There's an ancient proverb—perhaps first spoken somewhere between 1963 and 1985—that states, "A suit is only as good as the habits of the person to whom it belongs." Although the origins of the saying are unclear—or quite possibly we made it up ourselves—there is a lot of truth to those words. Purchasing a custom suit is only the first step in building and maintaining a professional wardrobe. The cumulative small things that a person does after a purchase are what really determine the longevity of a particular piece of clothing. Unlike everyday outfits, socks, undergarments, and even dress shirts, custom suits and tuxedos usually require an extra amount of care and attention, and while this is not normally a difficult task, you need to be extra careful about not lazily throwing your suit onto a chair after a hard day's work or crumpling your tuxedo onto the floor after an exhausting black-tie dinner. Just as we went over the dos and don'ts of proper dress shirt maintenance in one of our previous articles, in this piece we aim to ensure that your suits and tuxedos will last as long as possible with minimal effort; a little tends to go a long way, after all.
Dry cleaning, of course, is one of the most universally accepted ways to keep your suits looking sharp and proper, and if you haven't found a reputable dry cleaner we would recommend that you do so. It is rare to run into professionals in the wild who don't use a dry cleaning service, and thankfully most cleaners are affordable and very quick with their turnaround. Steam ironing and steam cleaning your suits are other viable yet more time-consuming options for wardrobe maintenance, and this is a good choice for people who might be wary of any chemicals used on your clothes. But perhaps the most important thing to do is getting into the habit of hanging up your suits after you're no longer wearing them, as this will prevent excessive wrinkles and micro-abrasions in the suit fibers over time. In this article we'll go over all the good habits you'll need—and the bad habits you won't—to keep your suits lasting as long as they should, and then some.
Suits By The Numbers
We touched on the idea of keeping different suits on rotation in one of our previous articles. While this obviously will give you more style options, the other added benefit is that your suits will go through less normal wear and tear if you're not wearing the same one every day of the week. The standard for most professionals is to have three or four custom suits in their wardrobes, but you may need or want more, depending on the line of work you're in. For example, the legal profession might require you to have five or six suits, whereas any job that is more relaxed with office dress codes might only mandate two or three suits from you. It all depends on personal style preferences and professional requirements, but having three or four custom suits is by far the gold standard.
You should also ensure that your suits are custom-tailored to your body's specifications, as they tend to be made from better materials than off-the-rack options that may not be up to industry standards in all cases. A custom tailor just makes things so much easier in the long run. Any alterations you may have to do to your suit will be done more quickly, more thoroughly, and more professionally than a big-box suit retailer.
Logic would dictate that the more suits you have on rotation, the less wear you will put on each individual article of clothing. If longevity is a major concern for you when it comes to your custom suits, consider having one on rotation for each day of the week. While your dry cleaning trips might be more frequent, your suits will outlast those of your colleagues without question.
Hang Them Up. Please.
You might be familiar with the iconic scene in the film Mommie Dearest, where Faye Dunaway plays a psychotic Joan Crawford, screaming at her children about never using wire hangers. While this piece isn't meant to be a commentary on Crawford's questionable parenting style portrayed in the movie, the mantra that wire hangers should never be used for more expensive garments such as suits, dresses, and tuxedos still holds true. In order to minimize excessive wear, your suits should always be hung up on hangers made from wood or durable plastic whenever you're not wearing them. Unless your suits are about to go to the dry cleaners in a day or two, they should never be in a crumpled pile on the floor or even strewn over your living room furnishings. These pointers might seem like common sense, but all of us occasionally get lazy. But getting into the habit of hanging your suits up after each use will go a long way in extending your wardrobe's durability and longevity.
After picking up a fresh batch of suits from the dry cleaners, we're all too familiar with those seemingly cumbersome and annoying plastic garment covers that usually end up in the trash or accumulating at the bottom corner of your bedroom closet. But saving these, or at least getting a dozen uses out of them, can further protect your suits from the elements such as dust, debris, and other indoor air pollutants. These plastic coverings especially come in handy if your suits never came with an original sleeve that can be zipped up; but if they did come equipped with one, it's best to use the latter as it offers more protection than the thin plastic coverings from the dry cleaners. Protecting your suits while they're hanging in your closet will always increase their longevity, as inconsequential as it may seem. Another good tip to follow is that when you hang up your suits, make sure there is enough space between each one. If they are directly in contact with each other in your closet, over time this can cause wrinkles to form more easily.
Also, if you're traveling, we would recommend that you pack your suits in specially designed garment bags. If you don't have these, then there are certain ways you can fold them in your suitcase or duffel bag to minimize any creasing in the fabric. One of our previous articles goes over this in a quick guide, and it's definitely worth checking out if your professional life requires frequent travel.
Dry cleaning is by far the most popular method to keep your suits looking sharp and pristine throughout your garments' lifetimes. It is also the easiest, as it requires no extra work other than dropping them off and picking them up. The dry cleaning process itself uses a chemical—normally perchloroethylene—to remove any undesirable particles from your suits as opposed to water. While some dress shirts can be washed in a machine, this would be ill-advised for suits, tuxedos, and jackets, as a washing machine has the potential to ruin garments made from finer fabrics. A washing machine with a central agitator can especially damage suits, and we would recommend against doing this even as a last-resort measure. Some do-it-yourself articles claim that you can wash suits in this way, but even those articles tell you that you need to exercise extreme caution when you do so.
Dry cleaning, of course, has many benefits that outweigh any other method of routine maintenance for your suits. A professional and reputable dry cleaner will ensure that your clothing maintains structural integrity, especially if the cleaning is done in-house rather than outsourced to another plant where they dry clean en masse. Nothing else matches the convenience of dry cleaning, either. But you want to be careful not to choose the first dry cleaner that pops up in a search list. It's always good to do your homework first. Just as you wouldn't pick a custom tailor without doing some preliminary research, it's equally important not to jump into things when you're looking for a dry cleaner.
Ironing and Steaming
If for whatever reason you decide to forego the dry cleaning route, you can always iron your suits at home, preferably with a steam iron. But that only really gets the wrinkles out. So how can you clean a suit without making multiple trips a month down the street to the cleaners to do it for you? Well, purchasing a steamer is one way to accomplish this. A steamer will not only rid your jackets and suits of wrinkles but also get any dirt, grime, or odors out, sometimes more effectively and more delicately than a trip to the dry cleaners. The initial cost of purchasing a steamer, however, can be expensive, but in the long run, it may save you lots of money if you have to wear your suits frequently for business or otherwise.
Some people swear by using a dry iron on their clothes, but we would tell you not to throw caution to the wind with this method. Dry irons have the potential to ruin your clothes if you are not keeping a close eye on what you are doing, and we've all seen what can happen when a dry iron is left unattended on top of a white dress shirt for even two seconds too long. Steam irons completely eliminate the risk of unsightly burn marks, and they'll be easier on the suit fabric as well.
Here at Enzo Custom, we want to ensure that all of our customers get the best advice when it comes to shopping around for suits. Selecting a custom suit from us is only the first step in securing the longevity of your wardrobe. Small things practiced over time will allow your suits and tuxedos to last decades, as they are, after all, some of the most important investments you will make over the length of your professional career. Book your private appointment with us and stop into one of our physical showrooms today; our expert clothiers will get you fitted into something that you'll be proud to display in your wardrobe for a lifetime.