An Introduction to Suits - Welcoming the Analyst Class
As we welcome the 2017 Analyst Class, I have some knowledge sharing for the incoming monkeys.
Suits come in three different constructions:
1) Fully Canvassed
2) Half Canvassed
What's the difference?
Canvassed suits have a free-hanging middle layer that "forms" the drape and shape of the suit. Normally made of horsehair, now it might be made of a mix of different materials, but regardless, it is a free layer between the suit cloth interior and exterior. If you pull the interior and exterior cloth between the buttons, you can play with that middle layer.
Fused suits are garbage. Fusing suits is a manufacturing process which is the new norm since it's much cheaper to do. It involves "gluing" two of the layers together so when you pull the cloth from both sides of the suit near the buttons, there isn't a free middle layer. It'll just feel like one thin layer, and one thick layer.
The issue with fused suits
The issue with fused suits is that if you're caught out in the rain, or dry clean the suit one too many times, you see "bubbling", most often around the chest area. That's the glue and resins slowly peeling away from the cloth. I made the mistake of buying a $900 Boss suit and getting caught in the rain for 5 minutes the next day - the suit is ruined and bubbling all over. A canvassed suit does not have bubbling, because there is no glue. Many people prefer them as they last longer, albeit most people don't even know the difference.
Because they're cheaper to manufacture, most companies, some you may not expect (most of Brooks Bro's, all Hugo Boss suits below $1900, Armani (cheaper line), etc), and some you expect (DKNY, and other unmentionables), fuse their suits. Few companies refuse to fuse their suits (Canali, most Zegna suits, Corneliani, etc.). It's a manufacturing method that saves time and money, but the output is a massive disappointment. The suit doesn't sit on and mold as well to the person wearing it over time.
Some companies have improved their fusing techniques, so sometimes you can get a fused suit and it'll be totally fine, but you'll want to think whether or not it's a risk you're willing to take, if it's a wear and tear daily suit you couldn't care less about, or if you're not in a position that'll get you ripped on by coworkers if they see the slightest bubbling.
Half Canvassed suits
Half Canvassed suits are not too bad. These suits have those three free layers from the shoulder down to above your buttons or lower jacket pocket. Below that, it's just two layers. Since most bubbling tends to occur around the chest, you can save yourself some money by grabbing half canvassed suits. Some people may think it's a surprise, but Suit Supply only sells half canvassed and fully canvassed suits (They have NYC and London stores). They're made in China (with Italian-made wool), but I'd take them over a cruddy over-priced fused Hugo Boss (Made in Turkey/Bulgaria) suit any day. Not to mention, they're almost exactly half the price.
Note: The Wool
Suits that have a 120 wool are fine, smooth, and generally feel great. But the higher the number (100,110,120,130,140), sometimes the less durable, as it's a measure of the fineness or thinness of the fibers. My favorite Super 120 suit has lasted about 3 years and with all the scrapping against tables, fumbling my keys, pulling my wallet out, etc. the fibers are ever so slowly coming apart, resulting in tiny tiny holes that can grow over time. It's now been retired for special events.
Do yourself a favor
Don't go around with $2000 Canali suits every day. The second you go out with that suit, get a little beer, wine, liquor, etc on it, you'll just be pissed and continue to waste your money. If you're into buying expensive suits, be smart about it. Century 21 has good deals for some upper end suits. In fact, you can grab a Canali for $1000, or a mid-line Zegna for $800. They may have their defects (since it's Century 21 we're talking), but they'll do fine if you can hardly notice them.
Buy 2-4 half canvassed suits for the regular brutality you expect in the pit. That nice suit or two can come out on a Monday or Tuesday, when you know you're not going out, or if you have a client meeting.
I'm not one for wearing a suit more than once a week, so 5-6 is on point. However there are people that wear a suit 2-3 times a week and do fine. To me, it gets a bit visually depressing after a the first few months. Wearing them more often just wears them out faster too.
But What Color Do I Get?
For the love of god, don't get brown or any shade of it. Wear black sparingly. Different shades of blue and gray are the safest options - preferably on the navy side of blue, gray doesn't matter.
If you're in London, for reasons I will never understand, it's a faux pas to use brown shoes/belts with light gray suits. I still do it when I'm there because I couldn't care less and it still looks great. In NYC, you're safe with that combo and most others that are expected (navy/black shoes, light blue/brown shoes, gray/black shoes, etc).
What Pattern is OK?
In order of risk (least to highest, where the last two can be argued)
Solid, herringbone, faded and narrow pin stripe (none of that 50's wide and bright stripe junk), faded/fine plaid (no pajama looking plaid - suits don't double as night wear).
Mod Note (Andy): top 50 posts of 2017, this one ranks #34 (based on # of silver bananas)