One of my current interests is “masculine style.” There’s an absolutely great website by that name, incidentally. Go look it up if you’re a man who wants to learn to dress well. Dressing appropriately and well doesn’t always mean dressing up, though I admit to enjoying suiting up for an event like the symphony or a formal occasion. Sue me, I’m vain that way.
The style world is vast. Everyone from custom suit makers to suit mills like Men’s Wearhouse want you to buy suits that you don’t necessarily need. They try to convince you that you’ll look like George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven if you just buy their product. Even shows like Mad Men – which I actually liked a lot – are often just commercials for Brooks Brothers.
I don’t move in the menswear or “masculine style” world. Professionally, I move in a world – the shooting world – where most men are fat, dress like schlubs, and consider wearing an oversized polo shirt and pleated polyester pants to be dressing well. Personally, I hang out at bars in downtown Phoenix and go to cultural events there. Phoenix isn’t exactly what you’d call a fashion-forward city. It doesn’t take much to dress a whole lot better than average here (closed-toed shoes instead of flip-flops pretty much does the trick).
Brag alert: I’ve literally been applauded walking down a Phoenix street in my favorite suit, which cost $150 including the tailoring. I’ve lost count of the number of times men have told me “I could never pull that off,” or women told me I’m the best-dressed man they know.
I buy suits at Burlington Coat Factory and have them tailored for $30-$40. I have three suits. One’s charcoal gray, one’s navy blue and one’s tan linen for summer (75% of the year in Phoenix, in other words). I haven’t spent more than $200 on any one of these suits, including tailoring. I’m sure experts on masculine style would be appalled at my suits, but even in Vegas I’m better dressed than 95% of the men I see in their ill-fitting, billowy, off the rack suits. But this is mainly because I’m in reasonable physical shape and my suits fit me, thanks to the $30 alterations, not because they’re expensive and finely-made.
Would I like to have a custom-made suit? I sure would, and it’s on my bucket list of things to buy with cash someday. But I want that suit at least partially for the “bespoke” (yes, I hate that pretentious word, too) experience rather than the end product. Until then, I am perfectly satisfied with my three suits from Burlington.
I am a deplorable consumer. (But I look damn good.)