? I’d be perfectly happy spending from £1000-£1500 to outfit myself with a new suit, have the existing ones altered if needed, six shirts, some cufflinks, perhaps a new belt and the new shoes as well. Am I being naive in thinking I can get all that, at good quality, for that sort of money?
This was a remarkably detailed question from Zenith. The entire thing can be seen as a comment here. The advice, hopefully, should be quite succinct, especially as several previous blogs deal with related areas (see the various links throughout this piece).
Broadly Zenith, I don’t think you are being too ambitious in expecting half-decent quality with that amount of money to spend. Let’s start with the suit. Your choice of a navy blue for your third suit is wise – that way you will have the two staples (grey and blue) and one more unusual, summery colour.
I would recommend two places to go: Suit Supply and A Suit That Fits. Prices start at £399 at the former and around £280 at the latter. Both offer a made-to-measure service where a suit is factory-made but to your measurements. It will therefore always fit better than off-the-peg and not need adjustment afterwards (though this is often free if you did want it).
As I have mentioned previously in reviews of these services, the quality of the material and workmanship is not as good as a top-end suit from the high street. But it is as good as you will get in a £250 suit, plus it will fit perfectly. And fit is more important than anything else. (Reviews here)
As to alterations, I use Atelier Colpani on Avery Row – just off Bond Street in London. Adjustments to the waist of a suit will be around £30, to trouser length around £15. But personal experience is key and there quite a few good tailors of this sort in London. Perhaps ask around your office when you start work for someone nearby?
On shoes, it looks like you are looking to spend £200-£300. For that there’s quite a lot available and you should be able to take a step up from Barker’s, good as they are. I would recommend Cheaney, which is a step down from Church’s but owned by the same brand (slightly fewer hand-worked stages). Alfred Sargent is also good, though they make little of their own product these days and have been in financial trouble.
Either way, a great source for this stuff is John Rushton shoes, just off Oxford Street. There’s a fairly consistent supply of good benchmade shoes there. I wrote about it here. The Paul Smith sale shop is also worth a look, as those shoes come into your price range on sale – try and get the high-end range as well (post here).
And yes, you should definitely get brown leather, not suede. Brown suede shoes are great and very versatile, but brown leather is even more so and if you have one pair, they should be leather. Will go wonderfully with your beige suit and a white shirt.
On to shirts. It is odd that you should mention TM Lewin and Hawes & Curtis as high-street shops, yet ask whether Jermyn Street is beyond you. Both retailers are old Jermyn Street firms that began to expand rapidly a few years ago, around London and around the country. I don’t think the marketing directors of either would be pleased to learn from you that they have both lost their West-End aura in the process.
A TM Lewin shirt is now definitely not worth the £79 it is theoretically priced at. But for the lowest price in the sale (and there are always sales, always) it is good value. Get four for £100 or whatever the offer is and you’ll get value for money. However, the key to shirts is fit – it is worth the time traipsing around each of these Jermyn Street names in turn, trying on their regular, semi-fitted and fitted ranges and deciding which one is for you. Good made-to-measure shirts are a little too expensive (around £80 minimum) to make them worth the money when you are starting out.
With belts and cufflinks, these Jermyn Street stores are also pretty good value at the low end. Get a handful of silk knots to start with (dark colours, similar to your suit or your favourite ties) and one pair of silver if you can afford it.
I hope this was helpful – any further questions feel free to ask.