velvet jacket timothy everest
Beautiful, but will you wear it?

 
Dear Simon,

I have been quite busy in the last seven years building a wardrobe that will seem modest by your standards, but is still quite substantial for me. And obviously once you start, it’s hard to stop: there always seems to be something, even something very classical, that one does not have and looks great in some pictures. Those country leather boots, that tweed suit and so on.

Even though I have benefitted massively from the advice, and have tried to keep in mind when I would wear certain things, I have ended up with some items I do not wear. I take it from some posts that even you have not escaped that trap, so I was wondering if you could share some insights about your experience with items that strive for sartortial completeness but that will most likely just sit in the wardrobe of the modern urban citizen.

Regards
Thomas

– 

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for your question. It is a very interesting one: a fresh perspective on both the building of an ideal wardrobe and the sartorial temptations we enthusiasts sometimes fall prey to. Here are five things that I think are worth reconsidering. I could go to the other extreme and list the five most useful at some point too, if people think that would be helpful.

Polo coat

Overcoats need to be versatile. If you have one good one it will be worn over everything, after all. Yet they are such interesting things that it is tempting to go for camel hair, colourful tweed, raglan sleeves, and all sorts of design permutations, such as the polo coat. A bespoke overcoat is a beautiful thing, primarily for the fit. It is the flattering line of a jacket writ large, with flowing skirt and strong shoulder. Keep it simple. 

Double-breasted suit

Of course you need a double-breasted suit. It’s a sartorial staple, right? Well perhaps – it is certainly the most immediate, big variation on a standard lounge suit. But for many guys it’s simply not practical. They can’t sit at their desks all day in it easily. It is harder to dress down than a single-breasted. By all means consider a DB suit, but think very carefully what it will be like to wear.

Velvet jacket

I love my velvet jacket, from Timothy Everest. But then I go to more evening events than most, and certainly more that suggest a sartorial statement. Even black tie is a questionable investment for most. Leave velvet for when you’ve finished the first wardrobe and moved onto the second. 

Cream linen suit

I adore linen. Beautiful material that should be bought as heavy as possible and then lived in as much as possible. But when will you actually wear a cream suit? Perhaps more to the point, when will you do so and not feel more than a little awkward, like some kind of ornamentation to the event rather than a guest? My suggestion: get a lovely pair of cream linen trousers made first; wear them with every colour of jacket in the summer, and consider adding a full suit (probably with another pair of trousers) next year.

Jewellery

Apart from watches and cufflinks, most men’s jewellery should be approached with caution. It’s easy to think that a pocket watch is somehow a male staple, or a tie pin. But both only work if they are consistent parts of your wardrobe. Are you the kind of guy that is going to wear a pocket watch instead of a wristwatch most days? I thought not.

(Oh, and spectator shoes…)

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
27 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mark

This is a cracking post. I will bear it in mind as I am fitted for my first double breasted suit for 20 years tomorrow. D’oh! At least it encourages me to delay that bottle green velvet jacket I have always wanted (and have no occasion to wear) for perhaps another year.

Mark

John

Hi Simon,
I’ve read your answer to the question raised by Thomas with great interest. But I’m not really sure whether your reply is the one -we, readers, expected. I think his question leads to a reflection over the range of a gentleman’s wardrobe and presumably also over outfit and time, occasion and purpose.
I’m quite sure you have, say, shoes worn only three or four times, and which have ended up “sitting in your wardrobe”, as Thomas would put it.
In other words, what might be the right size of a good and workable wardrobe?
Do not worry, Simon, you could take a minimalist approach by endorsing a kind of Drake’s philosophy, that is – to me at least – perhaps the most challenging perspective on a gentleman’s wardrobe.
John

Balfour

+1 on doing a post on the 5 most versatile things.

+1 on doing a post on wardrobe minimalism.

John

It would be fine, Simon!

Jerrell

Thanks for this Simon, although you have dashed my idea of getting a 3 piece cream linen suit.

Btw, any plans on covering Napoli su Misura?

BespokeNYC

FWIW I’ve had a couple of things made by NSM and never had any problems with their reliability. If anything , I’d say they are more professional than many traveling tailors (perhaps because so much of their business is based on overseas customers) and they visit much more frequently. There are also plenty of threads on Styleforum et al. (not exactly forgiving places) with very few negative reports.

In terms of the quality, a lot of the stitching is done by machine but, for the price point, it is excellent value for a fully canvassed bespoke suit and they are pretty flexible with custom requests (although they do stick pretty firmly to their house style, which I think is fair enough.)

Michael

Simon,
I think that this is one of the most helpful posts I have seen on developing a wardrobe. So much of one’s choices are less about what to buy than what not to buy. That being said, I look forward to the “five most useful items” post, should it be forthcoming.
MSM+

Charlie

Fairly obvious, but I would like to add full evening dress/white tie. I have full evening dress from Ede & Ravenscroft, purchased for balls and events at Oxford. Outside of the university though it sees so little use. It is nice to have it in the closet and feel ready for anything, but it just doesn’t come out often. If you’re heading to Oxford/Cambridge, might be good to buy as a fresher, retrospectively I would still buy it, though I would not purchase court shoes… as these are really not necessary.

Christopher

Re: Spectator shoes – I read on a fashion designer’s blog “Are you Jack Nicholson? If the answer’s no, don’t wear them”.

I like to imagine Jack Nicholson reading that, and feeling relieved that he’s allowed.

Sam

Simon, I share something of the position of the reader posing the question and am very grateful for guidance such as this which should hopefully help your readers to avoid some of the more unnecessary extravagances out there. Although such things are necessarily subjective, I for one would certainly be interested in any more of these that you may perceive from time to time as well as your experiences of opposite end of the spectrum as alluded to in your response to the reader.
All the best,
Sam

Anonymous

Simon, your point concerning jewellery is of particular importance. A good watch and good cufflinks are all that’s necessary and appropriate. Men who wear bracelets,chains, or multiple rings etc put themselves in dangerous territory indeed. Tie pins and tie bars also don’t work well on the vast majority of men and are to be avoided as well.

Christopher

One of the best things about being a professional classical musician is you get to add the full range of evening wear to your wardrobe. And deduct it from taxes.

Thomas

Dear Simon,

I am obviously not the most impartial judge on this post, but I will still say that I appreciate the input a lot. And guess what, you had most of those “some day, maybe, should I?” things on my mind in there: The double breasted first and foremost, the “other than good standard bespoke” overcoat, the velvet jacket.

Just as interesting I found the hint about the black tie by the way, because in my view it opens another aspect of the debate: I do have a bespoke one of these, and no, it does not get a lot of use; but I would still argue that the normal and straight-foward “seldom wear means steer away” logic does not work in this case: Once one is used, as I am by now, to wearing bespoke suits on normal working days, the idea of degrading that terrific feel of fit in a far more festive and ceremonial environment just seems wrong. So while this is a somewhat superfluous item from a sheer use point of view, it’s still one of those I would hate to miss.

Finally I apparently second everyone else’s view that a list on the five most useful items would be much appreciated.

Regards
Thomas

PS – John, I like your different take on the question I raised, but what I was looking for was really along the lines of what Simon answered. Quite honestly speaking I myself am probably beyond the point where I have any hopes to be mentally prepared to confine myself to a specific number of items and then look no further. And if that statement appears to be somewhat contradictory to what seemed the initial intent of my question, namely how to avoid investments beyond needs, well, what can I say: Right, but still wrong, somehow. It’s a more complex matter to me, I guess. As the black tie topic shows.

Christopher

…sorry, should have added that even then, it’s best to channel Heifitz rather than Rieu…

J

This goes back to what I have always said about bespoke.

Due to current bespoke prices versus MTM or RTW, it should not be treated as an ‘investment’ as so many claim it to be.

It should be treated as a hobby only.

When you approach it as a hobbyist or collector, you are not so worried as to getting ‘value’ out of the item.

At some point I will get a black tie outfit made entirely bespoke. At most I guess I would wear it once every two years.

By that logic, I should hire or alternatively get a decent RTW one. But it just won’t cut the mustard for a hobbyist like me, not gonna feel right wearing RTW. Equally though, there will be no real ‘value’ or ‘ROI’ to the tuxedo, other than the fact I will feel great wearing it when I occasionally do.

Winot

My classics that never get used are casual summer suits. This probably says something about (a) the lack of day time events I get invited to and (b) the lack of warm British summer evenings.

john

Can I just point out that after a discussion on this site I did buy a pocket watch; not Patek but a superb 1920’s Rolex which I wear on a thin chain through a buttonhole. I love it and tend to wear it more than I thought – at least four days a week. I also wear my fathers tails and DJ and while the tails get an outing once a year and the DJ perhaps three times a year, there is nothing better than going into a room and spotting at once the people who hired!

stephen

As an owner, ahem, of a white linen suit I fully concur with your article. If anything it reflects just how much Miami Vice had an affect on men (not always positive) of a certain age. It continues to await the 80’s themed party invitation that, sadly, has yet to arrive (cue Jan Hammer).

Rollo

I see a huge difference between the cream colored linen suit and the white linen suit. The white linen takes a certain person to wear. The cream can be done by almost anyone. The natural colored linen suit though is probably easiest of the three to wear.

Christopher

Re: Linen jacket – Tom Woolfe & Christopher Hitchens, rather than Travolta or Miami Vice (or 80s central American villain…)

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

I enjoyed this post greatly! I am actually currently commissioning a new double breasted 3 piece suit! I of course have typically had one in my wardrobe, and in the past prior to my strict adherence to only sack cut suits, many, which I wore regularly, so I can attest that while they may represent a dubious proposition for the individual who is unfamiliar with them as a wardrobe investment, for the individual who has become acclimated to them, or who has always worn them, they are a coveted and refreshing option. I am eagerly awaiting my new one to replace the last one which has become too delicate to wear any longer….It having passed through 3 generations of my family.

I got my first camel hair polo coat when I was 13 (I’ve been the same size since then, more or less – I was exceptionally robust then, and am average at 33, nearly 34 now). I wear it several times per year and it is great for whenever I am actually in real cold weather (a rarity in Southern California). My Father got it for me as a gift. It’s DB with welted edges, 6 button 3, patch and flap hip pockets, turn back cuffs, and a half belt on the back.

I do wear pocket watches frequently, but I also wear 3 piece suits for most of the year…..They are my favorite.

Velvet jackets….I have a number, including my Father’s cut bottle green tapestry velvet smoking jacket which sadly is far too small for me though it is exquisite. I also have his black velvet sport coat with patch pockets and black mother of pearl buttons with red silk lining. I had it relined about 16 years ago. It is quite lovely. Both are made up in heavy silk velvet, real velvet that is. I had a brown peak lapel velvet jacket with double vents but found that I never wore it, so I liquidated it with a vintage dealer friend of mine. It was too flashy and had far too much in the shoulders…..

The Cream Linen Suit….I used to wear an ersatz putty fustian suit of sorts; a putty fustian safari jacket in a suit model with mock half belted back and box pleated pockets, putty cotton drill trousers, and a putty linen vest with viscose backing worn with a white linen or blue linen shirt and a tussah silk with woven textured plaid neck tie of my Grandfather’s with cream plain toe Balmoral Oxfords from the 1930s that were a family hand me down, or russet leather semi brogue Blucher walking shoes and either no belt, or a pink canvas roll buckle belt if no vest was worn.

A sincere 3 piece linen suit for the Summer has been a particular pet plot of mine for some years now. Of course, I live in the luridly hot and humid locale of Southern California….

I can definitely see how a dresser who perhaps is not as assured or comfortable in their own wardrobe or skin might not be able to cope with any or each of the above. The above items are for the Journeyman, or Master as opposed to the Apprentice in matters sartorial.

Yrs Truly – Just to rant…..

-E.A.E.