Hey Sid!

The Starter Suit

Hey Sid!

You ask, Sid answers

Submit a question at heysid@sidmashburn.com

“A friend of mine is getting married this summer. As much as I'd love to use this as an excuse to invest in a 'forever suit,' I'm on a budget, and I don't even know the next time I'll wear a suit. I've read all your columns and you mostly talk about high-twist wool, but if I sort suits from low-high, it looks like y'all offer a Kincaid No. 2 in plainweave for about $750 less. Would that work?” - George

You know what, George, it is so funny that you should ask about this suit. I have had this very suit — Kincaid No. 2 in navy plainweave — pulled aside before I even saw your question. No joke, it's been sitting on the rack for going on two weeks now, waiting for me to get it pinned up and put into the alts queue. I've wanted it for a long time. Why? Well, it does something kinda different from any of my other suits. You raise an excellent point, by the way, that high-twist gets most of the airtime around here. Media bias in action! But that changes today. Let's talk about plainweave.

Sid's Navy Plainweave suit in the queue for alterations. It's tagged with handwritten specs, and in the background you can make out a sewing machine.

So first off, let's address the elephant in the room. This is our starting price point suit, and yes, at $950, it's significantly less expensive than our next "core" year-round suits. After that, you jump up to $1695 (for both sharkskin and high-twist) with some seasonal suits in between. But as far as first-suits go, that's a pretty big delta. And that's why we tend to call the plainweave No. 2 our starter suit. Think of it as having everything you need and nothing you don't. Emphasis on the need there, because I really do think this suit is the kind of purchase born more out of need more than want. Of course all of us wanna have forever suits and super-curated wardrobes full of best-in-class pieces. (And all perfectly tailored.) But the reality is that sometimes your buddy's wedding sneaks up on you and you can't spend a month's rent on something to wear. You need something that looks good, fits you well, and fulfills the dress code. This suit does that, and it clocks in at under a thousand dollars, which is really important to me. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a full-canvas suit, made in Portugal, from 2ply/2ply wool made at a family-owned mill. For under a grand. We think it's a pretty fantastic value.

So we haven't cut any corners with the fabric. The plainweave wool is just that — a plain weave without a ton of texture to it — and it comes from this very cool, family-run mill in Portugal that's been running for over a century. And the 2ply/2ply construction means 2ply in the warp and 2ply in the weft. That means a 2ply twisted yarn going across horizontally and a 2ply twisted yarn going down vertically. That's a super dumbed-down way of putting it, but the bottom line is that this gives you a much stronger and more resilient woven fabric. This is kind of a non-negotiable for us with our core suits, but more costly to produce. (So with a lot of makers, this is often the first corner to cut — they'll take one ply out of the weft thread for a fabric that's only 2ply/1ply. Still solid, but not as good as our 2ply/2ply.) Performance-wise, it doesn't have the same technical properties of high-twist, but it breathes quite nicely and works year-round.

I won't go too deep on the construction except to say that this has a full canvas construction — no gluing, ever — which means that the "skeleton" of the jacket, the canvas, will mold and meld to your body over time in a way a fused jacket never will. (If a jacket or suit is not advertised as full canvas, by the way, it's fused.) It can be easier to describe the make in relative terms, which is why we have that numbering system for our tailored clothing. Our No. 3 is the one we often refer to as our "house make" because it's the first one we ever created and something of a default for us. That's got a triple-layer canvas that's pretty strong and structured and feels trussed-up. You really feel DRESSED. Comparatively, the canvas on this one, the No. 2 make, is a single layer of horsehair: lighter and easier and, yes, less expensive to manufacture… but no less special. More differences between this and the No. 3 make of our other suit: fewer points of handwork needed to assemble the jacket, and tonal corozo buttons instead of horn. The corozo is dyed to match the fabric — navy corozo on the navy suit, dark grey corozo on the charcoal — so the buttons blend into the suit. It's very minimal. Very elegante. Just add a white poplin shirt and a navy knit tie and black shoes and you're a Milanese businessman.

And that's not to say this isn't a forever suit. It'll still last you a long, long, long time. In fact, this can be a forever suit for the guy who doesn't wear a suit all that often! It's not going to do the same "planes, trains, and automobiles" thing that the high-twist will do, where the fabric will bounce back into place no matter how hard you wear it. And it doesn't have the same beautiful texture and high-roller vibe of a sharkskin wool. But those things aren't what you're looking for here. Again: everything you need, nothing you don't. It gets the job done, and it gets it done well.

One last thing on the colors. This suit comes in navy and charcoal, either of which should cover you for a multitude of occasions. Graduations, weddings, funerals, job interviews, any other life events in the distant future. One way to make the decision is to think about what kind of bonus piece you'd rather have. Because both of these suits can be split up, but they cannot be split up in the same way. You can wear the navy suit jacket on its own with different trousers as a navy blazer substitute in a pinch. I would not recommend doing this with the charcoal; it just won't look right. On the flip side, you can wear the charcoal suit pants on their own with a seasonal sport coat or just a dress shirt, the same way you'd wear any other grey dress trousers. But you can't really wear the navy pants like this. I can't totally put it into words here — it's easier shown in person — but it just doesn't look right. Like you forgot half your suit. So it could just come down to… would you get more use out of an extra jacket or an extra pair of trousers in your closet?

So yes! This is our starter suit and I think it could be perfect for you. I'm so glad you found it. And I'm glad you reminded me to get mine going. Thank you, George. Have fun at the wedding. I know you're going to look great, but I hope you'll feel great, too. Be early to the dance floor.

More Hey Sid!

Cocktail attire?

Hey Sid!

Cocktail attire?

“I'm going to a fundraiser that's sort of an upscale...

Socks Refresher

Hey Sid!

Socks Refresher

“Can we talk socks… again? I was in the store...

The Christmas List

Hey Sid!

The Christmas List

“Your Christmas list is always my favorite post of the year....

Jury Duty

Hey Sid!

Jury Duty

“What would you recommend to wear for jury duty? The...