From Reader Jason R. comes this intriguing question:

You have spoken at length about how to spend money on watches and etcetera. I have been champing at the bit to ask you, sir, if you hit the Powerball: where does one buy the finest of suits?

Now that is an interesting question. Right off the bat, I don’t want to hear from people who are only going to wear jeans and wife-beater t-shirts for the rest of their lives, nor do I wish to hear about how suits are an outdated institution blah blah blah. Mr. R. wants to hear about suits, and I will address that issue with two options, bearing in mind that with Powerball winnings, cost is not an issue; but style and quality are.

Golden Rule: forget off-the-peg / ready-to-wear, unless you have to wear a suit in the next month or so. It’s to a tailor you’ll be going.

Option 1:  Go to a style capital, and have the suits made (you’ll need at least four, along with dinner attire — a tuxedo, in the American idiom). Your choices will include:

Milan, if you have the figure to wear Italian designs — i.e. not fat like me. Milan sets so many fashion trends, it’s silly to go anywhere else, if you want to be fashionable.  By the way, Italian suits are so well made that you might be able to find something off-the-peg which will work, but I’d still go to Caraceni first. Be aware that Italian suit designs go out of fashion more quickly than the “classic” designs; if you want something of that nature, you’ll need to go to

London (Savile Row or Jermyn Street) for the British cut: timeless and almost immediately recognizable — but you’ll need to find something to do in London for a couple weeks, because those Brit tailors are slow. One caveat: Brits don’t do summer suits that well, simply because they don’t need them that much; the Italians do, so you may do well to split your trips, as it were.

New York will be fine, if you’re okay with American-style suits (the eponymous TV show Suits is coincidentally an excellent example of the look). Barney’s used to be the place to go, but I’m not sure if that’s true anymore. (My NY Readers may be able to help.)

Option 2: go to Hong Kong, and have a dozen suits made for the same price as four would cost you in any of the above cities. Seriously: anyone who knows anything about buying good suits either goes or has gone to Hong Kong. They will have all the latest fashion patterns, and all the different cloth weights and types on display; picking out the fabric(s) will take you almost as long as it takes them to make the suit. You’ll only need about three days to get a dozen suits. Hankow Road will give you Willie Cheng or Sam’s (the celebrity tailor). Mr. FM, who has all his suits made in HK, cautions against getting your shirts made there because for some reason, HK tailors never give you a long enough tail — which means your shirt is always coming out. Stick with the guys in Jermyn Street.

Addendum: you’ll need shoes. Forget American formal shoes like Johnston & Murphy, unless you want to look like the parvenus lawyers in Suits. (I’m not dissing J&M, by the way: I own two pairs, and love them. But if you want to match your exquisite suits with equally-exquisite shoes…)

Once again, Milan will be your friend — nobody makes stylish shoes quite like the Italians. However, if you really want to follow the example of Sterling Archer (and you should), you should have your shoes made for you by a cordwainer (old fart’s term for shoemaker). If you don’t want to go to Milan and visit Stivelaria Savoia, or you’d prefer a more classical style of shoe, I would like to suggest a place somewhat off the beaten track: Vienna, and the place to go there is Ludwig Reiter. (Warning: if you follow that link and read about “welting”, you may never buy shoes off the shelf again.)

If you’d prefer a more British style, then John Lobb in London will give you whatever you need. I’ve been there, could never afford their prices (see below). I love their description of how shoes are made.

All bespoke shoemakers will measure your foot and make a wooden last of it; then, whenever you need new shoes, you just call them and they’ll make you a new pair, or several new pairs, according to your style selection. The initial consultation and measurement will take ages, but subsequent pairs will be made quite quickly. In most cases, you’ll be allocated an individual within the company who will be responsible for all your shoes thereafter.

You’ll need an assist from Powerball, by the way: Savoia, Lobb and Reiter shoes can cost anywhere from $2,000 – $8,000 a pair. But they’ll last forever, and never go out of fashion. I have a copy of Reiter half-boots which cost close to $800; I’m still wearing them, twelve years later, and they still look wonderful. (Those are available in Vienna’s Kärtnerstrasse — a very bad place to shop if you have no impulse control.)

Now… where did I put that EuroMillions ticket?


  1. Barney’s is still quite good, though I prefer Martin Greenfield. Bring money, but he’ll do absolutely anything you might want.

    1. Thats what I was going to say…Martin Greenfield is the man!

      And John Lobb…

      While emergency physicians tend to be thought of as poor dressers, thats just at work. I can clean up pretty well, according to my late wife.

  2. If I were a rich man,,,,,,, at this stage in my a life a few nice bespoke items would be nice and the first I would be measured for would be a Purdey shotgun or even better a matched pair of side by side 20 ga.

  3. “…cost is not an issue..”

    My Inner Accountant disagrees, and insists on comparing these beautiful but infrequently-worn suits to other comparable investments, from top-line insulated windows to classic firearms (Steyr GB, anyone?) to a vintage BMW 2002, or maybe just some nice shares in Exxon Mobile.

    My Inner Marxist rails against the extravagance, and advises me that an off-the-rack polyester suit will be more than adequate when I stand accused in a People’s Tribunal of Revolutionary Justice.

    Fortunately, my Inner Bloated Capitalist and Patron of the Arts beams in a appreciation of fine clothing and footwear; how it delights the eye and graces every social occasion, and how it provides livelihood for hundreds of skilled weavers, tailors, seamstresses, and cordwainers. Hell, if you got it, flaunt it. Tastefully. Thanks for the (out of my reach) shopping list.

    1. I’d suggest giving your Inner Bloated Capitalist a fine Italian Double and have him shoot your inner marxist.

      1. Excellent advice, but right now the Inner Bloated Capitalist is content to imagine the face of the Inner Marxist on pistol range targets. I occasionally need to take the IM out for a spin to let some of my undergraduate students see what a self-indulgent homicidal manic looks like up close.

  4. Under no circumstances buy a suit from a traveling Hong Kong tailor. Unless you want your pants’ waist size to be your jacket’s chest size and vice versa.

    In 1982 while my wife and I were in Kitzbühel she spotted some ski pants in a shop window and went in to find her size. Turned out to be a ladies shop, no stock, custom made clothes only. Wife says “sorry, we’re flying away tomorrow”. Austrian gnome says “überhaupt kein Problem”.

    First fitting immediately, second that evening in our hotel room, third the next morning at 8 AM sharp, final changes done while we are served their excellent coffee and pastries, ski pants handed over to wife, I hand over $750.00. For a pair of pants. An this at a time when the exchange rate was excellent. I may have fuzzled up a zero translating schillings to dollars.

    She still wears them, has worn them a lot, we ski a lot, they still look new.

    1. Inexpensive Asian suits are not bespoke, they are made to measure, and there is a difference..

      A bespoke suit is like inletting a stock to an action: It fits your body as precisely as possible. A made to measure is like putting a Hogue stock on your M98 Mauser action: It will fit better than the stock wood, but not be perfect.

  5. I’ve no idea if Mohan’s of Hong Kong is still in business, but I was highly impressed with both the quality and rapidity, back in 1954. 🙂

    Tempus fidgets…

  6. How about an article on the opposite? Someone who might want to wear a suit regularly, but is on a budget?

    1. If you find yourself in Los Angeles, go to 729 Los Angeles St in downtown LA and buy suits from Roger Stewart. A large assortment of classically styled suits (other stores on the block have different styles) and prices run from $200 to $1000 or so….Tailoring is around the corner at Richards Tailoring and they can do it in an hour, or if you have time get a couple of fittings..

  7. Eventually, I’m going to need to spring for a good suit…or two. Being a Gentleman of Substance, and living in the East Armpit of America, this won’t be easy.

  8. Kim, you’ve met older son. Svelte he never was and never will be. I mean, his brother is occasionally svelte, but older son never.
    HOWEVER off the rack pants from Portugal, imported from Italy (I’ve tried to find them here, I can’t, so mom has to mail them usually as Christmas gifts) fit him like they were tailored for him, and make him look slimmer and rather elegant. Of course, he refuses to wear them ALL the time, because you know, he doesn’t want to damage them. So there’s that.

  9. “Milan, if you have the figure to wear Italian designs …”

    Many years ago, a couple I knew were relocating from the US to Milan. The husband was going to stop in Hamburg, visit his parents, and buy clothes. I immediately asked why, if he was going to Milan, he would buy clothes in Hamburg. He answered that he could get clothes off the rack which fit him in Hamburg, but not in Milan.

    Which made sense: his family roots were in Hamburg, and he had a classic barrel-chested north European body type.

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