Small Details Big Differences | How to Wear a Suit | Men's Style Advice

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Some people look better in a suit than others. It could be the amount they spend or it could be that the suit is made for them. A proper bespoke handmade suit on Savile Row will cost around £5k. But no matter what you spend, there is a way of wearing a suit that will improve your appearance that costs nothing (or maybe a little…certainly nowhere near £5k). So if you value your appearance and would like to look your very best in tailoring; read on. This will significantly improve the appearance of any high street suit.

  1. Polish your shoes. You can read more about this in my last post.

  2. On a new suit make sure all the visible white stitching is removed. This can be on the shoulders, vents and cuffs.

  3. Please remove any brand labels that are on the jacket cuff.

  4. Your jacket side pockets may be stitched closed. Keep them this was as long as you can…more on pockets later.

  5. On a single-breasted jacket, only do up the top button on a 2 button style and the middle-button on a three button style.

  6. On a double-breasted style where you can button up more than one outside button, pick the one that is most comfortable. Always do up the inside button.

  7. Keep your trouser hip pocket buttons done up.

  8. Distribute your kit around your various pockets. Suits have plenty of pockets so never overfill them. Your wallet should be slim and have neither Velcro or a coin purse attachment. Consider using a card wallet rather than a billfold.

  9. Keep minimal a amount of stuff in your trouser side pockets. Perhaps a couple of coins, some banknotes and a clean hanky. Do not keep your phone in your trouser pocket.

  10. The outside chest pocket of your suit looks its best when it has a pocket handkerchief in it. Forget any crap about matching and co-ordinating and acquire a white linen or fine cotton, a navy silk spot and a dark red paisley. This will complement all your ties. If you are not a hanky guy, your chest pocket is useful for spectacles, sunshades or mobile phones.

  11. Don’t fret about folding your hankie and don’t keep touching it.

  12. Your lapels should have a buttonhole in them. If it is not open, it can be cut open with a sharp knife. This is where you wear your poppy or flower at a wedding. If you ever need to wear a badge on your suit to show unity to a cause you feel passionate about, this is where it should be placed. I cry a little whenever I see wedding flowers in the chest pocket of a suit.

  13. Do not overload lapels with brooches and trinkets. But you can wear a flower and a pocket hankie at the same time.

  14. In modern business, the suit/no tie look has becoming the norm and is not a flattering look on most men. When I worked on Savile Row in the 1990s, wearing a suit without a tie was considered edgy. Now it is the uniform of provincial mid-management. Wear a tie. A few simple textured solids is all you need.

  15. If you are carrying a little weight around your waist, avoid white shirts and bold patterns. It draws attention to your belly.

  16. Never wear a rucksack. It kills your suit and your dignity. Imagine going mountain trekking carrying a leather briefcase. That is how stupid a rucksack looks, not to mention inconsiderate to fellow passengers on public transport. If you absolutely must have a rucksack, at least carry a smart leather version.

  17. If you are a tie-wearer and like a tie-bar, please position it below your chest and not underneath your chin.  Unless you are appearing on The Apprentice and it is 2012.

  18. Pay more attention to how well your tie is knotted than how long the blade is. Practise tying a few different tie knots to see what you prefer. When you have discovered that the “schoolboy” or four-in-hand is best, you should practise achieving the perfect dimple.

  19. Keep pens in your inside pocket and ration how many you need to carry.

  20. Braces will make your trousers hang better. I would suggest getting a tailor to add buttons so that you can wear the traditional kind. Clip-ons are quite fashionable at the moment but they can damage the waistband.

  21. If you have a long journey or commute and need to wear headphones, please keep them discreet.

  22. If you are not a regular suit wearer, try to avoid posturing when you receive compliments. Shooting cuffs and adjusting your tie looks contrived and corny. Try to maintain a relaxed elegance.

  23. If you want to dress down your suit or want to wear it at the weekend but not look corporate, consider a simple long-sleeve crew neck in cotton jersey or fine merino wool. Seriously, a navy crew neck with a dark suit is an easy yet sophisticated change of pace.

  24. When not wearing your suit, empty the pockets and store on a proper hanger with good shoulder support. Plastic is fine. Keep the trousers from the cuff and allow them to hang unfolded. You can buy specialist hangers for this or you can borrow them from hotels.

  25. Brush regularly and give a light steam.

Small Details, Big Differences | Men's Shoes

Shoes After a good shoe shine.

Shoes After a good shoe shine.

No matter how well your suit fits or how many folds there are in your hand-made Neapolitan tie, it will all be in vain if your shoes are dirty. Well-cared for and polished footwear is the simplest way to improve your appearance. Handmade shoes are expensive but their value will be eroded if they are not properly cared for. On the other hand, a well-polished pair of shoes from the High Street will look significantly more expensive. If you value your appearance, you must take care of your shoes.

You need time, patience and the right kit.

Good quality polish is vital and I strongly recommend the products by Saphir. These are significantly more expensive than the usual supermarket brands but you are buying the absolute best and, compared to new shoes, they are a worthy investment. Also, these polishes will last a long time. Even when they appear to dry-out and there is little left, you will still be able to use and get many more shines from it. Never use “hi-shine” sponges….these contain silicon and will ultimately dry your shoes out. You will also need shoe cream, again Saphir produce some good ones but I also like the ones by Meltonian. To apply the polishes, I like an old poly-cotton t-shirt…the older the better. You also need brushes. I do not see the value in expensive brushes and use entry-level versions although some swear by horsehair.

Shoes Before they have been polished.

Shoes Before they have been polished.

To polish your shoes, make sure they are clean and dry. Remove the laces and either put in shoe trees or stuff with old newspaper. Brush vigorously and then apply shoe cream with your rag. Creams come in various colours but you could get by using black and neutral. Once the cream is applied, allow to dry before polishing with your wax polish. It is important that both products are used. You should think of shoe cream as moisturiser and wax polish as make-up.

By applying small amounts of polish with a slightly dampened piece of cloth, you can obtain a mirror shine. Keep applying small amounts of the polish in small anti-clockwise movements and see the shine develop. To “finish” off, you could buff with a selvyt cloth. Selvyt is a specialist polishing textile and is not cheap but will last years. It can also be used to revive the shine between polishing. Do not neglect the heel or welt (where the upper is attached to the sole) and specialist welt brushes are available…but an old toothbrush works just as well. For cleaning heel the and side of the sole, you can buy “edge cream”…or you can use a black marker pen.

If your shoes are scuffed or scratched, they can be repaired by using “mirror gloss” by Saphir (I am not sponsored!). Mirror gloss is a harder wax that when mixed with water creates a hard finish, ideal for filling in small flaws. It can also be used, as the name suggests, to create military-grade shines. Once you get into the habit of polishing shoes, you will start to quite enjoy the process as it can be quite therapeutic and you will also enjoy the admiring glances your shined shoes will attract. But you might want to take it to the next level. You can experiment with brown shoes by using different coloured polishes…I would always suggest using a little black on your brown or burgundy shoes to give them an “antiqued” finish. But to really make an impression with your footwear, you need to seek the services of a “patina artist”. Not to be confused with the bootblacks you sometimes see (although they also offer a valuable service), the patina artist can re-colour your shoes and add all sorts of depth to the leather.

The Jaunty Flaneur on London’s Savile Row is one such service. For a small fee they can give your shoes a military shine or a full re-colour. To try the service, I gave them a pair of old Edward Green brogues I purchased back in 1992. I paid £95 for them back then but to replace them with a similar quality would cost me nearer £950 today! The result was impressive and I have gained a few more years wear out of them. I would highly recommend the service. Tom and PJ are both passionate about shoe-polishing and will happily pass on their knowledge and expertise.  They also stock the right kit to maintain at home. This isn’t a quick service, so be prepared to wait a few days but the results are worth the wait. They will often strip-off old layers of polish, this can be achieved at home but something I would prefer to leave to the professionals.

If you have a special occasion such as a wedding, an artisan-level shine will take your outfit to the next level.

The Small Details that make Big Differences | Men's Style Advice

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I often hear that men would like to dress better “if they had more money”. I won’t lie to you; an unlimited budget would give you access to some seriously nice clothes. You could shop with the best tailors on Savile Row or fly to Naples for fittings on bespoke suits, and have your own lust for handmade shoes. For a small investment, you could even employ me to manage your wardrobe and help you pick out the nicest clothes.

I would also share with you the names of the best tie and sock makers but I know that most do not have that kind of disposable income. So I will share something for free: You can dress better without spending a lot of money as long as you have a little time and don’t mind making an effort. Working in luxury menswear has given me access to some nice clothing but I have also learnt that it is how you wear something is as important as what you wear.

I am planning to write a series of tutorials for Carl to help you dress better where the maximum expenditure is £100. I know £100 is a lot of money when you have nothing, so some of my tips will be cost you no more than your time. Some will focus on getting more out of what you already own and certainly on making clothes last longer. Tips on caring for as well as wearing clothes. One of my pet hates is seeing a man wear a rucksack with a tailored jacket. The pressure of the shoulder strap kills the shoulderline of the jacket and will ruin the shape. It also pulls the jacket away from the neck and looks clumsy. If you need it for your laptop or gym kit, at least carry it by your side. Your fellow commuters will appreciate it too.

Of course, my advice will be traditional with a bias towards classic style but it is certainly a more economical way of dressing. I found my personal style in my late teens and still wear items that are twenty years old. I rarely discard clothing because it is “out of fashion” and you should find your own style too. This will, sometimes, mean ignoring trends. But a well cared for tailored jacket that fits and is in a good cloth will always look good. That is not to say I am anti-fashion, I adore fashion but there is a difference between classic style and dressing the same for twenty years.

There has been a significant move to a more casual way of dressing for business and formal occasions and most of my tips will be relevant for casual dressing too.

Stay tuned for more information.

And if you happen to have a lot of cash burning a hole in your pocket and need some personal sartorial advice…please get in touch.