Dear Simon,

I’ve been reading Permanent Style for many years now, but recently went scurrying back through older posts for advice. Having decided I should go straight to the source, I write to you today.

In the last few months I’ve found a new job and graduated from a 32” to a 36” waist: two pressing reasons to overhaul my entire wardrobe.

I don’t write to ask how I should build a basic wardrobe – you and other bloggers have written a great deal on that subject. I like to think I understand the basics and I’ve kept myself in style these past few years despite living on the minimum wage by rifling the charity and vintage stores.

My problem is a pleasant one: I now have money to spend – though not enough that I can afford to waste it, maybe around £250 a month for a while if I prioritise clothing above life savings – and I don’t really know how.

For example, I recently purchased a navy suit from A Suit that Fits, with whom you were not unimpressed back in 2009. I’m fairly pleased with it, but for around £400, wonder if I would have been better off buying off the peg and having the lovely Vietnamese lady on my road do basic alterations at £10 a pop.

In summary, I’m seeking your opinion on where I can acquire the basics of a new wardrobe at value-for-money given my budget, which I think may be similar to many of your other readers. Any and all advice is appreciated.



Hi Richard,
Lovely to hear you’re building out the wardrobe, slowly but surely.
To address your point about MTM versus RTW first, I think this is largely a question of how much you want to personalise your suit or jacket. While I liked the suit from ASTF, the quality wasn’t great. I could have had one in a better quality from most RTW retailers for the same price. Even though companies like ASTF make their clothes in the Far East, the cost of making one-off pieces means they can never put as much money into quality as Marks & Spencer making several thousand 40Rs.
The other problem with MTM is that the fitting is done by a salesman, not a tailor. So while the potential of MTM is quite large, the result often does not fulfil it. Unless you are an unusual size (eg tall with very long arms), a RTW suit altered by a good tailor will often fit as well as a MTM suit of the same price. And the quality of RTW will usually be better. The only remaining advantage of MTM is that you can pick your material, lining and style. For some, that is significant. For others, they realise Ralph Lauren or Jeremy Hackett are a lot better at designing suits than they are.
My other top tips on building the wardrobe:
Buy cheap shirts and have them altered. The value for money in a TM Lewin shirt, for example, is incredible. Get five for £100, make sure you have the right neck size and sleeve length, and then go to a good tailor and have them altered by putting darts in the back.
Buy decent English shoes and look after them. Brands like Crockett & Jones offer great value for money – but it’s pointless if you don’t look after them. Wear them every other day at most; use shoe trees; give them cream and polish when they look dry; and get them repaired by the manufacturer when they need it.
Buy good quality accessories. Cheap ties look cheap. It’s mostly the cheapness of the silk rather than the construction. Buy classic ties in navy, grey and burgundy/green, slowly but surely, and again look after them. Don’t leave them on the floor. Tuck them away when eating. Learn about stain removal. Given the difference a good tie can make to how you look, it’s pretty good value for money. The biggest problem is getting to the point where you have at least one a day. And you only need one, white linen handkerchief – if you wear one.
I hope that’s helpful Richard. I know it can be a frustratingly slow process to start with, but if you carry on putting a little money in, it will only get easier.
The key to start with may be spending on what people notice: no one will notice you only have two pairs of shoes, but they will if you only have two ties; there isn’t much to the quality of a shirt; and good fit can carry you a long way.

Photo: Luke Carby

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could you give more details on the shirt dart point? I find shirts in my collar size too large in the body so am very keen to learn more on this. Would your average alterations tailor understand how to do darts? Is it cheaper/easier than having the shirt taken in at the side seams? Any idea on a fair cost for having a shirt darted?




Hi Simon.

I am looking to buy 2 Cashmere sweaters a v neck and a crew neck, I am having some difficulty deciding whether to go with Loro Piana, Brunello Cuccinelli or Turnbull and Asser I believe all 3 of those have and make beautiful cashmere Turnbull and Asser is a long way cheaper though, would you reccomend their cashmere.

As regards this question I would do this , firstly for suits there are a couple of options, you could buy material for instance contact Huddersfield fabrics and but their stuff which is excellent then get someone like Freddie Needles in the Elephant and castle to make it up, hes excellent and costs 500/600 pounds to make a bespoke suit. OR if money is a priority check out the Saville Row inspired suits at Marks and Spencer plus their saville row ties, do this at sale time, youll get something very good for around 132 pounds in their sale, dont worry about their other suits though, bland. For shirts Id try and find a shirt maker and get your idea done if not Charles Tywhitt is good and has good material, check out their web site. Im not a fan of their suits though. For shoes check out Herring, they have some good stuff. Also have a few pairs of cheap shoes for when its raining, check out asos for this. You can look fantastic for very little money, youll certainly look much better than most people. I just bought two saville row inspired marks suits for 135 pounds each in the sale, they look brilliant. Lots of the stuff is rubbish , for instance dont buy their shirts. Visit the shoie snob online and get advice and products from him. Go see Freddie Needles , hes on facebook, he will do you a great bespoke suit, do one a year. For casual stuff if you are going to the usa buy unwashed denims from wrangler such as a shop like sheplars, get them to send stuff to your hotel, they do great jeans at 25 dollars. Also check out GET THE LABEL for polos . The saville Row ties at Marl
and spencer
cost 29 pounds and are as good as any


A question on shoe maintenance Simon; should the cream and polish be applied only when the appearance becomes dull (i.e. after several wears) or should it be done on a time basis? i.e., every 4 weeks or so even if they have only been worn three/ four times? Does the leather ‘dry’ on its own/ in between wears?



Like your practical and common-sense advices! Very British-likr which is normal in this case..I’ll try to adapt the essentials to my small piece of the world: Pedro del Hierro/Rushmore/Massimo Dutti shirts, Estellés/Meermin/John Spencer/Carmina shoes and other brands.
And, of course, one day some C&J will join my Herrings or Lotus


where should one look for RTW that is decent quality and below the graham browne price point?

Jerrell Whitehead


Another question on shoes, perhaps more so with taste in mind, as opposed to quality. Where does your opinion fall on alligator/crocodile for a man’s feet? I keep seeing images of the G&G Cooper in alligator and don’t know whether or not I should bow in awe or run away screaming.


Bizarre as it may sound, if I am staying in a hotel, when getting ready for bed I take my shoes off, then take off my socks which, as they are warm and slightly humid, are very handy for wiping down the shoes, getting rid of any dust, light scuffs etc………..


Regarding your suggestion for TM Lewin shirts, does this apply to Charles Tyrwhitt shirts, as some people equate them? Or do you feel Lewin is better?

Nigel Smith

I’m a big fan of Charles Tyrwhitt – more so than TM Lewin simply because of greater range of sleeve lengths. I live abroad, and now I know exactly what size and fit I like*, I simply order online and they arrive within 3-4 working days. This year I bought a MTM shirt in Munich, and while the quality of workmanship was fine, the shirt was much too tight for my taste. Obviously, a bit of tweaking will rectify that (and I may go back to continue the experiment), however, it’s difficult to justify the four-times-higher price in terms of fit and quality. A few more pairs of decent shoes have higher priority…

* In fairness, it took me a couple of goes with Charles Tyrwhitt before I got the size and fit just as I like.

Keith Taylor

“Regarding your suggestion for TM Lewin shirts, does this apply to Charles Tyrwhitt shirts, as some people equate them? Or do you feel Lewin is better?”

I know this is a very old post, but you never know who might find it in the archives or Google.

I used to shop for my casual shirts almost exclusively at Lewin and Tyrwhitt when I lived in the UK, and when I departed for Asia in 2009 I took a handful of each along for the ride.

It’s now been at least six years since I bought my last Tyrwhitt shirt, and just yesterday – with a heavy heart – I laid the final one to rest when I noticed fraying at the collar fold. These things have been through hell, from the humidity of Bangkok to the arid climate of the Mongolian steppe. They lived hard lives – much harder than anything they’d go through in the wardrobe of a UK office worker – and they held up admirably for six years.

As for my TM Lewin shirts I don’t remember when I threw out my last one, but it was at least a couple of years ago.

Now that’s not to say Tyrwhitt makes shirts of astounding quality, nor that Lewin’s shirts are poorly made. Both are better than anything you’ll find at a similar price in high street chains such as Next or H&M (those things fall apart faster than you can blink), but the Tyrwhitt shirts were the ones that went through hell and came out the other side with their buttons and stitching intact. Considering the low price I’d say they represent excellent value.


Hi all,

I really like the advice of buying TM Lewin shirts and having them altered (although I find there is too much garment). That said I will feel awkward going to a good taylor to have them altered being perceived as someone buying ‘cheap’ RTW.

Btw would you take a shirt you’ve just bought to the taylor or will you wash it few times before ?



If you don’t want to take them to a tailor the the TM Lewin fully fitted John Francombe range of shirts. Very slim in the waist, no billowing. I buy 16″ collar and it suits my 40″ chest/ 34″ waist perfectly. There’s also a new range of super fitted which I’ve yet to try but will be doing before too long.

Jim Lockhart


I really enjoy reading about your forays into the luxury end of the tailoring market, but wandered if you had ever thought about doing a piece (or pieces), on the provincial tailors? There are a couple that I am aware of such as GD Golding in St Albans and Colin de’ Ath in Tunbridge Wells that have excellent reputations, but charge a fraction of the prices found on the Row. They (and others around the country) are also more accessible for those of us outside the smoke and from my experience, a lot less intimidating to approach if you are not gifted with the chutzpah required to front up to establishments with legendary status. Please keep this excellent blog running.



Hello Simon,

firstly thank you for the wonderful website and your advice.

I’m currently saving up money for a new pair of shoes and want to make the right decision. Most shoes I own are handgrade by Cheaney or basic C&J. I find the hand great last f Cheaney the better fitting. Although I like the new C&L 363 last.

Sadly neither of them have Monks -which I love- in that last.

Shoemakers I consider for my next purchase are: John Lobb, Edward Green or Alfred Sargent.

I would appreciate your opinion on the above makers and your advice, where to best invest in a nice pair of shoes.

Thank you very much, Rene


Dear Simon,

I would like to thank you for the time and effort you put into running blog. I was wondering if you could help me out, I think this may help others on the blog out too. My main concern is regarding neck sizes and chest size mismatch, I have a rather slim build. I have noticed that a 14.5 inch neck shirt fits well on my chest but its too uncomfortable to put on a tie due to the very small neck size. Meanwhile, shirts with adequate neck size look rather large on me. I see that in terms of value, you recommended buying several TM Lewin or Charles Tyrwhitt (CT) shirts and getting them darted at a tailor. However, slim fit, extra slim fit shirts are already darted when purchasing them from CT, would it be wise to get a regular fit shirt if its not darted and then get it darted or just get the extra slim fit shirt and get additional retarded. I am not sure if tailors undo the darted stitch on these shirts.

Also, would you recommend non-iron shirts or the regular 100% cotton shirts for work?



Hi Simon. Are Ted Baker shoes any good? They look good but looking at the reviews they seem to fall apart after a few days use?


Here is an example of one with mixed reviews?


This is the link:

Otherwise what is the alternative is terms of good looking and durable shoes? Is H Hudson a good brand?
Clarks are good quality but in terms of looks they are not great.


Thanks Simon.


Dear Simon,
I habe been following your thread religiously. The advice you give is invaluable. With regards to the Ted Baker shoe that was posted here by the other member of this forum, does it look good on a navy and charcoal suit when worn without a tie? Also is this version of the shoe more versatile in looks for suits?


LOL. I wont I promise 🙂 but are pointy shoes not trendy? I have seen a lot of people wearing pointy shoes with their suits. If i find pointy shoe from Loake should I go for it or are pointy shoes a definite no no

Lindsay Eric McKee

It is rather sad to see TM Lewin go from our city high streets as of late but apparently continuing online.