Creating a Business Wardrobe – Styleforum Guide

So, you’re starting a new job and don’t want to go to work naked–or worse yet, dressed unprofessionally. This discussion will be aimed at getting you into something professional, attractive and appropriate: in other words, a complete business wardrobe.

This is not a piece on how to be “the best-dressed guy in the office.” Rather, this will help you “look nice” for work every day, whatever that means in the context of your office environment. If you’re at the very beginning of your journey, you might want to check out our guide to buying your first suit, and the perfect business attire before diving into this guide.

There are basically two kinds of professional dress codes. Either your work environment dictates, or at least allows, you to wear a suit and tie some/most of the time, or it doesn’t. I’ll use “business casual” to describe all of the environments in this latter category, which range from jeans to polos and khakis to blazers and button-downs.

This encompasses a wide range of modes of dress. As the decline of the suit (relative to 50 years ago) is the main source of male confusion over what to wear, it would be impossible to clarify everything in a single post. But if you find yourself lost, look around you for direction, notice what your coworkers wear for a couple of weeks before buying a whole new wardrobe.

The two best ways to look nicer without looking too “dressed up” are to have clothes that fit you well, and to upgrade your footwear. A common mistake is to buy clothes that are too big. The shoulder seam of your shirts – be they polos or dress shirts, should approximately line up with your own shoulders. Your pants should have little to no “break” around the ankles, and should sit above your hips, within an inch or two of your belly button. Pant length is easily altered, but you may have to try a couple of different makers before finding a trouser that fits you correctly in the seat and thighs.

 

 

In an office of polos, you can wear a well-fitting oxford cloth button down and look better without being overdressed. With the advent of online tailors, getting dress shirts that fit is cheaper than ever before, although it may take a couple of iterations with your tailor before the fit is just right. Starting at less than $100, you can have shirts made for you so that they won’t be billowy around the arms and midsection. Luxire and Spier & MacKay are places to start with good reputations. If you do buy ready-made shirts, any tailor can take in the shirt and put darts in for around $15-20.

For some reason, quality of footwear is virtually uncorrelated with the formality of clothing in modern male dress. Walking around the streets of today’s cities, you’ll see men in suits wearing rubber-soled slip-ons, as well as men in jeans wearing nicely polished leather-soled oxford dress shoes. As a result, you can wear nicer shoes with almost any outfit and not be overdressed. Wearing quality, well-cared-for shoes with your business casual outfit will significantly improve your appearance without seeming pretentious or out of place. As an added bonus, women notice shoes.

About the only shoe most men should have that might look “too dressy” is the black oxford cap-toe, although even this can still be worn with business casual. Since you’ll need this kind of shoe for more formal occasions like weddings, funerals, and job interviews anyway, it’s a good one to have. Just don’t wear it with your more casual clothes. After that, you can add some wingtips, brogues, and/or loafers.

[For more information about what shoes to get and how to care for them, check out Mitch’s article on versatile shoes]

If you’re wearing a business suit and tie to work every day, then you have a more closely prescribed form of dress. Let’s start off with:

The Suit

Hopefully, you’ve got one or two navy and/or charcoal suits from prior to your interview process. If you’ve only got one, first thing to do is buy another. You don’t want to be wearing the same suit every day. Suits benefit from a day of rest after wear, and you may have to send one to the cleaners at some point. Although while we’re on that subject, unless you spill something, you shouldn’t need to dry clean suits often at all. Once a season (every few months) is plenty.

Eventually, you’ll want to get to at least 5 suits if you’re wearing one every day of the work week. Once you have 3 or 4 solid suits, maybe a medium gray, a navy, and a charcoal, you can branch out into a pinstripe or a subtle glen plaid for a slightly more casual look.

The reasons to start off with solids are that they go with every shirt and tie you have, so you don’t have to be limited to one particular suit once you get to laundry day, and they are less memorable to the people you see every day. If you have a pinstripe suit and a windowpane suit people will realize pretty quickly that you own exactly two suits. You could own two solid navy suits and no one will ever think twice about it. In fact, some of the best-dressed men in modern history have worn nothing but navy suits.

Finally, although they are common in American businesswear, the consensus on SF–and indeed among most menswear writers and stylish gentlemen throughout history–is to avoid black suits except for funerals. Black in the daylight flatters very few complexions. Instead, it should be left to evening wear.

Here are some styling pitfalls to avoid for a business suit: you don’t want anything that looks flashy or too distinctive. Practice moderation in the width of the lapels, which should approximately half-way to your shoulder. Leave the “shrunken,” too-tight look to the runways of fashion shows. Stick to notch lapels until you are more confident in your understanding of professional standards.

A solid beginning for a suit wardrobe

A solid beginning for a suit wardrobe

Dress Shirts

Start off by finding yourself a shirtmaker. These days, you can get a custom-made dress shirt for less than $100, which will fit you better and therefore look better than most of the $300 dress shirts you could find at your local upscale department store.

Start off with three white shirts, three light blue shirts, in varying weaves if you like, then a couple more in a conservative pattern, perhaps a stripe and a microcheck. This will give you enough shirts that you can make it through the week before needing to get any shirts laundered. If you decide you like light blue shirts more than white, get only one or two white shirts. A light blue shirt will be formal enough for most occasions, so you needn’t worrying about being underdressed in such a shirt. Most people do, however, suggest that white shirts are particularly attractive in the evening, and are the most appropriate for funerals. Check out some quality shirts here for inspiration.

As you’ll be wearing these shirts with a tie, the shape and dimensions of the collar are especially important. Although you’ll see many men walking around with “point collar” dress shirts where the points finish before the jacket lapel begins, this is frowned upon by most stylish suit-and-tie wearers. Instead, the points of the shirt collar should reach under and be hidden by the jacket lapels. If you’re American, you can wear button-down collar shirts (whose points will not be hidden underneath the jacket) with your suits. In other parts of the world, button-down collars are considered too sporty to be worn with suits.

white shirt business outfit

A good start.

Ties

Here is the most extravagant element of the suit and tie outfit. While the suit and shirt are sober wool and cotton there to cover your body, the tie is a nicely colored piece of luxurious silk that is purely decorative. The virtue of these boring suits and shirts is that they will look attractive with any tie that is attractive on its own. As such, the tie is the main thing you change from day to day to break up the monotony of navy suits and white shirts.

That said, if you’re going for a business look, you still don’t want your tie to be “loud”. No fuchsia, no lime green, no exploding fireworks, nothing bedazzled. For solid colors, texture is key, so grenadine ties or highly textured weaves work well. For some inspiration check out this soporific tie collection. Most tie-wearing men will have at least one or two ties with navy as their basic color. A starting wardrobe of 12 ties might contain:

  • Two navy solids (a grenadine, for instance)
  • Two other solids (perhaps a forest green or a burgundy)
  • One glen plaid or shepherd’s check in black and white or navy and white
  • One houndstooth
  • Two pindot ties
  • Two “neats” – small, evenly spaced designs
  • Two repp stripe
A navy grenadine tie by Vanda Fine Clothing

A navy grenadine tie by Vanda Fine Clothing

This is just a suggestion. Buy ties you like. All ties should be between 2.75” and 3.75” in width. Which side of this spectrum you tend towards should depend on your own width. Choosing colors that reflect the colors of your eyes and hair is likely to be beneficial. Lighter color ties (pale yellows for instance) are more difficult to wear effectively.

If you want to fill your tie wardrobe quickly and cheaply, and you have the patience to go through the Buying & Selling section of SF, you’ll frequently find good ties in the $50 range. Once you get to the $75-100 range you can look into places like SF affiliates Vecchio Anseatico, Kent Wang, and Vanda Fine Clothing.

Footwear

Without question, this is the most neglected area of the typical American man’s wardrobe. And without quality footwear, an otherwise impeccable suit-and-tie combination immediately looks slovenly. A proper dress shoe has a leather sole and is classically shaped so that it is neither square-toed nor extremely pointy-toed. If you have the money for it (again, check eBay or the Buy&Sell forum) the “upper” (the non-sole part of the shoe) should be made of full-grain, not corrected-grain (sanded down and filled in to have a specific texture for the grain), leather. New full-grain looks better than new corrected-grain, but more importantly, over time properly maintained full-grain will develop a patina and look better and better, while corrected-grain will look worse and worse.

 

Outside of Britain, brown shoes are fully appropriate for business-suit-and-tie, although within Britain, only black is complet, ly correct. Black is also completely correct everywhere else.

A good place to start is with one black and one brown pair. If you only needed shoes for work, two brown pairs would be fine, but having at least one pair of black shoes means you are prepared for more formal situations such as job interviews, weddings, and funerals. This black shoe should probably be an oxford cap-toe. For the other, you could get wingtips, derbys, longwings, as you see fit. Adding a medallion or other broguing decreases the formality of the shoe, and therefore probably shouldn’t be one of your only two business shoes.

There’s a reason you should start with two pairs. Dress shoes need to rest in between wearings in order to have a long, happy, life. Proper care for dress shoes entails:

  • 24 hours rest between taking off and putting back on
  • Use of shoe trees when not being worn (especially for the first 24 hours after wearing, as the shoes dry out)
  • Periodic conditioning and polishing

[For further details on conditioning and polishing, see the official shoe care thread]

The entry-level shoe brand to what most SF members would consider a real quality dress shoe would be Allen Edmonds. You can find AE “seconds” (shoes with very slight defects) for as little as $200. “Firsts” go for around $300. Below AE would be brands like Johnson and Murphy, Cole Haan, and Florsheim. Most of these shoes will have corrected-grain leather, and will not be Goodyear-welted. However, there are at least some models that are classically styled. Kenneth Cole and Aldo are among the most abhorred brands on SF, as their construction is shoddy and their styling hideous.

Check out these popular shoe threads:

The Official Shoe Care Thread

Vintage Shoe Thread

2018 Revival Shoe Challenge

What is the best value shoemaker you know?


This article is an edited version of an article published on Styleforum.net by Shawea.

4 Essential Trousers for the Summer

When we think of tailoring, the suit is usually what first comes to mind. In fact, the suit is so synonymous with tailoring in the popular lexicon that even if you’re wearing a blazer with odd pants, you’ll almost certainly be told “nice suit.” Of course we know better, and if you follow my posts on Styleforum or my personal blog, you’ll know that I rarely wear suits. My personal preference is for tailored odd jackets and trousers. I love suits and absolutely would wear them every single day if my job or other circumstances necessitated it. As it is, however, I have flexibility in what I wear for work, and I like the versatility of odd jackets.

But in practice, I’m pretty repetitive with my jacket-trouser combination choices. In the warm months, the choices differ from the cold months, but the principle is the same: I basically rotate the same 3-4 pairs of pants with basically every jacket I own.

In that light, here are the four pairs of trousers I find easiest to pair with my tailored jackets in the summer:

1—Mid-Gray trousers in some form of lightweight, breathable wool

Photo: @sebastianmcfox

My personal preference for this category is fresco, because it keeps its shape and is so hard-wearing (which is a boon for trousers). Fresco is a trademarked name for a specific weave developed by Minnis, but many different mills have developed their own version of the cloth. It stays cool by being open-weave, but it keeps its shape by having tightly-woven yarns. There are other weaves, of course. I owned a pair of gray summer weight hopsack trousers once, which also wore fairly cool. But I ultimately did not like how they draped on me—too loosey goosey. Tropical wool is kind of a catch-all term that means lightweight wool meant to be worn in the warmer months. I say: stick with Fresco if you’re unable to examine the cloth in real life to know if you’ll like it.

Spier & Mackay 1 • Brooks Brothers • Suitsupply • Suitsupply 2


2—Off-white trousers in whatever fabric you like

Photo: @sebastianmcfox

I personally go for cotton-linen blend trousers in off-white for summer, because I can wash them. But off-white wool trousers work, too, but I have a personal aversion to them. I have this very specific memory of a used car salesman who had a very 1970s vibe wearing some (honestly they were probably polyester) with a yellow shirt, selling my parents a 1989 Mercury Sable that turned out to be an absolute lemon of a car. That, and I am too cheap to dry clean unless I absolutely have to. But I fully endorse off-white trousers in whatever fabric floats your boat. They literally go with everything (tan jackets, tobacco/cigar jackets, dark brown jackets, navy jackets, green jackets, the list goes on).

Drake’s in stone • Polo linen-blend • Spier & Mackay cotton-linen

Spier & Mackay cotton stretch • Brooks Brothers cotton-linen • Ring Jacket


3—Warm khaki cotton chinos

Photo: @sebastianmcfox

Go toward dressier versions that hold a crease and have either an unfinished seam or a finely finished seam, and you’ll look better for the office. Broken-in, more rugged chinos also can work well with a tailored jacket but will look out of place if you’re trying to dress them up more. For instance, I wouldn’t wear polished calf leather shoes with broken-in chinos, nor would I wear a tie. But with a creased pair of chinos, I’d wear both no problem. I personally think the warmer khaki tones are the most attractive—British khaki, copper, caramel, whatever the retailer you find them at calls them. I prefer its warmth over standard khaki, which is a dustier, more faded tan. That has its place, too, of course (I personally think it works best in the broken-in configuration, worn with a beaten-up OCBD or navy polo shirt).

Brooks Brothers dressier •  Brooks Brothers casual •  Unis • J.Crew


4—Dark or slightly faded-looking denim

Photo: @sebastianmcfox

Dark jeans have ruled menswear for a decade or more, and I’m pretty sure there are more selvedge denim companies than there are Styleforum members. There’s a good reason for that: they are more flattering on more body types than faded jeans and worn out at night they look dressy enough to make an outfit feel put together. The lighter you go, the closer you get to the dad-jean territory, or rancher territory, or miner territory, or menswear blogger territory. So I say, stick with dark rinses or just ever-so-subtly faded denim and you can’t go wrong. In the height of summer, depending on where you live, they might be too hot to wear—but in those situations, wearing a tailored jacket might not make much sense, either.

RRL jeans • Drake’s • Mr. Porter denim • Anglo-Italian

Pleated Trousers: the Styleforum Guide

I think it’s safe to say that pleated trousers, like the Skynet sentinel-turned-Resistance protector, are back. Actually, they’re still shunned by the greater “menswear” (found on Youtube of all places), but for guys in the know, they’ve never really left. Despite what people say, pleats are functional, stylish, and can certainly have a place in your wardrobe. I’ve begun wearing them, not as simply a “throwback” but because I genuinely like the fuller cut and the aesthetic difference they provide.

Now, pleats are a fairly modern invention in the world of classic menswear. Though old renaissance and revolutionary trousers were puffy and employed micro pleats, the “modern” suit as we knew it was originally very slim. You can see this reflected in the late 1800s through the early 1920s; trousers were “stovepiped” (meaning slim), had a slight crop/shivering break, and no pleats. Vintage suit ads of the 1910s and early 1920s would show an overall slim silhouette that would almost put shame to the H&M of 2009. In my experience, the main time we saw pleats would be on plus fours/knickers; if they were present, they came in the form of micropleats, hardly the ones we employ today.

Things changed during the late 1920s and 1930s, as menswear began to embrace a broader, masculine silhouette: jacket shoulders became slightly extended and padded (not as much as the later decades) and this draped cut was not flattering over slim trousers, which then became wider, with some models incorporating pleats. English tailors preferred forward pleats, while across the pond they opted for reverse ones. Not only was this just a natural evolution of suit silhouette, but it was necessary as swing dancing and other “casual’ activities grew in popularity. Simply said, people needed room to move!

The popularity of pleats and pant width grew in shrank in size–but were always present–until almost disappearing completely during the 1990s after reaching their peak of popularity. Wide, triple pleated pants (worn at the hips for some reason) marked the almost-death of this take on trousers, as fashion bloggers (and vloggers now) only continue to shun pleated trousers, not only saying that they’re old school but actually make you look uglier and less flattering. Those statements, oft spouted in every free guide they peddle, couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, pleats have never really gone away, being worn by both seasoned gentlemen and younger men in the classic menswear world. It’s easy to see the draw of this tailored detail: everyone knows that it provides more room in the thighs, but to me, it also acts as a visual additive.

Gurkha style pleated trousers pants men

Gurkha style by @thefilodapper

Pleats on trousers accent the sharp crease, making them much more interesting than simple flat fronts. I think that the recent popularity surge of Gurkhas only added to this phenomenon due to their deep forward pleats, wide waistband, and use of overlapping belts. They’re a bit different than regular pleated trousers and work great with tailoring and with casual looks. Personally, I like side-tabs with my pleated trousers to maintain a clean, minimal look.

The secret to pulling pleated trousers off lies in good tailoring. Firstly, you need a high rise. Pleats on hip-hanging pants simply don’t work, as they make you look very bottom heavy and contribute poorly to your proportions. Next, you’ll have to realize that pleats don’t always result in baggy pants. If you’re going MTM or bespoke, you can always ask for the trousers to be slim, just with the addition of pleats.  Even if you want RTW, most places have been following the trend, offering pleated trousers that are nowhere near as roomy as an 80s power suit. Ensure that the trousers have a slight-to-no-break, and you’ll preserve the straight line the crease and pleats create.  

Further Reading: a Guide to How Trousers Should Fit

Today you can find pleated trousers in a bunch of different treatments. Grey pleated flannels/worsteds are probably the classic choice, but I think it’s worth exploring with pleated chinos and linens for maximum comfort; a dyed seersucker wouldn’t be totally out of place in the hot summer sun, with or without a matching jacket. You don’t even have to always wear them with a tie! You can always request pleats from your preferred tailor or MTM service (Luxire is a good way to customize your own) but there are a few places that I’d recommend. I’ve included a pleat inspiration album so you can hopefully see the appeal that pleats have.

Ralph Lauren

pleated trousers ralph lauren

A lot of my pleated trousers are old RL ones that I’ve purchased on eBay. Some are Polo and others are purple label, but they really get the job done with a high rise, full cut, and generous pleating.  The only changes I make are usually a gentle taper through the thigh and a hem if necessary. I can’t speak too much about their current offerings, but there are some decent offerings on their website that have been updated for a more contemporary fit.


Rubinacci

rubinacci pleated trousers sale

Rubinacci has been extremely popular for RTW gurkha style trousers.  They don’t make them in traditional dress fabrics, but their different shades of cotton should be enough to fill out your wardrobe.  They’re a bit on the casual side, but that’s nothing a good textured sportcoat and blucher won’t fix!


Stoffa

stoffa pleated trousers pants

Stoffa has been known to make great MTM field jackets and aviator zips, but their trousers are rather noteworthy.  While there is a degree of customization on fit, the brand has a house style that opts for a slim-straight leg that can be offset with sharp (yet a bit shallow) pleats; you can always choose to go with one if you haven’t graduated to double-pleats just you.  Like Rubinacci, they offer cottons to experiment with, though Stoffa also has linen and flannel swatches for you to choose from if you want to get dressy.


Suit Supply

pleated trousers menswear

Suit Supply is typically one of the places to go when you’re first starting out in menswear, as they offer some of the classic details you can’t really find at the mall.  Think wide lapels, soft shoulders, side tabs, and patch pockets to name a few. While they have typically done extremely slim, flat front trousers, they’ve experimented with pleats a few times.  Their Jort line is probably the best model, with a high rise, full button fly, side tabs, and double reverse pleats. If you find pleats on their regular models, I suggest sizing up so that the leg opening is a bit roomier.


Scott Fraser Collection

If you really like the gurkhas but want to go straight into the more casual side of pleated trousers, the Scott Frasier gaucho trouser is something to consider. With a high waist, wide opening, and a single lead construction, they are a very clean/minimal trouser, if not eccentric; they’re begging to be worn while relaxing around the beach.  If that isn’t your speed, he also has a “traditional” trouser that comes with dropped belt loops.


The Armoury 

As a retailer of fine clothing, it makes sense that they stock a variety of trousers, some of which are pleated.  All of these are cut with a high rise and a slim-straight silhouette, as to prevent you from looking too too “old school” with your grey pleated trousers. The Ring Jacket AMP-02 features a single pleat and are a great entry before moving onto their Rota selection.  I’m much more intrigued by their pleated Pomella RTW, which has a self-belt, calling back to the gurkha closure. They’ve also introduced Osaku Trousers which are double pleated and use Daks (button) side adjusters.

What Should I Wear to a Job Interview? – Styleforum Guide

“What Should I Wear To A Job Interview?” is one of the most common questions we get here at Styleforum, and the answer is always rather blunt: you should wear a suit and tie. This is absolutely never wrong for an interview once you have graduated from high school. It may be that your interviewer is not expecting you to be so “dressed up,” but nevertheless it is not a mistake for you to look your best. That means wearing a conservative but sharp outfit that adds to your appearance without competing with you for attention.

A Basic Uncontroversial Outfit (though many would leave out the pocket square)

  • A single-breasted, two or three button, navy or dark gray/charcoal suit (i.e., jacket and pants made of the exact same fabric, not just same or similar color), tailored to fit you (especially make sure the sleeves are not down to your knuckles and the pants are not puddling around your ankles). If you don’t own a suit, read the Styleforum guide to buying your first suit.
  • A white, spread collar, long-sleeved dress shirt with single cuffs (i.e. not French cuffs/double cuffs)
  • A silk tie in a solid or simple pattern (pindots or stripes, for instance). Almost any color will do well with a white shirt and either of the aforementioned suits.
  • Black cap-toe shoes and black belt (or suspenders/braces instead if your suit pants take them – but this is rare on ready-to-wear suits today). Check out this thread on Styleforum for more information on black formal shoes.
  • Socks in the same color as the suit.

The above outfit is never wrong for a job interview. Nor is a job interview a time to get “creative” with your outfit, especially if you are not already well-versed in suit-and-tie-wearing, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this.

If you want to deviate from the above suggestions, you can wear a light blue shirt instead of a white one without much risk. In the United States, you can wear a button-down collar instead of a spread collar. Outside of England, in many industries, brown cap-toe shoes with a brown belt are acceptable substitutes for their black counterparts.

You can add a white pocket square in a “TV fold” without much risk, but if you’ve never worn such an item before, don’t make this the first time. It’s also fine to wear navy socks with a gray suit, gray socks with a navy suit, etc..

Avoid black socks or any kind of “fun” socks. Finally, an understated watch is acceptable jewelry, but do not wear a sports watch or a bulky and/or gaudy watch. Other than a wedding ring, this is the only kind of jewelry that is acceptable.

  • A black suit (navy or grey only).
  • An ill-fitting suit (get your suit tailored by someone experienced after purchasing). If you’re unsure about what could be tailored, read here first.
  • A wrinkled shirt (iron your shirt before wearing).
  • Shoes with square toes and/or rubber soles.
  • Scuffed or dirty shoes (make sure your shoes are well-polished – if you don’t know how to do this or don’t have the proper equipment, visit a cobbler or read this guide).
  • Bright colors or wild patterns (you do not want to be competing with your clothes for attention).
  • Buttoning the bottom button on your jacket (it’s not meant to be buttoned – never do this).
  • Removing your jacket (keep it on, with possible rare exceptions).

Here are a couple of examples of good outfits from Styleforum users. These men would be very well dressed for a job interview:


Somewhat riskier would be wearing French cuffs (double cuffs), as the cufflinks may be too flashy. Their appropriateness depends on your region and industry. Barrel cuffs (single cuffs) are always acceptable. More extravagant shoes such as wingtips fall into the same category. A suit in a subtle pinstripe or a striped shirt (with one color stripe on a white ground) can also work, but needlessly increase the difficulty of putting together a nice outfit. Any other kind of patterned suit should really not even be considered. Likewise, three-piece or double-breasted suits should be avoided.

Anything not mentioned to this point, such as wearing a sweater, a bowtie, a novelty tie, loafers, a cherry red dress shirt, etc. with your suit should be absolutely avoided. Remember, this is a job interview. You want to look professional, but with few exceptions, this is not a place to demonstrate your personal style.


If you are absolutely convinced that a suit and tie would be inappropriate, for instance, if you are told specifically not to wear a suit and tie, lose the tie before you lose the jacket. Wearing a tie without a jacket makes you look like a cell phone salesman at the mall. A professional might wear a sportcoat and trousers with no tie, but never a tie without a jacket. You will have more latitude in these less formal situations, but the same principles of keeping your clothing clean, simple, and well-fitting still apply.


Whatever you wear, wear it confidently. If you arrive in a suit and your interviewer says something like, “you didn’t need to dress up for us!” don’t look sheepish, just smile and say, “I wanted to look my best.” Finally, and I hope obviously, but perhaps most importantly, nothing is less stylish than poor personal hygiene. Get a decent haircut, take a shower, and clip your fingernails!

If you’re still not sure about what to wear, visit the Styleforum Style Advice forum and ask for help here.


This is an edited version of an article published on Styleforum in 2012 by Styleforum member Shawea.

Buying your first suit: a guide

By shawea

Wondering about suits and how to fit them? You’ve come to the right place. First, what is a suit? A suit comprises a jacket and pants in the same fabric. Do not buy a jacket or pants separately and then go looking for a matching piece whose fabric is just “close enough”. A suit is bought as two (or three) pieces together, in exactly the same fabric, from the same bolt. That settled, how to decide between the myriad suits available?

There are four basic areas in which to assess a suit – fabric, construction, fit, and styling. You should consider all these aspects of a suit before deciding on which to buy.

The advice in this article will be geared towards someone buying a small number of suits that he hopes will serve him well in a variety of different settings.

The suit should be made of 100% wool, no elastane, no polyester. Do not be tempted by cotton or linen or cashmere suits. They do have their place in a large wardrobe, but they are not for starter professional wardrobes.

Since you’ll be starting off with suits that you’ll want to wear year-round, get a medium-weight wool (say, somewhere between 9 and 13 oz). Most suits on the market fall in this category so don’t get worried unless the suit seems particularly thin or heavy.

The fabric should be worsted wool, meaning that it is smooth to the touch instead of feeling wooly and hairy like a sweater. An exception to this is woolen flannel, which is acceptable as an alternative to worsted in all but the most formal of office settings. The difficulty is that woolen fabric is quite warm, so if you live somewhere with hot weather, is a less attractive option. But if after 3 medium-weight worsted suits you purchased a woolen as your 4th and a lighter weight suit (with some mohair in it, for instance – mohair makes a suit wear cooler) as a 5th, you’d be better prepared for particularly extreme days and have somewhat more variability in your wardrobe. Avoid fabrics that are above “Super 120s” as they will wear out too quickly. To learn more about different fabrics check out the cloth thread.

As discussed previously, the fabric should be a solid color, at least for your first three suits. Again, you want to be ready for all suit-wearing situations. It helps if each suit goes with as many different shirts and ties as possible. Patterned suits go with fewer shirts and ties than solid suits. And there are virtually no situations in modern life where the more casual patterned suit is appropriate, but a solid suit is not.

buying your first suit guide
A solid worsted flannel is a very versatile choice, at least in cooler climates.

Further Reading: Fabric

The Cloth Thread

How to choose the fabric for your suit

The fabric you see on the outside of a suit jacket is far from the only cloth that is used in its construction. Inside the chest and the lapels are pieces of cloth that give the jacket its structure. What these pieces are and how they are attached to the rest of the jacket is the main differentiator of construction quality between suit jackets.

The guts of a fully canvassed jacket

The guts of a fully canvassed jacket

Guts of a half canvassed jacket​

Guts of a half canvassed jacket

The lowest quality jackets are made with a piece of “fusible” interlining that is glued to the front of the jacket. This results in a stiff chest and roll of the lapel. Fused jackets also may have reduced longevity, although there has been significant improvement in fusing technology in recent decades, such that this may no longer be true. Older fused jackets were infamous for having the interfacing separate from the body fabric after many dry cleanings, with awful and obvious ‘bubbling’ ruining the jacket.

Higher quality jackets are made “half-canvassed”, meaning that the chest piece and lapels are constructed with a canvas interior, which is then sewn to the rest of the jacket. Below the chest, fusible is used, but this is less problematic in the “skirt” (lower part of the jacket) than upper areas. Finally, jackets of the highest quality are fully canvassed, but most of these will be extremely expensive.

Of course there are many other ways in which one jacket can be better made than another, but the divide between fused and half-canvassed is by far the most important one, and is also highly correlated with the others. If your jacket is half-canvassed, you can be sure you’re buying at least a decent quality garment. If your jacket is fused, you can be equally sure it is of shoddy construction.

Construction quality has a loose correlation to price. Many highly priced brands (e.g. all but the highest quality Armani, Hugo Boss) sell fused jackets. Spending even $2,000 is no guarantee of avoiding a fused jacket. So you have to do your own investigation. You can employ the “pinch test” around one of the higher buttonholes to see if you can feel a third piece of fabric floating in between the two sides. Alternatively, you can ask the salesperson. It’s possible they won’t know or won’t even know what you’re asking, in which case you should not listen to anything else they tell you. But the minimally informed salesperson will be able to give you this information.

Commonly recommended brands that offer half-canvas suits at a reasonable price include Suit Supply (~$500), Brooks Brothers 1818 (~$1k retail, but frequent sales). eHaberdasher’s Benjamin line (~$500) offers fully canvassed suits which are very reasonably priced.

Further Reading: Construction

Canvas and Suit Construction

The Styleforum Working Hierarchical Suit Quality List

Suitsupply Design Your Own Program Review

eHaberdasher – Categories

Now we get to the hard part. Everyone’s body is different. Even at a retailer with a wide range of different fit types like Brooks Brothers, there may not be a jacket that fits you particularly well, no matter which size you choose. You may have to try a couple of makers before you find the one that suits you best.

Some of this misfittery can be remedied by any tailor. Almost every suit you buy will need to have the length of the sleeves and the pants changed. These are simple operations. Everyone has their own method for determining the correct sleeve length. The estimable Guido Wongolini suggest that you begin by standing straight with arms at your sides, then lift your hands so that your palms are facing towards the floor, perpendicular to your body. The jacket’s sleeves should then just rest on the back of your hand. This should result in ¼” to ½” of your dress shirt’s sleeve showing. Pants should be hemmed so that they have little or no break, if they have an appropriately tapered leg (a leg opening of no more than say 18” in circumference). The waist of the trouser can usually be taken in or let out by about 2”.

Adjusting the collar is a more complicated procedure. Your suit jacket’s collar should remain affixed to your shirt’s collar behind your neck at all times. Separation between the two is referred to as “gapping”. In a bespoke Savile Row suit, you might be able to play a round of golf without experiencing any gapping. This is harder to achieve with a ready-to-wear garment, but at least see if you can get the jacket not to gap, then walk around the room, sit down, stand up, and see if you’ve got any gapping. If gapping is a problem, a tailor may be able to fix it, but you might be going down a road with no end. Your life will be easier if you buy jackets that have no gapping problems off the rack. To examine the next part of collar fit, you’ll need a mirror or a friend for this one. Look to see if there are horizontal lines on your back, underneath the collar. If so, you’ll need the collar lowered. This is a reasonably simple, low-risk procedure. This could be accomplished by most tailors, but probably not your typical dry cleaner’s/alterations shop. It should cost around $40-50.

The next three points of fit are crucial. If one of them is off, step away from the jacket. No tailor can help you. They are the waist, the shoulders, and the length.

These are the basics of fit, but the topic is nowhere near exhausted. A large fraction of discussions on Styleforum is based around how different garments should fit. These threads should get you started:

The Tailors Thread Fit Feedback and Alteration Suggestions
Official Fit Critique Thread
Get Foofed

Further External Reading: Fit

Most Exerent – Cover Your Ass There is a Common Misconception
How Much Can My Clothes Be Altered

Styling refers to the decorative elements of the jacket that are unrelated to fit. Number of buttons, pockets, breasts, that sort of thing. If you’re starting out buying suits, you’ll want to buy a classically styled suit. Pants can be single-pleated, double-pleated, or flat front, cuffed or uncuffed. Once you get more experience you can decide whether and in what way to deviate from what is below.

The suits that will never elicit any raised eyebrows are two or three-button single-breasted jackets, with two flap pockets, notch lapels, and dual back vents. Generally on SF two button or three-roll-two (meaning the top button is never meant to be buttoned) are preferred, but a “hard three” (roll to the top button, with the top button intended to be used) is perfectly acceptable, especially if you are tall. Lapels are of moderate width, reaching approximately half-way to your shoulders.

A "two-and-a-half" button lapel - it rolls above or through the top button

A “two-and-a-half” button lapel – it rolls above or through the top button

A three-roll-two lapel - the top buttonhole is folded over and the roll goes to the second button

A three-roll-two lapel – the top buttonhole is folded over and the roll goes to the second button

Relatively innocent deviations include the absence of vents, ticket pockets, welted pockets. If you like them, go for it on one or two of your suits. Double-breasted suits and peak lapels on single-breasted suits are dandifications. Hold off on them until you know what you’re doing. A single vent, though acceptable, is an inelegant deviation, as it creates an awkward splitting of the rear of the jacket when you put your hands in your pocket.

Here are some further readings in book form if you would really like to delve into the art of the suit:

The Suit, by Nicholas Antongiovanni
Clothes and The Man, by Alan Flusser


This article is an edited version of an article originally published on Styleforum.net in 2011.

Aloha shirt: a summer staple

As much as I love suiting, I let it take a back seat during the summer months. Sure, there are Minnis fresco suits, linen trousers, and madras button-downs, but I’ve always preferred to go bolder and casual than traditional classic menswear.  And nothing screams “casual summer” quite like the aloha shirt. It’s a unique piece that has a perfect place in a summer wardrobe, and it can be worn casually or even elevated with tailoring, if you want to go bold.

In Aloha Shirt: the Spirit of the Island, Dale Hope shares a few different stories about the origin of this American classic. One model was made in the 1920s by Gordon Young’s mother, who made sport shirts out of printed cotton yukata cloth that was normally used for kimonos. In 1935, tailor Musa-Shiya Shoten advertised RTW and MTO “Aloha shirts”.  However, the term was trademarked later in 1937 by the Chun family who sold similar shirts (also made from kimono fabric) in King-Smith Clothiers. There are other stories of course, but the main idea was that the shirt was born during a time when men were starting to opt for “sportswear” or casual dress.

Overall, it’s pretty similar to sport shirts (loop/camp/cuban collars, whatever you want to call them) in design. This most distinctive feature is the band-less collar, which results in the floppy open collar that lays flat on the shoulders of the shirt.  The garment has a clean french front and a square bottom, meaning that it can be worn tucked or untucked, adding to its casual nature. The aloha shirt retains all these features with the addition of an exploded floral pattern or scenes; later patterns would adopt more vertical, tiki-inspired designs.

I personally like the older designs that are large-scale and have some space between the designs. There’s nothing wrong with tighter, vertical print shirts, but they tend to look a bit more modern than I’d like and bit too Tommy Bahama.

In terms of material, most of the 1930s-1940s shirts I’ve seen were made of rayon or delicate voiles (in cotton or rayon); later, they would be made from cotton or polyester.

Before the tee shirt and OCBD took over as the go-to shirt for men in the 1960s, aloha shirts (and by extension, plain sport shirts) were a distinctive type of shirt in the 1930s-1950s. Images of the Beach Boys, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra rocking colorful aloha shirts come to mind instantly.

While some think that they are a bit old school to wear now, I heartily disagree. We’ve been seeing the return of camp collar shirts in general, thanks to a couple of fashion forward guys at Pitti wearing them over their jacket lapels like youth in the 1950s. We’ve also seen it come in the mainstream fashion world, being the shirt of choice of Harry Styles, rocking vibrant full cut aloha shirts to contrast his skinny black jeans and slick chelsea boots. It’s certainly something to consider if you’re feeling fatigued from your tie-less linen shirts and Friday polos.

Embracing the uniqueness of the alohas shirt is all apart of the fun. The bold florals and painted scenes are exactly what summer style is all about! When I wear an aloha shirt with tailoring, I usually opt for chinos or summer weight trousers and loafers as an updated 1940s-1950s casual look. I know that Kenji Cheung and Ethan Newton of Bryceland’s have done similar looks.

You could even wear it with a pale linen suit, using the jacket to tone down the bold print. I’ve begun to wear aloha shirts with pleated shorts and a chore coat, as it’s starting to get hotter. For those of you wary of the 1980s/Miami Vice connotations, you can always opt for the classic rockabilly look by wearing an aloha shirt untucked with selvedge denim. Maybe leave the pomade at home and go with slimmer denim and canvas sneakers to make it a bit more contemporary.

In addition to some images to serve as outfit inspiration, I’ve included a couple of places where you could pick up a shirt for yourself! They vary in price and quality, but I think there’s something here for everybody.

Two Palms

two palms aloha shirt

Two Palms was my first real foray into wearing aloha shirts. They are extremely affordable MiUSA at around $45 (with free US shipping) which means that they can be your gateway too! Their cotton shirts are cheaper, but I prefer their rayon ones in the vein of being “traditional”. It might take some careful perusing through their website to separate the “good shirts” from the more “dad vibe” ones, but you can’t go wrong with most of them. Surprisingly, they have pretty solid construction despite being on the lower end of the spectrum and they even take care to match the fabric on their chest pocket. The only caveats are that the cut is pretty full and the collar is pretty small compared to the vintage ones; I’m sure that you guys will find the latter more desirable since it’s easier to wear in the modern day. 

J. Crew

You’ve gotta hand it to J. Crew for making a pretty good Hawaiian shirt. They’re about $10 more than Two Palms and they only have a few models to choose from, but it’s still a good buy if you lean more toward shopping in person. Instead of rayon, these J. Crew aloha shirts are made in linen-cotton, which is a bit more wearable (and washing machine friendly) if you’re not used to the traditional fabric. According to the website, these also have a roomier fit, but I would assume that it’s slimmer than the ones from Two Palms.

Avanti Shirts 

 I always have a soft spot for shirts that display scenes, because they’re different than the aloha shirts that you normally see.  It also has the bonus effect of looking a bit more old school, lifted almost directly from the styles in the 1940s-1950s. Like the Two Palms shirts, they also feature a breast pocket that is carefully matched to the shirt.

Onia 

Onia makes a few great camp shirts and I’ve included a picture of their most “aloha” one here. It’s pretty much the same thing as the other ones, with a modest collar and a chest pocket (that again is not matched). The fabric is cotton voile making it extremely delicate (and hand-wash only), so I would say to wear with caution. It does seem ideal to wear when relaxing on vacation!

 

Gitman Vintage 

 

 I’ve gotta say that these ones from Gitman really hit the spot.  Like the Avanti ones, they have a bit more interest than the typical florals, but they also bring back the wide collar! They also do away with the chest pocket in order to maintain a clean front.

 

RRL

 

RRL takes us back to the original 1940s-1950’s manufacturing with their rayon camp shirts.  Like the Gitman ones, there’s just something so much more interesting when the prints are something more than oversized florals.  According to the official website, this particular design was based on 1930’s tattoo art, which I think is super cool. The shirt also features two breast pockets (making them similar to plain sportshirts of the era) and also opts for a modest collar.

RRL also has an indigo camp shirt with a more straightforward floral print, while Polo RL has more scenery based prints for half the price.

Sun Surf

 

Sun Surf is probably the best reproduction brand for aloha shirts, which makes sense considering Japan’s love affair with Americana. I’ve come across these in some of my favorite vintage stores, and they’re practically indistinguishable from true vintage pieces apart from the fact that the Sun Surf ones are new. Being a detailed reproduction, a lot of their prints are influenced directly from old garments; most of the time they go all out with their large-scale, bold prints. This is what makes them my favorite, since it’s a great way to get a true vintage flair that is completely different than the more standard florals and smaller scale scenes that you can find in the previous examples. They also keep the long, floppy 1940s-1950s collar and make them in the traditional rayon. You could own the character and wear it by itself or cover it up with a chore coat or casual jacket to tone it down.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a lot of places to find them other than a few boutiques, but they do pop up occasionally on Rakuten, Grailed, and eBay.

 

Brycelands 

 

Brycelands stocks a selection from Groovin High, another Japan-based company.  Like the Sun Surf ones, these are damn good designs lifted from 1940s-1950s shirts. The ones sold by Bryceland’s aren’t necessarily true aloha shirts since the prints are more geometric than floral/island based, but they still can be used for a similar look.  The shirts are made up of luxurious rayon/silk and have a wide collar, two breast pockets, and long sleeves.

Prada

 

We can’t have a proper list without a bit of luxury.  This voile shirt by Prada is really growing on me! The coloring is vibrant and leans more 80s-90s rather than strictly 1950s; think DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet. In addition to having an amazing beach scene painted on the back, this shirt is made of delicate voile and features black mother of pearl buttons. At a certain point, you’ll just have to go ahead and go all in on the price; you won’t find another one like it.

Embrace White Pants

The reluctance to wear white past Labor Day has long been debunked in the United States. But for many men, when to wear white isn’t an issue because, save for the white business shirt, they never wear it. Which is a shame, because alongside navy blue, wearing white pants (or off-white) is just about the easiest yet most stylish things a man can do.

Why the reticence to wear white outside the realm of the dress shirt? I think for many guys, there is a deep-seated disposition toward rugged, hard-wearing clothes that they don’t have to “baby.” A very practical co-worker of mine once allowed that spending a few hundred dollars on a suit might be worth it, “if it’s going to last for 10 years.” I didn’t tell him that sometimes, the more expensive the suit, the less durable the fabric. Many men wear tailoring only when required, changing into something else as soon as they can, and I believe a large part of it has to do not just with comfort, but with this mindset. It’s the same line of thinking that I think stops many guys from considering white pants.

Antonio Ciongoli via roseborn.com

Antonio Ciongoli via roseborn.com

Another complementary reason is that if you do venture into wearing them, you signal to everybody else that you care about clothes. I’m reminded of a How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall asks whether he is pulling off the white pants he’s wearing, to which Ted enthusiastically affirms that he’s indeed rocking them. It was a leap for him to make, and he needed affirmation from a friend.

Sid Mashburn has said that his first sale to a lot of guys just getting into dressing well is a pair of white Levi’s. From there, their interest in clothing grows, but it starts with white pants. I can’t recall what first drew me to want to dress well, but I do remember that white jeans were one of the very early things I bought. My first pair were pure white denim from Banana Republic. Once I grew out of them, I replaced them with an off-white pair from J.Crew that I’m still wearing 3-4 times per week, 5 years later. They are my year-round staples because they go with literally everything I own.

Sid Mashburn

Overcoming the barrier to being seen as a dandy for wearing white pants is probably the biggest challenge. After all, lots of guys have no problem wearing white sneakers—but that doesn’t signal the same things that white pants do. Yet once you do jump the hurdle, you wonder why you thought it was a big deal at all.

It turns out white pants are the easiest things in the world to wear, because they go with literally everything. Swap out your gray trousers for white and your outfit becomes a lot more fun with no additional work. They can be worn very casually—white jeans paired with a navy polo, for instance—or more dressed up—white cotton twills pressed with a crease, paired with a navy blazer and pale blue shirt.

I’ve gotten many comments from both men and women who wonder how I can keep my white pants so clean. It honestly isn’t that hard. I’ve found that even sitting on the grass won’t stain them—unless it’s very wet or I’m moving around on the ground a lot. Of course, stains do happen, whether it be from carelessness on my part, sitting on a dirty chair, or any other number of reasons. And when they do, I have had almost 100 percent success removing them if the pants are machine washable. I’ve stashed Tide pens in my car, briefcase, desk drawers—everywhere—and they often solve the problem immediately. When that’s not the case, Tide detergent works wonders, as does Oxy-Clean and Clorox color-safe bleach when needed.

This is where I must make a caveat to my enthusiastic embrace of white pants—I only buy pairs I know I can wash myself. Which can potentially put a limit on dress trousers, because even if they are made from fibers you would normally not give a second thought about washing (like cotton or linen), they are usually marked as dry clean only. The reason is usually due to the irregular results the rigors of a washing machine will produce on waistband construction or the lining (if they’re lined).

That said, if they’re made from cotton or linen (or a blend of both), unlined, and the waistband is made from the same or similar fibers to the trousers themselves, you can probably wash them. Unlike with a tailored jacket, which has been put through a lot of steaming to get a specific shape out of the cloth, trousers can be pressed back into shape. I recently bought a pair of cotton-linen trousers from Spier & Mackay and washed them right away with no ill effect. I’d suggest doing so with a new, un-hemmed pair before you get them altered, in case of any shrinkage (of course, wash on cold in a delicate cycle).

If you’re not sure if you can pull off white pants, I think the Sid Mashburn introduction of white Levi’s is a great way to try them. With their multitude of fits and low price, it’s a good way to dip your toe in and see how you feel. I’m guessing you’ll love them and will wonder how you ever lived without them.

If that happens, welcome to the other side.

Casual


Dress

What Should I Ask My Groomsmen to Wear?

Your goals in choosing wedding attire should be to be comfortable, look wonderful, and continue to look wonderful in the pictures twenty and thirty years from now. Do not choose something because you think it looks cute or trendy or fashionable. Remember that you’ll be looking at these pictures for a long time, long after you realized that your coral-colored socks or teal bowtie weren’t as rad as you thought at the time. Naturally, this applies to the outfits of your groomsmen too.

An example of what you don’t want your wedding album to look like.

Start by reading this speech given by Manton: The London Lounge – Wedding Attire

groomsmen attire wedding matching ties suit outfit

You should now know everything you need about groomly attire. What about the groomsmen? Your wedding planner and/or fiancée may have the urge to make the groomsmen all match. Resist this urge. There are two reasons not to force groomsmen to match.

The first is that it means that they will either all have to rent suits, or all have to buy the same cheap suit. In either case, they will not be wearing a quality garment that fits them well.

Second, it looks ridiculous. It looks like the wedding party is two sets of 8-year old manytuplets dolled up for their family photo. Most of all, do not force them all to wear the same tie, which also matches the bridesmaid’s outfits.

Among the sins committed by the wedding planning industry, this may be the gravest. If your fiancée insists on the groomsmen matching, you’ll have to decide how much you care about this issue. But almost every one of the many threads started by grooms asking about attire for themselves and their groomsmen begins, “the bridesmaids are wearing this color, is it OK if my groomsmen or my groomsmen and I all wear this suit with this tie,” and is quickly followed by a number of SF members trying to convince the groom to avoid giving his groomsmen a uniform.

groomsmen attire wedding matching ties suit outfit

Instead, give your groomsmen some basic parameters within which they should all be able to operate and tell them to look their best. For instance, “mid-grey suit with a light blue shirt”, “navy suit with a white shirt”, or “charcoal suit with a white shirt.” Choose something solid that everyone should have. It’s fine to ask them all ahead of time if they all have grey or navy, and then go with whatever they all have already. No black suits. It’s a wedding, not a funeral.

If your wedding is less formal and in the daytime, you could choose a lighter, non-conservative-business-suit color, such as tan or light grey. However this is not something every man has in his closet, so you may have to inquire as to whether your groomsmen have such suits or would be willing to buy them for the occasion.

groomsmen attire wedding matching ties suit outfit

Black shoes are the risk-free option. Some people will tell you black shoes are the only option. But for any wedding that is informal enough not to be black tie or morning dress, it is unlikely anyone will point and laugh at tasteful dark brown or oxblood shoes. However, telling your groomsmen to wear brown shoes increases the risk that they will wear something not up to the formality of the occasion.

groomsmen attire wedding matching ties suit outfit

It is traditional for the groom to give neckties to his groomsmen. If you wish to do this, again, don’t get matching ties, but ties that all complement each other and are appropriate to the occasion. Choose any out of the following and it would be difficult for you to go wrong:

Kent Wang – Ties Glen Plaid
Kent Wang – Grenadine Steel Blue
Kent Wang – Grenadine Navy

Drake’s Navy & Silver Cross Grid Silk Jacquard
Drake’s – Navy Polka Dot Light Silk Jacquard
Drake’s – Silver Grenadine Garza Grossa

If you have enough time for bespoke ties to be made for you (email to be sure, but usually 4-6 weeks), visit samhober.com for a large selection of grenadine, Macclesfield and wedding ties, made to your specifications. Choosing all bowties isn’t totally ridiculous, but does look much more contrived than a selection of long ties. Sometimes even mixing bowties and long ties can work.

Browse more solids and wedding patterns on the “wedding ties” thread.


Following this simple strategy will ensure that everyone involved will look great on the big day and for years to come in the hundreds of photographs that will live on happily into eternity. As an added bonus, your groomsmen won’t resent you for forcing them to spend hundreds of dollars buying or renting clothing they don’t want and doesn’t fit them well.


This article is an edited and revamped version of an article published on Styleforum by Styleforum member Shawea.

Loungewear in Classic Menswear

In 1878, an unnamed New York Times correspondent was asked “How do you travel in the Eastern seas?” and decided to answer with his pen rather than his mouth, describing in great detail his sea voyages from San Francisco eastward across the Pacific.
Peppered among his experiences with steamers and train lines are his thoughts on the hot climate from Hong Kong all the way south to India, inescapable even in the evening, which he compares to “the temperature of the fiery furnace built by Nebuchadnezzar for the occupation of those who fell under his displeasure.”
Due to the intense heat, the nightshirt, commonplace in Western cultures then – and still today – was nowhere to be seen on steamships in the East. Instead, the “traveler may be found, almost invariably, in pajamasThese are nothing more nor less than a coat and drawers, both of them loose and of light material. The latter are gathered at the waist by a string; the former buttons down the front to its termination at the hips. The suit may be of muslin, jeans, light flannel, or pongee silk.”  
This may not have been the first time pajamas were introduced to the American public, but soon they took over by storm.  In 1885, another article from the Times removed the italics and related that Kaskel & Kaskel’s haberdashery in New York had “nightshirts prepared with beautifully embroidered fronts, though pajamas are decidedly the robes de nuit at the present day.” By 1900, the Times lamented that “since the Spanish War everybody is wearing pajamas. The nightrobe seems to have gone completely out of existence.
Over a century has passed since, but the desire for comfortable clothes to kick back in around the house still exists.  Most, though, balk at the idea of proper loungewear. Why spend money on clothes no one will see you in?- the reasoning goes. And that is the reason for $10 sweats from the sale bin. Others believe that it’s too hot to wear anything to bed, but they’re missing the point: pajamas, like all loungewear, were meant to be worn around the house, not in bed. The original intention was to show a little decency to our surprise guests, neighbors, and our own children, and if you can do so with style, why not?
One of the more popular modern figures who donned loungewear was the fictitious Sherlock Holmes. Twenty years ago Jaymie of Berkeley lent me a tome containing the entire canon written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which I voraciously devoured. Among the many descriptions of Holmes was him in his dressing gown, which is not so odd per se, only in the way he wore it. Doyle describes the usual process:

He took off his coat and waistcoat, put on a large blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about the room collecting pillows from his bed, and cushions from the sofa and armchairs. With these, he constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon which he perched himself cross-legged, with an ounce of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid out in front of him.

Still in shirt and tie, Holmes typically would slip into a robe at home to unwind, ponder over the day’s clues, and hopefully solve the mystery. More than a dozen times the robe is mentioned in the original stories: the detective could be found “lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown”, “lounging about his sitting-room in his dressing-gown,” and so on. When Watson or other characters would arrive at his flat, the fully-clothed yet comfortably relaxed Holmes could see to their needs without suffering embarrassment.

While Doyle only described the robe in color and Paget’s sketches of it were relatively featureless, it was American actor William Gillette who really brought it to life. Over the course of the over 1,300 times he portrayed Holmes on stage in both the U.S. and England, Gillette could be seen in a lavishly elegant robe of heavy silk brocade with a quilted shawl collar. If Gillette’s dressing gown is your bag, Baturina Homewear in Hamburg, Germany makes these in sumptuous quilted velvet, silk, or a combination of the two. Prices aren’t cheap, but they look well-made, are fully customizable, and if reviews on Etsy are any indication, they fit the bill.

Whereas coat and tie revolve around fit and streetwear often portrays a mood, loungewear is all about comfort. That said, while style is a distant second, a little bit of it wouldn’t hurt, and there are plenty of ways to lounge with more refinement than sweats. I like how Erik (EFV) of Stockholm comes home from work and changes into a comfy cardigan and house slippers, or dresses up the slippers with a short silk damask robe for entertaining guests. For the cold mornings, he has a longer wool plaid dressing gown with silk piping, with which he pairs his velvet slippers from Larusmiani–chosen, he says, “for their sleek appearance. I love slippers, but like to look as good as possible for my wife.” 
loungewear menswear larusmiani slippers leather
For traditional loungewear that won’t make you look terribly precious, it’s hard to beat the classic PJs-and-robe combo.  Bay Area bud Derek Guy has an enviable combo from Ascot Chang which he finds helps to fend off the morning chill. Gerry Nelson of Melbourne only recently purchased his PJ-and-robe combo and can’t be happier. “All these years, I’d been wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants to bed,” he explains. “That was OK but I’d been wanting something a little more appropriate, and when I found this woolen robe from Derek Rose on eBay, I bit the bullet and got it. I wear it with pajamas and slippers and suddenly, I’m Cary Grant or Spencer Tracy. Not only is it comfortable, it looks great. I actually feel properly dressed all the time now.”
My own loungewear was driven by several factors:  1) we have a no-shoe policy in our house, 2) people drop by all the time, and 3) I needed something to wear when we stayed at friends’ homes while traveling. Traditional western pajamas and robes didn’t appeal to me at all, even though I think they look great on other people. Plus, I tend to run hot, and everything seemed too heavy. After all, options in loungewear are rather limited, so I resigned myself to wearing fleece shorts and t-shirts. And then came Antonio Ciongoli.

In 2013, Antonio co-founded Eidos and was its creative director for five years. One of my favorite pieces he made was a long, loose, shawl-collared cardigan with a medallion motif. Only 10 were ever made.  In the Eidos thread, Antonio explains:

“The knit jacquard pattern is based on traditional Rajasthani indigo textiles that are block printed by hand in the Ajrak style. We spun together four different colors of cotton yarn (navy with black and cream with ecru) to give the pattern a subtle depth of texture.  You really need to see it up close to appreciate how beautiful it is. The garment is knit full but light and layers easily over a tee shirt or pajamas around the house.”

He wasn’t kidding – the fabric has an understated richness and is easily one of the softest pieces of clothing I own. I love cardigans for general comfort, but Antonio’s pattern gives the garment a bit of sophisticated élan. Similar to the fancy brocade of William Gillette’s dressing gown which distinguishes it from a simple bathrobe, the jacquard pattern elevates an ordinary cardigan to something special. You go ahead and drop cash on expensive PJs, but for my money, it might as well be something I actually wouldn’t mind being seen in.

After I posted a picture on Instagram of the Ajrak cardigan with linen pants, Antonio commented, “you need some Agy pants.”  According to what he posted in the Eidos thread at the time of their release, “…it’s my personal favorite silhouette from the season. While on a two-week inspiration and development trip I took to Rajasthan, India…Agyesh was wearing traditional Patiala pajama pants basically every day and…I loved how they looked. I was determined to make them work for the collection, so when I got back to Italy, I sat down with our knitwear supplier to reimagine them as lounge pants…the end result is the most comfortable sweats you’ve ever worn in your life.”

Similar to the Times correspondent, I was intrigued by these pajama pants, “loose and of light material,” so I took Antonio at his word and purchased a pair from Mohawk General Store in a slub loopback terry sweatshirting that was turned inside out for optimum texture. After wearing them at home for almost a month straight, I can say with little hesitation that they are the most surprising purchase I’ve made in a long time. The drawstring pulls the 40” of waist material to create flattering diagonal pleats that give these pajamas a refined shape while being airy, comfortable, and cool.  
Slippers were probably the hardest thing to find since many are either far too warm or far too fancy for my blood. I used to have a pair of wool slippers from J. Crew that were so dense they made my feet sweat, and ended up never wearing them. I liked the look of velvet slippers but all the ones I saw had leather soles, which seemed incongruous with loungewear, at least for me. Then I remembered that Gerry had a pair from Eidos that Antonio designed with Christian Kimber of Australia, the La Casetta House Slipper. They ticked all the boxes I was looking for: slim profile, casual tweed material, and rubber sole. After much searching, I finally found some stock at Coachman Clothiers of Knoxville, Tennessee. The material is breathable and the rubber sole provides just the right amount of warmth and cushion for Bay Area wood floors. For those interested, Antonio says he plans to produce pajamas as Creative Director for 18 East.

Loungewear is a funny thing. I’ve read that it increases productivity for those who work from home, and though I’m not convinced (neither is this guy), I’d be lying if I said they have no effect at all, at least for me. Like all clothes, loungewear can serve multiple purposes, not just practical. Sweats are comfortable, but so is a toga. If you care to be presentable as well, consider upping your loungewear game, and if you’re looking for an excuse, throw a pajama party. 
Of course, you may not care at all; anyone can wear whatever they want around the house. When asked what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe famously answered, “Chanel No. 5.”  Rawr.  

Then again, she died alone, so there’s that.

loungewear menswear luxury tailored pajamas nightrobe

The Basics of Wedding Attire for Men: American and English Weddings

In America, the most common wedding attire for a groom is either a lounge suit or a tuxedo.

The Jacket
If you decide to get married in a tuxedo, the most flattering and traditional choice is to select a 1 button jacket with a peak lapel. The facings (lapels) should be in silk, but in most cases, satin will also be suitable.
Tuxes can come in 2, 3 or even 4 button form, but on the whole, they look far too much like suits. The same can be said about notch-lapels; if you are going to wear a tux, then do it right. Peak lapels are the ones that point upwards, like the peaks of mountains.

The Trousers
Trouser for a tuxedo should be in a fabric that matches the jacket. When you see people in a green jacket and black trousers, they are actually wearing a smoking jacket, not a tux. Trousers should have a stripe of material down the outside of each leg made from the same stuff that your lapel is made from –be it silk or satin.

Accessories
The Tie should always be a bow-tie. Although many Hollywood stars like to wear neckties or cravats, they should be largely ignored. Unless you are arriving in a helicopter and have a few superstars in attendance, just keep it simple. A black bowtie made from satin or barathea (a matte type of silk) that is self-tie. Resist the clip on! Taking that extra minute or so to tie a bowtie by hand makes all the difference and helps retains some personality in the knot.

The Pocket Square
It should be simple white to match the shirt. Straight line fold, triangles, and multiple points are all acceptable. Think James Bond.

Cufflinks and Studs
Gold, Black, Silver, Onyx. Anything you like, just make sure that they match each other and your watch. Mixing metals can be tricky and is generally best avoided. Having said that, don’t think that you can’t wear your grandfather’s gold war-watch because your wedding band is in platinum. When it comes to weddings, items of sentimental value trump the rules every time.

Shoes
Shoes should be black patent lace-ups or if you want a pair you can use every day afterward then pick up a wholecut or cap-toe in black from a decent maker. Remember to wear them a few times before the big day, nothing is worse than walking around with blisters!

wedding attire wedding tuxedo tux styleforum example

SF member Newcomer via the Official Wedding Attire thread.

There are two ways in which you can approach choosing a suit for your wedding: pick a cloth that is very different from something you wear at the office, so that you don’t feel like you’re going to work, OR pick a suit that you can wear many hundreds of times after you get married, in order to be financially prudent.
Only you can make that kind of decision, but on the whole, there are some guidelines:
Pick sensible colors. While you may love the look of the brown suit today, how will it look when you show the kids your wedding photos? Greys, Navy, and Charcoals are going to stand the test of time better than that sky-blue velvet number you had your heart on.
Two button suits are most proportionate on gentlemen under 6 foot in height. Once you hit the 6ft mark, you can use the 2 button suit to make you appear slimmer and taller, or a 3 button to bring you back into proportion. Generally, a big, tall man in a 3 button suit, looks similar to a normal man in a 2 button suit.
Shoes can be black or brown, but make sure that they are highly polished and worn a few times before the big day. I cannot overstate the importance of breaking in your shoes before you want them used.

wedding attire guests appropriate styleforum

SF member and contributor Mossrockss via the Official Wedding Attire thread.

Rule one is always wear a suit. While some guests may turn up in a polo shirt and khakis, you can always ditch your tie for a bit of James Bond flair. Any outfit can be made more casual, but you can’t magic up a tie when you’re the one who’s underdressed.
Blue, Grey, and Brown are all acceptable. Two-button without a waistcoat is more modern, but stepping up to a three-piece can be a nice way to formalize the affair.
Never wear a black suit. Black is a funeral color and most definitely not welcome at weddings.
Ties and pocket squares should complement each other and also complement your date’s outfit, or if you would rather pick out a color of the wedding theme this is permitted as well. Shirts should be light blue, pink or white. Firstly this makes everyone look a little happier by using high-key colors, but also because weddings often mean standing around in the sun or in hot rooms. Sweat patches don’t show of light colors but spread heavily on dark.
Shoes should be black unless you are wearing a very light color of suit, in which case tan may be acceptable.

When it comes to wedding attire, English grooms have the choice of wearing a morning suit (most formal) or a lounge suit.

The morning suit is the most formal attire in use for weddings in the UK and Europe, and even now only represents a very small minority of cases. If Your invitation states “Morning Dress” or some variation thereof then you should consider a suit to a last resort.

The Coat
Morning coats are scarce in the UK so you are limited to Bespoke or a few OTR stores. The coat should be charcoal and made from wool where ever possible. If you are renting then this may not be possible, but do your best.

The Trousers
The trousers of a morning suit should be black with charcoal or chalk stripes known as “cashmere stripes”. This is one of the rare occasions on which matching the trousers to the cloth of the coat is considered wrong. There should be a distinct difference. The cut can be slightly fuller than your normal “slim” trousers; there has never been such a thing as a slim-fit morning suit.

Accessories
The tie should be a satin in pastel colors; pink blue and peach are popular choices. Handkerchiefs can co-ordinate or consider a white linen version if you prefer a more classic look.
Shirts should be white. I would choose a poplin, although still is nicer to touch, it is also thicker and therefore warmer. A morning coat stays closed at all times so you might get a little warm.

Cufflinks and Studs
Gold, Black, Silver, Onyx. Anything you like, just make sure that they match each other and your watch. Mixing metals can be tricky and is generally best avoided. Having said that, don’t think that you can’t wear your grandfather’s gold war-watch because your wedding band is in platinum. When it comes to weddings, items of sentimental value trump the rules every time.

Shoes
They should always be black and as plain as you can find. Do I need to say it again? Wear them at least three times before the big day, blisters aren’t cool.

**Note**  This is section is the same as the American version. Reading it twice will be boring.

There are two ways in which you can approach choosing a suit for your wedding: pick a cloth that is very different from something you wear at the office, so that you don’t feel like you’re going to work, OR pick a suit that you can wear many hundreds of times after you get married, in order to be financially prudent.
Only you can make that kind of decision, but on the whole, there are some guidelines:
Pick sensible colors. While you may love the look of the brown suit today, how will it look when you show the kids your wedding photos? Greys, Navy, and Charcoals are going to stand the test of time better than that sky-blue velvet number you had your heart on.
Two-button suits are most proportionate on gentlemen under 6 foot in height. Once you hit the 6ft mark, you can use the 2 button suit to make you appear slimmer and taller, or a 3 button to bring you back into proportion. Generally, a big, tall man in a 3 button suit, looks similar to a normal man in a 2 button suit.
Shoes can be black or brown, but make sure that they are highly polished and worn a few times before the big day. I cannot overstate the importance of breaking in your shoes before you want them used.


If you’d like to discuss the state of black tie, join the conversation on this thread on Styleforum.

If you’d like suggestions and tips regarding your wedding outfit, you can visit the Official Wedding Attire thread.


This article is an edited and revamped version of an article originally published on September 16, 2011, on Styleforum.net by the user Blackhood.