Reader Question: Just One Suit

I’m in the market for a bespoke suit. However, I really don’t think I’ll be getting another one any time soon so I want it to be, above all things, useful. I was thinking of a blue or grey, maybe patterned (?) I want it to be adaptable for anything; city, country, dinner with friends, night out at the theatre etc. What would you recommend? What weight cloth should I get? Should it be plain/patterned? Waistcoat? I need advice!

It’s a wonderful thing, in a world facing severe economic headwinds, if you happen to be in the market for a bespoke suit. Embrace the moment, for you are fortunate.

Utility has never been fashionable, but it has recently become more appealing. Particularly in an age where ‘throwaway fashion’ is being treated quite as literally as it’s moniker suggests. The era of cheap clothing is bound to end at some point but at the moment, it represents a low bar for price tolerance. This in turn has led purchasers to question the high prices of designer and tailored clothing; “What you give me” they state “has to be so much better than what I can get elsewhere.” The demands on tailoring are increasing. This is no bad thing. The number of new tailoring firms opening has been healthy for the sector, despite the snobbery of the establishment against the ‘new kids on the block.’ Price competition, as coarse as it sounds to the pure aesthete, has been helpful.

What this change has meant, above all things, is that the new, wider market for tailoring wants more from bespoke suits. They might own a Reiss, an Austin Reed or a Zara suit to endure the swivel-chaired monotony of the office, but they want a bespoke suit for special occasions. They are often content to continue purchasing off the rack – if it represents value. Knocking people out of the habit of buying quantity for less is very difficult. And when they seek ‘the One’ bespoke suit, the crowning glory of their wardrobe, they want something that is going to work to their advantage. And then some.

In truth, it is difficult to think of a suit that would be ideal for all of the activities that our enquirer suggests. A night at the theatre suggests a completely different suit from a suit worn to the races in the country, if traditions are to be (loosely) adhered to. However, this is the new age of tailoring; frankly, it’s a new age entirely. People wear jeans to the theatre, and even to the office; a country suit may not be the purist’s choice, but it looks a darn sight smarter than a printed hoodie. This is why I would advocate the style of suit I consider to be of the greatest utility; the brown, mid-weight wool.

However, even as I write those words I can hear the peal of bells; the Church of Sartorial Purity ringing out in protest against the sacrilegious abuse of the holy (albeit hopelessly outdated) rule: “No brown in town.” It is true that blue and grey are more common, and certainly more traditional in town. However, they are equally strange and out of place in the country. A critic would suggest that brown in town is as much of anathema as blue and grey in the country, but I am not so sure. The brilliant thing about a brown suit is that it is far easier to dress ‘down’ for the country and ‘up’ for town; a man in a blue or grey suit in the country, irrespective of his carefully chosen accessories, would always look like a marooned City dweller.

My advice to our enquirer, if he is serious about adaptability to the country and town, is to plump for brown. A mid-weight wool in herringbone or subtle dogtooth, the colour of milk-chocolate would form a lovely background for blue, pink and white shirts – and Tattersall if the country mood is right. Adding a waistcoat, though not cheap, would increase utility further; three-piece for winter, two for autumn and spring.


  1. Rip said:

    Not only that, but one would stand out, brown still being much less common than navy or grey. My personal favourite of those pictures is third from left, at the top.

    June 25, 2012
  2. gary said:

    non of them, they all look like some kind of country house clothing outfit, I’d haVE A PEARL GREY single breasted one button front done with patch pockets and an action back. Never buy a suit that looks like its an office suit or one for the country, both suck big time, get made to measure suits, they are more or less the same as bespoke and mine cost 189 pounds with my material and you look great

    June 26, 2012
  3. Harry said:

    I think brown is just too clever an answer, for a British context at least: a grey suit will be more versatile, and will also work in the country. If the grey suit had a discreet pattern, e.g. herringbone, possibly even with faint brown, the resultant effect would be just as suitable for country wear, but also fit in well in offices, at weddings or evenings out. That is, of course, unless the enquirer wants to stand out; something tells me he does not.

    June 26, 2012
  4. Harry said:

    PS: Meant to add some support for the 3-piece option: get the waistcoat (with a collar) and get the trousers high-waisted to avoid any gap between vest and waistband. Oh, and get (the trousers buttoned for) some snazzy braces while you’re at it…

    June 26, 2012
  5. John Posey said:

    Your first suit should always be plain Navy. This is absolutely the most versatile. By changing shirt, tie and shoe combinations your can wear it from a casual date to a funeral and anything in-between. I would avoid any patterns if you’re going to wear it often. You want the suit to blend in and frame your shirts and ties, not be the centerpiece of your ensemble. While the brown suits shown above are beautiful they should not be a foundation piece. Think about what would happen if you needed to wear your suit two, three or four days in a row? Plain is better and it won’t scream at others that you only own one suit. Just my opinion!

    June 26, 2012
  6. Miami Mike said:

    Something I’ve never seen mentioned here is determining the best colors and combination of colors for your own hair color and complexion. This used to be known as “getting your colors done”. For many years I thought this was a bunch of hippie new-age nonsense, but guess what – it WORKS. It turned out to be the best $50 I have ever spent on style. My clothes (even my leisure clothes) are blues, greys, a touch of silver or maroon here and there, and people remark “How do you always manage to look so good?” There are colors I should never wear – browns, yellows, light greens, I look like something from a zombie movie in those colors – they do NOT flatter my complexion or hair color. Before you spend big money on a suit, make sure it flatters you in color, not just in style, cut and fashion.

    June 26, 2012
  7. Laurence said:

    As ever, heckler Gary is the dissenting voice.
    I’d go for brown, and regret missing out on a nice brown herringbone 3 piece on ebay earlier this year.
    I’d go for any of the suits pictured except the bottom right one.

    John Posey, the original enquirer was not looking for an only suit, but a best suit. One not for the workaday world.

    June 27, 2012

Comments are closed.