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
3) Fused

What's the difference?

Canvassed suits

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

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)

Comments (66)

Jun 15, 2017 - 4:41am
GMG, what's your opinion? Comment below:

There is something about it that screams school disco/work experience/estate agent.. not to say it can't look good but it's very rarely executed well.

For me:

Navy/Black Navy/Oxblood Grey/Black

  • 1
Jun 15, 2017 - 4:17pm
Whyphy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Brown looks less crisp and smart than black, they're more for when you're in a casual environment. I think brown shoes (dark chestnut, not tan) can look great with a blue or grey suit, yet I wouldn't wear them to work because of the aforementioned reasons. Plus, I like that there are traditions.

It's not such a faux pas nowadays since there are so many Americans and continental Europeans who don't know/care about those traditions, therefore it's rarely looked down upon.

Jun 10, 2017 - 8:36pm
MonacoMonkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The amount of compliments I get in sub $400 suits is ridiculous.
Meanwhile my buddy in his $1,800 suit gets no attention. He's 5'9'' little pudgy around the midsection. I'm 6'1'',a swimmer, and a (former) model.

Point is, the person comes first, then his suit.
Don't put the horse before the carriage.

Jun 10, 2017 - 9:44pm
MonacoMonkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

but you have to ask yourself, assuming a finite sum of resources, if it's "worth" it.

i don't see suits (or any article of clothing) as an end in itself, but rather as a means to an end. this is where we differ.

that being said, great writeup. I'll keep it handy should I feel the need so spend $3k on a suit.

Jun 15, 2017 - 5:14pm
mid535, what's your opinion? Comment below:

(former) model? Are you OLD now?

Compensation is not commensurate with education.
  • 1
Jun 15, 2017 - 5:15pm
mid535, what's your opinion? Comment below:

When's the last time you saw a horse in a sOot? Dummy! no wonder you were a model...

Compensation is not commensurate with education.
Best Response
Jun 15, 2017 - 4:04pm
Beerus, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Suit Supply is a great company to buy suits from when you're starting out in your younger years. Half-canvassed and you can get solid suits for $399-$499. Don't buy into the name brands, suits are different. Brands like Hugo Boss are CRAP unless you buy their top tiers, which will cost $1,500+. Their low levels will cost at least $800, sure, you could find deals and get them for $500 or so, but the quality is crap. They are fused suits, so not even half-canvassed, and they're priced at $800 because you're paying for the brand, nothing more and nothing less. There are only three things that matter: FIT, QUALITY OF MATERIAL, and CONSTRUCTION. Name Brands like Hugo will fit tighter, which is why they look good on younger guys, but don't be fooled. Go to Suit Supply, they source the finest wool from established factories that have been operational for HUNDREDS of years, these are the same places that the big and expensive names go to as well. So why are the suits $399? Simple. Made in China. I can tell your sirens are going off, but like I said, Suits are different. This is not a cheaply-constructed toy that will give you lead poisoning. Think of it this way, Apple iPhones are made in China. Are they crap quality? No. Other guys that are overcharging for crap suits will say Made in Italy, but that doesn't mean anything. They're of poor construction, why? Because they are fused. I feel like I'm going in circles. For guys in college and recent grads, go to suit supply, great quality of material and construction for the price. But what about the fit? They actually fit well, but if you need it tighter, they have in-house tailoring which is top notch. And no, I'm not an employee or being paid to write this. I found an opportunity to let my inner nerd out. I've done way too many hours of research on suits to not seize this opportunity. My gf doesn't want to hear this crap, so hopefully some of you guys find this helpful. Side note: Brooks Brothers is also a good choice for new guys who should NOT be spending $1,000+ per suit, AKA you. BB's suits will be in the $600 range for a good one. Grey, Dark Grey, Blue, Navy, DO NOT BUY BLACK YET. One last thing, Suit Supply's suits have functioning buttons, which is usually only found on the most expensive of suits. Buy one, let the first button closest to your wrist be unbuttoned, it's shows that you have functioning buttons. Little things like this is what you will notice when you watch House of Cards, look up professionals online, and in real life. Oh, and cut the freakin' threads that keep your flaps together, that is a disgrace.

Jun 15, 2017 - 3:57pm
SandyCheeks, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Can someone verify the greatness of suit supply as this 2 week old account proclaims it? It sounds legit but Id love to see some second opinions.

Jun 15, 2017 - 5:04pm
mtnmmnn, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Suitsupply is really great, you won't find a better made / fitting suit anywhere near that price point. This article from the WSJ is a good read if you want more of a reputable source than dudes on the interwebz.

I'll give the best quote for those without a subscription

"The testers found striking differences in quality, sometimes out of line with the suit's price. Both testers said the $614 Suitsupply suit matched the $3,625 Armani in quality. Both saw little difference in quality between the two, or at least not enough to justify a $3,000 difference in price."

Jun 15, 2017 - 4:06pm
secrethidden, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Picked up suits supply before. However, even the smallest size was too big for me and they suggested I return it due to the amount of tailoring involved. Any other suggestion?

Jun 15, 2017 - 6:21pm
Beerus, what's your opinion? Comment below:

See if JCrew can fit you, It's my personal go-to behind Suit Supply because of it's good mix of fit and quality. I would recommend Express next, their quality is not bad and they've nailed down the formula for their type of suit, which tends to be slim with slim lapels as well (but basically everyone is doing that now). Others: Banana Republic, Calvin Klein

Jun 15, 2017 - 12:12pm
AndyLouis, what's your opinion? Comment below:

when i lived in China I had a personal tailor and had 5 suits made (among other things), 10 years and the still fit! they were about $~60/each (i lived in a smaller city Suzhou, near Shanghai). i've shown them to a fashion designer and they told me the quality was great

WSO Content & Social Media. Follow us: Linkedin, IG, Facebook, Twitter.

  • 1
Jun 15, 2017 - 9:42pm
RSB Star, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Very true. Just got one from Thailand, and it is very nice/well made, but you have to make sure not to go to the wrong shop or it'll probably be quite cheap. It is interesting that they just copy the styles of many luxury brand fashion companies at many shops.

Jun 19, 2017 - 11:32am
cchen314, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Same here LOL. I got two of them...

Jun 15, 2017 - 9:31am
Dacawin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

All my suits are from suit supply and I couldn't be happier with them. Sometimes they even have sales events on their outlet website although they're pretty hard to come by.

Jun 19, 2017 - 6:33pm
originationmgmt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

God it's going to be hilarious when every other analyst is wearing Suit Supply and matching.

Suit supply has a limited number of options and they are the same between NYC and London from what I can tell (have been in both stores the past week).

Jun 15, 2017 - 10:32am
Middle Market PE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Zegna Su Misura. Just bought a tuxedo through the program and was very impressed. Suits end up being 10-20% more than retail, and you get to pick your own fabrics/options, much better fit, and less hassle than buying off the rack.

I wear smoking slippers to work
Jun 15, 2017 - 1:24pm
Pierogi Equities, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm very interested in getting a nice Ludlow, but I wonder what others have to say about it.

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

Jun 15, 2017 - 4:59pm
BankerC159, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Good write up on suits.

But I'd also offer up that TAILORING is also extremely important. Make sure you find a really good tailor. A well-fitted suit can make a relatively inexpensive suit look great.

Edit: Saw some people mentioned Tailoring but good to re-iterate this and hit this home!

Jun 15, 2017 - 5:02pm
Jamie_Diamond, what's your opinion? Comment below:

i get a discount from suit supply -- suits are great for younger guys

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

Jun 15, 2017 - 7:22pm
Going Concern, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is a nice writeup but I still think it's misleading to suggest that fused vs canvassed is the most important factor in an everyday suit in the sub 1k range. I agree that the wool and color are important, but fit is by far the most important. I have some lower end Charles Tyrwhitt suits that I think are fused and they've served me just fine. They fit really well

Jun 19, 2017 - 12:49pm
Almost Investment Grade, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Few co workers have Suit Supply suits and they look...fine.

for those in NYC, Enzo Customs near Grand Central is solid.

BB, Associate, Coverage
  • 1
Jun 18, 2017 - 10:44pm
design, what's your opinion? Comment below:

For my suits, I buy 2 trousers for every jacket. You are a lot harder on your trousers than on the jacket. Most of the time when you're in the office, the jacket is draped over the back of your chair or hanging on a coat hanger. I've saved a good amount of money by doing this and I won't wear through my trousers as fast. I have 3 workhorse suits, so I wear the jackets around twice a week and the trousers never more than once a week.

Jun 19, 2017 - 4:42pm
ZetaMale, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Some good suggestions. Here me out on this for suggestions on saving money/getting quality;

  • Gilt sales on men's suits; They get Zegna, etc. but at lower prices. Stick to solid suits (non-black) and watch the lapels. Some of the European makes go a bit overboard. Just go notch and be done with it. How you do this is get your measurements done by an actual tailor and then plug/chug those numbers into Gilt. Don't go off jacket and waist size alone

  • Gilt city sales on Martin Greenfield custom suits; On occasion Gilt will run this type of sale. You can get arguably the best tailored suit in NYC for ~900-1200. MG is also still alive and is a legend in NYC. Get one suit that's high quality for appropriate times

  • Big box store sales; Barney's just had 60% off (may still be going on). You can grab high end for ~800 bucks. Very strong quality and--IMO--worth every penny at that price. Not to mention, they'll tailor it there at no additional charge. Tip: don't buy Gucci or some other designer that does a bunch of everything. Go with those that are known for suits (e.g. Isaia, E. Zegna, etc.). For god sake, do not buy Brioni/Kiton. No matter what the sale. Those have a certain air about them and can--at full price--cost over $10k

  • Hickey Freeman; Some people here may laugh at this, but HF makes great low cost suits if you look outlet and online. Their suits rarely look weird (read: odd colors, patterns, vents, lapels) and are made for work

  • Joseph A Bank; Again more laughter, but if you get past the 'buy one suit get a free store' mentality, you can load up on cheap work horse suits

  • It has been said, but Suit Supply can be really good

  • If you travel overseas for work in China, find tailors. They will be cheap and the quality/craftsmanship will be the opposite

  • Amount of suits. I'd say 5-6. 3 of which are Navy, 2 of which are Charcoal Gray, and (optional) 1 dark blue variation or lighter weight fabric

Jun 19, 2017 - 5:58pm
originationmgmt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Couple notes or things to consider:

Gilt has been accused of selling fakes in some instances and I've had a bad experience with them - would use with caution.

Joseph A Bank - beware if you're slim fit. If you're a square or rectangle, go for it. Their slim is, slightly slim.

I know I said Suit Supply is great for cost relative to construction, which it is, but if you go there and compare the fabric to any higher end store, you'll notice that it's a pretty darn heavy suit. They're not the best for the dead of summer, but still put up with a beating of sweat - you just might not be comfortable.

Jun 22, 2017 - 1:19pm
BullRunKid, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thoughts on DB suits? As a guy with a small frame who is built, I find a lot of the DB and peak lapel suits just flat out look better on my body (and actually fit properly) than your traditional off the rack suits. I don't mind being bold, but I don't want to go so far as to look off.. I also don't work in a bank, so I'm not one up'ing Dave the local MD

Jun 28, 2017 - 1:51pm
J.T.MarlinMD, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I can't speak for suit supply myself but I have heard some friends say some positive things about it. In my opinion, the best $500-$600 suit you can get is Indochino. They measure you and then you pick out the colour, material, pattern, buttons, etc and they custom make it. I've received the most compliments on my suit from there. I personally didn't like the guy measuring me but the end product turned out great.

Jul 24, 2017 - 12:34pm
tackytech, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You can find these Italian brands for anywhere between 400 - 800 bucks during sale. Can't really go wrong with any of them.

Canali, Corneliani (No CC or Trend), Caruso, Pal Zileri (Mainline, not LAB).

Full-canvass, decent to quite good fabrics, modern/youthful yet timeless cuts, readily available most places.

A step above, you'd find Ermenegildo Zegna, Belvest, Isaia, and such brands. Only difference would be a bit more handwork, and a bit more Neapolitan styling.

Mar 11, 2018 - 2:03pm
AlphaMIA, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Mar 11, 2018 - 4:19pm
MonacoMonkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Deleniti ut commodi animi doloribus consectetur culpa dolore. Atque quia fugit beatae blanditiis deserunt aperiam. Consequatur aspernatur aliquam neque autem qui. Aperiam aspernatur omnis ut recusandae voluptatem minima quam odio. Et voluptatem voluptatibus in debitis.

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