If you scroll down the Kennedy-Nixon photo in your post so that only the suits are seen (removing the influence of the photogenic Kennedy and the smarmy Nixon), I think it is undeniable that the 3-button suit is more likely to belong to a higher-status individual than the 2-button. Nixon's 3-button could easily be a bank president, while Kennedy's 2-button (with Kennedy removed) could just as easily be the owner of a car dealership or the president of the local Rotary. Replace Kennedy's pocket square with a couple of cigars and you have Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack. Not so with the 3-button.
For the record, I am a committed 2-button man. It suits my build, I like the look, and I feel like James Bond when I'm fitted out in a British-silhouette 2-button. The 3-button has always reminded me of a lab coat. These personal distinctions may result from my early 1960s childhood, when the young and fashionable sported 2-buttons (such as Kennedy, later the Rat Pack) and old men and fuddy-duddies the 3s. But that was BF for me (Before Fussell, who, by the way, I have MB to thank for introducing me), and now I notice and interpret things differently. While I am not arguing Fussell's infallibility, I think the 'proleness' of the 2-button is evident in the way the V broadens the shoulders in the same way as (Fussell points out) do epaulettes, emphasizing strength and, thereby, physical labor. The 3-button wearer in the photo appears never to have done a day of physical labor in his life, and I believe that is the intent.
Even your example of Todd Palin works against your argument, I think: Palin is a physical laborer and could model a 2-button to advantage, yet he dresses (or is being styled) to appear higher-classed. (Forget Ahmadinejad, of course; he looks like he gets his clothes at a rummage sale.)
I am glad to finally get this off my mind, as I had been dwelling on it (and particularly because I had learned about Fussell through your site and have been greatly influenced by him). I have also long intended to write to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. And I absolutely love the new logo. Keep up the great work! —Paul
A: We welcome reasoned dissent from our readers and it's clear you've given this topic a lot of consideration — we especially admire how you use Fussell's observations regarding epaulettes against us! That hurts. But to continue the discourse, here is a thought: If a 2-button jacket is working correctly, it doesn't merely broaden the shoulders (as we agree epaulettes do). It reinforces the overall V-shape of one's torso, which is to say, it broadens the shoulders while narrowing the waist.
The sort of hard labor that creates this shape, in our experience, is many hours at the gym, many hours in the pool, or perhaps if you have very good genes and disciplined eating habits, many hours on fairways or polo fields. It is a look, in short, that comes from (moneyed) recreation rather than full-time bricklaying or ditch-digging, which tends to create a thicker, lumpier, less elongated look.
As for Todd Palin, we agree with your analysis — he no doubt turns to 3-button suits because Frank Luntz (or some other top-notch GOP campaign consultant) has determined through extensive focus-group testing that small-town conservatives of a certain age equate 3-button jackets with bankers, brokers, and other corporate nine-to-fivers maintaining the lower rungs of the top quintile.
But who, other than Todd Palin's wife, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie want to win that vote? Not us, and not you! As we think Fussell would agree, there's a difference between what a prole thinks an upper looks like, and what an upper looks like. In this case, the difference is as subtle as a single button. But as you have found out from your own experience, that single button (or lack of it) makes all the difference in the world. Keep wearing 2-button jackets, and keep challenging us to think more deeply about the choices we make. We appreciate the feedback!
At Yoox, you will find loads of stylish, Italian-made suits for as cheap as a couple hundred bucks. And here's the best part: the site's vast selection and 100-country reach means that your guy will be the only man within his zip code — or maybe even his time zone — wearing whatever suit you choose.
This is in stark contrast to what we perceive as the Ludlowization of the young, upwardly mobile professional suit market — named after J.Crew's increasingly ubiquitous invasive species. The popularity of the Ludlow eludes us. Why spend $700 on a made-in-China suit with prop buttons and anemic lapels when you can buy Prada, Piombo, or Martin Margiela for less? Pick up one of these, and you'll have more than enough left over to add a tie from our store to your shopping list.
Q: Page 60 of Paul Fussell's book Class, last paragraph 3rd line down states "the two-button suit is more prole than the three-button Eastern-establishment model."
Just wondering if I shouldn't listen to this part of the Bible due to your stance on the three-button suits, at least for the average size man. And keep wearing the two-button.
P.S. Rest in Peace Fussell. He was a God among not just men, but gentlemen. —Jack
A: Last week, researchers in Tel Aviv determined that camels didn't exist in Israel until centuries after Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph lived — yet the Bible mentions camels more than 20 times.
The Bible Bible, that is. Not Class. But sometimes Fussell can be fallible too. Two-button suits elongate the torso, and elongated torsos have long been the grail of the American overclass. Which is why yoga studios per capita tracks so precisely with income per capita in the U.S. (We are totally making this up but are certain it is true.)
An elongated torso helps accentuate the natural V of a man's body, and as Tom Ford has suggested in the past, emphasizing that natural V is the key to a magnificent presence.
To see this principle in action, consider the classic portrait of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon above. JFK looks vital and commanding, the King of Camelot. Nixon looks stout, shifty, Nixonian.
So while our admiration for Fussell remains as strong as ever, our thoughts on two-button versus three-button are as fixed as the word of God on a stone tablet. Leave the three-buttons to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Todd Palin, and Tricky Dick.
Q: Hey Guys - long time devotee, glad to see you back. I'm getting married and am shopping for suits. I'm decking my groomsmen out in charcoal Indochinos (God knows what those assholes would show up in otherwise), but would like something a step up for myself.
I'm looking for a medium grey Glen Plaid two button, dual vent but having a hard time finding a nice one. I like the current J. Crew Ludlow, even if the lapels are a bit thin. It has a very nice fabric (same mill as your Buckley tie), but for some reason they refuse to sell it with an inseam for the taller gentleman. I'm 6'4" and typically wear a 36x35", not to mention it looks like their pants tend to run on the short side to begin with.
I'm very open to getting something MTM, but I'd like to keep the price somewhat reasonable, say $1500? I sincerely appreciate any advice! —Jim
A: We admire a man who eschews a traditional wedding day costume in favor of something he'd wear to dinner. This epitomizes the core principle of understatement.
Neighbor: "Working on a Saturday, Jim?" Jim: "Nope. Getting married."
As for the suit, given your size, it will be as difficult finding anything OTR that fits as it was finding your soulmate. Or the person within your geographic and socioeconomic circles who's willing to tolerate your idiosyncrasies and that you leave the seat up. Whichever.
Anyhow, go MTM, as you suggest, and try Brooklyn Tailors. Started by a couple in their Clinton Hill apartment, their stuff is now at Barneys, yet bespoke suits are $1,275; reasonable by MTM standards and within your budget. Spend the balance on a custom shirt.
Some friends and I were drinking some Magnificent Bastards and talking football and, naturally, Shannon Sharpe's dress attire on CBS's pregame show came up. My buddies think he dresses like a clown. I think he dresses with balls and style. Real sharp, as it were. What does the MB say? —Evan
"Balls and Style." Sounds like a good name for a men's style site and corresponding e-commerce shop. Er, nevermind.
We can see where your buddies are coming from with the clown comments. Unfortunately, sometimes Sharpe wears wide, floppy, too-neatly-tied bow ties that definitely evoke thoughts of men in makeup who accessorize with squirting flower boutonnières. Take Saturday, for example (left).
But we agree with you, Evan. Sharpe is great at bold pattern matching and texture combinations. Everything fits perfectly. His lapels are just the right width and echo that of his ties. His knots are almost always appropriate for the collar shape. He often wears gingham and textured ties, both MB favorites (see Sunday; right).
And while we usually need to turn down the volume when he's making a point, he's a pretty good analyst, too.
Q: What's the MB in the header wearing? The shirt is mostly likely a custom shirt, what about the pants and shoes? Thanks! —Viktor
A: Good eye on the shirt. That is a custom Deo Veritas made with windowpane Thomas Mason in magenta. It's $138 and totally worth it. Vinnie makes great shirts and if you mention MB he'll take good care of you.
The pants are the bottom half of a suit separate prototype one of us is working on.
The shoes are Converse Chuckit mesh sneakers. They work best for the beach or pool but can also be adopted as streetwear during hot Pulaski summers, as shown here. Unfortunately these don't seem to be available online unless you are OK with purple in men's sizes 3, 4, or 7.
Q: Black suit: Is a slim fit black suit a good move for the office and, if so, how should it be accessorized? I prefer to reserve black for evening events, but I'd like to go beyond the navy and charcoal options. (I either don't like light-colored suits, or I don't look good in them...I'm not sure which.) —JY
A: A black suit — slim-fit or otherwise — is only a good move for exactly two occasions:
1. Funerals 2. Auditioning for a gangster role in a Tarantino pic
If you're bored with navy and charcoal and can't do light colors, try a pattern like a windowpane, pinstripe, or our favorite, Glen plaid like this one from Ralph Lauren
Q: I have a Christmas party for a large bank coming up in a few months, and since I've managed to navigate life thus far without a respectable suit I thought I'd get one made from a local tailor. As we were going over the fit and style of the suit, he asked if I would like pleats. Being a long-time MB reader and knowing your stance on such things, I replied that I did not.
This raised a problem - being a former speed skater and avid cyclist, my seat-to-waist proportion is a bit out of the normal range. Without pleats, the standard slit pant pocket would be stuck slightly open giving the impression that the pants do not fit. The tailor recommended I go with continental-style pockets, which are more similar to the style used in jeans. What does the MB thing of this dilemma? —Andrew
A: Andrew, we top out at around 15 mph on a pair of skates. But even so, we love Continental-style pockets on dress pants, precisely because they make them less dressy. So listen to your tailor on this one, and make sure to have him style the jacket to match, preferably with double vents. Single vents are great but are also more traditionally American.
Ed. note: We got this response from another thick-thighed reader and thought it worthy to post here.
I relate to Andrew of today's continental pockets question as I, too, have been endowed with strangely muscular legs. I have 26" thighs (Schwarzenegger had 28.5" at his peak). I found your answer to be incomplete in that, while I, too, find continental pockets to be both magnificent and especially bastardly, any tailor that can actually construct a suit should be able to make even on-seam pockets lay flat. My tailor has done it with off the rack pants, so fully custom is no problem. The other thing to watch out for is a too tight waist; the tighter the waist the more the pockets will flare.
Q: What is the proper length for a sportcoat or suit (and should there be a difference?) in the modern era? In other words, where should it end relative to your torso? I have a variety of high-quality sportcoats and suits acquired over the years and have typically worn a 40L, to get the chest fit and sleeve length mostly (I'm 6'1" with long arms and 33 inch waist). But the length of the coats (top of collar to bottom) varies from 31 1/2" for an Armani sportcoat to 33 1/2 for a suit. I'm not interested in the Thom Browne look, nor do I want to look like I'm wearing grandpa's suit. Some of mine now feel dated due to this length. The coats I see on the guys which look like they fit the best seem to be shorter length — ending just at the bottom of the rump. Looking at the J. Crew Aldridge it seems that is where they should hit — although it's hard to tell from the model's slouching. What is your point of view on this issue? –Nick
A: Nick, we believe there is a perfect length for a blazer or suit jacket (no, there is no difference). To illustrate this, take a look at da Vinci's Vitruvian Man below. A jacket should end at the end of your nutbag — give or take a 1/4" — when tried at room temperature. This will obviously involve standing in front of a mirror with your pants down, so we don't recommend doing this in department stores with security cameras, fraternity houses, or the Congressional gym, unless you want to end up on the web some day.
Note: If your balls go for a swim when you sit down on the can, this method will not work for you.
He put on his best ill-fitting President's suit. He knotted up his shiniest President's tie. And he still only got 2,293 votes in the Iowa straw poll. Sorry, Tim, you were born with a face made for overalls. (We should know. We're from rural Wisconsin.)
Q: Dear MB — What are your thoughts on a suit that has patch pockets on the jacket? I'm considering a blue Margiela suit that I will wear for business, but it has patch pockets and I'm wondering if this is too casual? —George
A: No, not too casual unless you're a banker, undertaker, 13-year-old boy, or U.S. senator. (It's definitely OK in the House.)
We love suits with jackets with patch pockets for at least three reasons.
1. Casual suits lend themselves to artful dishevelment 2. Casual suits lend themselves to more interesting tie, belt, and footwear choices than their dressier counterparts 3. With the addition of a few other pieces you can practically get a whole wardrobe out of separating a casual suit
Wear the blazer with denim, or for an especially good look, white jeans or trousers. If you're really good, shorts. Presumably the suit pants are in a similarly casual vein as the jacket, so you'll be able to wear them with a sweater, a sport shirt, or even a polo. While it has its place in board rooms, Bar Mitzvahs, and the Capitol Building, the traditional flap-pocket wool suit can't touch this.
Q: Hey I was wondering what your opinion of Hart Schaffner Marx is? I don't see any reviews of them on your website! I know they own a lot of other brands, but is their flagship brand quality? I've recently seen a lot of their suits and ties on sale at deep discount and was wondering if its worth buying. -Rob
A: Rob, you're seeing Hart Schaffner Marx suits and ties on deep discount because the brand's leading model, President Barack Obama, has just a 47% approval rating. That, and fewer and fewer people who aren't either running America or dull but important Fortune 500 companies wear worsted wool suits with jackets running past the crotch, pleated trousers, and shiny silk power ties anymore.
Don't get us wrong. We give thanks to HSM every time we pee after drinking a few too many MBs -- the company was the first to introduce zippers to men's pants in 1936. And HSM suits clearly exhibit the sort of well-made craftsmanship that can only come from Midwestern fingers made strong and beefy from a livable union wage. But it's just not a look we'd ever choose for ourselves, even if that means we'll never be able to obtain the Democratic nomination or, say, occupy the top box in the org chart at ConocoPhillips.
At approximately $10 a year for a subscription, GQ and Details are now nearly as free as the Internet. But as with the Internet, don't believe everything you read in them.
"They're about as Waspy as a shoe can get, but in the hands of Tom Ford, the favored footwear of country-clubbers everywhere has acquired some genuine sex appeal." Details, 11/10
Sorry, Tom, the only place we like tassels is on the nipples of an aging stripper named Frenchie.
"As Michael Bastian explains, 'Changing the proportion a little changes everything.' Get yours with a single pinch and tapered legs." Details, 11/10
Even with a single pinch, pleated pants make us think of ironing, PowerPoint presentations, and bad cologne. We never want to think about any of these things.
DOUBLE BREASTED SUITS & BLAZERS
"Oh, and one insider tip: The cool kids are calling them 'D.B.'s.'" GQ, 1/11
"Slimming and stylish, the modern six-button blazer has left the midtown office behind for the downtown scene." Details, 11/10
Unless your height-to-weight ratio is 2 lbs. per inch or lower -- like Kid Cudi, pictured -- double-breasted suits or jackets will simply make you look fatter than you are, even if you call them D.B.'s.
"It's a shirt with a little bit of nostalgia that packs a whole lot of cool." GQ, 2/11
All the sensitive nerve endings are in the tip of your collar -- do not circumcise it.
"Say goodbye to the classic blue and white. These versatile two-tones will take you much further." Details, 2/11
Even in such understated incarnations, saddle shoes are possibly the only footwear a pimp, a schoolgirl, and John Daly might get in a fight over. Stay out of the fray.
Q: Hey guys. The recent header photos are awesome! I especially love the Lambeautailgatingseries (and associated cheesebra). As part of the post-Christmas sale-mageddon, I picked up a nice Banana Republic suit for well over half off. The size 38 jacket fits me perfectly in the shoulders, and looks very MB overall when unbuttoned. But it pulls WAY too much when I button it; it's a solid size too small over my belly. The larger size 40 jacket, meanwhile, looks clownish.
So #1, yes I know, I need to go to the gym more. Working on it, I promise.
#2, Is it acceptable to wear the perfect-in-the-shoulders jacket and never button it, or do I need to cut my losses and go made-to-measure?
Can't wait to see the upcoming spring-time header photos! --Ben
A: Ben, flattery will get your question answered, but will not protect you from savagery. Save that receipt, because a man should never own a suit jacket he strains to button -- at any price -- or he risks looking like Popeye pal J. Wellington Wimpy, and feeling self-conscious, insecure, and in dire need of hamburgers. Until your presumed 2011 resolution starts to pay off, cut your losses and go made-to-measure.
Q: You recently recommended the J.Crew Aldridge suit, but the Ludlow has a trimmer fit. Wouldn't that be more MB? I'm planning on a charcoal suit for my slightly casual wedding. --Matt
A: Yes, the Ludlow (lower right) has a trimmer fit, plus a shorter cut and narrower lapels, which is why we recommended the Aldridge (lower left) as that aspiring MB's first suit. It's the same reason we recommend it over the Ludlow for your wedding.
The Ludlow's overly narrow lapel is looking post-peak to our eyes, and for an event that's forever preserved for posterity -- more pictures will be taken of you on this day than that time you passed out on the sofa and your buddies drew shit all over your face with Sharpies -- you want a look that's as timeless as possible. That means lapels approximating the width of those on Cary Grant's suit in North by Northwest, which have style, yet are virtually devoid of trend.
Q: Getting married in March and I am ordering khaki suits from Indochino. Question is, peak or notch lapel? Is one more formal than others? What's appropriate for a casual feel wedding? --Jason
A: We've got a hotline connected directly to Indochino CEO Kyle Vucko's office, and after consulting with his style team, here's what he said:
"Peaked lapels are a bit dressier than notched lapels, and have a bit more flair. Given that your wedding has a casual feel, though, I'd opt for notched lapels. Peaked lapels are stylish, but put your entire wedding party in them and they'll look much more dressy costume-y. Notched lapels, on the other hand, are always classic."
Q: I have to attend a viewing/funeral with my girlfriend for someone I don't know. It's Saturday and I am in college so I don't have much time to plan. What would the MB recommend for an aspiring MB? --Matthew
A: Matthew, use this stranger's death as an opportunity to prepare for the next phase of your life: get into a four-season charcoal gray suit. Besides rocking the funeral, it will serve you nicely for forthcoming interviews, peers' weddings, and just about any other occasion that calls for a suit.
With the deadline just two days away, online and custom are clearly not options, which can be a good thing since they sometimes cause anxiety due to The Paradox of Choice.
Two acceptable suits available at popular offline stores are the oft-recommended J. Crew Aldridge, or, of you're a bigger guy or prefer a more traditional cut, BR's version which is $80 cheaper. Either way, just be sure to stay clear of Men's Wearhouse.
Q: What are your thoughts on Indochino? They have some pretty inexpensive suits, but they look rather, well, cheap. MB or not worth my time? --Bryce
A: We want to do a custom suit feature this fall, and hope Indochino participates so we can answer your question in great detail. Their suits range in price from $329 to $449. For that price you cannot expect Kiton. (If any readers are in the custom suit-making business, drop us a line if you're interested in participating in the feature.)
Q: What is Bert van Marwijk and the rest of the Dutch coaching staff wearing? Even if the Dutch do not go on to win, it is apparent that van Marwijk is the best dressed amongst all the World Cup teams. --James T.
A: It definitely doesn't hurt to have a tan and a head of white hair, but the Dutchmans' fitted suits with short-hemmed jackets, combined with open point collar shirts is a look that may take them to the championship.
Last week longtime reader Duncan suggested we predict World Cup quarterfinal appearances based on the teams' coaches' match-day attire. The Saturday matches played out as you'd expect. From top:
Uruguay's Oscar Tabarez wears boxy banker suits, but was an easy winner over South Korea's Huh Jung-Moo, who's officially the last person on earth who should be wearing a spread collar. In the other match Ghana's Milovan Rajevac could've worn almost anything to beat Bob Bradley; the poor bastard's only a fanny pack shy of pulling off of the archetypal clueless American tourist look.
The Sunday matchups were a different story. The normally natty Joachim Loew wore some kind of royal blue synthetic v-neck under a blazer and his German team still crushed Fabio Capello's Englishmen. Then Mexico's Javier Aguirre's understated elegance easily succumbed to the noisy, shiny, diamond earring-wearing Diego Maradona, who looks a contestant on the Argentine version of Tool Academy.
So far it's a flip of a coin. A 50-50 proposition. How should things play out?
Q: Longtime reader. How about a follow-up to the WC question about the Capello/Beckham suits. The first knock-out round is coming, and based upon choice of clothing, which teams should make it to the quarterfinals? --Duncan
A: Duncan, this is a great idea we will strongly consider.
Q: What does MB think of David Beckham and Fabio Capello's Umbro suits for the 2010 World Cup? Is this a winning look? --Brennan
A: Nicely proportioned lapel, two button front, four button (which we presume to be functioning) cuffs, double rear vents in the traditional British style, and a three-lion crest. If you can excuse the creases in the pants, there is a lot to like here -- but unfortunately FIFA doesn't award any points for the amount of fearsome wildlife on your breast pocket.
With England currently 0-0-2, with just one goal to its credit, and unlikely to make it out of the weak Group C, the suits are looking a little TTH, like Beckham and Capello spent more time preparing their wardrobe than their team.
Q: Indochino, whom you reviewed in your Custom Shirt Reviews feature, just launched a line of made-to-measure linen suits called the Linen Collection. They claim that "the words sharp and crisp are new adjectives to associate with the fair weather suiting staple renowned for wrinkles. But we've found the perfect sturdy linen, still lightweight and soft, that maintains professional standards throughout the day with a blend of silk for sheen and tight weaves for structure." Worth a look or too good to be true? --Pete
A: Pete, given our own experiences with linen, we think it's probably easier to discover a cure for cancer than it is to create "sharp and crisp" linen. On the other hand, we live in a miraculous age. We would've never bet that our top scientists could create a wrinkle-free Joan Rivers, and yet look at her. She's sharp and crisp, with a nice silky sheen that's totally appropriate for fair weather suiting. So maybe Indochino has pulled off something similar. If they have, we applaud them -- and hope they start in on cancer soon.
Q: This J. Crew cotton suit.
Can I wear that with a blue gingham shirt, or are the subtle stripes going to give me problems? Also, brown loafers and a gray flannel tie. --Jason
A: Yes you can. Just make sure the check on the gingham is 3/16" at an absolute minumum, and even a little bigger would be better to further quiet the suit's stripes. The shirt is the star of this show. Save the flannel tie for pairing with a fine-whale corduroy suit this fall. Instead try a gray knit or linen-cotton blend; either will provide the texture you're looking for.
I am a large fan of your well placed words of wisdom, and I'd like to pick your mind momentarily and add to a question that was recently asked of you pertaining to suits with sneakers. On March 18th, John Stewart of The Daily Showwas revealed to be wearing white deck shoes with his ensemble. I thought he rocked it, but I decided to seek sounder minds. What do you think? --Colin
A: Colin, If you're going to wear white sneakers with a suit, don't grab one from Jon Stewart's closet. The suit he's wearing is too dark, too baggy, and too Men's Wearhouse Business Generic to combine with anything but black Florsheims, and white sneakers are a particularly bad choice for it. At first we thought he was wearing socks.
If you want to combine white sneakers with a suit, follow Will Arnett's lead and choose something casual, fitted, and not too dark.
UPDATE: Many readers have written in to inform us that the sneakers Jon Stewart are wearing are essentially part of a Glenn Beck costume and thus worn in the name of comedy. Our knowledge of Beck and his typical shoewear choices is limited, but if he is in the habit of pairing baggy navy suits with sneakers so white it looks like he's been standing in a vat of vanilla ice cream all morning, then our criticisms of Stewart may be applied to Beck instead.
Guys, if you want to project that "Yes, I'll cheat on an adorable millionaire who loves my children as if they were her own" vibe, then by all means adopt this look -- which takes the Showbiz Toolbag look that we've previously documented to its natural end-point.
Sandra, we love you, always have, always will, no matter how many awful romantic comedies you make, but frankly, what did you expect from a guy who thinks the Oscars represent a great opportunity to dress like an undertaker at his junior prom? That suit alone should have been enough to initiate divorce proceedings.
Q: Sneakers with suit...what's the MB take? I know the Prada sport line is great as are most Sabelt, but what about Adidas Samba or similar? --Brooke
A: Great question. The closer you get to a footwear brand's "originals" the harder it is to pull off (and risk looking like you're TTH). Lots of guys can wear Puma Sport Fashion with a cool, casual suit. But are you up to combining that suit with Puma Suedes?
In the May 2009 GQ Will Arnett clearly made classic Adidas Rod Lavers work with a $100 cotton H&M suit (left). The comparatively schlubby Jason Segel did the same with Chuck Taylors on the red carpet in 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall (right). So what can be learned?
* Only attempt with slimmer, casual suits
* Wear flat front, and preferably un-creased pants
* Pair with a polo or artfully disheveled woven
* Occasionally do a little dancing and hand gesturing
Q: What should I wear to a wedding? I don't want to do the classic black dinner suit and white shirt. I'm partnered to a new GF and want to impress everyone there. --Jason
A: Jason, we understand and applaud your desire to set yourself apart from the pack. At the same time, you don't want to be the person who shows up at someone else's wedding determined to be the center of attention -- someone's crazy drunken aunt will be there to fulfill that function. Thus, we recommend a simple, expertly tailored charcoal suit. Indochino's made-to-measure Essential Charcoal Suit is definitely worth a look and it's just $349.
If you're a little more flush, we are really liking Brooklyn Tailors' bespoke charcoal suit, handmade by artisans in New York, NY. It costs $975, but its genuine horsehair construction and custom fit should see you through weddings, job interviews, and, when that sad day finally arrives, your own funeral. (Not to get too maudlin here -- we're just saying this thing is built to last and will still look great in, say, 2070.)
Normally, we don't endorse breaking up with your your clothes on the red carpet. But there is one exception: If it looks like you borrowed your fat uncle's shiniest suit, going full McConaughey may be the lesser of two evils. Nice call, Situation!
Q: My boss turned me on to a suit company called Astor and Black. They make custom tailored clothing to meet any specs you could ever want. A tailor supposedly can come to your home or office and measure you up, have you choose the style and fabric of the suit you would like and in 6 to 7 weeks your custom suit arrives. The best part is the price. I was quoted $2200 for 3 suits and 6 shirts, all made to measure. Am I missing something? Why has no one else stubled upon this? --Greg
A: Greg, we're not familiar with Astor and Black, but have undertaken the task of reviewing about 7 or 8 online custom shirtmakers, so look for that feature later in February. In the meantime, rather than wed Astor and Black in a boss-arranged marriage, first take it on a date and try out a shirt before committing to a complete wardrobe.
Q: I'm not sure whether this is an "Ask the MB," a "Tip the MB," or just a general MB PSA, but: Can we all agree that wearing anything fleece -- ESPECIALLY a zip-up mock turtleneck -- under your suit or blazer rather than a coat *over* it is a one-way ticket to Toolbagville? It pains me to say that I have seen this with increasing frequency here in NYC (though mainly in the Midtown business-douche districts), and I can only conclude that these guys have finally discovered what exactly NOBODY ever wanted to find: the male equivalent of wearing sneakers with a skirt or pantsuit for the walk in to work. Please, for the love of God, people: Get a proper winter coat. Stop the madness. --Chris
A: This is a look we'd expect to see in Pulaski, WI, not the Big Apple (though it would be fleece under a Carhartt jacket instead of a suit jacket). We're opposed to fleece because it violates the principal of organic materials (it's made from something called Polyethylene terephthalate), and we avoid wearing anything that sounds like it might give us cancer.
Q: I am looking at having my first custom suit made. Considering that this will be my ONLY suit, what qualities should I look for in colour, fabric & design? I'll be wearing it to weddings, job interviews, etc. --Sean
A: For the man who only needs or wants or can afford a single suit, this is the suit to own:
Color and Fabric: Charcoal gray, in a four season wool from a top-notch textile maker like Loro Piana.
Jacket: Moderate width notch lapel. Two buttons. Top welt and front flap welt pockets. Given your Queen's English spelling of "colour," go with double back vents. (Yanks can go single vent.) Functional four-button cuffs. Light/non-existent shoulder padding.
Pants: Flat front, straight leg cut. Tab waist with zip closure. On seam front pockets, back welt pockets. No cuff.
This is a suit for a decade, at least. Let us know how it turns out.
Q: The top or bottom button on a 2 button suit. MB can you settle a debate on button etiquette? We have always been told NOT to use the bottom button on any jackets? Is it ever appropriate to a.) use both buttons on a 2 button jacket? b.) use only the bottom button on a 2 button jacket? --Dave
A: There are only two occasions when it's OK to button both buttons on a jacket: during your wedding vows or during your oath of office. And never only button the bottom button. Even a total schlub like Nixon, in complete disgrace, in a crappy Windsor knot and flag pin, knew to only button the top one.
Q: What's the word on beige suits? I think they're pretty tough to pull off, but I'd say it can be done. I really like this one (although I'm not a fan of the 3 buttons). Where could I find this one with two buttons? --Christopher
A: This looks more like "khaki" to us, and they're not difficult to pull off at all. Just not now as we head into winter. Wait until baseball season starts again.
Unfortunately you'll likely have to wait until then to pick one up as they've disappeared off the sale pages, but Theory usually makes a good one.
Q: Two part Q, if that's ok. First - and please excuse the ignorance - I purchased a suit with the hopes of having it tailored to a slim fit (along these lines). Is that possible if the suit is not originally in that mold (it fits more so in this manner)? I have had it taken in a bit in the torso, however, I'd like the sleeves thinned out (narrower) and the shoulders to be less wide, rather more fitted to me. So I wasn't sure if the tailor was limited in ability or correct in saying that was not possible. With that comes the second part. Would MB happen to know who that suit (Roger Sterling plaid suit) is by/what style that would fall under exactly? Thanks a lot. I really appreciate all the help. --Carlos
A: Carlos: First, your tailor is wrong. Anything can be tailored to your specifications. But stop throwing good money after bad. The suit you bought (upper left) has three buttons and therefore is not what you're going for. Second, the Roger Sterling (played by John Slattery) suit in the photograph (upper right) is by D&G and it retailed for $1,425 in August 2008. Third, Brooks Brothers has a Mad Men Edition suit designed by the show's costume designer, Janie Bryant (bottom). Finally, we have a very strict rule at magnificentbastard.com, and we hope you take it under consideration: once a TV show look is available at Brooks Brothers, it's officially post-peak.
Q: So my pop and I are having a debate which I hope you can clear up. For my 5 year anniversary my wife and I are going to dinner followed by the orchestra. I want to look like an MB so I though this is a great excuse to purchase a new suit, but my pop told me to go for 2 nice sport coats and pants as needed which would allow me to mix and match all year long. Makes sense, is he on point with this? Also, would this be acceptable wedding and funeral attire or is that where a suit would come in? --Chris
A: It sounds like you don't just want a suit but need a suit, so we're recommending you ignore your old man and buy a suit. Choose something slightly more casual and you can flip your pop's argument right around, i.e., match the suit pants all day long with a woven shirt or knit shirt or sweater, and match the suit jacket with denim. You'll save money (well, maybe) and have something to wear to weddings and funerals.
Q: I am getting a bespoke suit made and I am trying to decide, notched, peaked or shawl lapel? And what about vents? One in the middle or two on the sides? --Jon
A: In spite of recently showing Clooney in peak lapels, we'd choose notch if it were our suit. Definitely not shawl unless you're a.) making a tuxedo or b.) Goldfinger. Regarding venting, we've discussed this before and came down on the side of double vents primarily due to our severe case of Anglophilia, but single vent is a perfectly fine choice as well.
Q: I am graduating from college this semester and it puts me in the predicament of being both extremely broke and in need of a decent suit for interviews. What can a poor bastard do to pull off both conservative and MB on a budget? --Ron
A: We're not saying we've been there, but we feel your pain. And we're going to give you our usual response: choose a two-button charcoal grey suit in either wool or cotton. You can wear it all four seasons, and to weddings and funerals, too. Unfortunately, finding a stylish, affordable grey suit isn't easy. First, check YOOX for something in your size. If that fails, we're really impressed with what J. Crew is offering. $540 is certainly more than you probably want to spend, but this is a suit you can wear for the next 10 years, at least.
UPDATE: From reader Pete we get word that J. Crew offers a 15% discount of full-price clothing, including suits.
Q: I have a matching gray vest and suit jacket that was once part of a three piece (the pants ripped). Is it MB to wear the top two pieces with pants of a different color? Perhaps black pants? Please advise. --Gideon
A: No, don't do that. In fact, don't even hang the jacket and vest near each other in your closet. Their relationship is over.
We're not huge fans of this look, but you can salvage the vest by pairing it with denim and a white shirt. The jacket, on the other hand, is probably a lost cause. Since it was once part of a 3-piece suit, it's almost certainly not going to have a cut that works with denim. And combining with dress slacks is a look that should be left to middle-aged men attending Sunday service. Feel good about yourself and donate that jacket to the nearest Salvation Army -- it will help some recently laid off Christian maintain his churchly style even in the midst of financial hardship.
Q: Should Thom Brown have his right to produce men's fashion revoked, or is it ever ok for an MB to look like THIS??? --Javier
A: As far as we can tell, Thom Browne's primary contributions to fashion are:
1. suits with capri pants, and
2. suits with shorts.
If you're a wee man who wants to flaunt his weeness, then Thom Browne is your god. This particular get-up makes him look like a tiny, hairy puppet IBM invented to sell toner cartridges to yacht clubs. We sincerely do not get it.
Q: OK, so linen is out, and I understand that. But what about this chino suit at Banana Republic? It's 65% Cotton, 35% Linen. Thanks. This is kind of an emergency because I've got a wedding to go to this weekend and it could be very hot. Other options? --Nick
A: Online shopping is out given the urgency, which is too bad because YOOX always has something worth trying out. Anyhow, you can do a lot worse than that Banana suit, and the 65% cotton will keep it from looking like you slept in it. A couple of recommended edits and suggestions:
1. Have your cleaner take out the creases. We don't endorse creases, especially on a casual suit like this.
2. Do not pair with penny loafers as pictured. Check our shoes channel for all kinds of better options.
Q: Two simple, related questions that you may have already answered:
1. Grey suit, white shirt, navy blue tie. What color shoes?
2. Navy blue suit. What color shoes?
Your answer will settle a family feud. --Ben
A: Ben, unfortunately we won't be able to settle the family feud. Between the two of you, you're right. Either black or brown shoes are perfectly acceptable in both of these scenarios. Our guess is what's throwing one of you off is the navy + brown combo. Maybe granddad only paired navy with black, but navy with brown looks great and is one small way to stand apart.
Q: Although I wore Thom Browne long before it was available anywhere but Bergdorf Goodman and kind of liked it primarily for the quality and nerdyness, I have recently come to the conclusion that it is kind of "The Emperor's New Clothes." What do you think? --Mark
A: (Ed. note: This question was sent in January, 2009.)
Either it's the Emperor's New Clothes or the Emperor's Flood Pants. Either way, we've never gotten Thom Browne, and perhaps we'll never get Thom Browne, since rumors of his impending bankruptcy surfaced last month (later denied). Maybe we're dumb (or blind), but we don't see a point of view or story to his work, only a gimmick. One thing we think is a very, very safe bet, Mark: If you've been photographed in a Thom Browne suit you're not gonna want to see that pic in 10 years.
Q: I'm new to the official MB philosophy (though not my own unofficial one), having only recently discovered this site. I could use your insight into a matter I face. I plan to attend the Kentucky Derby this year. What is the best way to dress for this occasion? Can I go the MB Gregory Peck route and wear a seersucker suit or has this look be taken over by too many toolbags in recent years? Also, is the boaters straw hat TTH or just too barber shop quartet? --Jon
A: Jon, welcome aboard. "Classic with a twist" is our general aesthetic philosophy, and in the case of something like a 135 year-old horse race in a slave state, a fair amount of middle-finger-fully-extended irreverence is definitely in order. Go for the seersucker, but make sure it's excessively rumpled, like you weren't sure there was a race that day and had to pull it out of the back of your closet last-minute. Instead of the traditional white bucks, go with the white Chucks. And when you order a mint julep, have the bartender make it a double and hold the mint, sugar, water, and ice.
Regarding the boaters straw hat, wear it only if you're bald or sing a cappella, or both.
(The 135th running of the Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, May 2, 2009.)
Q: What does MB have to say about wearing a suit without a belt? Assuming one has the physique to pull it off, how age- and office-appropriate is it? I'm 49 and in better shape than men half my age. And, I work in a conservative office environment. My intuition tells me 'no way' but I'm looking for one small thing to set me apart from the rest of the suits. Thanks for a useful and witty website. --Dino
A: There is no rule that says you have to wear a belt with a suit, even in a conservative office environment. If your pants are hook-and-bar (top) a belt is wrong; if they're a traditional button closure (bottom) beltless still works great.
To set yourself apart from the rest of the suits, try a different suit. (One of our staffers is developing one that will be ready for fall.)
Q: Would wearing a three-piece suit make the MB a bit too Swiss banker? Is it wrong to sport one in a light gray stripe? --Sampson
A: Not just too Swiss banker. Too Dean Vernon Wormer. And too Greg Marmalard. He was a little shit, just like Neidermeyer. In other words, a 3-piece suit is just too "authority figure" to qualify as an MB wardrobe entry, and MBs are known to have issues with authority. They're more likely to be members of Delta Tau Chi than Omega Theta Pi, if you get our drift.
Q: Suits: are we still in 2-button, double-vent mode, or is there something new on the horizon? It is time to update the old wardrobe? Can I still wear my old 4 button models or are those too far gone? --Allen
A: The 2-button, double-vent mode is still a great choice. Heck, even an alien like Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) from The Day the Earth Stood Still knows it. (If you look closely you can pick out the double vents.)
Regarding the 4-button versions in your possession, we're going to invoke the well-known Charles Barkley rule and request that they remain in your closet.
Q: I am planning on pooling some X-mas money together to purchase a suit (the purchase would double this MB-in-training's collection). I am looking for something that says I'm ready for the position/adventure. I've asked for gift certificates to Banana Republic from a couple people, so if you had a few suggestions, maybe you could start there. --Matt
A: Matt, for a fella who's just starting out you could do a lot worse than a Banana Republic suit. Just make sure it's a two-button version, and nothing too trendy like the 3 external jacket pockets they're showing on some of their Monogram line.
One other place you should explore before making a decision is yoox.com. They have better, more unique suits than BR for equivalent prices. Even the least expensive Banana pant-jacket combo is going to run you $475. For an additional $100 you could get into this Costume National suit (originally $1000) that would announce very clearly you're ready for the adventure, and set you apart from the competition.
Q: When is it too late to wear a white cotton suit? What if it is still warm at the end of September? --Ben
We've previously set rules on white jeans (which were then copied by GQ's Style Guy in the July 2008 issue). The window for a white cotton suit is quite a bit smaller. Unless you're south of 26 degrees North latitude (about Ft. Lauderdale, FL), a strict Memorial Day-Labor Day rule is enforced.
Another hearty MB "thank you" to the politicians and their families who just keep on giving. The latest is Todd Palin, Sarah Palin's husband and potential First Toolbag, for validating our stance on 2 vs. 3-button suits. A winning slogan in 2008: Don't look like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Todd Palin.
Advertising Agesays AMC's hit show Mad Men has brought back the skinny tie and slim suits. Hello? We've been suffering through this thing for going on three years already. Consider it a trend you can safely avoid, now more than ever.
Q: So I just reviewed your article (and your time-lapse photos) on linen. While I agree that there is a potential for a train wreck, I also feel that if worn with care, the white linen suit can produce stunning results. I have my wedding ceremony in August in Puerto Rico. I bought a Hugo Boss 3-button white linen suit for the occasion. I plan on wearing it only for the ceremony, pictures and cocktail hour (changing for the dancing portion). I have two questions: 1) Is it true that white underwear will really stand out and do I have to find the elusive nude color brief? And 2) I'm wearing dark brown, leather sandals and belt, can you recommend an appropriate color and fabric for my shirt? --Gabe
A: Gabe, remember when you were a little boy and your mom told you not to touch the hot stove because you'd get burned? And then you touched the stove and got burned? Remember the pain you felt, and all the tears and bandages and shit, and how you wish you listened to your mom?
Does this ring a bell at all?
The beach and the August Puerto Rican dew point will help, but we're not just talking a hot stovetop here. We're talking open flame, like a Bunsen burner. If you still insist on playing with fire: 1) Yes, white will show through. Nude isn't necessary. Grey works. Anything closer to your skin tone. 2) Cotton with a touch of elastane. For color, go with a neutral, light blue at the outside.
Q: I am saddened to think that I will see two great things become extinct in my lifetime: the internal combustion engine and neckties. Richard Whitbread, marketing manager of Tie Rack, said: "Since the doom and gloom (bad economy) set in, sales of ties have picked up. We have seen a 10 percent increase in sales over the last quarter. When people start to be more concerned about their jobs, they start to smarten up. Also a lot of people are looking for jobs at the moment." What he forgets to mention is that necktie sales are 15% of what they were 15 years ago. That's such a huge decline, it leads me to believe that hasty Father's Day gifts and funerals make up the bulk of necktie purchases. In your opinion. will neckties go the way of knickers? --Eric
A: We'd expect the increase in tie sales to continue. Also incoming for Fall 2008: flannel suits, long topcoats, hats of all shapes and sizes, and general black-and-whiteness.
Q: I follow your blog religiously and I love the amount of fashion knowledge I gain. However I have a couple of questions, I have a very classy white linen suit that I am planning on wearing in a couple of weeks. I would like to wear it with some tennis shoes to complete my "laid back" look rather than some hard shoes. First, is this appropriate? Secondly, if so, what shoes do you suggest to piece along with an all white linen suit? Do you suggest some all white tennis shoes or something with color in it? I was looking for some shoes along the lines of some Vans or something similar like the Lacoste L34 tennis shoes. Please advise. Thanks! --Noop
A: You sure you follow this site religiously? You've clearly missed our missive on linen. Noop, your proposed suit is a ticking time bomb. Within seconds you can go from artfully disheveled to looking like some homeless guy who got dressed outside the dumpster at Goodwill. Regardless, you will explode at some point.
At least minimize the bomb's collateral damage by not wearing Vans. Too '90s LA. Plain white tennis shoes can work, as demonstrated by Paul Smith (top). Your best bet though is a pair of sandals, like this option from John Varvatos, and a pedicure. June is pedicure awareness month, after all.
Q: Simple question: how many buttons should their be on the front of your suit? --Ray
A: We've weighed in on this before when analyzing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's three-button David Byrne look-alike "Psycho Killer" suit.
We officially endorse two buttons. We're not adamantly against the three-button, like we are against skulls or tapered soccer-dad jeans or wearing an electronic device on your belt like some cable-access version of Batman. It's just that we know for certain that four-buttons are out because Charles Barkley wears them. And 3 is closer to 4 than 2, so that's bad.
Plus, any joint with this history is automatically inducted into the Magnificent Bastard Hall of Fame:
Freemans Sporting Club was borne out of a gathering of close friends playing pool, carousing, and drinking whisky above Freemans Restaurant in New York City. The regular meetings led the group to organize trips to camp, shoot, fish, and enjoy time in nature outside the concrete canyons of New York. When Taavo Somer, the defacto leader of the troupe, created his menswear line in 2004 it was only natural that the garments be named, F.S.C., after the club, ideals, and activities that inspired them.
Q: NO VENT, DOUBLE VENT, SINGLE VENT? It seems double vents are still really popular. I
am tall and like no vent with three button, flat front or two button, flat front with single vent. I like a clean, smooth line like Armani or Boss. Some friends say I am out of it. They feel the only thing that is current is double vent. I disagree and will wear what I think I look best in and I still believe I am current. What do you think? —Larry
A: Single vents are safe and never out of style; let's start there. We're definitely not a fan of the no-vent, though it's hard to argue with Cary Grant in North By Northwest (top) as he's about as stylish as a man can get. So if you think you're hitting it like Cary then carry on, Larry. The problem with no-vent is it's really easy to start
looking like Guido the Killer Pimp from Risky Business (bottom).
Your friends are correct about double vents, and not just because they think they're current. We like them for two big reasons:
1. Double vents are an Anglophilic gesture -- they were invented there -- and moderate-to-heavy Anglophilia is very MB.
2. Double vents create a "flap" which, when activated, creates the illusion of a man of action, intrigue, and dramatic flair, even if you just sit on your ass in a cube most of the day.
Last week the Rocket threw a strike with his banded collar shirt presentation. This week he's throwing heat again with a double-breasted suit, a la American Beauty's Brad Dupree. This guy is solid toolbag gold. Whatever he does, do the opposite.
Q: Where can I get a suit for a reasonable price? And what would the MB consider a reasonable price? —Casey
A: In their November 2007 issue GQ said you needed $1,000 to get into a good suit. MB sees GQ's $1,000 and lowers it $500. Finding nice, inexpensive suits is fairly easy because they're always on sale, and especially now that fall is beginning to get closed out (see our retailer links on our home page). For example, our favorite retailer YOOX just slashed prices on fall, allowing thrifty and stylish MBs to acquire this Costume National Homme (currently our favorite designer) suit for just $498.
Q: Hey MB, I was at a cocktail party the other night sporting a very nice double-breasted suit. I was enjoying myself, when, out of nowhere, a stock broker crashed my group. Soon after he commented on my style - in a negative manner! According to him, double-breasted is out. Have I lost my magnificence? I think DB suits can still be very cool! —Matty
A: He might've been wrong about buying Lucent at $80, but the broker is right about double-breasted suits. They feel affected, overly dressy, and just generally TTH (Trying Too Hard).
Let's look to film for evidence. In the 1999 classic American Beauty, Brad Dupree was the prick "efficiency expert" and they dressed him up with a bad name, a bad haircut, bad pocket square, and guess what else: a double-breasted suit.
We reckon Iranian president Ahmadinejad has loads more style than the adverb-challenged dude holding the sign. After all, he's got a jacket named after him and, like Hugh Grant, recognizes the simple sophistication of a crisp white dress shirt. However, he's not without flaws. Besides an odd understanding of world history, his coat looks shoddily made and way too big; clearly better suited for David Byrne in Stop Making Sense. Furthermore, we're not real big fans of the 3-buttons. Even though some top shops still make them, they look dated to us, like something we saw on the sale rack at Banana Republic about 2 years ago. 3-buttons look best on the guys sitting at the end of an NBA bench, and all 7 analysts on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown.
The classic Negroni is simply equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. You can do better.
5 parts Plymouth gin
2 parts Campari
1 part Pimm's No. 1 Cup
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part dry vermouth
2 dashes of orange bitters
Quick shake or stir and pour into chilled Martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.