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The Best Men's Suits

The Best Men's Suits

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Published by Daras Bir Singh
an article about best of men's suits
an article about best of men's suits

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Published by: Daras Bir Singh on Aug 12, 2007
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The Best Men's Suits
Overview
For some people, suits are back. For some people--particularly in the boardrooms and corner officesof the biggest companies--they never went away.The old saw "clothes maketh the man" is as much of a truism as ever. Today, as always, a well-made suit is not just a crucial business accessory; it also sends a subtle message that distinguishesthe wearer as a person of discretion, taste and, in many cases, as someone with many zeroes in hisannual bonus package.What suits don't do to the same extent they once did is reveal the wearer's background. In oursartorially egalitarian age, one doesn't need to be a blue blood or an Ivy grad to occupy the corneroffice or know the name of the best tailors. The result is that suits have become less a uniform thanan expression of individual style. If you're conservative in outlook, the odds are you will dress thatway too. Like to be a bit more flashy? Most likely, so are your clothes.What has also changed is the way men buy suits and the occasions to which they wear them.Around the turn of the last century, men of all backgrounds and careers wore ties and a suit prettymuch everywhere. These days men are more selective about when and where to dress up or dressdown. A board meeting? Wear a suit. A business lunch? Ditto. A corporate retreat in Tahoe? Not ifyou don't want to look like the hotel manager.Suits are also becoming hip. Design houses like
Gucci
(nyse: GUC - news - people),
Prada, YvesSaint-Laurent
and others are coming out with suits that are definitely more appropriate fornightclubs than the boardroom. The idea is to appeal to younger customers who rebel at thethought of wearing a necktie, let alone a day job, but still have the money to spend on a $1,500 suit.
Gieves & Hawkes
, a venerable London tailor, has even recently introduced a more "style-conscious" line called Gieves, No. 1 Savile Row in the hopes that the customer will keep comingback over the years as his tastes change and waistline expands.Still, even though Wall Street firms such as
Bear Stearns
and
Lehman Brothers
have reinstitutedformal dress codes, there are many jobs these days that no longer require men to wear a suit everyday. The result is that sales of tailored men's clothing dropped 3% from 43.2 million units in theyear ended August 2002 to 41.9 million units as of August 2003, according to Port Washington,N.Y.-based market information firm
The NPD Group
.t is apparent that many top tailors have had to struggle in the past few years: Just look at thevicissitudes of a respected American brand like
Brooks Brothers
. Following its purchase by Britishretailing giant
Marks & Spencer
for $750 million in 1988, Brooks saw a dramatic decline in profitsand popularity. In 2001, Marks & Spencer unloaded the company at a big loss for $225 million toprivately held
Retail Brand Alliance
, which, one hopes, will be able to repair Brooks' tarnishedimage. It very well could; Retail Brand Alliance is run by
Claudio Del Vecchio
, son of
Luxottica
(nyse: LUX - news - people) founder and billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio.
 
At the same time, though, the world's top suit makers haven't seen too much of a drop-off in theirbusiness. The tech billionaires of the late 1990s weren't exactly regular customers on Savile Row.Bespoke tailors like
Anderson & Sheppard
in London or
Caraceni
in Milan can produce only alimited number of suits per year and have no difficulty attracting new and repeat clients willing topay upwards of $3,000 for a handmade suit.When creating this list of the World's Best Men's Suits, we took into consideration the three keyelements that go into choosing a suit: price, style and quality. We looked at the best buys inbespoke, ready-made and more cutting-edge suits from top tailors in the U.S. and Europe. It wasimportant to cover a wide range so that the recent business school grad owing more than $40,000 instudent loans could still look good without going even deeper into debt. Moreover, there are lots ofnewly minted executive vice presidents and managing directors out there who may feel it's time tostep up sartorially.While there are many excellent tailors we left off our list, we know that the ones that made it arerecognized as the paragons of the industry not only by their customers but also by their peers. So ifyou are someone who has recently started wearing suits again, or you are maybe interested inlearning about a new tailor, we present this handy field guide to finding the right suit to suit your job and your lifestyle.To find out more about our methodology, and how to select and buy a suit, click on the links below.
 Which Suit Is Right For You?
"The biggest problem in teaching men how to dress is that there's no one for them to look at," says
Alan Flusser
, author of
Dressing the Man
(Harper Collins, 2002), who believes that one of theprimary reasons business casual failed is that the apparel industry never showed men how to lookgood in it. "Men in general definitely need help with suits. But once it's explained why they shouldbuy a particular garment, they're pretty quick studies."Suits can be broken down into three basic styles: European (i.e., Italian), British and American. TheEuropean suit typically has padded shoulders, no vents, a full-chested and V-shaped jacket and"slash"--i.e., flapless--pockets. Across the English Channel, the classic British suit sports a militarydemeanor with padded shoulders, two vents, pinched waist, flap pockets and boldly striped orplaid patterns. On our side of the pond, the epitome of traditional American styling is the "sacksuit" favored by Ivy Leaguers back in the 1920s, with natural shoulders, one vent in the back,straight-hanging lines and flap pockets. Many designers cross cultural lines, such as Bronx nativeRalph Lauren, who has a distinct Anglo-Saxon sensibility, and the Italianesque ensembles ofAmerican
 Joseph Abboud
.For tailoring options, the bespoke suit is the finest. Best exemplified by the enduring shops ofLondon's Savile Row, such as
Anderson & Sheppard
and
H. Huntsman
, bespoke suits are createdby exacting teams of highly skilled tailors and artisans to fit your every inch. They may take up tofive fittings and six weeks of work to complete, and starting prices run upwards of $3,000.Meanwhile, Hong Kong is loaded with bespoke tailors who, though not the bargain they used to
 
be, can still get you fitted nicely--and for a lot less than three grand.Off-the-rack suits are the least costly and the most convenient option, provided you're happy withthe fabric and fit. But these days many suit makers also offer a "made-to-measure" alternative thatallows customers to choose the fabric, styling options and details before allowing a tailor to takemeasurements and forward the order to the factory. A semi-finished suit is then returned to thestore for fitting and finishing.
Brioni, Kiton, Hickey-Freeman
and others offer made-to-measurelines, as do specialty men's stores such as Louis Boston. Expect prices to run 15%-25% above off-the-rack.Whatever the tailoring option, men's suits are either "full canvas"--i.e., handmade with a free-floating piece of material between the jacket's exterior fabric and interior lining--"fused" togetherwith glue, or some combination of the two. The benefits of full-canvas construction includeattention to detail, durability and a freer and more natural appearance. Though fused suits tend tobe stiffer and their glue breaks down over time, they are also vastly more affordable, with pricesranging from $200 to $1,000.Suit fabrics come in a wide array of colors, patterns and qualities: Hickey-Freeman has some 700swatches available for special order, while H. Huntsman's wools range from Super 90s to Super200s--a grading designation that refers to the number of centimeters a single piece of yarn can bestretched. The longer the stretch, the higher the quality, the more luxurious the feel and the lighterthe weight of the yarn.
Style Vs. Fashion
Once you get into stratospheric price levels, it makes sense to ask yourself whether you're makingan investment or buying a fashion item. Both have their pluses and minuses. While animmaculately rendered and classically tailored suit may last ten or 20 years and never go out ofstyle, it'll hardly get you noticed in a crowd. Meanwhile, slick fashion suits will have you lookinglike a rock star, but only for a couple of yearsThe choice between fashion and longevity is a very personal one," says
Michael Bastian
, men'sfashion director at
Bergdorf Goodman
in New York, who notes that he has several fashion suitsthat he wears only once every five or six years. "The best strategy is to play with them."Indeed, playfulness is one of the defining characteristics of the latest generation of suit buyers."Suits are definitely back, but in a more personal way," says Bastian. "The younger guys are treatingsuits more as an integrated part of their wardrobe--pairing jackets or pants with less traditionalelements for distinctly personal looks. If they wear a tie now it's because they want to, not becausetheir suit needs one."That same philosophy is gradually making its way into corporate culture. "When it comes to awardrobe, there's no longer the same emphasis on distinguishing between going to work andsocializing," says
Lauren Solomon
, a New York-based image consultant who spent four years asthe in-house image specialist at Chase Manhattan and now teaches "The Brand Called Me," amandatory mini-course at New York University's Stern School of Business. "Your business

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