Where to get a business wardrobe?
March 27, 2007 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Where can I load up on *cool* business clothes?

I am moving overseas for a year and need to be wear suits to work EVERY DAY. Right now I have one suit (charcoal color), and probably two dress shirts and ties that I am not embrassed to wear (as well as one pair of nice Kenneth Cole shoes to wear).

My company says that three suits is the minimum (I'll be in Japan and perhaps I could just buy more there-- drop a line if you know much about that). They also said that it's best to have shirts/ties to last two weeks.

Where should I go to load up? Money, of course, matters, but I want quality, too. I thought about Jos A Banks or something like that and I think I could get everything I need there, but it'll be too expensive (plus I'm a 24 year-old and want to be fashionable, unlike the middle-aged golfers that all work at my office).

Also, bonus points for the shirts that don't need ironing ;)

Where should I go? Should I just buy some cheaper suits someplace that I could replace if they wear out? Should I spend more and get better quality/style? How many should I buy now vs. waiting?

Since it's Tokyo, it'll be hot in the summer, but not *too* cold (not much snow) in the winter.

My time frame is...Now. I leave in early May and want to get this nailed down.

posted by phaedrus441 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Club Monaco has great basic pieces and I definitely don't think of it as stuffy and middle-aged. I'm not sure what kinds of suits you're looking for, but it'd likely be a little less pricey than Jos A Banks.

Have fun!
posted by awegz at 5:48 AM on March 27, 2007

Marshalls sometimes has discounted designer suits.
posted by any major dude at 6:01 AM on March 27, 2007

If I recall from my dad's business trips to Japan (where he also had to buy suits), the suits must be wool and dark blue or black. Variation is frowned upon. Funky, cool colors are frowned upon. If I were you I would stick with the most boring, not-cool suits you can find, because as a 24-year-old you will not be expected to be fashionable, you will be expected to fit in.
posted by schroedinger at 6:09 AM on March 27, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, I think you're right-- I didn't mean weird, extreme colors. More like. I don't want suits that are just nasty polyester or something like you find at most stores. The suit I have now is 100% wool, summer weight, and I really like it....
posted by phaedrus441 at 6:14 AM on March 27, 2007

Wool suits are the way to go. James Bond wears wool, for example. You'll want navy, dark gray, light gray, and maybe a light pinstripe.

And be wary of cheap suits - I can spot a Banana Republic or Express suit a mile away. Try bluefly.
posted by four panels at 6:22 AM on March 27, 2007

There are some awesome places to buy cool suits in Japan, but they are all pricey and won't work if you are on the big & tall side.

H&M has some cool work clothes. Target also has greatly improved its work clothing selection, but I'm not too familiar with the mens section.

If you have time to travel I would suggest taking a week-long side trip to Thailand or China. You'll be able to have your suits custom made very cheaply.
posted by Alison at 6:29 AM on March 27, 2007

I'm a big fan of Men's Wearhouse. All they do all day is dress men, their inventory is big and more elective than you'd think, and they have reasonable, though not bargain basement prices. Seriously, give them a shot.

Just stroll into a store and say "I need to buy some suits" and in minutes you'll be presented option upon option. Also, in the past two years the selection of no-iron shirts has exploded and I swear by these because I travel all the time. You might want to invest $20 in a travel steamer as well--much easier than ironing.
posted by donovan at 6:35 AM on March 27, 2007

A good department store would be a good place to start - they usually have a pretty wide selection of suits & price ranges, and you'll probably be able to get everything all in one place.
posted by Kololo at 6:49 AM on March 27, 2007

Though I was initially skeptical, I have found great success at Kohl's. They sell suit separates that are very nice. I have four suits: navy, black, navy pinstriped, and charcoal. All are 100% wool, all fit nicely, and I think all look like regular, nice suits. I have worn them at trial and to business meetings, and (because I was a bit self-conscious about my Kohl's suits) I solicited the opinion of some trusted co-workers, and they seemed to pass each test well. If you follow up this tip, I suggest waiting for one of their inevitable every-few-weeks sales. Typically they have "early bird" pricing for Saturday morning, and their suits are often 50% off or more. I got mine for under $200 each.

[[Caveat: I most definitely cannot "spot a Banana Republic or Express suit a mile away" (and I do not doubt that there are many who can).]]
posted by AgentRocket at 7:10 AM on March 27, 2007

Brooks Brothers! Make sure you try to get slim-fitting or form-fitting as much as possible. Slim suits are in and look very stylish. It can make a boring suit look good. Brooks Brothers might be more apt to try to fit you like a 50 year-old executive with slouching shoulders a beer gut, so make sure you keep repeating "slim fit". I too can spot a cheap suit, or at least one that is not tailored.

You can easily mix and match with suits, I would recommend going more expensive and trying to do this. Get some silver cuff links and you'll look snazzy without overdressing.

I have always heard you can get some cheap bespoke suits from Hong Kong/Southeast Asian tailors, but have no personal experience with such.
posted by geoff. at 7:29 AM on March 27, 2007

Oh I do have to warn you that if you are in shape you will have a hard time finding suits from non-European designers. This is a very expensive problem to have. I am a true 32, most American companies (including Brooks Brothers) are built for a slightly rotund 32, European designs are much better for this in my experience. Fit is so important, you do not want a baggy suit.
posted by geoff. at 7:32 AM on March 27, 2007

Consider getting some decent quality suits from a department store. Big chains like Macy's or Lord and Taylor often have sales and/or little coupons in the newspaper that can save you a bundle.

As for age appropriateness, the trend seems to be more toward two or three button jackets with a slimmer silhouette and flat front (non-pleated) pants. Some navy, black, and dark grey suits in that cut would be a nice combination of stylish and work-appropriate.

Most importantly, though, make sure your suits fit properly. You could wear some polyester double-breasted thing, and with a good tailor it will look better on you than an ill-fitting Armani.
posted by AV at 7:55 AM on March 27, 2007

Korea is another good option for buying suits once you're already overseas. Lots of Tokyoites do weekend wardrobe jaunts to Seoul. Airfare is relatively cheap, and you'll be able to get high quality threads for way less than you would pretty much anywhere in Japan (even factoring in travel expenses).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:34 AM on March 27, 2007

Ditto vote for Men's Warehouse. The computer geek I shack up with has funkier taste than I do, but that place makes it easy to shop for him. They have classic to contemporary, everything you need for guys and then some, they are well trained to take your measurements, you can find really good quality at pretty terrific prices. I live in New York City and would use Club Monaco for additional items and separates, along with any finds at Banana Republic, JCrew.

Brooks Brothers is great, I'll grant you, they're probably the standard for slick near-moneyed mensware, but I doubt you'll find stuff you want to spend big $$ on and likely you'll find very similar items at Men's Warehouse.
posted by eatdonuts at 9:09 AM on March 27, 2007

What about stopping off in Hong Kong and getting some suits and shirts made-to-measure? They can probably send them on to you in Japan.
posted by London Irregular at 9:40 AM on March 27, 2007

Sack's Off 5th, Neiman Marcus's Last Call and the Nordstrom Rack all have ridiculously nice shit, usually dirt cheap, though you have to do a ton of looking to find stuff on clearance that fits if you're not a small or medium.
posted by The Straightener at 10:35 AM on March 27, 2007

For great shirts & ties, try Thomas Pink. Please note that I'm a girl and know nothing about menswear other than what I think looks hot. And I really, really like Thomas Pink shirts.
posted by echo0720 at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2007

As for money versus quality, it's always worth it to spend on suits, jackets in particular. Even get them tailored. Things like shirts and ties are a better target for a) cheaping out (well, not "cheap" but no need to break the bank) and showing flare/trendiness, et cetera.

Also, if you're going to be in a conformist environment but need to express yourself somehow, women have long achieved that by accessorizing. I realize guys have less options, but what about cool cuff links, watches, pocket squares, and so on? You can switch on and off according to the environment.
posted by sarahkeebs at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2007

If you want stylish (i.e. slim) fits, but still at the lower end of the price scale ($200 dollar range), I would buy them in Japan. Slim fit is the norm in Japan, and you can still find those cuts for the lower end department store suits- there are also Men's Warehouse type places here, and it's easier to find summer suits since the summers are crazy hot and everyone has to wear suits. You will pay a little more than the lower end department store prices back home, but it will be easier to find quality/fashionable options.

I would load up on cheap slim fit shirts and ties, maybe one more suit, then pick up a couple more suits once you're in Japan.
posted by p3t3 at 9:32 PM on March 27, 2007

If you have a Sims near you, they have a huge selection of suits, often well-discounted, and tailors on staff. Make sure your suits fit beautifully - not just passably. sarahkeebs is right: suits are the place to spend, shirts and so on are more replaceable.
posted by bassjump at 4:23 AM on March 28, 2007

I have always heard you can get some cheap bespoke suits from Hong Kong/Southeast Asian tailors, but have no personal experience with such.

They won't be bespoke, but they will be made to measure, which isn't quite as good.

Pick up a few made to measure suits in HK or Korea.* Go here or here** and ask how and who. I guarantee that this will be better than you will do at anyplace listed (other than, perhaps, Off 5th, Last Call, or Rack).

*The typical modern Korean look is IMO awesome on a slim guy.
**The Ask Andy guys are fanatics. In a good way.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:47 PM on March 28, 2007

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