How I Got Started on My 5-Year Project

It all started with a hole I discovered…

In my favourite suit. It wasn’t the first hole I’d discovered in this suit.  But this hole was in a rather less acceptable location than the previously discovered ones.  So the suit needed to be retired.  And eventually replaced.

It was a great suit. Charcoal. It worked with every shirt I owned and could be worn nearly anywhere I chose to go.  So I had.  More or less.

It was the beginning of 2008 and I’d bought the suit back in the summer of 2002.  So it had served me faithfully for going on 6 years.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the only suit with holes in my wardrobe.  My navy suit which I’d bought from John Lewis back in 1996 was wearing out also.  It had been my favourite suit before the charcoal so had been subjected to pretty heavy use. Going on 12 years of wear was pretty good value.

“The hole in my suit was so big….”

I had two other suits, each of which had seemed a good idea at the time, but really weren’t. One, from Ciro Citerrio, was in a sort of khaki/olive hue.  I know.  I don’t know what I was thinking either. The other was in an inoffensive black. However, it was not cut with the usual lapels but in a sort of neo 1970s look which did look quite cool on the Burton rack some years earlier but looked horribly dated only a few years later.

So I had only one suit that didn’t have a problem with it. It was, however, brown. I have a soft spot for a brown suit but even I have to accept its limitations. So not a great starting place.  I am a man who likes a suit and who thinks that every man looks better in a suit.  OK not every man.  There are some exceptions.  But most men look better in a suit.

So I needed to do some work on my wardrobe.  Upon closer inspection I discovered that a number of my shirts were beginning to fray as well and that my wardrobe was in a pretty bad way.

Partly this was down to sheer neglect. We had recently come through an incredibly lean few years financially and there really hadn’t been money to cover anything but the absolute essentials. OK, we are hardly rolling about in cash at the present but roll back the clock 6 or 7 years and we were properly skint.

Partly it was due to a lack of time.  Life had been so crazy busy over the previous few years I’d hardly had time to think about my life from day to day, never mind the state of my wardrobe. So it had deteriorated to this relatively parlous state.

However, I did not set out to embark upon a 5-year project.  Nothing so ambitious. I simply was looking to replace my beloved and well-used charcoal suit.  Thing was, it felt so long since I had gone looking for a suit I really didn’t quite know where to start looking.  What I did know was that I didn’t have a lot to spend so it needed to be inexpensive.

Shortly after my ‘holey suit’ discovery I was shopping for groceries in ASDA.  I say I was shopping.  My wife was shopping.  I was relieving my boredom by looking around in the menswear section in George.  I wasn’t looking to buy anything.  Most of the stock on display was of no particular interest.  But there was this one suit that was intriguing.  It looked really well tailored. It was cut on a slim fit block. The jacket had the correct number of inner pockets (4).  The trousers were lined from waist to knee. Every other suit on display I would not have considered.  But this one looked surprisingly good.

Clearly, I was very bored because I decided to go try on the suit. I usually try to keep my clothes on when I am in a supermarket. I find it’s usually for the best. On this occasion I made an exception. Then came the biggest surprise of all. The suit looked spectacular. It was a very flattering fit. I could hardly believe my eyes.  No suit from ADSA had any right looking this good.

There was one small problem. It was not charcoal. It was, in fact, dark chocolate.  The last thing I needed was another brown suit. So I decided to leave it.  Despite the fact that it looked so fab.  And any suit that can look fab in chocolate brown has got something going on.

James Bond’s brown suit (Quantum of Solace)

So I changed my mind.  I decided to buy that suit for the princely sum of £49.  On the basis that I would try it on at home, back to back with some of my better suits and then finally make up my mind.  I could always return it at a later stage.

So I got it home and tried it on back to back with my some of my existing suits and it made them all look dowdy and old in comparison.  It was only through this back to back comparison that I realised that suits had changed.  All my suits were three button suits, cut on a classic fit block.  They were loose fitting and very comfortable as a result.  At some point suits had moved to a 2 button style, cut on a slim fit block, which had a more flattering fit but  a little less wriggle room. The slim fit jackets were cut a little shorter as well.

As a man of relatively slim build the slim fit suit was the suit shape I had been waiting for all my adult life.  Needless to say, I decided to keep the suit.  But I also decided that my wardrobe needed far more attention than I had realised.  Two additional slim fit 2 button suits followed later that year; one in light grey and another in black with grey pinstripe. Both were from Primark.  Neither looked like it. My 5-year project had begun.  Little did I realise, however, that I was yet to discover How I Found the Perfect Fit.

Just over 4 years later I have learnt a great deal; about myself, about style, about textures and fabric, about colours and patterns. I have yet further to go but it’s been one heck of a journey.

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