Monday, August 5

Male Fashion and Lifestyle: The $12 Perfect Suit

$12 perfect suit jax
I am not a suit kind of guy, but I learned after one of my only failed interviews that suits are expected. (I was told later that I won the job on three of five categories, but wearing a casual outfit lost the position. That was two decades ago.) It might seem ironic that a teacher, who will not wear a suit again for the next 20 or 30 years, needs to don the traditional male formal attire just to get that job. But I'm OK with irony, since I teach English. Besides, a perfect suit doesn't have to be expensive. This "perfect" Dillard's suit cost me $12.

OK, if you read the whole article, you'll see it was more like $120 all-in on the parts, but $12 for suit coat and matching pants. I'm saying the suit is perfect because I've worn it to two interviews now, and I got both jobs (one was eventually rescinded, but that's not the suit's fault). That's 2 for 2. Batting 1000. Numero uno perfecto. You can't really ask for more from a lucky suit, especially one that barely cost me the tax on most suit purchases.

Those of you in the male fashion and lifestyle insider list already know where this is heading. Yes, it's a used suit. Maybe some hot male fashion bloggers get to wear suits donated from designers. But there's no romance in that. This suit has a history. Maybe it was someone's luckiest suit. Maybe someone lost 30 pounds and donated it. Maybe it belonged to a successful but unfulfilled insurance salesman.

salvation army half price Wednesday
But I have it now, and I look like $1,000 in it. At least $500. Best part is that it wasn't even REALLY a whole $12 for my suit. You see, when you shop for suits as the Salvation Army over on Merrill by the Big Lots, you need to follow two very important pieces of advice:

  1. Buy more than one suit. These are used. Sometimes there's a stain or weird wrinkly area you might miss. And you have to try everything on to see if it really fits, especially since the pants might seem OK in the store and then be a miss. I home dry-cleaned and steam pressed the suits as best I could, but having some backup is a good idea, especially when we're talking under $20 for three suits. Maybe pick up four.
  2. Shop that particular thrift store on half-price Wednesday. The actual suit I wore was originally $10.29. I got it for $5.15, and another suit cost me $3.65. And an extra sports coat for $2.65. It was all so cheap that I actually rounded up on the receipt, which I never really do. Buy several suits in your size on half-price day, and then donate the ones that won't work for someone else.
Someone will complain that I am also wearing a shirt, tie, shoes, and hopefully socks. Yes, the tie is from 2002. A nice tie lasts a long time, assuming you don't ever wear it. The tie had some Italian name on it, but this lot of silk ties would be sufficient for a lifetime. $20.

The shirt is one I used to wear as a teacher back in Wisconsin. It was probably $20 new back in 2014 or so. Looks like $20 today for same Van Heussen. My wife picked it out.

The shoes were also new at one point, maybe $50, but I'm thinking around 2008, since I maybe only wore those dressier shoes once a week for five years. You can keep leather shoes looking pretty nice with some effort. For interviews, I like my dress shoes that have a little extra in the heel, and I even have some risers I might add to them, just to be an inch taller.

Yes, black socks cost something, too. Maybe $15 for a set. The point is that most of us own the accoutrements that accompany a suit, so cost will be minimal. And I bet the Salvation Army Store has ties somewhere.

All told, even if you count the non-thrift store prices, my suit was under $120 total, and it did the job. 

The saying goes that one ounce of gold tends to be worth what a decent man's suit would cost. That's around $1,500 as I write this article, really double what the most expensive suits at Dillard's tend to cost. But gold is inflated. Suits are a necessary fashion choice for any man in search of a job. They will cost you anywhere from $200 to $800 new for decent-looking offerings.

I think you should splurge on yourself and get a nice new suit. If you get a teaching job wearing that suit, donate it right away so that someone else can enjoy some lucky action. If you don't feel like you need to treat yourself to some boring new suit, head on over to a thrift store and have fun imagining which suit was worn by a local philanthropist or a local philanderer. In fact, I'll be donating two of my suits back soon, so you might get one worn by a local philosopher. 

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