The Secret of the Sub-$1,000 Suit

AS A MEN’S fashion reporter, the question I get most often is: “Where can I get a good suit for cheap?” The asker usually spews this query in a panic: He has a wedding coming up, or a job interview looming, or his neighbor’s sister’s firstborn’s bar mitzvah is this weekend and he has nothing to wear.

The latter part of this question—the cheap bit—is easy to satisfy. The American retail landscape is flush with budget-suit stores. Never forget that before it was a designer playpen, Barneys New York started in 1923 as a discount suit emporium. I remember, as a kid in ’90s, trying on a chintzy navy suit in Syms, a now-defunct retailer known for suits that (in my recollection) cost about as much as a Happy Meal. Today, you can wander into any department store or fast fashion retailer and walk out with a suit for around $200.

As for the “good” requirement, I’ll caution that you can’t expect those budget suits to be beacons of quality. They’re often made from sheeny polyester, falter quickly and have fused linings that bunch up and will make you sweat. Jordan Williams, 24, a tech consultant in Atlanta, bought suits from mall brands like

Express

when he first entered the workforce. They looked passable in the store but after a few wears their colors faded, buttons cracked and stitching began to unravel. “It became a problem because they’re not well constructed,” he said.

Fortunately, the market for modestly priced suits of more reliable quality has ballooned in the past decade. In 2007, apparel start-up Indochino emerged, offering $500-ish made-to-order wool suits. A year later, J.Crew introduced its Ludlow model at a similar price. Its light wool suit became a wedding favorite and has been updated repeatedly. Today, the Ludlow is available in double-breasted versions and plaid fabrics. Other companies like Todd Snyder and Proper Cloth have also carved out a space in the superior sub-$1,000 suit market. It is these three brands—J.Crew, Todd Snyder and Proper Cloth—that I tell people to turn to first.

‘I get a ton of compliments on[my $500-ish] suits.’

Thrifty suits will never deliver the craftsmanship of a hand-patterned, hand-stitched bespoke suit (which can run well into the five figures) nor match the fit and feel of a fastidious, high-twist wool suit from an Italian label like Canali or

Brunello Cucinelli.

But they’re more than passable in a pinch—particularly if you’re dusting off a suit just a couple of times a year.

Andrew Jones, 25, a Dallas systems engineer, only needs suits for weddings. He turns to Suitsupply, an Amsterdam apparel brand whose look leans Italian, with sloped shoulders, sprightly hued fabrics and trim fits. Its suits aren’t nearly as stiff as the H&M ones he once wore. In the Suitsupply suit, “I felt like I could move,” he said.

James T. Martin, 36, an Arlington, Texas criminal defense attorney, discovered Indochino in 2019 when shopping for his wedding. He was so impressed by the fit and feel of the brand’s $500-ish suit that he now turns to Indochino for most of his tailoring, including a navy three-piece and a lighter blue option with a windowpane check. “I get a ton of compliments on the suits…so I would never spend more than that,” he said.

When budgeting, it’s important to factor in tailoring costs. A suit will rarely fit perfectly off the rack. As Travonté Taylor, 35, a New York real-estate agent and steady suit buyer said, “You can wear the most expensive suit, but if it’s not tailored right, it doesn’t look like a quality suit.”

Want to Master the Universe on a Budget?

Consider this trio of sub-$1,000 suiting



Photo:

F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Jill Telesnicki

A Summery Steal

This seasonally appropriate linen iteration boasts a nice, nubbly texture that distinguishes it from stock wool suits. Jacket, $498, Pants, $258, ToddSnyder.com



Photo:

F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Jill Telesnicki

The Striped Saver

Rendered in chocolate wool, this double-breasted pinstripe version is an evolved take on J.Crew’s classic Ludlow design. Jacket, $595, Pants, $295, JCrew.com



Photo:

F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Jill Telesnicki

An Economical Ashen Option

With a soft shoulder and a trim fit, this stretch-wool style is a modern adaptation of the conservative gray suit. Suit, $695, ProperCloth.com

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

Write to Jacob Gallagher at [email protected]

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Linda J. Picard

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