Get smart! When a suit works, there’s nothing quite like it

If you don’t have to go broke to go bespoke, it’s also true that you don’t have to go bespoke to go smart

Made to measure: a semi-decent outfit conveys a chap serenely into the day. Photograph: E+/Getty

Made to measure: a semi-decent outfit conveys a chap serenely into the day. Photograph: E+/Getty

Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 18:00

My phone rang. I was deep in conversation with a man I half knew, and my instinct was to ignore it. But I recognised the number and couldn’t stop myself. “Apologies,” I said afterwards. “That was my tailor on the line.”

What else could a fellow say? This was a good many years ago. Soon to marry, I was being fitted for a suit, and sating curiosity about the mysteries of made-to-measure land.

When the big day came I felt like a prince. The thing was inch-perfect. Smooth but crisp and neither a fold nor a line out of place. This was a one-off treat.

If you don’t have to go broke to go bespoke, it’s also true that you don’t have to go bespoke to go smart.

I winced a little the other day when I read my colleague Harry McGee’s fine article about the tyranny of suits. To the scandalous charge that the garment is unfit for purpose I simply say no. Pointless pockets? Ah, come on. Ridiculously impractical? Please. On all counts the opposite is the case.

I don’t mind suits at all. I’m not saying I’d blithely don a jacket and tie of a Saturday morning. That’s not style. Still, I’ve no problem buttoning up whenever the time comes.

A semi-decent outfit conveys a chap serenely into the day. If there’s work to be done, dress for it. You may not feel full of pep, but you might as well look it – which, when you think of it, is just as important. Whether there is action or inaction, you are ready.

In the event of adversity, at least you’re in good guise. Trust me. A T-shirt is no match for a throng of foes.

Befuddled from 1914

I’m struck still by the resilience and effectiveness of basic suit design, which seems to have been around forever. An iPad might well befuddle a man from 1914, but he would be certain to know what to do with a suit. Vents, lapels, weaves and stitching are prone to the whims of fashion. Yet the overall package remains more or less the same. The reason for this is that it works.

Who needs a briefcase? Not the man with proper pockets. On the working day I carry with me a phone, Dictaphone, earphones, pen, paper, diary, wallet and cord to charge the phone.

All of this can be carried discreetly, with no need for unseemly rummaging in a man bag. There’s room for a passport, too.

I generally try to keep a few suits on the go, most of them for everyday hacking, with one held in reserve. The best of them fit well, and wear well, and you’d go straight for the same again if you could find it.

There is a flip side, however. A bad suit can put an ungainly complexion on the day. At an event some years ago I ran into a good pal, a jolly fellow usually who seemed that day to be more than mildly crestfallen. “How are tricks?” I asked.

“Splendid overall. But this suit is catastrophic. I look like a geography teacher.”

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