I'm not the kind of guy who wears a suit and tie to work everyday. I rock the flannel, t-shirt and jeans uniform. When duty called this summer in the form of a hot date, wedding or other formal occasion, I wore my wedding suit. That was OK, but a selection of fine, tailored suits is preferable to constantly resorting to my wedding attire. I was excited by the opportunity this past weekend to take advantage of a great "buy one get one free" promotion at the Men's Wearhouse and expand my collection of formal wear.
The shirt and tie is timeless, but I was also motivated by some trendy entertainment. Think Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother and George Clooney in The American (or really any George Clooney movie). It was time to make my best Barney Stinson impression and "Suit up" for the next occasion when I’ll need to don the Don Draper.
I arrived at the Northgate Seattle location with an entourage – Sergio for photography and Amanda for wife perspective – and was greeted by the store manager, Richard Frost.
We kicked off the shopping experience by first reviewing my measurements, which were previously kept between me and my wife. So much for that! After I was anointed a “42 Regular,” Richard hooked me up with a cream turtleneck because the military shirt I was wearing just wouldn't do (poor choice on my part). I was ready for the main event.
We jumped to the suit aisle and Richard pulled out a dozen jackets for me to try on, ranging from the more expensive labels like Tallia ($700) and Calvin Klein ($600), to midrange labels Jones New York ($450) and Pronto Uomo ($400), to the lower price points offered by the Wilke Rodriguez label (starting at $160). In addition to discussing color palettes, styles and fits, I learned a few good style lessons from Richard:
- The width of your tie should match the width of your lapel; hence skinny suits should be worn with skinny ties and not just because emo kids do it
- That visible, thick stitch is called a pick stitch
- Vents have a purpose(!): to relieve the weight of the suit and affect its movement. Side vents are "euro classic" and allow the most movement, though a center vent will do the job, too. These affect the cost of the suit.
Richard is a 17-year veteran of Men’s Wearhouse(!) so I took his word like a book from the Bible.
After extensive modeling for my entourage and too much mirror time even for my taste, I decided on two suits, a $700 black Tallia suit and a dark brown $500 Calvin Klein suit, as well as a $200 grey, plaid Pronto Uomo sport coat. We took the three selections to the table to accessorize with shirts and ties.
I share with most guys two traits: a significant disdain for shopping and impairment in imagining a complete outfit from scratch. I had based my decision on three apparel items based on the general fit and color, but Richard helped to put the package to together so that I could visualize how it’d all come together.
After I settled on a couple shirts and ties (it was buy one get one free, after all), we moved on to tailoring. Richard said that picking out the suit off the rack is “the rough draft” process; getting the suit tailored is what takes the draft to the finished product. I put on some nice deer leather shoes for the fitting. Richard advised to take care of shoes by using cedar shoe trees to store them. The cedar absorbs smells, perspiration and salts to help keep the form optimized and wear minimum. Men's Wearhouse actually offers head-to-toe outfitting, and that includes shoes, socks and belts as well as casual wear.
I put on my pairs of jackets and pants in quick succession, and with a few swipes of the chalk I was done and my suits would be ready for me the following weekend. The whole process took a couple hours. Of course, Richard took his time educating me on the various suit styles, shirt and tie combinations and walked me through the benefits of tailoring. (At Men’s Wearhouse, if you pay for tailoring at the time you buy a suit, you never have to pay again for follow-up tailoring – a nice customer loyalty service).
The time was warranted because my total bill rang up just short of $1,000 before my allowance kicked in. If it hadn’t been the Labor Day sale, the bill probably would have been closer to $2,000. Whenever you spend that much money, you’d better take your time. For a casual suit wearer like me, a suit should last five to seven years (assuming I stay in decent shape), so that’s a long time to rely on decisions made over a couple of hours.
My visit to Men’s Wearhouse coincided with its third annual National Suit Drive, which kicked off via the stunty “Give the Suit Off Your Back” campaign in major metros where nearly naked men drew attention to the cause. Why Men’s Wearhouse didn’t want to consider me for this, I don’t know. Someone must not have seen my headshot. During the Suit Drive, Men’s Wearhouse is collecting articles of professional attire to be used by individuals looking to re-enter the workforce. It’s a great cause, and you get a 25 percent-off coupon for your next purchase when you donate that old suit. Women’s business attire is also accepted. Ladies, if you have that Hillary Clinton pantsuit that you haven’t worn since she ran for president, it may be time to let go.
My overall experience at Men’s Wearhouse was great – Richard provided excellent service, the suits, shirts and ties worked for my style and I felt comfortable and confident with my purchases. I’ll definitely return to Men’s Wearhouse when I need to suit up. I guarantee it. (Taglines are so much fun! What up, George!)