This is the first in a series of videos – made in conjunction with Richard Anderson – on maintaining, brushing and pressing a suit.
[It’s worth enlarging to full screen if you want to watch it all]
They are practical guides to regular maintenance, each including discussion, a video demonstration, and narration by myself and Richard.
The first begins with a discussion of the main points of daily maintenance – hangers, steaming, dry cleaning – before going into detail on brushing down a suit, with a demonstration by Brian Lishak of approaches on a navy worsted, a corduroy and a cashmere coat.
Interestingly, the methods are often particular to the individual. Richard, for example, tends to brush strips of sellotape down the cloth, rather than picking off individual bits as Brian does. The latter is more precise, but more time consuming.
Videos are pretty time-consuming to put together, but I hope the series will prove to be a useful resource. I’ve certainly changed a few things about how I look after my suits as a result, such as brushing cashmere two ways (against and then with the pile).
The next two installments will look at pressing a jacket at home and pressing trousers.
I am wearing:
- Double-breasted suit by Anderson & Sheppard in grey end-on-end worsted.
- Blue spread-collar shirt by D’Avino
- Black small-knot grenadine tie by Shibumi
- Cream-and-lime silk handkerchief by Lissom & Muster
- Alligator shoes by Gaziano & Girling (benchmade on my bespoke last)
(I would have worn Richard Anderson of course, but I think my tuxedo would have been a little too formal…)
With many thanks to Richard, Brian and Krishan. Film by Charlie Parish.
I notice at the beginning where Richard talks about hangers the picture is not wide enough to show the hanger he presumably has in his hand.
True – it’s a regular wooden, wide-shouldered hanger
How wide should such a “wide-shouldered” hanger for suits be?
Very informative, thank you Simon. I’m surprised that dry cleaning is recommended so often, I had been under the impression that it was a last resort.
It should be really, but Richard is managing down expectations of people (particularly Americans) that dry clean all the time. Some people would say never dry clean. I would normally do it once a year or two years, depending on wear, stains etc
Great. And are there certain dry cleaners you’d recommend over others? I’ve read with Hermes ties they clean them for free, something to chat to your tailor about maybe?
Yes, although they often won’t have many suggestions. It’s one reason Press2Dress has been so popular on this site, although we’re awaiting for them to reopen.
(The problem with dry cleaning is less the cleaning itself and more the pressing, as Richard mentions. You want someone to hand press it afterwards.)
Brilliant video. Thanks
Great stuff and thanks for posting what you are wearing too. Really helpful!
Thanks Simon! Would you use a brush with copper bristles?
No, that would likely be too rough
Nice work Simon. Although on your recommendation I use Percy Crowe in the city. They as you said press wonderfully. They give my old friends a new lease of life. Clinton.
On the question of cleaning / dry cleaning I suspect most men feel the need to do this more often then necessary as they are concerned about body odour from their underarms.
Given that tailored jackets tend to be high armhole, thus creating a closer fit under the armpit, the problem is made worse .
So the question is how do we eradicate this without having to resort to frequent dry cleaning ? Maybe a blast of steam at the jacket arm holes or some deodourising spray for jacket armholes ?
P.S. keep up the video output .
Don’t sweat it.
More seriously, the stain from sweat is the problem. It will wreck the lining, not to mention the fabric.
I cannot help thinking that the collar of your coat sits very high, all but covering the shirt collar at the back, and that equally it wraps quite closely round the front of your collar, pretty much hiding the collar points. Is is just camera angle?
The A&S collar is very thick, but I quite like it. I’ll cover that more in another post. The wrap across the front is pretty standard for a traditional DB
Interesting, as the A&S coats worn by the POW shows his collar points quite clearly. Maybe to do with the shirt rather than the coat? HRH collars are 3.25″ with a 5″ spread.
His are far less cutaway as I recall. I don’t particularly like pointier collars for that reason
How easy is it to clean a suit (sponge and press) yourself?
Most of the cleaners that offer this service seem to be located in distant corners of England, like London, and there’s no way I’m making a 6 hour round trip to get a suit cleaned. Locally, there’s only bog-standard dry cleaning services available.
Is it feasible (and advisable) to have a crack at this myself?
You’ll get a sense of pressing in the next instalment, which is half the battle
Rabster, I’ve not tried it myself, but understand an old theatre trick is to spray with vodka, as it evaporates and sanitizes. It’s how they keep costumes fresh after hours under hot lights apparently. I have similar concerns about my jackets; high armholes and heavy cloth. It’d be good to hear Richard A’s thoughts on preventing this.
Well done on the video, Simon. A lot of work to get that looking so good.
Can one do anything about shine from wear? Elbows and cuffs?
Brushing helps a little. Keeps the nap up. But otherwise no… Except elbow patches
On the subject of pressing my alteration tailor insists you need an iron shoe (normally Teflon) so you can press directly on the suit without making it “shiny” I always had wondered how a tailor runs a very hot iron over clothes without damaging.
I just have not found one to fit my iron yet.
You can just use a cloth or tea towel. Wait and see how they do it in the next video
I use a pressing cloth, which I bought from Lakeland. You can get them at most housewife stores however – Robert Dyas and John Lewis for example. I prefer it to a tea towel or handkerchief as it’s transparent.
Very informative, I will endeavor to brush more! We have quite a few “green” dry cleaners in Seattle, any experience with those?
Nice work Simon, a good quality film. Interesting music and intro. I have said here before that you have a good on-camera presence so more of these would be welcome. Having read Richard’s book it’s also great to see him and Brian on screen. Particularly like your suit and Richard’s shirt is also exceptional (his own?). Re. The sellotape – the best clothes roller I have found is by Muji – far superior to anything else available, importantly it leaves no adhesive film behind on the cloth. P.S. tried to look at Charlie’s site but nothing came up on screen…
Simon, off topic but I tried Belvest & Caruso. They only do MTM for individuals, not for other tailors, and they don’t (at least with Belvest) cut from scratch. Any other suggestions?
Very informative piece Simon. I wonder whether you would consider doing a piece in the future on packing clothes for travelling? I am apprehensive about packing bespoke items when I travel as I don’t want to damage the structure of a suit etc. With increasing hand luggage size restrictions, it means that more is having to go into the hold of an airplane, risking damage. Do you use special suit carriers or is there a trick to folding items in suitcases?
There are several methods for folding. Certainly, I’ll do one
what’s your opinion about turnups for odd trousers?
I enjoyed the taping off portion. Officers in the US Navy are very familiar with this. Technique is to wrap masking tape completely around one’s palm, then pat gently over the coat, sleeves, and back to remove lint. Good time to check for stray threads (“irish pennants”) as well. Makes one wonder how much of care and maintenance of dress clothes is tied to military tradition. Probably a better question for Dege & Skinner.
Very interesting video. As regards your outfit, were you were a very low-collared shirt or was it one of your usual Luca A ones? There seemed to be almost no collar showing, but maybe that’s due to the deep collar of your A&S suit? Will A&S be willing to make a shallower collar?
It was a normal one, and yes A&S can make a shallower collar if need be. It is also proportionate to the neck (which on me is long). It does help the suit hug the neck though – my AS ones do that better than any other for that reason
If the collar of the coat comes up more than halfway up the back of the shirt collar something is wrong, and I think in this case it definitely is.
From my experience the toughest part of suit maintenance isn’t covered: fighting the sheen on the backside of the underarm and the trouser seat that results from office labour. I have heard about using vinegar+water but haven’t tried yet. Any tips?
I find it amazing that, even at this level, Brian the Brusher handles the garments like a half blind gorilla. His attempts at removing the trousers and replacing them on the hanger bar, pulling and shoving, were quite ham fisted. One would think that there would be some care, excellence or perhaps even romance in the way that the garments are handled. Knowing that a film is being made, one would think that Richard or Brian would take the time to prepare a proper set up by providing a coat hook, extra hangers or perhaps even a tailoring bust for draping a jacket that is being set aside. If I saw the staff at a shop or tailor handle the garments in this way I would probably leave as soon as possible. There’s no need to be precious about it but I found this very distracting and unappealing.
I take your points – we didn’t want an artificial set up, just what is done every day. But that might be a little rough and ready for you. Care certainly, but romance might be a push…
I have a question about your shoes: you say they are bench made, on your bespoke last. Does this mean that there is minimal handwork in their manufacture? Is there an appreciable difference in both quality between these and fully bespoke, and (if you don’t mind answering)the price?
Yes, a lot less handwork than bespoke, most significantly the welt and sole and not hand-sewn.
Simon, can you recommended a decent clothes brush for standard wool and barathea suits. I know that The Hanger Project sell some but with international postage, they are a bit more than I want to spend.
Look for Kent brushes in the UK
I found the cellotape an interesting point. I had my naval uniforms made by Gieves many years ago and when they were finished was expressly warned not to use this technique, as over time trace elements of glue would attach to the cloth. Instead, I was advised to invest in a good kent brush and to use the shower steam trick particularly if worn after a parade or mess dinner. In one case for helping remove the smell of sweat, in the other of beer. Very valuable advice to a 20 year old with not a clue!
Would you recommend a home garment steamer to help maintain suits?
Yes, it can work well
Would you recommend dry cleaning a grenadine tie?
Always worth using (and asking) a tie cleaning specialist
Hello Simon –
I have a steamer that is used for cleaning carpets, but it has an attachment for drapery – and so I use that to steam suits – including my wool suits (to work out wrinkles). All of these suits have the typical horsehair inside – and they’re all hand-made pieces. Any dangers of using the steamer? Also – are insects more attracted to these kinds of suits because of the animal hair inside? Do you have any suggestions about warding off insects?
I’m most interested in your thoughts.
That sounds great for suits, and no real danger in using it on them. As long as you don’t use so much steam that the cloth is actually soaking, you should be fine.
Moths are generally more influenced by the fineness and the cleanliness of fibres (they like fine, dirty things), the steamer should help ward them off.
That’s very useful. If I have “soaked the cloth” on a couple of them (the spray just effusively came out), should I have them pressed? They seem fine – I just don’t know what the eye can’t see (can the canvas be impacted by that – or just if it happens repeatedly)?
Can’t thank you enough for the advice.
It should be fine, just keep an eye on it once it’s dried
Simon, do you regularly brush your flannel suits? I asked my tailor (Elia Caliendo) and he recommended infrequent brushing of flannel. He believes it can harm the fabric and potentially discolour the fabric (blue loro pains flannel suit).
Interesting. I do brush, but not very often. I’ve never noticed any issues with flannel, but then perhaps I’m not being conscientious enough
The depressing reality about pressing a hand Tailored garment is that you are not only removing creases from the surface material. The canvas which is the most critical part of a jacket in terms of maintaining the shape of the garment needs skilled handling; preferably someone with knowledge of house Style so that both the under and top pressing respect these features. Sponge and press is preferable to dry cleaning – Richard Anderson remarks in detail on the preferences of Colin Hammock. I understand that he won best dressed man on a number of occasions.
Is steam cleaning a jacket suitable for removal of body odour? I have taken the jacket to a drycleaner but even when I get it back, the smell always seems to remain. Any thoughts?
Steam will help, yes, but probably not do much more then dry cleaning. Try using steam a couple of times, and if it doesn’t work you might need something specific to mask the odour
I’m thinking of buying a kneeling chair to help with back pain. My only concern is that there will be more pressure on my trousers if I sit like that. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks!
Wow, niche question! I don’t know, but I’d imagine it couldn’t be much worse than the wear on the seat of trousers from sitting down
I hope it doesn’t damage the crease though
I’m tempted to buy a portable steamer but after reading extensively on the subject (and on styleforum), it seems like they can lead to a phenomenon called “seam blowout” on a tailored jacket. Basically the seams inside the jacket get out of place and you have to do expensive alterations by opening the jacket and pressing the seams again manually. Any opinions on this ? Thanks!
I know what you mean Mael, but it’s never happened to me and, from what I’ve seen, only happens when a steamer is used excessively
a lovely video and very informative. Would the same be applicable for linen? Although I do not dry clean my linen jacket and trousers often, I have them hand pressed after every wear. Would you think that’s too harsh/much. Is spot cleaning of linen as dangerous as wool (the application of water)? Any recommendations for linen/tweed/cotton which are different from worsted wool?
Hand pressing of linen is probably fine – it’s dry cleaning and the concomitant chemicals that are the biggest problem. However, every time it is worn might be a little much (and perhaps expensive?). I’d suggest more like every 3 or 4 wears.
Spot cleaning is a little less risky on linen but I’d still follow the same principles.
Cotton is easier to wash generally – even if you’re not going to put it in a washing machine like a T-shirt, you know how it responds to washing with a little water etc.
Tweed hardly needs anything in this regard, being so hardy. It can also take a look more abrasive cleaning.