I am blessed in this life to have a lot of friends. Some of them ask me for my help from time to time, getting clothing for special occasions and/or revamping their “look”. One of my favorite things to do is to help my male friends get a good suit. It’s not easy – you ask them how much they want to spend, and then you giggle, pause, and then tell them what they are going to spend. Somewhere, somehow, many people have been poisoned by too much advertising. “You’re going to like the way you look; I guarantee it,” is not much of a guarantee at all, if you’ve been snowed by a clever salesperson. Cheap suits are generally cheap-looking suits. Period!
Let’s put it this way. Let’s say you’re a regular-sized guy (38R – 46R). You have the luxury of being able to shop in any department store, at any outlet mall, and you can troll around for sales. You can actually get a great suit (on sale) for about $400 if you are really paying attention. Now let’s say you’re out of that range (32 – 38S), or (48 – 64+); you do not have those same options. So what’s a big (or small) guy to do?
Luckily, if you are “in the know”, you have many options. For men 5’ 8” and under, there is Jimmy Au’s and they are pretty fantastic. When dealing with body sizes that are outside of what is considered “average”, the important thing to focus on is proportion, proportion, proportion! Jimmy Au’s carries a huge selection, especially in suits and more formal, classic menswear, dress pants and dress shirts. Their prices are reflective of their quality. You will not get a cheap-looking suit at Jimmy Au’s, but your wallet may take a deeper hit than you expected. Trust me on this – it is worth it.
For the Big man (and by that I mean, 48 and up, in either short, regular, or tall, and “extra tall” in any size) you have a similar friend in Rochester Big and Tall. Yes, it is true, you may be able to find a size 52 Long suit somewhere else, for much less money than you’d spend at Rochester. But the truth is, who wants to look like the mook in the cheap suit?! When dealing with suits (especially in hard-to-find sizes) you get what you pay for. Most men buy suits for special occasions or job interviews. This kind of garment should represent you well, not make you look like a two-bit gangster.
The other alternative for both Big and Small is to have your clothing custom-made. This can be an expensive venture, but your clothing will look perfectly fit, razor sharp, and you can get exactly what you want, exactly how you like it. There are some great resources out there for men interested in the custom-clothing idea: for dress shirts, there is none better than Anto Distinctive Shirtmakers, and for suits, tailors abound all over town, but I can steadfastly recommend Si Beau on Melrose and I will have to kick their luddite asses for not having a website.
For the rest of the men, the guys who wince at a thousands-of-dollars price tag, here’s a story for you. My friend Matt needed a suit for an upcoming wedding. He backtracked, and then stated that he needed the suit for the wedding, but he’d also like a sport coat and maybe another all-purpose suit if we could find one. “How much do you want to spend?,” I asked… Well, when he answered, I just laughed. The guy’s been watching too much daytime TV, because he came up with a figure that was well below even the “I guarantee it” level. I told him that we’d have to eliminate the sport coat and one of the suits to come in at that budget number. He considered it for a moment, and then just gave me a, “Well, let’s just see what’s out there, then”.
We made an appointment for a weekend morning, and our first stop was a retail outlet for men’s suits that has a showroom downtown and a huge warehouse with like 100,000 suits in stock. They do wholesale sales and have what appears to be private label manufacturing of their own. Matt tried on a taupe suit – the color was beautiful – but the fabric was grimacing over the sleeve head, through the shoulder pads. He liked the color and the cut of the suit, but I thought it looked cheap; the fabric was not high quality. Price tag: $350, including alterations. That should tell you something – caveat emptor!! The salesman also showed us some suits in the $199 range, which were completely undesirable, unless your armpits actually did extend to your waist, as the armholes in the suit did. NEXT!!
We then went to Rochester Big and Tall, and what can I say, it is definitely the right place. They have beautiful clothing for B & T men (John Varvatos, Robert Graham, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and they also do custom work in-house). We were helped by a very knowledgeable and friendly saleswoman, who gathered shirts for us as we perused the suits. She provided us with very good, attentive service (a plus if you are a B & T guy coming to shop by yourself).
In the end, we settled on two suits – a grey one and a tan one, and one sport coat, a nice dark navy seersucker stripe. The tailor came out from the back, and went to work. He was efficient, professional, and (because I am insanely particular about men’s alterations) was respectful about my sleeve-length obsession. He gets an A+ from me!
The tan suit, oddly enough, came with pleated pants. I know, the horror. But it was only a single pleat. You will see the pleated pant as part of a suit very often in Big and Tall – some men carry their bellies in places that make pleats a more suitable option. Here, Matt thought that the pleats just made him look like he was wearing clown pants. A few pins and swipes of tailor chalk and we fixed it. But, yes, I know – pleats!
The funny part came when we got to the register. Matt hadn’t intended to spend twice what he originally proposed, but he was so happy with the way he looked, he didn’t seem to mind too much. He’s going to love his new suits. I guarantee it.
Rochester Big and Tall
9737 Wilshire Boulevard at Linden
Monday – Wednesday 9:30 AM – 7:00 PM
Thursday 9:30 AM – 8:00 PM
Friday 9:30 AM – 7:00 PM
Saturday 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Sunday 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM