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BUYING A SUIT

Long time no write! With work being incredibly busy over the last year I have sadly neglected this site. Anyway with some time on my hands I thought it a great chance to get back in the swing.

 

Over the last few months, in my 9-5 job,I have seen many suits sent to us to tailor that really should never have been sold to that customer, either the wrong size completely, the customer is completely the wrong shape for a brand’s block, the staff member at the store is trying to hard to change the style of the suit to their or the customer’s personal preference and in doing so are trying to recut the garment, and some times even sales consultants trying to adjust something out of their skill set. Now obviously I lean towards having things custom-made, but for many this is not possible, due to budget limitations, location or even simply time constraints. So what are some basic tips to make sure you aren’t being sold down the river, or having tailoring done you don’t need or won’t even notice. Some alterations are best done by a professional tailor if needed rather than having a sales consultant overstep their knowledge.

 

Starting out, it is important to remember that the person in the store is trying to SELL you something, not necessarily in your best interest, and while they want to sell you the thing that fits you best, that only applies to what they have in stock. It is good practice to know roughly what brand fits you well. For a rough guideline go back and read some of my earlier posts on dressing for your body type as these will give you a clue as what things to look for.

 

THE DEAL BREAKERS

These things are deal breakers in my mind and simply say. don’t buy this

  • Taking in shoulders or chest
  • Letting out of the chest
  • Changing the armhole shape
  • Taking in trousers more than 6cm
  • Shortening a jacket more than 3cm

All of these things suggest a much larger problem and quite simply the suit doesn’t fit you. Also they signify work required that your standard sales consultant doesn’t appreciate the complexity of or unintended consequences that can arise from such an adjustment. You are also relying then on the store having a very skilled (read expensive) tailor to do these adjustments well. This isn’t an exclusive list and trusting your judgment is important, if you think the garment is being adjusted to an unreasonable level then don’t buy it

In short if the suit (or jacket) you are trying on needs any of the above, walk away.

 

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THE BASICS

After having scared you of what to not do, the following are completely normal and should be considered standard wherever you purchase suiting

  • Trouser shortening (obvious I know)
  • Sleeve shortening
  • Lengthening of sleeves or trousers up to 4cm
  • Taking the jacket in up to 2 inches
  • Taking in trouser the waist up to 4cm
  • Letting out the trouser waist up to 4cm
  • Tapering the leg up to 2cm
  • Shortening a jacket body up to 2cm

These are all basic adjustments and can be done in store. If you are unsure at the staff members competence, the you can always take these jobs direct to your tailor of choice to have them done without fear.

 

THE TOUGH ONES

This is the group of alterations that I suggest exercising the most caution on. In skilled hands they can make the garment fit superbly, however done at the wrong time or too much can ruin a suit, or if suggested by someone who doesn’t understand completely could result in an ill-fitting garment that should never have been purchasedscreen-shot-2017-03-04-at-4-03-22-pm

  1. Squaring the neck, or Lifting the Nape. This is a very delicate job and should only be done in very specific circumstances. The client who needs this job has very sq, and usually quite boney shoulders and the collar is being pushed up creating a fold at the back of the neck IMMEDIATELY BELOW the collar. Sorry for shouting but creasing occurring lower on the back is something else completely. If you are a muscular client, do not get this job done as it will cause enormous problems, same goes if you are buying a coat that is quite snug (read tight). Even doing this adjustment may not completely cure the problem but only dissipate it. If you are unsure on this one and the problem is severe, don’t proceed
  2. Taking in of a jacket excessively. I see this all the time especially with the current look of very slim jackets. Taking in of a jacket more than 2″ is reducing the waist by more than a size and a half. If done too much it can cause issues with how vents sit at the back. Also if a jacket needs to come in this much, it quite often is too big in the front half of the jacket, and only the back panels can be reduced. This can result in a jacket although skin-tight at the back that is still too big at the front. This is quite common on big chested guys. Proceed with caution

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  1. Taking in a trouser more than  4cm. This sounds simple but if not done correctly will be a nightmare. 4cm is basically a size in most trousers, so why not get the size smaller? Some “big bootyied” people may need the waist only taken in, but it is essential that this is noted to prevent trouser from being too tight . The verdict on this is that it is ok only if the sales consultant is attentive and knowledgeable. If not, then take it directly to a tailor of your choice, but noting that if its love 8cm you may end up with a very hefty bill
  2. Slimming trousers excessively. Again with many people wanting slim trousers and suit brands having not moved as fast as fashion has, this is a common request. Slimming trousers a small amount is fine and requires minimal caution, however drastic tapering requires far more thought. Firstly wool is nowhere near as robust as a denim or cotton trouser and as such can’t be worn as tight lest it split. Equally important is that the majority of you are wearing suits for work and as such are in them for 10-15 hour stretches and really slim trousers are uncomfortable after that length of time despite what a salesperson may tell you.The other thing to note is that if you have large calves you cannot taper trousers to the same extent as the pant needs to fall over the calf not hug it, as this would cause “trumpeting”. Again it is all fine but exercise common sense
  3. Letting trouser seat out. in itself this isn’t difficult however most suit trousers only have 1-2cm in the seat which only makes a slight difference

 

 

 

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All in all it really isn’t that hard, just avoid the top group of alterations on any new purchase, and exercise caution on the bottom group.Remember  design team has been paid a lot of money to design the cut of these suits for a reason, use alterations to  augment, not transplant that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pitti Uomo 89 Day 3

Finally I have managed to find the time to write the last post on the amazing Pitti Uomo 89 held in January. In my research and reading I managed to get in contact with a great street style photographer Giacomo Mario Perotti and you can see more of his work here. Many thanks to him for the amazing selection of images he sent me, please note all copyright belongs to him and these images shouldn’t be shared without his permission. He is also a great instagram follow @giacomo_m_perotti  Enjoy!!

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The iconic Lino Ieluzzi looking very dapper as always

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Hugo Jacomet of style website Parisian Gentleman, which is a must read check it out!!

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Great use of turquoise and pattern combinations

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Loving the orange overcoat in the middle, and the double breasted vest on the right, as well as the overall dandy-ness of this group

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Love this photographers style, especially that hat!! Women can be dandys as well

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Great use of colour on the overcoat. Its a good way to ensure it goes with everything, just make it bold!!

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This scarf is fantastic, and this gentleman’s attention to detail as all the colours and textures line up beautifully

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Just pure style!

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Another bunch of incredible outfits, I love the coat on the far left

 

SUMMARY

In summary what are the key looks for people to take home?

  1. Hats are back big time. As a development of the accessories trend, hats are back in a big way, fedoras, panamas, trilbys etc are a great way to add panache to an outfit, especially in feature colours like orange and red
  2. Double breasted continues its revival and is accentuated by the variety of patterns available as well as the stronger colours men are wearing. Everything from casual sports coats to suits to overcoats are looking great in a strong DB
  3. Cuffed trousers are strong! With people wearing their trousers without a break at the shoe and the slimness present at the moment the cuff is adding a lovely highlight to the trouser line
  4. Bold accessory game. This trend is continuing from the last several seasons and shows no signs of abating. No longer do cuff-links and a watch provide enough pop. Pochettes, tie pins and bars, lapel pins, socks, bags, hats scarves, wristbands are all great ways to lift outfits and insert your personal style.

Pitti Uomo 89 Day 2

As promised here are some images from day two of Pitti 89

Here are two of Italy’s most stylish and perennial Instagram favourites, @mararomrraro and @eleosebastiani. There is nothing complex about either outfit, just superb cuts and quality. I also find the way they haven’t “couple dressed” but still have matching accessories with his gloves and her bag. Just amazing.

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Here are a group of guys with looks all on point! They are from menswear blog Gentlemen’s Fashion so definitley go there and have a look

Great reading. Love all the colour and bold textures and patterns as well as the contrast socks

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Again just a collection of incredibly dapper gentlemen. I don’t really know where to start with what is great here as it all is. Great hats and the level of accessorising is fantastic, as is the number of bold fabric choices.

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One final one for today of another Pitti mainstay Lino Ieluzzi (right), who is the definition of a dandy and once again looks amazing, despite breaking the rule matching checks of the same size and or colour is not recommended, however he nails it. I guess you to break the rules you need to know them first! I love the tones of the blues and the hint of colour from the gloves in the pocket. If you don’t follow this guy already, get onto it, @linoieluzziofficial

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I am looking forward to receiving some images in the next few days from a photographer on the ground in Florence and sharing them with you, and then sunmmarising what I think were the major trends

 

 

 

Pitti Uomo 89 Day 1

Always one of my favourite times of the year are when the menswear elite gather at Pitti Imagine in Florence.

While I would love to be there, unfortunately I am not, although hope to be next January!!, and instead I spend lots of time scouring Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest feeds for the best looks, which I want to share!!

Here are the first 4 from day 1!!  The Instagram feeds I have sourced these from are mentioned, so go on and check them out!!

This is an amazing outfit combining a beautiful teal tweed with a patterned waistcoat and button down collar. Love the level of pattern and texture coordination here!! tweed, check plain, geometric tie and paisley pochette, not easy!

From @lord_dollar

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This next look is striking. From @nmmanstore, again lovely use of jacket and pant separates. What really sets this off is the amazing wide brimmed hat!! I also love the use of a “summer” pastel jacket in winter

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Here are two epically stylish guys in bold checked suits with contrast details like lapel pins and hats. This is from @atlier. I am seriously loving seeing all these amazing hats being worn by dandys like this

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From @sandeeglam , these guys are channeling early 80’s punk with these Vivienne Westwood-esque suits. Also admiring the bowler hat!! Great looks for those willing to stand out!

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These looks aren’t for everyone or even most, but its always great to see the cutting edge in dandyism and mens style!!

 

THE SHOULDER WARS

The chassis of the suit, that from which everything hangs, that if not correct nothing will be, the coat shoulder. The entire look of a coat is dictated from the form of the shoulder, and is one of the few things that can’t be effectively altered after purchase.

There are many different styles and variations of shoulders on a man’s jacket that lie outside the dictates of fashion, and the whims of trend. They instead derive their form from the continents and schools of tailoring that created and refined them. While there is no correct shoulder form, certain types suit different shapes and looks much better, for example when ordering a jacket that you want to be deconstructed, casual and almost preppy you would be wise to eschew the English shoulder and maybe even the Roped in favour of the Natural for the best possible result. This article will try and explain the difference between each.

ENGLISH

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Possibly what most people would call a “normal” shoulder (especially in the English speaking world). The easiest way to spot this is to look for the nearly 90 degree angle at the sleeve head with minimal shoulder roll. The will be enough padding to absorb the shape of the shoulder and draw a diagonal line from the neck to the shoulder, but no more. The english shoulder is often not much padded than many of its counter parts, but just enough to create this line. The classic English style (in every aspect) is the Huntsman shape, which is what is featured in the image. It is designed to give a very shape crisp finish, enabling the waist to be cinched neatly, and provide a slimming appearance. It does to tend to be very formal compared to other styles, with it’s sharp lines and cinched waist.

 

ITALIAN

There are several variants on the Italian shoulder, depending what school the tailor is trained in. The stereotypical version is commonly known as a roped shoulder, or sometimes a Roman shoulder.

Close up of the Roped shoulder variant

Close up of the Roped shoulder variant

As you can clearly see the reason it is called roped, is the appearance of the exaggerated lip at the join of the shoulder and the sleeve. This highlights the finish of the shoulder creating the appearance of broadness, hence slimness at the waist. It also helps keep the fullness in the sleeve.

The other major variant of the Italian style is the Spalla Camicia (literally “shirt shoulder”

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As you can see, the extra ease is inserted into the sleeve head with small pleats known as shirring. This is often referred to as the Neapolitan shoulder, as it originated in Naples. This creates a slightly more relaxed line, and moves more towards the natural shoulder line.

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This great image shows the differences that the two predominant Italian shoulder styles have on the appearance of the garment. The roped shoulder announces the shoulder more prominently while the Spalla Camicia is more relaxed in look. The main concept of Italian tailoring is the the shoulder should have as little padding as possible and is epitomized by Brioni who only use canvas construction to create their beautiful suits.

 

NATURAL

Even further on the relaxed scale is the natural shoulder, sometimes known as the American shoulder.

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This was orginally created in rebellion against the classic English styles by early American tailors, and as such is one of the key ingredients to the preppy style. This look is embraced by international clothiers such as Brooks Brothers. As a rule this style is better suited to relaxed fits, but is currently very much in vogue as a slim fit style. The basic premise is that there is absolutely no construction or padding in the shoulder at all and the garment literally hangs off the wearer’s body.

 

WHICH ONE?

The choice of what style to choose is somewhat daunting but also quite simple too.

First, you don’t have to just have one, I have suits and sports coats in all styles and use them as a style detail. A basic guideline is to understand what each style does for your shape, the less structure and line, the less emphasis on your shoulder and more on your waistline, so pear shaped clients should opt for more structure, while muscular men definitely benefit from less padding.

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Left to right, roped, British and natural

For those interested I have included this image showing the differences in the actual construction concepts for each too.

 

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PROTECTING AND MAINTAINING YOUR WARDROBE PART 2: DRY CLEANING SUITS

There are not many more contentious topics that dry cleaning when it comes to suits, how often to dry clean your suit.

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There is no hard or fast rule for this as everyone wears suits differently. How often do you wear the suit 1 a week 1 a month or only on occasion. The basic rule of thumb to follow is dry clean the suit when it needs it. Small marks and spills should be dabbed off with a damp cloth, and if the suit is aired as per the last post, you shouldn’t have to worry about odour.

The process of dry cleaning uses a solvent called tetrachloroethylene, known in the industry as “perc”. This is a chemical alternative to clean fabrics too delicate to be washed with water.
So why is it bad on your suit?
The petro chemical strips the lanolin (the natural wool oil) that gives wool its suppleness, making the fabric much more brittle and prone to damage during wear.
This is not to mention the excessive damage caused by poor dry cleaning practices.
Some of these include but aren’t limited to excessive pressing, leading to shiny patches on suits where the fabric has been scorched; not changing the fluid often enough (so your precious garments are being cleaned in someone else’s dirty fluid), and hanging your suits on wire hangers.

So what to do when you suit is looking flat? If you are brushing your suit down after wears and wiping off marks as they occur, all your suits will need is occasional pressing, so just ask your dry cleaner or tailor to press your suit not clean.

However none of this is an excuse for wearing dirty suits, if its dirty get it cleaned. Aside from looking awful the dirt attracts moths and silver fish that damage your suits

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Finding a good dry cleaner is vital., here are a couple of great hints.
Ask your tailor or premium clothes store who they recommend, as most will have one they have a close relationship with and trust with their pieces.
If you take your garments in on proper hangers a good dry cleaner will return them on those ( quickest way to ruin the lines of a freshly pressed suit is to leave it on a wire hanger). Also look for a dry cleaner that does most of their work on site, as it minimises chance that your garment will be misplaced or cleaned incorrectly. However do note that some garments will almost always be done off site by specialists especially suede and leather, however this is a good guide. Another classic hint is to avoid the hotel dry cleaners, as the are often very poor just rushing through jobs with little care as by the time the client realises the garment is damaged they are well gone. I have seen countless garments ruined this way.

If you know of reputable dry cleaners in your city or area please let me know via the comments section as I am compiling a compendium of these things for a late release.

PROTECTING AND MAINTAINING YOUR WARDROBE

There is absolutely nothing worse than after having spent time, money and love finding great wardrobe pieces and then having them ruined or damaged by poor care. This usually happens in three ways, moth or wardrobe damage, poor maintenance and bad dry cleaning. Here are some simple guidelines in order to spare you the premature loss of a favourite piece.

Moths

The scourge of woollen garments. Most of us at one time or another experience the gut wrench of pulling out a great coat, jumper or suit only to discover moths have eaten chunks out of it.

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These larvae hate sunlight, so you tend to see this on garments that have been stored for a while. To prevent this there are several options. Obviously you can put chemical mothballs in your closet which will keep them away, however this leaves the lovely “vintage smell” or “eau de old man” on all your clothes. A better option is to get cedarwood blocks and balls.

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These are a more natural way to prevent them attacking our pieces.
What to do if its too late? Sometimes there isnt much that can be done, especially if the damage is extensive, however a trusted tailor may have some solutions for you. Go in and ask and on especially precious pieces enquire about invisible mending (read here for more http://parisiangentleman.co.uk/2012/01/11/invisible-mending-an-amazing-craft-under-threat/ )

Maintenance is very important. It is vital that suits are stored on a good hanger that supports their shoulder shape while in the wardrobe.

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Nothing makes me cringe more than seeing a beautiful suit being stored on wire hangers. this totally destroys the structure of the shoulder aging the suit prematurely.
After wear suits need to air out and “recover” . There are two ways to do this. The best is to get a suit valet as pictured.

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Putting your your suit on this after wear enables it to air out and breathe before putting it back into the closet. It is best to put the suit onto the valet after you take it off, then put it back in the wardrobe in the morning while getting dressed the next day. Alternatively you can hang the suit on a good hanger outside of the wardrobe off a door or off a stair rail, basically anything that will enable airflow through the garment to get rid of the moisture that accumulates during a days wear.

The last, and arguably most important thing to do before putting the suit away is to use a damp cloth to remove any stains or food spills from your suit. This will stop them setting, and prevent unnecessary drycleaning, which is the subject of next weeks post.

If you follow these few simple steps, your suits will be ready to go whenever you need them, and you will be spared the agony of prematurely damaged garments

THE ESSENTIALS:THE BLUE SHIRT

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The last thing the basic wardrobe for the working man needs is the blue shirt.

The blue shirt works with every colour and pattern, just like a white. The only sense of versatility that it lacks is the highest levels of formality like evening occasions, or very formal job interviews. Other than these most formal spots the blue shirt goes with everything for everything.

It is worth mentioning that the “essential blue shirt” is not a mid or dark blue but a pale light almost pastel blue. This happens to be the most flattering colour a man can wear and works with any complexion.

Texture wise anything subtle is great such as a herringbone, twill weave or an oxford weave is ideal. Very very subtle check or stripes are also good, but should be so fine that from a distance of 3 feet should look plain. This allows maximum combinations with suit and tie combinations

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A beautiful herringbone

Here is a great oxford weave

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The classic twill weave

Style wise things should be very similar to the white shirt, with a collar style to suit face shape and be both conducive to a tie as well as open collared. One major difference though is the blue shirt can equally be button cuffed as it is a touch more casual and doesn’t need that absolute formality that the French cuff provides the white shirt.
The shirt should be long enough to stay tucked in at all times, there is no such thing as a dressy untucked shirt. Make sure the shirt has shape but isn’t skin tight, it isn’t a nightclub piece but a business shirt.

Obviously from all of the essentials you will need to own several of each shirt before you proceed to fancier options. If these are the only shirts you have you should have 5 as a minimum, so 2 white and 3 blue is a good balance, but can easily go the other way.
If you have both the suits discussed and these 5 shirts then you are ready to proceed to the fun part and adding the more character pieces to your wardrobe, the fun part!!!

THE ESSENTIALS: THE CHARCOAL SUIT

If you are wearing suits to work or wear them several times a week it almost goes without saying that you will need more than one. The next essential following the navy suit is the classic charcoal suit.

Charcoal is an extremely versatile colour for the office, going with pretty much any shirt and tie combo. This means you get maximum wear from all your shirts and ties rotating between the navy and charcoal suits. For the office shoe wise it is more versatile than navy as charcoal also goes very well with black shoes, although I personally still prefer brown.

The charcoal suit also doubles as a fantastic formalwear suit if going to a (non black tie) wedding, or the races or any evening event. It spruces up nicely with bolder more fashion forward shirts and ties like its navy counterpart.

The only downside vs the navy is that the charcoal suit or jacket does not look great as a sportscoat separate as it looks too “worky”.

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This image shows a perfect office wear outfit with a crisp blue shirt and plain tie, ideal for any office, excluding the no socks look. For more conservative offices wear the trousers a little wider and longer.

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This option shows a little more pizazz with a few accessory details like the tie bar to give the charcoal suit a little more lift and sartorial edge. This is ideal for those trying to standout just a little bit.

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For those wanting to look like the own their companies, it is hard to go past the three piece. It adds authority and style to the look. Seeing suits like these makes me think of the high fliers of Wall Street, the JP Morgans or the Rothschilds of the world.

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Here is an outfit I love. A great patterned blue shirt and matching pocket square with a skinny flannel grey tie. This is a great look for a Saturday at the races or a wedding. You could replace the patterned shirt with a nice pink lavender or lemon shirt too for a more summery feel.

The keys to getting the right charcoal suit are very similar to the navy again. Dark is better, but not so dark it’s almost black. The fabric should be plain or in this case a very subtle stripe is also ok. Textured is great, I am a sucker for a charcoal sharkskin or pic n pic weave. Also herringbones and twill weaves are excellent choices. For those after truly plain, a gabardine in a charcoal is superb too.
Cut is crucial as it enables the suit to “sell” the wearer subtly. Quite slim without being too tight, 2 button notched lapels not wider than 3″ not narrower than 2.5″ will keep the suit classic enough to be worn for several years.
Trouser wise slim but not stovepipe, something with around a 17″ ankle for most people is ideal.
Lastly make a trip to a tailor if buying OTR and have the suit fitted to youth ensure you look your best.

Great places to get a high quality charcoal suit in Sydney would be

Low budget: MJ Bale, their two for $1000AUD is fantastic value for those starting a wardrobe

Medium budget: Hugo Boss they have a great basic charcoal suit and a couple. With a touch more detail

Premium :Zegna, or high quality made to measure from a reputed establishment. (I offer these at Argys in Sydney)

Top of Hill: Full bespoke, again I offer these at Argys in Sydney, other tailors in Sydney who I can recommend include Cutler, Casa Adamo and Bijan. For other cities have a look on http://www.styleforum.net for good tailors near you.

SUPERFINE WOOL: THE ORIGINS

Whilst in New Zealand for a family Xmas and holiday through December I had the chance to visit my Father’s work which is where almost all the fine wool from the South Island of New Zealand is sent to be assessed and tested and given its super/micron counts strength tests and so forth. For someone involved in bespoke suiting and loving all things suit related it was fascinating to see firsthand how this is all done.

This processing centre recently had some wool come through at a world record 10.75 micron, or for those used to the old scale approximately a preposterous super 260!!!

However dont fall in love with the micron counts as they are only a measure of the fineness of the fibre not the strength, which is very difficult to attain in such fine fibres, hence making suits from these extraordinarily expensive as finding both is extremely difficult. So be very cautious when buying a suit or jacket in a very fine fabric at a price that seems to good to be true as it is probably made from inferior strength versions of the fine wools, which sell for a fraction of the price.

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Here are the bins of the sorted and classed wool ready for auction. Much of the very fine wool isn’t sold this way, but instead sold by contract to mills and manufacturers overseas.

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Just some raw fleece ready to be tested.

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This machine randomly picks from a conveyor belt different strands from a bale, which are attached to a card and sent to the laboratory and tested for micron size, strength and impurities which all effect the value of the wool to a large extent and also to check if contracted wool has met the specs is was supposed to.

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Here are two different pieces of fleece, the top one being much finer than the first as you will be able to see by looking quite closely at how tight the “crimple” (the creases in the fibre) is compared to the second picture. What you are seeing is the first being about 16.75 micron or super 140’s and the second approximately being 18.75 micron or super 110’s

I am trying to get some slides from the lab of showing the microscopic details.

For those wondering what the actual super count means i will explain briefly. It is a very old measurement of how long a piece of yarn could be spun from 1 pound of wool. This was smeasured in “hanks” which are those figure 8 pieces of wool your grandmother probably used to knit with and they are 560yards long each. so a pound of super 120 wool could be spun into 120 hanks of 560 yards each so 67,200 yards of yarn per pound of wool. This is now purely a theoretical measurement as it is impossible to spin wool that fine manually.
Microns are far easier to describe, they are simply the measurement of the fibre end on in millionths of a metre, simpler huh!!

For a quick reference here are the super counts up against their micron equivalents

Super 100 = 18.75micron
Super 110= 18.25
Super 120= 17.75
Super 130= 17.25
Super 140= 16.75
Super 150= 16.25
Super 160= 15.75
Super 180= 14.75
Super 200= 13.75
Super 220= 12.75
Super 240= 11.75