Broke and Bespoke

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Indochino: Black Friday Sale

Some of you may remember that I paid a visit to Indochino’s Traveling Tailor pop-up shop when they were last in San Francisco back in August. At the time, I was asked to review a complimentary suit from their new ‘Modern Dandy’ collection of F/W appropriate tweed and heavier weight wool suits.

Though it’s been a long time coming (it just hasn’t gotten cold enough here yet to wear the “Taupe Check”—a nice charcoal Glen Plaid—tweed suit I chose), I thought there’s probably no better time to post pics of the suit than just in time to highlight Indochino’s Black Friday Sale which goes live today, with deals to be had through Monday, Dec. 2. Select items will be discounted 50%, and orders over $600 will be given a 20% discount.

This is my second Indochino suit, and the first single breasted one I’ve tried from them. Though I went with the widest lapel option available, it would be nice for guys like myself (i.e., on the heavier side) to have the option of a slightly wider lapel I think—this one looks a little anemic on me. Although I made some changes to my profile measurements (mostly of the ‘little extra room’ variety), this suit seems to fit a little more tightly than my first Indochino suit. A few extra pounds on my end since I received this suit a couple of months ago could explain the tighter fit, as could the cut of their single vs. their double breasted suits. As on the last suit I received from Indochino, I had the pants tapered from the knee down because the house cut is a little too wide for my tastes. 

The double breasted suit I first reviewed for Indochino fits extremely well in the neck, with it sticking to my shirt collar very well when I move around (or, as frequent readers of menswear blogs might think of it, the suit had no problems with “collar gap”). This new suit moves around in the collar area quite a bit more than the other one, but we’ll see if a few lost pounds and a little breaking in of the heavier fabric will take care of that. As I concluded in my initial review of Indochino, if you can get them to dial in your fit nicely I think they offer a competitive suit in their price range. This is especially true if you have a body that’s hard to fit off the rack, and J. Crew’s ‘Ludlow’ suit can’t fit the bill. With the Black Friday Sale dropping prices even more at Indochino (and a money back guarantee), there’s no better time than right now to consider giving Indochino a try.

Three patterns, but one quite subtle.

Three patterns, but one quite subtle.

Glen Plaid and Foulard.

Glen Plaid and Foulard.

As long time readers of this blog know, I reviewed a complimentary suit I received from Indochino several months back. I was recently contacted by Indochino again and asked to try out a suit from their new Modern Dandy Collection which features an Autumnal color palette and some heavier weight woolen fabrics.

Indochino is currently in San Francisco doing their Traveling Tailor event through next Thursday the 29th, and they asked me to drop in to check out the new fabric selections and their upgraded space for the Traveling Tailor this time around. I had a friend who’d booked an appointment for Thursday evening so I decided to tag along, check out the fabrics, and shoot some pics. As luck would have it, there was a large corporate event next door and they’d hired a well-known burger truck to cook up burgers for event guests free of charge. Needless to say, my trip into the city ended with us crashing the event and gorging on burgers. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

I must say, the fabrics in the Modern Dandy collection are generally quite a bit lighter than I would have expected based on the photos I saw online. It was good to be able to check them out in person. I had initially thought I might go with the Taupe Tweed, but it was definitely a lighter weight fabric than I would have thought. I wouldn’t consider it very ‘tweedy’ at all—it seems almost more like a 3 season birdseye. Since fall is approaching fast, I think I might go with the Earl Grey Mini Houndstooth for my suit this time around.

The flannels they have on offer like the Ink Flannel and Earl Grey Flannel are quite nice and would be great for fall or winter, but I’ve already got similar stuff in my closet. And though I really liked some of their lighter weight spring/summer fabrics—especially the Ultimate Tonal Slate Linen and Wool (this may have been my favorite fabric of them all)—with colder weather imminent it doesn’t make much sense as a choice.

If you live in the Bay Area but have been on the fence about giving Indochino a try because you’ve heard horror stories about the monstrous fruits of self-measuring, I think it’s definitely worth stopping by the new space to get measured and check out the fabrics and some finished products in person. There’s little pressure to buy on the spot, and you’ll feel better having your measurements on file as taken by someone who is familiar with the Indochino system.

When: August 14th-29th

Where117 Post St. (just off Union Square)

How: Book an appointment online here.

Indochino Traveling Tailor Event: Union Square San Francisco, August 14th-29th


Some of you may remember that I wrote a fairly positive review of Indochino some time back. If not, you can read it here. My overall impressions were quite favorable, and for the money I still think they can be a great value—especially if you’ve got a hard to fit body type and a sub-$500 budget.

As I mentioned in the review, Indochino’s quality and construction techniques have had a fairly recent upgrade, and the suit you see above is one example of the fit and finish of these newer Indochino suits (* I did taper the pants a bit, as their house cut was a little wide for my tastes). 

I’m always hesitant about online MTM where the only option is to input measurements that you’ve taken yourself, but Indochino’s Traveling Tailor program helps alleviate that concern. If you’re lucky enough to live in or near a city where they do their Traveling Tailor events, you can just book an appointment and get measured by Indochino ensuring that what they have on file will be correct. If, somehow, the measurements are still off and your suit arrives not to your tastes, Indochino’s remake and refund policies still apply. But if that happens, I figure you’re at least still working from a set of measurements that they’ve taken so it’s easier to communicate what exactly needs to be changed about the fit.

In my experience, I found that it’s best to be very forthcoming with the person measuring you about how you like your jackets and pants to fit. They’ve been trained to measure you according to Indochino’s metrics, and not necessarily to consult about style. What they think is a good amount of break or proper sleeve length may differ from your thoughts on the matter, so be sure to communicate that clearly during the measuring process, lest you end with a suit that ‘fits,’ but just not how you like.

Last time Indochino was in town you could book an appointment just to have your measurements on file for a potential future purchase, and there was no pressure to buy a suit on the spot. So, even if you’re not in the market for a suit at this exact moment but you’ve been contemplating giving Indochino a shot, it seems to me like a smart idea to get measured while they’re in town. 

When: August 14th-29th

Where: 117 Post St. (just off Union Square)

How: Book an appointment online here.

Wearing Suit Jackets and Pants as Separates

I’ll probably violate any of a number of the cardinal rules of proper dress here, but I thought it might be useful to post some of my thoughts on how to get more mileage out of your suits by deliberately choosing or looking for fabrics and details that allow them to be worn easily as separates. What follows may not be appropriate for everyone, but it certainly works for someone like me who doesn’t have to wear suits, but who chooses to do so from time to time because I find it an enjoyable thing to do.

I’ve written elsewhere that we seem to be entering a new era of dress for men where traditional tailored clothing is becoming more popular again, after a hiatus of nearly half a century. As workplaces at the epicenter of the casual work environment have begun—somewhat tongue in cheek—instituting Formal Fridays, one’s options for wearing shirt, tie, and jacket at work or school are certainly opening up.

While the ‘orphaned jacket’ (a suit jacket missing its pants) has been much harangued—and often rightfully so—as a separate, it needn’t always be the case that a suit jacket cannot be worn without the pants it was made to be paired with. Since I seldom have occasion to wear a suit by work obligation or social decree, I try to choose suits that are versatile and can be worn either completely as separates (where the jacket and pants can be paired with other tops or bottoms), or at least where the jacket can do double duty as a sport coat that doesn’t clearly look like half of a suit. 

There are a number of ways I generally go about achieving this kind of versatility, and construction and fabric are key. Since an odd jacket and trousers is by its nature a less formal look than a full suit, it logically follows that choosing your suit in a more casual fabric—one that could be used to make either a sport coat or trousers—is a good starting point. 

If you’re just building up a nice tailored wardrobe, I can think of no two better colors to choose your more casual fabrics from than a light-to-mid grey, and a dark or navy blue. Choose a fabric that you can imagine being used to make a sport coat or trousers: flannel, hopsack, larger-scale birdseye [though many would probably disagree with me here], cotton, and linen. Avoid very fine, lightweight worsted wool fabrics, and those with a sheen (like sharkskin) as those almost always look like they should exclusively be used to make a suit.

Once you’ve settled on a sturdier (for the cooler months) or more casual lightweight (e.g., linen for Spring or Summer) fabric, you can think about the construction details that might help tone down the formality of your jacket. I generally opt for something lightly structured, or unstructured, and with patch pockets. This is more casual than a jacket that has built-up shoulders, and jetted or flapped pockets. Next, be sure to choose buttons that offer some contrast with the fabric. Suits will often come with buttons that match the fabric (e.g., blue buttons on a blue suit, grey on a grey suit), but I usually opt for something more contrasty like a tan corozo nut button (favored by Italians) as seen on the grey suit here, or a smokey brown pearlescent MOP button on the navy single breasted jacket pictured above. Brown horn is almost always a good choice as well in my opinion, as seen on the navy birdseye double breasted jacket. If you’re thrifting your suits, switching out buttons is always something you can do yourself inexpensively, so don’t leave a suit behind because it has the ‘wrong’ buttons.

For the pants, I prefer two back pockets. Going with or without belt loops or side tab adjusters is, to my mind at least, a matter of preference. I’d argue that the latter are a bit more formal, but they are certainly more fashionable right now on high-end trousers. To cuff or not to cuff is another personal choice, though cuffs are both less formal and more fashionable at the moment as well.  

Having a suit that can do double duty as separates will help make your wardrobe more versatile, and ultimately provide better value for your investment, however large or small.

* Jackets pictured in the first photo from top to bottom are a vintage seersucker double breasted from Haspel (thrifted); navy birdseye double breasted courtesy of Indochino; Grey Vitale Barberis Canonico flannel courtesy of Beckett & Robb; navy Ariston wool/cotton/cashmere courtesy of Tiberias Clothing.

Not all Blue Jackets are the Same…

The jury is still out on whether it’s a good thing or not, but I surely am one who takes great pleasure in the subtle distinctions between blue jackets which, to the untrained or uncaring eye, all look the same.

Things like shoulder shapes or expressions; degrees of padding and constructedness (unlined, quarter lined, two-thirds lined, canvassed, half-canvassed, uncanvassed, etc.); pocket combinations (patch, flapped patch, flap, hacking, etc.); gorge height; button stance; lapel style and width; whether the jacket is an odd jacket or a blazer, and so on, keep me entertained each time I don one of my many solid blue sport coats and blazers.

Perhaps I’m crazy, but I certainly see many subtle and not so subtle differences in the pictures above, and each difference puts the coat in question in a category of its own. 

From top to bottom:

Double breasted suit jacket courtesy of Indochino. Although this is a suit jacket, its dark horn buttons and birdseye pattern make me feel comfortable wearing it as a separate as well. I’d dress it up or down—even with jeans and some canvas sneakers if I felt the spirit take me. The hacking and ticket pockets are a little flourish I took advantage of when choosing the custom options available from Indochino. The jacket has some soft and light padding in the shoulder—nothing too extreme. I find this jacket quite versatile.

Alessandro Tellini unlined and unstructured cotton sport coat. I thrifted this coat a couple of years ago for $8 I believe. It’s from a relatively unknown Italian brand that I’ve not been able to find much information about. Tellini items are sometimes available on Yoox.com, but rarely. This is a washed cotton canvas jacket that is an interesting combination of American and Italian elements. Unlike many unconstructed Neapolitan jackets, this one has no darts. It also has a fairly hard rolling 3 to 2 button lapel, which is a more casual look to me than the soft rolling 3 to 2 lapels of many Neapolitan jackets by the likes of Isaia, Boglioli, Sartoria Partenopea, etc., that are quite popular these days. This is a very casual jacket that I would never try to dress up. A perfect jacket for travel, as it can be stuffed in carry-on luggage without worry, and has enough gravitas for most vacation-ey activities (though I wouldn’t know, as I never go on vacation…). 

The classic Brooks Brothers wool flannel 3 patch pocket navy blazer. If I recall correctly, I thrifted this one for $2. This is the sine qua non of American blazer style. Natural shoulder, 3 roll 2 lapel, swelled seams, flapped patch pockets, and brass buttons adorned with the BB sheep and ribbon. This can be dressed up or down (with limits on both ends, of course), and is likely the most versatile jacket available for the wide variety of social occasions an American may be called to attend.

This is another classic Brooks Brothers piece. I purchased it from a Salvation Army $3 sale. It’s made of a heavier weight linen, and has rather structured shoulders—something between a typical English and American natural shoulder. It has white horn buttons, and I often wear it in a fairly casual manner. It rumples throughout the day—especially in the sleeves, which only adds to its less dressy character.

This is an older Polo Ralph Lauren navy blazer, made in a weight of wool that makes it appropriate for warmer months when the BB flannel blazer would be a bit much to wear. I thrifted this jacket for $8. No patch pockets here, and some rather ornate brass buttons with crossed polo sticks and a polo helmet. It’s from Polo’s blue label line, which is now made by Corneliani in Italy, but this is an older USA-made model which was done by Rochester’s Pietrafesa I believe. This blazer has some substantial padding in the shoulder, and gives me a slightly less relaxed look than I am wont to exude.

The last navy blazer is a recent purchase from a local estate sale. It cost me $1.50. It’s made by famed Hong Kong bespoke tailor W.W. Chan, and surely cost over $1000 when commissioned by the original owner who, lucky for me, was of a size that makes me able to wear it with no alterations necessary. It too is more influenced by the tailoring style of Savile Row than any other, and as such has some significant shoulder padding and a nicely nipped waist. I particularly like the undecorated flat brass buttons on this jacket. I can see this becoming my favorite navy blazer because of all the handwork in the garment, and the fine construction it embodies.

In any case, if you’ve made it through this long post I hope you’ve come to see a little how varied the navy sport coat/blazer can really be. I think one could easily have a wardrobe full of only blue jackets and still manage to look quite different each day. 

Jacket: 1/3 of Indochino Suit (review here)
Shirt: Uniqlo OCBD, $20
Bow Tie: Handmade Ikat Madras, gift from my wife, who was also the maker
Pants: Uniqlo Garment Dyed Jeans, $30

Jacket: 1/3 of Indochino Suit (review here)

Shirt: Uniqlo OCBD, $20

Bow Tie: Handmade Ikat Madras, gift from my wife, who was also the maker

Pants: Uniqlo Garment Dyed Jeans, $30

Indochino Suit Review

I suspect that Indochino is one of the most reviewed online suiting companies that exists today. One would think that the abundance of reviews would definitively settle the matter on whether or not Indochino represents a good option for someone looking to order a made-to-measure (MTM) suit online, and to do so at a price point that is not prohibitively expensive. But that’s far from the case…

Instead, the preponderance of Indochino reviews has muddied the waters of decision making to the point where I can see many people throwing up their arms and exhaling a huge “f%@k it…” before hitting the refresh button on their tumblr dashboard, and wasting another few hours looking at pictures of sprezzy dudes and eating Cheetos in sweats. Or such is the case among one very tiny sector of the market of men (and some women) who read online menswear fora and blogs looking for a rudder in a turbulent sea of competing and contradictory information about suit purchasing. It’s to these people that I speak, and admittedly not from a vantage point of expertise about the ins-and-outs of tailoring. For that, Jeffrey Diduch’s fair review of Indochino over at his blog tuttofattoamano is a must-read. Instead, I’m going to offer my thoughts on Indochino’s suiting more generally, and speak to the reality of what it offers, and how that—in my mind at least—fits into the larger scheme of men’s suiting, from the uber-cheap to the more expensive.

I do this because I suspect Indochino is doing very well as a company, and the vast majority of people who order suits from them are quite happy with the outcome, and are blissfully unaware that the absence of the overweening anality that characterizes internet menswear culture in their own shopping habits is a blessing that allows them to buy a suit and be done with it. Others aren’t so lucky, and I suppose this review is for them.

Reviews of Indochino suiting have been building up online for years now, and the quality of their wares has, to my knowledge, significantly improved since some of those early reviews went live. Complaints about suits as stiff as boards fabricated out of gross feeling synthetic fabrics seem to me to be the stuff of yore. When I visited Indochino’s Traveling Tailor set-up when it was in San Francisco I was impressed by the wide array of nice woolen fabrics (they claim much of it comes from the best mills in Europe and Asia) from soft worsteds to fairly heavy tweeds, and quite taken with the ‘live’ feel of many of the garments on exhibit. They were neither stiff, nor synthetic feeling.

Though I’ve not handled any of the older and much maligned Indochino suits from the aughts, I do remember well seeing photos on StyleForum of members’ Indochino suits circa 2007-2008 and being rather unimpressed. I feel fairly confident that we can now dispense with the residual sentiment that anything they make is of bad taste, poor quality, and so on. In contrast, the suit I received from them was quite nice. Think about how much men’s style has evolved in the years since 2007…I believe Indochino has kept pace with that evolution quite well and now offers a product that, although it must have wider appeal than speaking just to the dedicated internet menswear enthusiast, can satisfy the suiting needs of many people looking for a solid, well-made and affordable suit.

Admittedly, it is reassuring to know that if you are measured at one of their traveling tailor events it is being carried out in a way that can be effectively communicated to their tailors in their production facilities. From what I gather, miscommunicated measurements used to be a real issue for Indochino but the expansion of the traveling tailor wing of their business bodes well for potential customers. I can’t really speak to how they’ve refined the process of self or home measurement, but their customer satisfaction guarantee makes it a pretty safe, if not wholly painless, venture. Some mistakes can be made, however, even when getting measured at the traveling tailor events.

I ordered a 3 piece double breasted suit in a nice navy birdseye wool, and when the suit arrived the vest was too tight around the waist. Indochino does offer a $75 alterations credit, but it must be used within 30 days of receipt of the suit, which I had surpassed by the time I’d gotten around to bringing the suit in to my tailor. I was happy to pay the actual cost of alterations as Indochino had very graciously provided the suit for review without charge, but paying customers should be aware of the limited time frame of the alterations credit. If the alterations necessary are so substantial that a remake is necessary, I am told that Indochino is quite good about remaking a suit quibble-free to make sure the customer is ultimately happy with their purchase, and will hopefully return for their next suit purchase.

The suit arrived less than a month after I’d ordered it (well within the 35 days they state on their website) in a large cardboard box, smartly packaged to avoid wrinkling in transit as much as possible. The packing method worked quite well as the suit needed no pressing before it could be worn. I was very impressed by how well the jacket fit when it arrived (it is a bit tighter than I would like in the pictures above, but that’s my own fault for gaining some weight since taking delivery of the suit—imagine it fitting on a me that’s about 6-8 lbs lighter), and was particularly surprised by how soft it felt in the chest area.  There is some shoulder padding there, but it is neither stiff nor too obtrusive. The jacket had a slimming look to it, but was still comfortable for doing a whole range of motions including lifting a burger to my mouth from a seated position.

The pants fit very well in the seat, waist, and inseam (they are a little tighter looking than I would like in the pics above, but again, that’s my own fault for being heavier now than when I ordered the suit, likely because of the overzealous repetition of lifting a burger to my mouth from a seated position), and I chose the option of foregoing belt loops in favor of side tabs. The Indochino suit pant’s cut is a little wide from the knee down for my tastes—though this is admittedly no fault of Indochino’s, it’s just a matter of personal preference. It was quite easy for me to have my tailor taper the pants a bit from the knee down. The jacket was also a little short for my own tastes (I would have liked an extra inch of length in the jacket, as well as an extra inch in the vents), but it is, as Jeffrey Diduch pointed out, a fashion-forward cut. It still clocks in a little longer than some of the even more fashion-ey offerings from the Italian brands that are quite the rage in #menswear these days though.

The stitching and construction throughout appears quite even and clean. Indochino was offering some pretty cool all-silk linings when they were in San Francisco for their traveling tailor event, and so I chose a nice navy and yellow zig-zag patterned lining. It feels much nicer—both when worn and to the hand when touched—than suits that are of comparable price in mall stores and department stores. And here is where I think the surfeit of negative Indochino reviews online can potentially lead people astray.

Too often the Indochino review comes down hard on the product because it does not meet a particular standard of the reviewer’s, but that standard is usually one that is placed too high for a garment that is priced like Indochino’s is. If you read menswear blogs all day and are disappointed when your Indochino suit doesn’t fit as well as the Isaia suit you tried on at your local Neiman Marcus, that’s not Indochino’s fault.

Being able to buy a suit that is cut and sewn pretty close to your body’s measurements, and on which you can choose your own details regarding lapel style, button configuration, vent and pocket style, lining, etc., and all for $429 with free shipping is a proposition that I would not necessarily expect that much from. But the suit I received from Indochino far surpassed my expectations and is now happily my go-to navy double breasted suit. And that’s key. If you’re used to wearing higher-end suiting and think Indochino is going to deliver something comparable to Canali, PRL, or Samuelsohn, and for one-half to one-third the price, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you’re a person of modest means, and you want a serviceable suit that will make you look better than you feel (especially with regard to your non-baller status, because then you’d be wearing Kiton and Attolini…), then I think Indochino is a solid option. As an additional note, I think this is especially true if you are of a body type that off-the-rack suiting doesn’t fit that well, be you overly-thin or overweight.

Overall, I’d say that if you’re looking for a new suit, your budget is under $500, and you’re willing to make a trip to the tailor if necessary to hammer out some little details to ensure your suit will fit you properly (for which Indochino will foot the bill), then Indochino is a very good value.   

 

   

More dispatches from my Indochino outing…

More dispatches from my Indochino outing…

I will say that when I first took delivery of this suit some months ago the jacket fit perfectly. Last night it was a tad tight…It’s fewer cheeseburgers and more salads for a while I guess.

I will say that when I first took delivery of this suit some months ago the jacket fit perfectly. Last night it was a tad tight…It’s fewer cheeseburgers and more salads for a while I guess.

I also took my Ed et al. Outrams out for a spin last night. They have a rather aggressive last and a nipped waist that make them a little too formal for my usual get-up of chinos and a sport coat.  

I also took my Ed et al. Outrams out for a spin last night. They have a rather aggressive last and a nipped waist that make them a little too formal for my usual get-up of chinos and a sport coat.  

I hardly ever have occasion to wear suits, but last night I did. I went to a gala event for work, and finally had an opportunity to wear this suit that I got courtesy of Indochino when they were in San Francisco doing their travelling tailor event. A full review is forthcoming, but I must say that though the suit is a bit more “fashion forward” than my tastes, I like it quite a bit. 

I hardly ever have occasion to wear suits, but last night I did. I went to a gala event for work, and finally had an opportunity to wear this suit that I got courtesy of Indochino when they were in San Francisco doing their travelling tailor event. A full review is forthcoming, but I must say that though the suit is a bit more “fashion forward” than my tastes, I like it quite a bit. 

I ties the knize.

I ties the knize.

Spring-ish weather here calls for a cotton seersucker gingham pocket square.
Jacket: Indochino in Navy Birdseye Wool, courtesy of Indochino
Shirt: Proper Cloth, courtesy of Proper Cloth
Tie: Breuer, gift
Pocket Square: The Tie Bar, $8

Spring-ish weather here calls for a cotton seersucker gingham pocket square.

Jacket: Indochino in Navy Birdseye Wool, courtesy of Indochino

Shirt: Proper Cloth, courtesy of Proper Cloth

Tie: Breuer, gift

Pocket Square: The Tie Bar, $8