I’ve never been great at looking after my suits. Shoes, yes. Brush them down at the end of every day, before the shoe trees go in; give them a wipe in the morning; regularly polish and, slightly less often, a treatment with cream. But I don’t brush down my suits as regularly as I should – though I know this will leave dirt to get into the fibres. I pack too many into the wardrobe – rather than put some into storage. I don’t give them a good sponge and press often enough.
Perhaps, compared to shoes, the problem is that you are mostly just trying to slow an inevitable decline. Suits do get better with age, but they don’t bloom in the same way as a well-maintained, well-polished pair of shoes.
Determined to try and correct at least one of my faults in suit maintenance, I went to Stephen Haughton of Burford Valet Service to ask about a regular sponge and press service. I’ve written about Stephen’s work in rescuing and repairing shoes before, and I was first introduced to him through Cleverley; but just as much of his work is in looking after tailoring. Indeed, the most common job combines the two: regular valeting, where clothes and shoes in a customer’s wardrobe are fetched, cleaned and pressed/polished. He also offers a valet for extended periods or trips abroad.
I decided to try out the service on a set of clothes I was just getting out of storage for spring/summer. A nice man called Nicholas came round and looked over eight suits and jackets. He took them outside, gave them an airing and picked over every pocket and possible sign of wear. Two, he decided, needed minor repairs (loose stitching in a sleeve and in the turn-up of a trouser); two needed really no attention at all; and the remaining four would have benefited from a sponge and press. So he took six away and returned them a few days later.
The service cost £30 a suit for the sponge and press, with a few pounds extra for the repairs. The results were top notch – as good as a tailor has even done for me. So not bad value, and I know that Jeeves of Belgravia, which also offers this service, charges more.
You may well ask why I don’t take the suits to the original tailor for repairs or a press. Well I do with some, usually those that are in the office. But many were made by non-UK tailors, and most in the UK will do repairs but won’t sponge and press a whole wardrobe for free.
Given the price of dry cleaning (though I’m not considering doing that on a suit, at least not more than once every year or two), the service seems pretty good value. Ideally, of course, I would use it to look over all clothes coming out of storage, and clean everything going in. But that might prove too expensive.
An interesting experiment, even if I’m not sure it will become my seasonal routine.