I finished university last month. One such milestone deserves another: with convocation and job interviews on the horizon this is the precise time to get my first proper suit.
I’ve always relied on separates – a navy blazer and tweed sport coat have served me well. But what self-respecting young man can set off for great things in the world without a well-fitting suit?
I turn to the man who first instilled in me an appreciation for fine clothes: my dad. His closet brims with countless suits in different styles and colours. Watching my parents dress up to go out to dinner I always marveled at how sharp he looked compared to the other neighbourhood patriarchs.
Currently, he works at Tom’s Place, an iconic haberdashery in downtown Toronto. He’s told me countless stories of fitting young businessmen for their first suits. They come in completely clueless and blankly follow the advice of the dozen or so men who work the floor.
I wanted my suit buying experience to be the opposite of this; I would go to my pops with what I wanted, to let him know I wasn’t just a kid playing dress-up.
Of course, despite being a devoted reader of menswear blogs, I had no idea what I was talking about – at least when it came to functional style. We talked possibilities.
“What about peaked lapels?” I asked.
“Are you crazy?” he asked in return.
“How about some sort of tweed or plaid pattern?”
“You’ll look like an old man.
“Or maybe double-breasted?”
A cock eyed look of bewilderment, his response.
Apparently, I needed to walk before I could run. My dad admitted these were all valid choices, but they’re only worth choosing if you already have a developed wardrobe. I needed something that wouldn’t fall out of fashion in a couple of years, that could be worn on almost any occasion. Abstractly, I understand that there’s beauty in utility and simplicity. But it took my dad explaining what to look for in my first suit that gave that the notion physical classic two-button form.
He got me to try on some of his older suits. I worried I’d be stuck with something with big shoulders and not much personality, since that seemed to be what he had in mind. But he was actually sizing me up, getting an eye for what would work best for me, like any suit salesman worth his salt.
My next visit home a crisp, a perfectly fitted two-button navy blue Strellson suit waited for me. Modern, but not flashy. Slim, but not tight. Elegantly detailed. I slipped it on and tried to hide my goofy grin. I was excited about the suit, but I was even more excited at how happy my dad seemed. It felt like one of those “learning how to ride a bike” moments between us. I realized there aren’t many of those moments left.
On convocation day, I kept things simple with a white button up, navy silk tie, white pocket square and a pair of reddish brown oxfords. By contrast, my dad sported a loose-fitting, not baggy, black suit with a grey candy stripe shirt open at the neck. Standing next to my dad after the ceremony, I realized two things: we didn’t look all that similar, and that was the point. Clothes should fit who you are, not who you think you should be. Thanks for the wisdom, dad.
And the suit.