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It's a Man Thang
by Lora Hart

Suits | Shirts | Ties | Shoes | The Hunt

Playwright Oscar Wilde once remarked, "One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art". And that attitude is evident in men's fashion now more than ever. We've thankfully evolved from the time when the basic business uniform was a dull suit, a white starched dress shirt, and a striped school tie.

Suit dressing today offers more options than it has since Beau Brummell first popularized the prototype at the turn of the nineteenth century. And why shouldn't it? In much of the animal kingdom it's the males that stand out. Peacocks, lions, even Lassie was really a boy. Designers are grabbing inspiration from nature and allowing the males of our species to flaunt the full spectrum of their personalities.

If you had the idea that buying your first suit was going to be a chore dreaded only slightly less than taking out the trash, think again. Read these basic tips, mix 'em with your sense of style, and have a great day at the office.

Well Suited
Any mother's son with a trust fund can look stunning with a made to measure suit. The challenge is to look like you've just returned from Saville Row when you've got a bag from the discount store over your arm.

The ultimate goal is to have a wardrobe that includes three or four suits and two sport coats, one for fall and one for spring. But if one is the number that's on your mind - experts say buy the most expensive suit you can afford. A well-made man's suit involves as much attention to construction details as does a skyscrapers' blueprints. The better the quality, the longer it'll last. And when you make an investment like this, you want to get your money's worth.

The Closet is Willing but the Wallet is Weak
Since we're concentrating on getting the most bang for your buck, let's be fashionably practical. The most versatile color you could go for is a good, navy blue. It's appropriate for any occasion; work, court, funerals (Goddess forbid), weddings (no, not yours!), and you can really jazz it up in lots of different ways so it doesn't look like you're wearing the same thing over and over. Black is too dressy for every day and a pattern like gray chalk stripe may look sharp but it's too distinctive.

If The Suit Fits
Inexpensive trend ware may deliver a short-term buzz, but a perfectly fit suit should embrace your body like a lovers' arms. Whether tailor made or mass-produced, it should rest comfortably on your shoulders, twist & turn as you do and enhance your way of life.

  • One button, two button, three button, four. Most suit jackets are nipped in at the middle. If yours bunches under the arms, the waist is too low. If it feels like a straight jacket across the chest - too high. Either way, it's not for you.
  • The shoulder pad is there not only to make you look like a Greek god, but to help the jacket keep it's shape while it's hangin' out in your closet. But dude, if you can see the outline of that pad once you put it on - put it back.
  • No matter how manly your mits, the sleeve should end five inches from the tip of your thumb.
  • Pleated pants look cool on a stand up guy, but shouldn't puddle in your lap when you take a seat. Flat front trousers are slimming & trimming and move as easily as M.J.'s high flyin' jump shot.
  • Decisions like cuffs on the trousers vs. no cuffs or the length of the break are little details that make an off the rack suit bend to your own personality.
  • If you're lucky enough to discover a three piece suit that fits your budget as well as your body, grab it. Wear the vest, don't wear the vest - the more combinations you have to play with, the better.
  • Under normal circumstances, it is not necessary to dry clean your suit more than once a season. Give it a good dusting with a clothes brush, steam it in the bathroom or let the cleaner simply press it.
Break: where the hem of the jacket hits your leg.

Remembrance of Suits Past
This year, top Italian tailors are taking another look at menswear's family tree. They're featuring designs based on the best of '30s, '40s and '50s styles. You can do them one better and go for the real thing. The cost of a vintage suit including any minor alterations necessary to update it's look will still save you money over most of what's on the rack and give you the Úlan that other affordable suits just can't offer. Watch out for frayed edges and minute moth holes. There's no advantage to looking like something the cat dragged in.

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