Advice for buying a Suit, if you’re not Average Sized.

A fellow I know is interested in buying a new suit. So he did what all reasonable people do, he asked for advice. So I’m going to give him some.

Men’s clothes in the last 10 years are suffering the same issues as women’s. There is a proliferation of crap at the bottom of the market, the middle is disappearing and the high end, though reaching down to the middle, is still pricy. What are you to do? Sym’s, and the other discounters are disappearing. My opinion is bite the bullet and crawl up the ladder a bit, especially if you are a big size or getting a little older, or, like me, are both.

Once you’re over 6 foot 3 or 4, you just can’t go unnoticed anymore. You’re not just wearing a suit, you’re wearing a lot of suit, so every problem with the suit will be as big as you are. If you walk up to someone, they don’t see your face, they see your lapels.

This post is not for young bucks starting out. Stop thinking of yourself as a version of who you were 20, 30 or more years ago. A young man wearing an inexpensive suit is just starting out, a mature man wearing a inexpensive suit is … well, it has a series of negative connotations. You are either the poor relative begging for scraps; desperate to not look your age or you’re cheap and miserly. All clothing is a means of communication, you have to be clear in what you are saying in your dress as much as your words. You don’t need to drop 5 figures on a bespoke suit. Dropping a hundred on an el cheapo suit won’t work either.

As for brands and stores, like I said above, unfortunately, more and more you are getting what you pay for. The quality of the sewing  for cheaper clothing from Men’s Warehouse is sad. Of the several pairs of pants that I’ve bought from them none fit right, all of the fabrics are cheap. I have had to have every one repaired. If you’re not near a tailor this can be an issue. I treat the pants like cheap jeans, though they have lasted longer then any pair of regular jeans I have owned, but they look no better. Jo. A. Bank has also slipped in quality. I was saddened last time I went. I hear there is still good stuff at reasonable prices, but I didn’t see it, and how hard are you willing to look.

If you need Extra Long, you are pretty much stuck with Rochester Big and Tall or you have to shop online. Regular Long (is that an oxymoron?) is still available at your usual suspects: Brooks Brothers or Dept. Stores like Macys.


15 thoughts on “Advice for buying a Suit, if you’re not Average Sized.

  1. Since I’m 6’4″, not whatever you happen to be (6’6″, right?), I don’t think I have the same limitations you do. As I think I mentioned, I can get away with a tradition 44 or 42 long, depending on the cut, so I don’t have to go looking in Big and Tall shops with a more limited range. Regardless, it seems obscene that I’m going to have to spend what I’m going to have to spend for a decent suit, but if that’s what I’m going to have to spend, then that’s what I’m going to have to spend.

    Bizarrely, when I was younger, I dressed better at work than I did in going to science fiction conventions — suits at the office, T-shirts at cons. Now I wear jeans and T-shirts at “work,” and have to don a suit at cons. But not often. Looking at the next year, for example, I see I’ll wear a suit at the Hugo Awards ceremony in September, the World Fantasy Awards banquet in November, the Nebula Awards banquet in May … and then not again until the following Hugo Awards ceremony. So 3-4 times per year max.

    What’s been bothering me most about my size, far more than suits, is that my shoe size is preventing me from getting the cool kicks I’d like. For example, sneakers like these tend not to go above 12, sometimes 13:

    I wear 15. So there is a solution for the suits, if I look long enough. For designer sneakers like these, not so much.

    • PF flyers come up to a size 16, so you can get them. I checked and they were on Zappos, here in neon orange. When I was a kid I wouldn’t have been caught dead in Chucks, it was Pro-Keds or die, but they seem to top off at a size 13. You could go with Classic Addias and rock your Brooklyn stroll DMC roots.

      As for the suits, yea I agree. That is going to be the meat of a post on why I largely stopped wearing Jeans. I was annoyed that I was spending tons on suits and they spent most of their time in the closet. I had several suits I wore only once or twice before having to give to the Salvation Army because I outgrew them. My answer was to not buy the next set of jeans and wear the suits instead.

      You can rent suits, just like you can rent a tux. I don’t know if it is any cheaper but as an option its there. If I were renting a suit for one of these events I would rent a white tux and go with the Classic Addias and a Motorhead T-Shirt.

      If you’re going to buy a suit, and spend that kind of money, get one that kicks your ass. Made-to-measure in some of NY’s bespoke shops costs about the same as a Ralph Lauren Black Label. Ergo, that Prince suit from the Raspberry Beret video is doable, most likely for under 3 grand, maybe way under. Made-to-measure starts around $1200.

      • No pair of dress trousers or khakis has ever fit me as well as a pair of Levi’s 505 jeans, which is why I’m extremely glad Levi’s finally started selling 505-cut pants. I immediately bought five of them!

        I no longer have any memory of what sneakers I wore as a kid. I think, but can’t swear, that we always wore Keds. These days, New Balance is the best fit for me. That neon orange sure does look good, though!

      • The same way you eat with your eyes, you wear cloths with your mind. You explained part of the reason suits don’t fit already: jeans are what you choose to wear, suits are what you have to wear. Right of the bat you resent the suit. It’s expensive, way expensive these days. It has to be taken care of, dry cleaning isn’t cheap. You wear it once, maybe twice, a few hours and – bang! – a $10 dry cleaning bill. You spill some BBQ sauce on your jeans, you toss them in the wash and it’s done in a hour or two. For a suit, it’s a weekend and gas burned on two trips. Don’t forget you tend to have to strangle yourself with a colorful piece of silk when you wear the suit. And always, somewhere in the back of your mind, your mother’s voice: “stand up straight”, or something like that. A suit is uncomfortable and you haven’t even put it on yet. That is one reason I hesitate to recommend to some people that they get a good suit. If they can’t get out of the suit mental space then it is money tossed away. They just won’t wear it and will get angry when they see it in the closet. You are allowed to wear a suit to garden in. If you don’t want to do it in the brand new one, do you have an old one?

        Levi hit a home run with the 505. As far as I am concerned they are the best fitting jeans ever. I’ve had well over a dozen pairs. For years I wore the 501, which is what I was wearing when I first met you and Irene. I know I had an odd number of 501s – more then 5 – maybe 7 pairs. It’s hard to remember. I do remember hearing that Levi used the 505 pattern for a number of different pants made from different materials. If you’ve owned khakis made my Levi, then it’s a good bet that they were based on the 505 pattern.

        The most comfortable pants I’ve ever owned were a pair of made-to-measure trousers I got at Brooks Brothers. They were intentionally a few inches too big at the waist and I wore then with braces(suspenders). It may be the closest a man many ever get to a skirt. The pants just drifted around my lower body.

        I wore gold seal sneakers (bully magnets) and then proceeds for years. After that it was back and forth between white leather addias basketball shoes and Puma Clydes, in blue suede, of course. I also had brooks running shoes, but I usually only wore those for running. I didn’t wear PF Flyers as a kid. I lived north of Atlantic Ave, and you could only wear PF Flyers if you lived south of Atlantic Ave. PF Flyers are better sneakers then Chucks, so you may like them. It’s free shipping back and forth with zappos, if you want to try a pair. You can get the orange ones and just keep them to wear with your suit.

  2. I no longer wear suits on a daily basis, but I still like them. There’s no better feeling than putting on a nicely tailored suit that makes you look like a million bucks.

    • It’s agony to get some younger guys into suits, or anything that isn’t a T-Shirt. All of a sudden silk and cashmere are itchy. Real shoes make their feet hurt. Ties are nooses. Article after article bemoans the state of young men today. The problem is they want to stay boys, and not be men; and, we let them.

      • You know, you’re not really selling suits when you basically say that they’re uncomfortable, they’re meant to be uncomfortable, and growing up and becoming a man means putting up with that. It would be far better salesmanship to say that the reason most men find suits uncomfortable is that they’re poorly made, and if they got themselves a GOOD suit, it would be just as comfortable to wear as their favorite pair of jeans.

        And yes, I know you’re allowed to garden in a suit. You can also garden in a BIRTHDAY suit. I’d do the latter far sooner than I’d do the former.

      • Oh bitter life, my attempt at some irony has proved a travesty. The upshot is that if you’ve already made up your mimd that the suit will be uncomfortable then any reality of the suit is irrelevant. If you’ll notice there was not a single comment on anything physical about suits or their fit. There was only real complaint was the dry cleaning costs, and that is mitigated by the fact that wool, the usual fabric of suits, so much better at staying clean compared to cotton.

        OH! What a hole I’ve dug! And in a suit no less.

        I must make amends by debunking all of these myths that have been spread and I have failed to lay to rest.

  3. Another thing about suits — one reason for my dislike of them is their fragility. It’s not just dry cleaning out BBQ stains. It’s those rips and tears that make wearing a suit feel like carrying around a Faberge egg. When I wear one, I feel there’s little armor between me and the world, and I’m always one misstep away from irreparable harm.

    • Since I have screws up my last comment I’ll cut to the chase. I’ve never known of a suit with owning that wasn’t more durable then any pair of jeans. It just cost more.

      • More durable? Really? I’ve crawled across rocky ground and rolled in mud, then washed them, and they were no worse for wear. I’m pretty sure if I did that in my 5% cashmere Ralph Lauren suit, which felt as thin as paper, that the same could not be said.

      • More rugged then jeans, hell yea. Why do you think you get 3 years out of a pair of jeans and 20-30 years out of a suit?

        Jeans are usually 12 to 14 oz denim, a 10 month or 3 season is a 7-10 oz wool. The big issue is washing – but wool is much less absorbent then cotton, so it doesn’t get anywhere near as dirty. If it’s a dry week I’d take that bet. The suit pants would wear about as well as the jeans. A wet week, maybe not so much. A tropical weight wool is 6-8 oz, that is not going to be as strong. A heavy 13+ oz wool is like steel.

  4. You guys are comparing Apples & Oranges.

    If you want to work in the garden or change the oil in the car get yourself a pair of Blaklader

    If your meeting friends for dinner in that new trendy restaurant w/ the two month wait-list choose Straight Jeans

    And for the meeting with the Investment Banker to get your start-up off the ground wear Wool Trousers

    I’m afraid to bring up the topic of Shoe’s 😉

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