Classic Style: A Downtown Guide to Upgrading Men’s Fashions
It sounds sort of contradictory, but the key to classic style is customization.
I’ve often heard women complain, in the angry, confused throes of trying to assemble an outfit, that “men have it easy. All you have to do is put on the same suit and a different tie!” It usually goes something like that. And yeah, the suit-as-default attire thing is convenient. But that doesn’t mean just any suit will do. In fact, it makes paying attention to the fine details more important. No guy wants to walk into a sexy cocktail party looking like a hot tub salesman from Heehaw, Ohio. And you can’t distract from a bad suit with an extra-gaudy pair of chandelier earrings (unless you’re Annie Lennox, in which case, maybe).
The solution: a custom suit. Instead of an off-the-rack clearance special designed for a mannequin, invest in something that is perfectly fitted to your body. Get it done right and by the right people, and you’ll never go back to the rack.
Now head downtown and get yours. Here’s what to remember:
Where to Go
9tailors (24 School Street): This local company offers a DIY approach to creating custom shirts and suits. Among other elements, you’ll pick the fabric and style: relaxed American, spiffy European, hipster/runway model Skinny. But it’s more like, Do It Mostly Yourself with Expert Help. The 9tailors team guides you through the process and takes up to 21 different measurements to make sure your shirt and suit are just so. Make a reservation at their studio or sign up for a Skype-style virtual appointment right on their website.
Frank’s Custom Tailoring (58 Winter Street): Frank’s has a loyal following for his custom tailoring. The atmosphere feels relaxed and laid back—very old school but not stuffy like a too-tight suit. Frank’s also offers alteration services. If you have a favorite suit that’s not worth much but you can’t bear to say goodbye, even if it needs a little work, this is the place to take it. And Frank’s sells suits, too, so you can pick one out and get it measured immediately.
Bostonian Tailoring (34 Province Street): Reviews are glowing for Bostonian, which has one of the best reputations across the city. After the premium Bostonian treatment, it’s impossible to leave not looking your best. If you’re especially nervous about messing with a favorite suit that might need a little work, trust Bostonian. Small alterations can sometimes be done while you wait, and they’re adept with women’s clothing, too.
What to Remember
- Bring a photo. People do it for hair styles. Why not for clothes? Whether you read GQ, Men’s Health, or MAD magazine, tear out a photo if you see a guy with a suit that fits the way you want yours to. It’s best if you have a similar body type, of course. But even so, it’s a good starting-off point to show your tailor the kind of suit you want and how you’d like it to fit. Let them guide you if they think it may not work on you.
- Three is not a crowd. When in doubt, go for the three-piece suit over the two. Better to have a vest and thus the choice not to use it, plus it helps you maintain a casual-dapper vibe. When everyone else takes their jacket off at the wedding reception, you’re the guy who still looks a little swank—and is shielding from view any back sweat produced during the “Electric Slide.”
- Don’t go crazy. A custom suit is an investment, so this is not the time to indulge in that powder blue, crushed velvet suit you’ve always longed for to satisfy the Austin Powers within. Stick to the basics to start, black or gray, maybe navy, with nothing more ornate than a simple pinstripe. If you start building your custom suit collection, you can start dabbling in more flourish.
- Don’t be boring, either. Accessorize with ties and handkerchiefs that pop with pattern and color. Ask to get a monogram of your initials on your custom shirt, though be warned: This can come off as stuffy if done incorrectly, especially in the old-fashioned and obvious spots like the cuff and collar. Somewhere discreet like the shirt pocket, seen only when the jacket is off, feels more modest and modern.
- Stay in season. The custom suit says classic style. So let your accessories and shirt follow the trends. For instance, this summer, bright colors are big for men, says 9tailors owner Samantha Shih: “We’re seeing a lot of vibrant blues, chalky pinks, minty greens, and bold yellows,” says Shih. “All are must-haves for pants, blazers, polos, and dress shirts, worn separately or together!”