A Suitable Wardrobe
How many suits should a man own? That question was fairly easy to answer once upon a time, now a more appropriate question might be, do some men even need a suit at all?
Article by Oscar Udeshi Photograph by Andy Barnham
In the past, a professional man, wore a suit and tie to work, every day of the working week, Monday to Friday. Full stop. No buts or maybes. Causal Friday had not been invented, nor the had the decay in moral standards set in. Men found it rather easy to get dressed: suit (jackets and trousers matched), plain shirt, tie, black shoes and socks, and maybe some underwear. Job done.
Ideally one would require five suits, one for each day of the working week, and if one had the means and lived in a place that actually had seasons, then five again for the warmer or colder season. Each suit would be worn 25 to 50 times per year, and if one had ten suits, one can see how the life expectancy of the wardrobe doubled.
What if one only wears a suit occasionally? Is there a Swiss Army knife suit equivalent that does everything? Like a Swiss Army knife, there is a suit that could do most things, but none of them as well as the dedicated tool for the task in hand. Depending on who one asks, it is either a charcoal or dark navy suit, or sometimes a black suit according to our friends across the pond.
Their preference for black is because it can double as a tuxedo or a funeral suit. What about weddings I hear you ask? Well, dinner suits are considered acceptable attire for weddings over there. The only time I have seen men wear suits in the evening outside of New York, they were either going to propose or were working for the mob. Either way, making proposals – one of which should definitely not be refused.
Over here our preference is for navy or charcoal as the perception is that black is sometimes seen as a sort of uniform for hospitality staff and security. A smart dark suit will be appropriate for a job interview, wedding, funeral, smart meeting and evening event, and at a pinch as an emergency dinner jacket with a black bow tie.
Ideally the suit should be as plain as possible, without an overly distinctive weave or check. The plainer, the more versatile. A discrete sharkskin, herringbone, or twill will also suffice.
If one views this suit and a white shirt as the framework, then a black necktie covers funerals, a silver or gold tie weddings, a baby blue or pink tie christenings, and a patterned tie meetings. This covers most occasions for the sartorially challenged.
If one wants to have more than the one multi tool suit in the closet, then the next choice should be the other colour, so one would have a navy and a charcoal suit. Many times, there is a tendency to get something bold and distinctive; to make a statement. That is usually as well thought through as having a dozen Jägerbombs. A distinctive suit will draw attention and the first time wearing it, one may be complemented. The second time, if it is the same audience, it may elicit the comment: “haven’t you worn that suit before” to the third time, “are you still wearing that same old thing?”
After the first two suits, variations on grey and navy would be appropriate, with possibly a stripe or check thrown in. Brown suiting is harder to come by, as there isn’t that much demand for it and should be best avoided unless one works in a more casual environment or has a lot of suits already.
Regarding dinner suits, please see a previous article. Tweed or linen suits were an essential part of a gentleman’s wardrobe in the past. Due to a more casual style of dress prevailing, one sadly sees them infrequently, and one might be well served to do the cost benefit analysis and calculate how often one will actually wear them.
A nice tweed ensemble worn during a working day might bring the comment if one was going to one’s country estate. In the past, that was probably the case. Sadly, not everyone’s parents have left them with a draughty pile in the country and wearing a suit on the weekend is seen as frequently as the Loch Ness monster is sighted.