Picking out the right suit is risky, so try to follow these orders

Good day, gents. It’s spring, and while most people are battling seasonal allergies, we are battling something else that makes the nose run and hives appear: bad suiting.

That’s because spring is the start of wedding season, which in turn marks the beginning of the Summer Suit Crisis. But don’t panic. Just keep in mind the JFK quote, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” So consider this your fresh opportunity to look great in a suit.

It all starts with the fit. Ill-fitting clothes guarantee mission failure every time. It’s like bringing the wrong map on a combat patrol: not so good. Fit trumps quality, price and style every time, but each of those is also important once you have a good fit.

Also remember: Price does not equal quality. The most expensive piece of an “Italian” suit is its label. There are more important things to investigate when determining the quality of a suit. And nowadays, some entry-line brands are reverting to better manufacturing processes that increase the quality without necessarily jacking up the price.

Fussed vs. Canvassed

Years ago every suit used to be made by hand, and the result was better-fitting, longer-lasting suits. Now suits are produced on an assembly line, which gives us boxy, ill-fitting, throwaway garments. Part of the hand-tailoring process is canvassing the garment, which means the foundation of the suit is sewn together, not glued. Glue breaks down quickly through wear and tear as well as dry-cleaning, leaving you with a garment that’s falling apart from the inside out. A canvased suit will only get better with wear since it begins to form to your body, like a good pair of jeans or leather shoes. Although initially more expensive, the long-term value is unquestioned as you won’t have to replace the suit as often.

Ask your salesman if the garment is glued or canvassed. If he doesn’t know, shop elsewhere. You can also perform the “pinch test”: Near the center buttonhole, pinch both sides of the jacket, pull apart gently and feel for a third, floating layer. That’s the canvas. If you feel canvas but hear a peeling sound, that’s a better glue-fussed garment. If you only feel a top and a bottom but it feels like cardboard, return the suit to the rack.

The Three Standards

Most suits are one of three fits: American, British and Italian. It’s like a sliding scale of boxy to slim fit, and most labels are consistent. Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic make fairly roomy suits; Ted Baker and Paul Smith are “tailored-fit” suits; Canali and Gucci are for boys who like to show off the goods. Do a little exploring to figure out where you need to shop.

Handmade? Hand-finished?

More labels are giving us more bang for our bucks. Options that used to be on expensive lines are migrating to entry-line labels. Features such as pique stitching, high cut armholes, suppressed waists and tapered sleeves are now readily available and should be sought after—because, my friends, they make you look good.

Now, are some labels cutting corners doing a lot of these features by machine versus hand? Yes, but honestly, if price is an issue, who cares?. If you can grab a BR monogram suit for $500 and get similar features of $1,800 Canali suit all while in your financial comfort zone, then do it.

Keep Your Map Dry

Don’t forget about high-brow stores, such as Barneys and Saks, which are having big sales these days. Most have outlets that sell last season’s items at discounts. Check out OFF 5th at Las Vegas Outlet Center (7400 Las Vegas Blvd. South) and Banana Republic at Premium Outlets (875 S. Grand Central Parkway), for example.

This is your opportunity to excel and succeed where others so miserably fail. Remember, your moves on the dance floor should be dangerous, not your outfit nor your style. Stay frosty, men.

Spring –Summer Tips

  • Lighter colors are great in Las Vegas year-round, especially during the summer. However, baby blue and other pastels are tough as starter pieces, so stick to light grays, blues and brown/tans in the beginning.
  • Look for fabrics that are year-round, lightweight or summer weight. Flannel in July is like dropping a live grenade at your feet.
  • Half-lined jackets are not only stylish but practical.
  • Cotton suits look sharp and provide a break from the standard woolen variety—get one.
  • Even if it’s just mental, brown shoes look and feel cooler.
  • Have your tailor remove your belt loops to give you a cleaner look and reduce the dreaded sweat ring around your waist.
  • Cotton shirts breathe; polyester ones don’t. Your co-workers will thank you.
  • Give your suits and shoes a longer break between wears. Use good shoe trees and actual suit hangers—trust me.
  • Linen is supposed to wrinkle. CEOs should go ahead and wear linen to work—you run the show.
  • For daytime weddings wear lighter colors, but go easy on the all-white or pastels, even if it’s in Miami.
  • For evening weddings, wear medium to darker colors. Black is funeral-esque.

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Author and style guru Clinton Kelly, host of the wildly popular What Not to Wear on TLC, has made a career out of helping fashion-starved people reinvent themselves. Now Kelly has partnered with Macy’s for the “Makeover America’’ tour, which kicked off March 20 in Las Vegas. Kelly transformed 12 normal women into fashion goddesses and then gave them the opportunity to strut their stuff on the catwalk at Fashion Show.



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