How to Buy a Suit: What Men’s Mags Won’t Tell You

To read what the men’s magazines say about it, you’d think buying a suit is like purchasing a car, warranting copious research, multiple store visits, the accompaniment of an experienced friend. And it can be like that -- if you want to spend thousands of dollars and look like a GQ photo shoot. But for most guys, it’s a much simpler proposition.

That said, there are a few essential pieces of know-how every first-time suit-buyer should have. To break it down for us, we spoke to David Alperin, a Brooklyn-based designer and owner of specialty men’s retailer Goose Barnacle, winner of the Best Menswear Award in New York Magazine’s 2011 Best of New York issue.

1. Pick Your Price
“I tell young people not to go for the cheapest suit,” says Alperin. “It’s not going to last, and in the long run you’ll get more out of something a little higher quality.” Alperin advises shopping at Club Monaco, J. Crew or Banana Republic, where you can find decent off-the-rack suits for $300 to $400 that won’t require too much tailoring.

2. Pick Your Color
“Everyone’s first suit should be a solid navy blue.” And after navy, Alperin suggests, gray. And then navy pinstripe and then gray pinstripe … and then you can start to experiment. Why all the navy and gray? Because they go with everything. And why navy first? Because it’s perceived to be the most professional. We don’t know why -- some things just are.

3. Pick Your Style
If you’re young, says Alperin, no pleats. “Pleats were designed for a heavier-set person, and they make you look a little frumpy.” Flat-front pants give a slimmer, cleaner look -- and who doesn’t want that? Cuffs are a personal decision, he adds, but “the rule of thumb is: if no pleats, no cuffs.”

As for jackets, either two-button or three-button is fine, but Alperin suggests sticking with the two-button option for your first suit -- mainly because there are more of them out there. “In terms of finding suits at everyday stores that are mid- to good quality, usually it’s going to have two buttons.”

4. Pick Your Weight
As with color, until you have a closet full of suits and can pick and choose at your whim, you want something that’s going to be wearable in as many situations -- and seasons -- as possible. That, according to Alperin, would be a mid-weight 100-percent wool or wool blend.

5. Find Your Fit
“The shoulder and jacket length should be as close to perfect as possible,” says Alperin. “Anything else can be fixed.” The shoulders should end where your shoulders end; if they’re hanging off the end, even a smidge, put the suit back on the rack and find another.

Next, check the length. “You should be able to cup your hand underneath the bottom of the jacket.” If you brought dad along, and he’s telling you to go to the tips of your fingers, ignore him. That was the rule in his day; the new rule, according to Alperin, is a more modern look. “It makes everyone look taller if your jacket is a little shorter.”

Now you can start to relax, because the tailor will handle the rest. If your pants are flat front, make sure they fit in the waist (that’s your waist, not your hips) and they’ll have a nice straight fit down to the break on your shoe. Have the tailor hem your pants so they bend right as they hit the shoe and don’t bunch up. The sleeves should be tailored so that your shirt cuffs show a quarter of an inch. If you bought the right shoulders and jacket length, says Alperin, that’s all the tailoring you’ll need to do.

6. Complete the Outfit
“A mistake a lot of men make is purchasing a suit without the rest of the outfit,” says Alperin. “Without the tie, the socks, the shoes, it’s nothing.” You’ll need a minimum of two shirts: one white, one light blue. If you find a white shirt you like, Alperin suggests buying a few of them. “Your suit will outlive all of your shirts.”

There’s only one rule for socks: they must be darker than your suit. If your suit is a very dark navy, you can even wear black socks. Ties, of course, can run the gamut, but if you’re not ready to experiment, just go solid. “A solid burgundy tie, a dark green tie, navy, gray … they all look good with a navy suit on either a white or light blue shirt.”

Finally, says Alperin, invest in a good pair of black shoes -- a typical men’s dress shoe like a Cole Haan lace-up -- and a black belt to match. Most important of all: Keep your shoes polished. “It makes the whole outfit, which a lot of men don’t realize.”

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/theprint

How to Avoid Razor Bumps

If you ask 10 different people how to avoid razor bumps, you’ll probably get 10 different answers. And you know what? All 10 solutions may be effective -- for them -- but not for you! So how do we get a more consistent solution to what seems to be an everyday challenge for most men? We start before the shave.

That’s right. Long before you even pick up the razor, there are three basic points that must be understood:

1. How your beard grows (the angles)

2. What direction your beard grows in

3. How to control your beard growth in order to prevent ingrown hairs

No. 1: Understand how your beard grows.
The way your beard grows can determine where, how often and even how long a razor bump (otherwise known as an ingrown hair) will stay on your face.

Check out the above illustrations. Most men who suffer from ingrown hairs have curly or wavy beards that grow at angles very low to the skin (0 to 45 degrees). Why does that matter? Because these beard types have the tendency to curl into the skin instead of straight out of the follicle.

This valuable piece of information should help you to understand why it’s important to shave with the grain of the beard -- not against it -- and also why it’s important not to shave your beard too close to the skin. Let’s continue.

No. 2: Learn what direction your beard grows in.
The best way to know what direction is “with” or “against” the grain is to study your own beard’s growth pattern. Allow your beard to grow for three to five days so you can take note of what directions the hairs grow in. Once this is understood, make a mental note or, even better, draw an illustration of the directions on paper as a reference guide.

Armed with this knowledge, you can now reduce the frequency in which each hair is shaved against the grain. The less the beard is shaved against the grain and the more the beard is prepped for shaving, the better the face will look and feel.

No. 3: Control your beard.
African-American men who are susceptible to getting razor bumps should avoid shaving against the grain at all times. Shaving against the grain cuts the hairs so close that they fall below the skin line. And, as you can see from those illustrations, once your hairs fall below that line, they’re going to have a difficult time growing out of the skin.

So if you want to get a close shave and significantly reduce the possibility of razor bumps, keep your beard hair slightly above the skin line. And again, the most effective way to achieve this on a consistent basis is to shave with the grain. The only possible drawback to this method is an earlier 5 o’clock shadow. In my opinion, however, a shadow without razor bumps means a man with better-looking skin and greater confidence!

So there you have it. Three principles that will change the way you approach shaving, and, in the process, change the way you feel about yourself. And that, my friend, is priceless. Happy shaving!

Moins de coupe et plus de style

Les femmes ont l’habitude de changer de tête. Court, long, mi-long, avec ou sans frange, blond platine à la Marilyn Monroe… Alors que les mecs eux, ont généralement le même style de coupe depuis le collège ! Pourquoi changer un truc qui fonctionne, hein ? Ben si. « Il faut souvent essayer plusieurs looks pour trouver le bon, explique Ophélie Nguyen, rédactrice en chef du site Glam Media France et bloggeuse ( enmodebeaute.com ). Et puis les filles fuient les garçons qui ont une coupe ringarde… même s’ils sont mignons. Qui veut un copain qui n’a pas de style ? »

Et le fait que les hommes portent systématiquement les cheveux plus courts que leur copine n’est pas une excuse. Il y a plein d’options possibles (et quatre à o-bli-ga-toi-re-ment éviter d’après Ophélie Nguyen : les cheveux en brosse, l’Américaine « Mullet » - court dessus et long derrière - une horreur, la crête ou les raies sur le côté).

« J’ai pas mal d’amis qui se rasent la tête et qui arborent une barbe broussailleuse », dit Jessica Vidy, qui dirige la boutique MenCorner ( mencorner.com ) et a travaillé dans l’esthétique et la coiffure pendant plusieurs années. « C’est un style qui a le vent en poupe. »

Le caméléon de la coiffure - autrement dit David Beckham - a porté un temps ce look. Mais des looks plus classiques « à la George Clooney ou Ben Affleck » sont aussi de bonnes options d’après Jessica Vidy. Pour Ophélie Nguyen, le top en ce moment c’est « les cheveux en bataille, pas trop courts, négligé chic. S'ils bouclent un peu naturellement, c'est juste parfait ! »

Pour trois autres looks approuvés par la gente féminine – à se faire avec un seul produit et parfois même sans passage chez le coiffeur, prenez note.

1. « a cire pour les cheveux, indispensable pour les mecs, pour le fameux "coiffé / décoiffé", explique Ophélie Nguyen (Genre, coiffure au saut du lit). » Ces produits permettent de garder le cheveu souple, vous pouvez passer la main dans les cheveux sans problème. « Faites chauffer une noix de produit dans le creux de la main, recommande Jessica Vidy, puis appliquez sur cheveux secs. »

2. Si vous voulez quelque chose qui tient mais sans briller, optez pour un produit avec une finition mate. Vous pourrez travailler l’effet, fixer, et modeler votre coiffure que vous ayez envie de plaquer ou d’ébouriffer votre tignasse… laissez s’exprimer le Jacques Dessanges qui sommeille en vous. Avec ces produits, vous n’aurez en plus jamais les doigts gras.

3. Des longueurs structurées partout et des pointes effilées sur les côtés, c’est sans doute le look incontournable du moment. Utilisez un produit fixation forte (crème ou cire) pour obtenir suffisamment de volume qui ne bougera pas d’un centimètre. « Utilisez un sèche-cheveu après avoir mis le gel, pour finir le look, conclut Jessica Vidy. Rien ne bougera de la journée. »

Fashion 2011: What to Wear Now

It’s always fun to see what the designers will come up with one year to the next, but what does it mean for you? Certainly you’re not going to spend thousands of dollars replicating something that walked down a runway. We asked two of the most fashionable men in Germany to interpret this year’s trends for three different scenarios: business, business casual and casual/weekend. Staying in fashion has never been easier.

Business

“Style inspirations in 2011 are Wallstreet 2 and the Minister of Defence, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg -- especially for younger guys,” says Bernhard Roetzel, author of the definitive men’s fashion guidebook The Gentleman. In other words, the brown suits of last year are out, and classic blue suits are in. Klaus Stockhausen, fashion director at German GQ, concurs. “No question, blue is the colour of 2011. But medium tones, not the dark ones. Many designers showed the bright ‘Yves-Klein blue’ on catwalks.”

As for cut, the consensus is that young men should go for slim fits, narrow collars and tight trousers.

But this is key, no matter what current trends are: Don’t blow your budget on a suit. Instead, upgrade your outfit with a fine pair of shoes. “Hand-sewn shoes make the difference, and important managers recognize this difference,” says Roetzel. “You can wear them with a suit from H&M for 90 Euro or a P&C shirt for 19.90.” Roetzel maintains that nobody can really differentiate between basic and good middle-class suits and shirts. “Below the barrier of 1300 to 1500 Euro, all suits are more or less of the same quality”, he says. And the same goes for ties. You can find a good silk one (avoid polyester -- that actually does look cheap) for about 10 Euro at Anson’s or Karstadt.

Ideally, you’ll spend no more than 250 or 300 Euro on an outfit -- allowing you to spend at least that much again on shoes. Look for special offers in first-class shops like Berlin-based Budapester Schuhe or Munich’s Ed Meier. If you don’t find a deal, you’ll pay upwards of 380 Euro, but it’s worth it. Taken care of, a good pair of hand-sewn shoes will stay with you for life.

Business Casual
If you don’t work as a financial consultant but still need to look sophisticated, a solid option is a narrow blue blazer with jeans and a cardigan. “Two-thousand eleven is the year of traditional U.S. collegiate style”, Roetzel says. He recommends interpreting this style with a touch of irony. “Try combinations with extra narrow ties, coloured socks or nerd glasses. If you consciously look like a nerd, it shows an easy wink.”

Sometimes the trickiest part of business casual is finding that perfect balance between business and casual. In accordance with this season’s classic revival, says Roetzel, it’s best to err on the side of business. “Youngsters are wearing suits during leisure time, too,” he says. “And they don’t feel funny about it.” Erring on the side of casual, on the other hand, can be a real fashion faux pas. As Karl Lagerfeld said in a recent issue of Die Welt, “Everybody in the cities is wearing pink and grey-green anoraks. It looks like huge mountaineering associations on sight-seeing trips!”

Casual
Cargo pants and cardigans are in -- though not with diamond patterns. “This former trend has been pushed aside by horizontal stripes”, says Stockhausen. On your feet, you can wear loafers, white sneakers, or, for a more sophisticated look, boat shoes. Do not, whatever you do, pull out the flip flops when the weather turns warm; they are a definite no-no this season. “The new flip flops,” says Stockhausen, “are Espadrilles”. You can buy them at Prada or Gucci but since you’ll wear them out in one season, you’re better off grabbing a pair for five Euro at H&M.

Stop Shaping and Start Styling

When was the last time you browsed through old pictures of yourself? Or sat down and clicked through your old “tagged” images on Facebook? Notice anything? Yep, that’s right: You’ve been sporting the same haircut since before you could drive.

It’s understandable -- many African-American hairstyles stay current through the years, so it’s not like you’re out of style. But that’s no excuse for not changing things up every once in a while. Believe me; even the smallest adjustment can make a difference. And it can give you a new sense of confidence in an area in which you never even thought you were lacking.

So give one of these older-yet-new-again styles a try. Trust me, everyone will love your new look, and your barber will be thrilled to finally try something different on you!

The Hi-top Fade



Yep, the “hi-top fade” is back! Only now, it’s not as mainstream as it was in the late ’80s. And that’s a good thing, since it gives you the freedom to wear it any way you like: clean, textured, tall, short, etc. The best part is that, if you make it work with your overall presentation, you will be the center of attention -- in a good way.

Keep in mind, however, that a hi-top fade can lengthen and also square the face off. There are exceptions to the rule, but if your face shape is square or oblong/rectangular, you may want to avoid this style.


Afro




There are many names for this style: afro, low-fro, afro temp, etc. And depending on which city you’re in, there’s tremendous variety in how it’s worn too. These pictures show what’s most popular at the moment, but if you want to wear it fuller, go for it. The sky is truly the limit here.

Yet another name for this style is the “Neo-Soul” look, simply because -- while it can be worn neat or messy -- it always has an artistic, nonconformist flare. In other words, this style isn’t for everyone. But if your personality fits the bill, it’s a killer look.

The Caesar

The Caesar haircut typically comes in two shades: low/light and dark. Depending on where you live (and your hair type), you may also hear people referring to a third shade: medium.

One thing I like about this style is that the person wearing it can look totally different with each of the different lengths. The lighter the haircut, the more the attention is drawn to the eyes. The darker the cut, the more it creates a frame for the face, allowing facial hair to be prominent.

The Fade



Of course, this style has been around for ages, and for good reason. It fits every face shape and every hair type, and the variations are endless! However, I have noticed a trend toward a darker shade with more length on the top (think Blair Underwood and Maxwell). This new trend adds immediate sophistication to what is already a timeless look.

Dreadlocks



It takes a confident man to pull this hairstyle off -- not to mention a patient one. With the amount of time it will take to grow your hair to these lengths, you will definitely realize soon enough if it’s for you. But with patience comes great reward, as you can see from these images. Good look, right?

Now we’ve all seen different looks within the dreadlock style, but the most versatile and popular now is shoulder-length and neat. That’s because the style is slowly gaining acceptance in the corporate world. In addition to being office-ready, shoulder-length dreads have another benefit: They complement your overall appearance rather than dominating it.

Lenny Kravitz: Getty Images