It should be noted, before we begin, that my wardrobe consists of mostly flannel and ripped t-shirts, and I've been asked roughly once per day if I "play music" ever since I grew out my hair. So I'm not declaring myself as your fashion-forward role model here.
But I grew up surrounded by the opinions of two sisters and a mother who feared-not in telling their youngest "You're wearing that?"
And "You're Wearing That?" is 80% of the Suit Buying Battle.
The other 20% is your bank account.
I know when you're broke there's no difference between a million dollars and 700 dollars. Both are astonishingly large sums of money you'll likely never see, and if you had it, why would you spend it on a suit? But don't stop reading this just yet. Your hemorrhaging bank account is no reason to stay confined to those blue jeans for the rest of your life. And chances are you're a much better shopper than myself.
The Groom, for instance, who asked me to stand with him in his wedding (the very same wedding which sent me on this suit shopping excursion), found on eBay for $200 the exact same J. Crew jacket he tried on in the store where it cost $600.
I am confident I could have put my whole outfit together for $400 instead of $700, but because I am a man of convenience with the figure of a flag-pole and not an internet wizard, I couldn't bet my money on a mail-order suit. I needed to go into the trenches and try those suckers on.
Except no one ever taught me how to buy a suit. Until recently, whenever it came time to look the part, I'd gotten by with the old, "Forgive my appearance, I'm a writer working on a novel and there's no time for eating, only drinking," and "Yes, this is the same suit I wore to the Homecoming dance, thank you for noticing," and by dodging as many weddings and funerals as possible. So when this friend asked me to stand with him at his wedding in New Orleans and told me to dress my suit up or down in anyway way I pleased, I braced myself for the inevitable "2 suits, 2 shirts, 2 ties for 200 dollars" Men's Warehouse deal I'd be forced to succumb to because I didn't know any better.
But before I gave in to the Warehouse, my first stop was Nordstrom based on the recommendation of a friend. It was there I got my measurements (a very helpful tool for the suit-wearing impaired) no thanks to the sales agent who may or may not have been a nursing home escapee that told me "A skinny guy like you, you want a suit with the big shoulder pads."
"What's wrong with my shoulders?"
"Nothing as long as you keep this jacket on."
"Don't you have anything, I don't know, slimmer? Slim is in, right?"
"You're wearing it. What's the problem? You look good."
"I look like I'm twelve and playing dress-up with my father's clothes."
I discarded those duds and made my next stop the magazine rack where the true masters of the well-dressed man resided.
Or so I thought.
According to GQ, to dress like a million bucks you need a million bucks. I stared at their "Men's Essentials" modeled by the likes of an impossibly handsome Clive Owen wearing a $3,000 suit that made me salivate, $200 socks that made my feet tingle, and a $20,000 watch that "every man should own."
But I knew the only way I'd spend 20k on a watch was if it actually caused women to confuse me with Clive Owen...
Why oh why do they instruct our minimum-wage-earning asses on how to look good by modeling men in suits that cost more than my first car? There must be a suit option for the man between Clive Owen and the Ryan Seacrest Collection at Macy's.
A lot of guys I know are very frugal in regards to spending money on looking good. And I can understand why. If the likes of GQ and Esquire are our mentors, we must believe it's damn near improbable to look so good without an assistant in wardrobe adorning us in silks and wools we didn't pay for. I used to be that way too. The first time I wore a suit, it was tight and loose in all the wrong places. I ended up with a sore back from keeping my shoulders straight, looking clumsy and lost because I'd spent only $200 on the entire experience. (Not at all unlike the first time I had sex.)
This time, though, as a grown man with a job and a wife and two cats, I was determined to look just the part: that of a grown man with a job and a wife and two cats. So I set out on my own to find the perfect suit to prove a man doesn't need a Five-Picture Deal with Universal and million bucks to look the part -- he just need $700(ish).
- Suit: Topman* $420
- Shirt: Uniqlo* $29.99
- Tie: The Gap* $9.99
- Tie Clip: Suit Supply* $45
- Belt: Banana Republic* $34.99
- Socks: Brixton* $8
- Shoes: To Boots New York* $179
- Pocket Square: provided by the groom
There you have it, folks. A damn-fine suit completely accessorized for $726.97.
For suits that are cheap but don't look it, try Topman, Suit Supply, and Zara. You'll look just as handsome as Clive with little to no need for tailoring, and no one outside of Italy will be able to determine the suit's quality.
Nordstrom Rack is your go-to for shoes. They carry all the top-of-the-line brands you need to make your disgusting feet like fly. My To Boots New York originally retailed for $400.
Don't skimp on the belt. A tacky-looking belt can upset the whole outfit. Banana Republic walks the line (and walks it well) between casual and dressy. Their collection of men's belts is the best you can get without dropping a hundred large on your waist-leather.
And for the button-up, I went with Uniqlo (Japan's H&M), but you can just stick with America's H&M. They make 'em cheapest. So cheap, in fact, they're rarely good for more than 1 use seeing as they lock in your sweat, and shrink to BabyGap sizes in the wash. But off the rack they fit well, look crisp, and will be the best $14.99 you ever spent considering you might get laid because you actually look good in a suit for the first time in your life.
Now all you need is $20,726.97 more so you can get that watch.
*I have not been paid or influenced to endorse these brands, but I'm also not above it. Call me, Topshop.