The Youth of Today

“Youth” said Lord Henry Wotton, the chilling cynic of the gothic novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ “is the one thing worth having.” For a long time, I agreed. However, considering the current state of the economy, the cost of a university education and the dearth of job opportunities, I am rather relieved that I, in my late twenties, am no longer part of this nation’s unfortunate youth. For those that are; struggling to make their way in an overcrowded, expensive and often uninspiring world; working in menial jobs for which they are absurdly overqualified, I have a great deal of compassion. I myself didn’t have an easy route into anything. I know how it feels to be ignored, rejected, underpaid and overworked; many others do too. As the youth struggle to keep up with the shadow of their ideal, it is difficult for the fortunate and the happily settled to understand the pressures that are faced and the strict budgets on which many exist.

I was contacted by a young reader of my blog who was gratified to see that someone was championing the use of sartorial components from the high street rather than tailors or designers “which, let’s be honest, cater to a financially privileged few.” After all, though it may be that Savile Row aficionados are correct; that you can find no better cut of suit in the world, that it is worth saving a considerable sum to purchase such a suit, no matter how hard the ambitious young might work, no matter how diligently they save, necessary expenses block the Yellow Brick Road to Henry Poole et al, and even rule out many of the less expensive City tailors. I wrote to the young reader and asked him his budget. His response provoked considerable shock; he had expected to spend no more than £100 which, bearing in mind his expectations and aesthetic discernment, was a hopeless sum of money.


However, I viewed his case sympathetically. I saw a little of myself in this ambitious and optimistic 19 year old, with dreams of management and responsibility. The suit was to be worn to several interviews for unpaid internships, it needed to fit and he was adamant that the trousers should be the correct length. “The suit” he considered “would give me confidence and make them confident about me.” His attitude was exactly the right one; his suit needed to look like it cost more than it did and he was sure, since he was of the opinion that I had managed to do so with ensembles of my own, adding a few accessories would ‘upgrade’ the look. The most important thing, at least as far as his father was concerned, was that he was not to buy any “funny polyester” suit; it needed to be made of wool.

With such parameters, I would normally have responded that unless a vintage suit was purchased – undesirable to this young gentleman – the ask was impossible for such a low sum of money. However, I decided to pay a visit to three retailers that I knew had previously offered well-cut, wool or wool-rich suits for excellent value; Zara, H&M and Uniqlo. First off the list, as I expected, was Zara; the suit jackets alone cost £119 which, though good value, was well over budget. Next, with low expectations, I visited H&M; the Swedish store had been rather thin on suits recently and I did not expect to find anything made of wool. I actually found a wonderful light grey flannel two-piece for £115; the jacket was £80 and the trousers £35. The material was beautifully soft though, unfortunately, it was not ‘all wool’ as had been requested; 20% of the fabric was polyamide. Marking that as an outside option, I rested all my hopes on the last stop; Uniqlo.

Having bought a few flannel jackets there recently, I was well aware that the store offered great value but was still considerably impressed that a 98% Tasmanian Wool suit could be had for £110. Available in houndstooth, navy blue, light and dark grey, the soft flannel material would be the perfect foil for a soft white or blue shirt and a rich, silk pocket square. Though slightly over budget, I couldn’t resist making the recommendation and, feeling the soft wool between my fingers, couldn’t resist giving it a go myself. Slim fit, with a softer shoulder, the ‘suit’ is actually sold as matching jacket and trousers.

For something that costs so little, it is remarkably elegant and is very flattering, though the trousers – all are 34” length – will need adjusting. The material itself is substantial, subtle and timeless, unlike the sheeny-shiny, shoot-peas-through-them suits that so many seem to be fond of. It might not be the Huntsman suit worn by a middle-aged, grinning CEO but for an earnest young man on a budget, this purchase, with a little trouser-tailoring that will cost him another £15, is bound to impress.


  1. Will said:

    Sounds liek Uniqlo will be worth a visit in the next few months.
    I’d be very interested in your thoughts on the ‘next level up’ – with a budget of £200 to £300, where would I best spend the money?

    September 5, 2011
  2. Will said:

    Sounds like Uniqlo will be worth a visit in the next few months.
    I’d be very interested in your thoughts on the ‘next level up’ – with a budget of £200 to £300, where would I best spend the money?

    September 5, 2011
  3. Miami Mike said:

    Bought a lightweight sweater from Uniqlo a few months ago (for the few weeks a year we need sweaters here in Florida). Very nice garment, well cut, stylish, comfortable, definitely worth the on-sale price of something like GBP20. They don’t ship out of the UK, so I had a friend there buy it and re-ship to me.

    Uniqlo’s customer service isn’t very bright, they advised me to “just pop on over” to their US store – which is only 1,400 miles from me and doesn’t carry the same merchandise anyway.

    If they can get their customer service department into the 21st century, I’ll buy more from them, but in the meantime, I don’t *ever* want to hear that Americans are “insular” again! 😉

    September 5, 2011
  4. Will,

    For that budget, there are a number of options. I will research them and produce an article in the next week or so.



    September 6, 2011
  5. Uniqlo Employee said:

    I work at Uniqlo; so I know how we are able to retail Tasmanian wool for such a competitive price.

    Basically, Uniqlo is all about fabric vs fashion. Our designs are not about cheap imitations of catwalk designs like Topshop or Zara, we’re about high quality staple items in the season’s colours. Quality drives everything at Uniqlo.

    We look for the highest quality fabric suppliers (for our woollen items, this is all in Australia, we also use Supima certified American Pima cotton in 90% of our cotton items) and then commit to buy all of their output. This allows us to drive the cost per item down significantly. This is why we’re able to sell 19.5 micron Merino wool knitwear for as low as £24.90 whereas other retailers are simply unable to do so. We purchase such huge quantities that even an expensive raw fabric such as the Tasmanian wool flannel that we use on the suits is able to retail at an affordable price.

    So, if you ever find yourself in Uniqlo wondering just how we can afford to sell Pima cotton t-shirts at £7.90 or how we can sell high quality Tasmanian wool flannel suits at £109.90 its because of the huge quantities we purchase. At Uniqlo the pursuit of quality is relentless. We have taken off whole batches of items off of Uniqlo salesfloors globally because the stitching wasn’t as expected. That’s quality control.

    September 6, 2011
  6. Danica said:

    Forget the silk pocket square!

    Wear a tie!

    Good luck

    September 6, 2011
  7. Gordon said:

    Nice effort. Should be appreciated.

    September 6, 2011
  8. Adam said:

    You didn’t try M&S? In my experience their suits are the best that little money can buy.

    September 27, 2011

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