Sunday, November 1, 2015

On the Purchase of a New Suit

Some of you may have heard about my having lost a bit of weight this year, though the news has admittedly been rather hush-hush (heh).  After dropping 45 lbs, my collection of suits -- all purchased off the rack from Brooks Brothers or Joseph A. Bank-- gave me the look of a little boy stuck with hand-me-downs from bigger brothers.  I took a few suits in to be tailored, and while the fit improved, I still looked somewhat overtaken and rumply.

I had always toyed with the idea of a custom-made suit, especially while I was in the Navy and I would see friends return from port-visits to Hong Kong and other exotic places with tailored suits obtained at a fraction of what they would have cost in the States.  But I'd never quite come to justify the expense of doing so here--firstly, I was always too chunky--the lipstick on a pig description seems apt--but also, even were I svelte, the cost just seemed exorbitant.  Then I discovered the "made to order" suit--technically, not custom made (as the guy who measures you isn't the guy who makes the suit), but this is a close enough, middle way.  You are meticulously measured, and then the measurements--along with the details (fabric, cut, lining, ticking, etc) are sent off to the seamsters/seamstresses who put the suit together for you.  So I decided to take the plunge, and began to do my research.

I eventually settled upon Alton Lane for two reasons.  First, it is the entrepreneurial effort of two UVA grads, and I am always happy to help fellow Wahoos.  Second, they had a showroom in DC.  I made my appointment for a fitting and then hoped for the best.  Spoiler--turned out amazing.

I arrived at the showroom near Dupont Circle and was ushered into what sort of looked like a really respectable ManCave/Bar/Old Boy hangout, with lots of clothes hanging around.  I met the Senior Showroom Director Richard Newcomb and we began the process, but not before he first asked me what I was drinking.

That's right.  There's a bar in the showroom.  Fully stocked.  It had been a long, long, time since I had any reason to regret giving up alcohol, but THIS experience put me in that place.  I demurred, but not without some deep reflection.  I mean, after all.  Just one...and it was part of the whole deal, right?  I mean I'm getting a suit made for me?  I've earned this, right?  I worked my ass off to lose weight--don't I deserve an awesome suit and a bourbon?  Of course I did.  But my willpower remains stronger than my weakness for drink, and so we then spent the better part of the next hour in really pleasant conversation while Richard measured all of the parts of me appropriate to a new suit and (in the future--I needed to validate this whole process) new shirts.  Earlier, I had the opportunity to select from a truly dazzling number of fabrics and styles (in true Goldilocks fashion, I went for the middle of the road option), and fixed on a solid, blue suit, lighter than my existing Navy BB suit.  There's also this pretty cool little room where you stand in your "smallclothes" (see, Thrones, Game of) and this computer based measuring system maps you for even better fit.

We closed out this entire process with my rendering unto Alton that which is Alton's, and the total came up to approximately twice what I would pay for an entry-level, off the rack, Brooks Brothers suit.  Of course, this is twice what I had EVER paid for a suit in my life, so here was a little bit of apprehension.  But then again, I DESERVED THIS.

Well, the suit showed up Friday.  I unwrapped it, and it immediately felt and looked better than anything I had ever considered buying for myself.  When I put it on (I took off the suit I had worn that day--grey, BB, recently taken in), I looked in the mirror and realized that I had made the right decision.  I looked like a different fellow than I had ten minutes earlier in my Beltway Bandit Uniform.  I proceeded to the other end of the house to get the Kitten's thoughts, and she sat back in her chair and said, "Wow.  You kind of look like a movie star."  In my life, no one had said anything quite that nice--or quite as well timed, as only moments before, I had thought to myself that this is the way suits fit on Brad Pitt (no--I'm not saying I look like Brad Pitt--only that he likely does not buy Joe Banks suits off the rack).

Now--is this for everyone?  No. Of course not.  Most people aren't as vain as I am, and the expense --while considerably less than a custom made suit--is not insignificant.

But if you are a guy who "suits up" now and then, and maybe you have reason to celebrate something, well then I highly recommend you get in touch with Richard.


"The Hammer" said...

Try Henry Poole next time you're in London. Tell Sir Nigel I sent you.

BigFred said...

Waiting for Durand to chime in here, but I had three suits made my 2 different tailors in Korea when I was exiled there, And I was pretty hard on them wear wise when I was paid to go to the FSU and argue. I bought four more when I was in the death spiral of retirement from BB and Jos Banks, and I have to tell you, the three I had made in Korea all those years ago are still better looking/holding up than what I got at the mall. Let me know when you go back, and I will take care of the drinking for you.

NavyAustin said...

Going to a tailor was the best thing you could do - the next would be a higher-end store where they actually know how to fit you. Having been bigger myself, you tend to buy clothes even larger than necessary, and when you drop THAT much weight, the old stuff just can't be taken in - the proportions are all wrong. What you think your sizes are just aren't.

I like their approach to building a suit - Sounds like the beginning of beautiful relationship!

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