Zenith: I need to expand my wardrobe for a new job in London. I own a light charcoal, faintly blue-pinstriped French Connection suit, and a solid beige Ted Baker suit, but need:

  • A traditional navy-blue single-breasted suit
  • A trusted location to take my existing suits, to be examined and adjusted
  • A pair of brown shoes to accompany my beige suit
  • An entire selection of shirts/ties/cufflinks to match my current suits and the third I intend to buy

Is Jermyn Street way above my station? Are the likes of TM Lewin or Hawes & Curtis ‘high street’ by tailoring standards? I am not sure whether £25 buys me a half-decent shirt, or £200-£300 a half-decent suit? Whether I should be getting traditional leather as opposed to suede for the brown shoes if to be worn for business? I’d be perfectly happy spending from £1000-£1500 to outfit myself with a new suit, have the existing ones altered if needed, six shirts, some cufflinks, perhaps a new belt and the new shoes as well. Am I being naive in thinking I can get all that, at good quality, for that sort of money?

This was a remarkably detailed question from Zenith. The entire thing can be seen as a comment here. The advice, hopefully, should be quite succinct, especially as several previous blogs deal with related areas (see the various links throughout this piece).

Broadly Zenith, I don’t think you are being too ambitious in expecting half-decent quality with that amount of money to spend. Let’s start with the suit. Your choice of a navy blue for your third suit is wise – that way you will have the two staples (grey and blue) and one more unusual, summery colour.


I would recommend two places to go: Suit Supply and A Suit That Fits. Prices start at £399 at the former and around £280 at the latter. Both offer a made-to-measure service where a suit is factory-made but to your measurements. It will therefore always fit better than off-the-peg and not need adjustment afterwards (though this is often free if you did want it).

As I have mentioned previously in reviews of these services, the quality of the material and workmanship is not as good as a top-end suit from the high street. But it is as good as you will get in a £250 suit, plus it will fit perfectly. And fit is more important than anything else. (Reviews here)

As to alterations, I use Atelier Colpani on Avery Row – just off Bond Street in London. Adjustments to the waist of a suit will be around £30, to trouser length around £15. But personal experience is key and there quite a few good tailors of this sort in London. Perhaps ask around your office when you start work for someone nearby?

On shoes, it looks like you are looking to spend £200-£300. For that there’s quite a lot available and you should be able to take a step up from Barker’s, good as they are. I would recommend Cheaney, which is a step down from Church’s but owned by the same brand (slightly fewer hand-worked stages). Alfred Sargent is also good, and probably one of the best brands for value in the country.


Either way, a great source for this stuff is John Rushton shoes, just off Oxford Street. There’s a fairly consistent supply of good benchmade shoes there. I wrote about it here. The Paul Smith sale shop is also worth a look, as those shoes come into your price range on sale – try and get the high-end range as well (post here).

And yes, you should definitely get brown leather, not suede. Brown suede shoes are great and very versatile, but brown leather is even more so and if you have one pair, they should be leather. Will go wonderfully with your beige suit and a white shirt.

On to shirts. It is odd that you should mention TM Lewin and Hawes & Curtis as high-street shops, yet ask whether Jermyn Street is beyond you. Both retailers are old Jermyn Street firms that began to expand rapidly a few years ago, around London and around the country. I don’t think the marketing directors of either would be pleased to learn from you that they have both lost their West-End aura in the process.


A TM Lewin shirt is now definitely not worth the £79 it is theoretically priced at. But for the lowest price in the sale (and there are always sales, always) it is good value. Get four for £100 or whatever the offer is and you’ll get value for money. However, the key to shirts is fit – it is worth the time traipsing around each of these Jermyn Street names in turn, trying on their regular, semi-fitted and fitted ranges and deciding which one is for you. Good made-to-measure shirts are a little too expensive (around £80 minimum) to make them worth the money when you are starting out.

With belts and cufflinks, these Jermyn Street stores are also pretty good value at the low end. Get a handful of silk knots to start with (dark colours, similar to your suit or your favourite ties) and one pair of silver if you can afford it.

I hope this was helpful – any further questions feel free to ask.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
8 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Zenith

Simon,

Firstly, much obliged for taking the time to respond and draw together the relevant areas of your blog into one catch-all article.

Was trawling the shops all day, Jermyn, Regent, Bond Streets and the alleyways in between. As yet have bought nothing, going back having double-checked/researched this evening and doing all the paying tomorrow but I thought I would update with thoughts so far.

Starting with the suit, I was looking only in navy as you suggested, so as to have covered the staples of colour. Disliking most plain navy, I have been scouring the racks for anything with a very subtle pinstripe (almost imperceptible) or herringbone to give some texture to the suit. Nothing in any of the major department stores really took my fancy, apart from a couple of things by ‘Simon Carter’, though I’m afraid that doesn’t mean a great deal to me. Some of those were discounted to about £150-£200. Also of note, Roderick & Charles on Jermyn was offering two suits for £400-£450 depending on style, Charles Tyrwhitt a similar £250 mark on discounted suits as well. Not knowing much about them I had a browse but will return for a proper look tomorrow, in addition to the two firms you have recommended.

Shoes-wise, I saw the poor Cheaney’s selection on sale in Austin Reed when passing, then visited Cheaney’s actual store somewhere in the region of New Bond Street if not on it. First sights were good as they had a whole display on the left of the shop filled with sale shoes, dropping prices from approx. £290 in some styles to only £95. While I would’ve been choosing less visually striking shoes to my eye, the saving (and being able perhaps to buy two pairs to suit different occasions) would’ve made up for it. Alas, only shoes for children and giants remained. Paul Smith, while having a decent suit slightly above my price point (£380 down from £580), were lacking in the shoe department on this occasion, though I shall be back.

Crockett & Jones was a different situation, however, and is the first of the shops I visited (including Church’s) where I felt in the hands of someone willing to explain/discuss/offer advice rather than just spout company spiel and sell product. Unfortunately the most appealing chestnut oxfords didn’t quite work on my feet, but the Arden in a lighter Mahogany (apparently a newish range) were wonderfully comfortable, working both with my beige suit and light jeans, enabling me to dress them up or down as required. I agree on the standard leather, I wouldn’t feel smart enough wearing suede to work, even if it is done by many these days. At £275 pre-shoe trees not cheap, but I was much taken with them. A visit to Rushton’s will be done first thing tomorrow for comparison, but if nothing strikes me there I may take the plunge with the Crockett’s.

As for shirts, thanks for clearing up the misconception for me. I had been aware that both T.M. Lewin and Hawes & Curtis were originally Jermyn street places, but as a newcomer to the city who has seen them all over the place I couldn’t help but get the impression, when I have been into a couple, of, again, places just selling packets. Unfortunately a large part of this impression came from the salesmen who relentlessly approached me or were floundering when I asked for some beginner’s guidance, but if the quality of the shirts is up to scratch as you say then I shall go back tomorrow and buy a handful in the deal they offer. I might see if I can get a lovely one from the display window of Frogg’s as well, just as something special. As it happens I have a nice pair of silver cufflinks already, so I’ll stick with the knots…and maybe one pair that caught my eye at Pink’s!

My abiding impression of today’s attempt is that, even in places selling reasonably expensive gear, the knowledge of sales staff appears woeful. I have yet to find the assistant in whom I can put my trust, taking their advice if they suggest I try ‘this’ or ‘so and so’ and working to find a solution for me. Most just waffle about how good their fabric is, how they’re better than every competitor and so on. Crockett & Jones have come closest to honest, old fashioned help and advice and currently I feel inclined to go with my instinct on them.

Matthew

A quick question about who makes top-end high street suits: where do T. M. Lewin fall? Their suits are standardly priced at £500/£550. As with the shirts, there’s a hefty saving in the sales (they’re priced at anything from £145 to £275 right now). Is it worth buying the suit and paying for alterations? Does the quality of their material and workmanship justify that?

Matthew

Publius

Simon,

I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog from afar in the US (Minneapolis, MN) and I am eager to hear your thoughts on a whether a 1-button peak lapel black tuxedo from Ted Baker is a good first purchase for a recent college graduate moving to Washington DC in June.

I am set to begin working full-time for a healthcare consulting firm. In this capacity I will have an opportunity to attend legislative policy and fundraising events related to the ongoing US healthcare reform effort. Thus I am looking for this tux to fit into the power scene of Washington DC while still having a young stylish element given that I am in great shape at 22.

The Ted Baker tux would be made to measure and it is priced at a total of $650 (US). I am unsure at what sartorial level a Ted Baker tux would be considered and whether this is a great price.

I would greatly appreciate your advice on the issue. Alternative recommendations are welcomed, I am looking to spend under $800 (US).

A Southern Gentleman

Simon, are you aware of any MTM companies like Suit Supply or A Suit That Fits that operate in the US?

A Southern Gentleman Blog

DKP

Simon – I recently visited John Rushton and am considering a pair of Derby boots from Sanders. Don’t think you’ve ever mentioned or reviewed Sanders here and wondered how you’d rate them. Perhaps somewhere between Loake & Crockett?