Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: PointClickTailor (Charleston Navy Sharkskin Three-Piece Suit)

PointClickTailor is a relatively new contender in the world of online made-to-measure (or MTM for short). As some of you may know, online MTM can be rather hit or miss. It depends greatly on the skill of the tailors and the quality of the measurements. In particular, consistency between measurements and the final product can often be off, sometimes greatly so. Also, when you pay less you generally sacrifice some bits of quality to get there.

However, PCT seems to get it just right. The fit is good (though I should have rechecked one measurement, more on that later), the quality is there, and the attention to detail is wonderful. You will pay a bit more but it is well worth it and the options are extensive at the moment, beyond what you see on the website in fact. Frank De Jackmo first started Greywell a few years back, then branched out into the world of online tailoring earlier this year. Because of that, he's had a few years to understand the business and really knows what he's talking about. All the suits and shirts are made in Northern China. Like the industry standard, the shipping is free and they offer up to $75 in alteration credit or a remake if your suit doesn't fit just right.

The website is relatively straightforward, nothing terribly fancy in its layout. No extravagant photo shoots of guys on top of skyscrapers, fully decked out in a three piece suit while their female companion is wearing next to nothing. (Won't name anyone, but that is one of the more ridiculous images I've seen on a certain custom clothing website.) This simple approach is good and doesn't overwhelm the senses, but I can see why some might dislike it. It would help for the website to say more about the quality features their garments have and elaborate about where they are produced. The fabric weights and super numbers are all listed, though conversion from grams per meter to ounces per yard would be good for those of us in the western world. The colours and textures of the fabrics are well represented in the pictures, though I think the fit on the models could be better. I encountered a problem trying to save my measurements where it would give an error message and log me out. It seems this was an issue exclusive to Google Chrome, as Firefox and Internet Explorer were without problems. It appears to be fixed now, so that speaks to Frank listening to his customers.

I'll admit, the fit of the suits on the models put me off at first. This is one area that could definitely improve.

The measuring instructions are all detailed and seem to produce a pretty good end result. I especially appreciated how it said to measure your sleeve length from the half inch mark, which accounts for shoulder padding. Too often, that measurement will come without stipulations and give a result that's too short if you're trying to show a bit of shirt cuff. Which you should, naturally. I strongly suggest getting someone else to measure you if possible even if you think you know your measurements. Someone who knows menswear inside and out, such as the experienced salesperson at a local haberdashery, is even better. Not only will this help in being unbiased, it will give a second opinion on what peculiarities your body has so that they may be indicated in the Body Posture options. The reason I say this now is that my shoulder measurement was slightly smaller than it should have been and the sleeveheads ended up a bit dimpled as a result. My alterations tailor confirmed this when I asked him to humour me and measure my back shoulder (which is 19" rather than 18"). From now on, I will have him measure me before ordering from any online tailors. I recall that shoulders being too narrow can account for those dimples, so lesson learned and a big revelation of why my jacket shoulders have had hit or miss fit over the years.

Step-by-step scrolling pages, measurement videos, all standard things now but well executed nonetheless.

The only area in Body Posture I wish they had an option was a lower shoulder on the right or left. I have a lower right shoulder myself. I also believe more online MTM companies should adopt Proper Cloth's simple pictorial approach so you can determine yourself if you have sloped shoulders, forward or back posture, etc. On their website, it shows how regular ready to wear shirts may look if you have certain body features. Similarly, PCT or others could show how these things would look wearing a ready to wear suit jacket. Like any other MTM operation online, I recommend sending in pictures of yourself from the front, sides, and back in close fitting clothing so they can get a good idea of your body type. Justin Jeffers of Fine Young Gentleman may send pictures of himself in his underwear to online tailors, but it's not entirely necessary if you're modest. A fitted t-shirt and jeans should be good enough. Black Lapel now has body pictures as an optional part of the measurements profile and I think something similar to this would aid in getting a good fit for the more average, less clothing savvy customer.

Body Posture options, all set to "regular" here for the sake of illustrating the defaults.

The choices on the website are already more extensive than many, but a quick discussion with Frank De Jackmo confirmed that there are many other style options, fit levels, and fabrics available from the factory. About 300 fabrics to be precise and nine fit levels. Whoa. He later sent me PDFs of the swatchbooks for suitings, linings (all rayon), and shirtings. The options book for vests alone is 33 pages, with the jacket one 111 pages. I'll have a tough time deciding what to order next. The key thing to remember here is that, like Proper Suit, it is based on a factory system. You can't just send them a picture of a lapel and ask them to copy it exactly, but there are probably lapel options to suit your tastes. Simply email for any requests you have.

Some collar/lapel options for waistcoats. I'd recommend going without a back collar since it adds unnecessary bulk when wearing a jacket.

I decided to get a five button vest (since the six button is a bit high fastening for my taste) with notch lapels and four pockets. A three button jacket with the lapels rolled to the middle is an option I wasn't sure they'd have but did to my delight. This is commonly known as "three-roll-two". Not everyone likes or understands it, but I've grown fond of it. Noteworthy are the options for a fully-lined, 1/2 lined, and 1/3 lined jacket without a price difference. Of course, you can also choose your lining, but as mentioned earlier there are many more than the ones listed online.

Nice looking, though the points could be shorter.
Well executed 1/3 lining.

I chose side tabs rather than belt loop trousers since a three piece suit should have an unbroken look and wearing a belt interrupts it. It can look untidy by bulging out the bottom of the waistcoat and showing a buckle between the points. Naturally, I also got brace buttons so there would be another trouser suspension option. Sometimes you want to feel like James Bond, other times like Gordon Gekko. They offer a good number of closure styles by default, but I've come to prefer an extended slide tab on suit trousers and asked for that instead. The standard cuffs are 1.5" but can also be specially requested as 1.75", which I chose, and 2".

Out of the box.

Another style detail unlisted at current time is the boutonnière milanaise or Milanese lapel hole. It is $20 extra, but well worth it if you appreciate finer sartorial details and should be mandatory on tuxedos in my opinion. (PCT will make them but they aren't shown on the website yet, here is an example of a customer who requested a wide shawl collar.) One of the more well-known brands to employ it is Tom Ford. Here are some details about how it is made for those interested. I've said before that straight buttonholes are the most desirable for lapels, but this is more of a long teardrop shape due to its handmade nature. In combination with the glossy thread, it looked elegant enough to convert me. No word on if they plan to offer it in a straight shape yet, which is another variation on the Milanese lapel hole. The default machine made one is straight, so no complaints there either.

Simply beautiful.

Besides all that and your usual style options for buttoning and vents and so forth, you have the standard extras many other custom clothing websites do. Full canvassed construction which adds $125 to the total, choice of contrasting thread colour to lapel holes or last sleeve buttonholes (I would advise against it, this article sums up my feelings perfectly), working sleeve buttons, and of course the fit preference. Slim, Tailored, and Loose are the default options, though as stated earlier there are actually six other fits the factory can make. Seeing how good Justin looked in his suit, I was surprised to find that it was actually the Slim Fit. They don't overdo it. The pick stitching is a curious case, as it is included on the sleeve opening. I've never seen anyone else do that. Thankfully they don't put it on the trousers as some Asian tailors like to do now. Not sure where that trend started but it seems unnecessary and a little too vain. I like that there are actually options for the number and position of sleeve buttons. So many others just skip over this detail entirely. I do not personally prefer overlapping a.k.a. waterfall sleeve buttons, though one of my sport coats has them.

So, how were the actual suit construction and details? Impressive. Most impressive.

Among the other little details that they get right are the buttons which coordinate with the fabric. I swear no other online MTM does this, they usually only have black and maybe brown for sport coats or casual suits. World class bespoke tailors will actually dye their horn buttons to match the fabric of a suit. This isn't quite the case here, as Frank says there are many different colours and they pick the closest one to the fabric. I'm not complaining though. It looks great. The buttonholes are all tight and feel really solid, like they'll never fray.

Note the colour-coordinated buttons.

The fit is a bit slimmer than I am used to, though again it would look better had my shoulder measurement been more spot on. This is probably one of the better designed "slim" fits I've worn, though the waist could be let out a bit. It does not feel tight, but a slight "X" effect is seen in some photos. What's noteworthy is that, THANK GOD, I can wear French cuffs with this. "What the hell is Jovan going on about?" Well, I'll tell you good sir/madam, the last few "slim fit" jackets I tried on had the sleeve openings way too narrow for me to wear any French cuffs with. This is a troubling trend I've noticed recently, so kudos to them for getting this right. Your sleeve openings shouldn't look like a wizard's robe, of course, but they shouldn't be anemic. The trousers follow the line of the leg, but do not feel tight or constricting at all. Not sure what sorcery is going on here, but it's good. Part of that is that is probably the fact that I wear my trousers at the natural waist. This was no exception. Some people think it's dorky. I think it looks good and is comfortable. It also eliminates the dreaded triangle of shirt showing beneath the jacket closure. Let's not forget that men wore trim fitting suits with the trousers at their actual waist half a century ago, lest anyone reading think it doesn't make sense. My sleeve pitch is slightly off and something needs to be done about the bunching of fabric near my shoulder blades in back, both problems I've had since as long as I recall on RTW jackets. It may be a simple matter of ticking the right Body Posture options though. I'll see what my alterations tailor makes of it. The waistcoat could have been an inch shorter. Frank assured me that their method of calculating the length got it spot on most of the time, though I think waistcoat back length needs to be a standard measurement in the form.

Note the shoulder divot and slight pulling at the waist. My right sleeve looks a bit longer here for some reason.

All the details came out great. The working sleeve buttons are never loose when closed, a common problem I've noticed. The pick stitching (done with machine) isn't too noticeable, though there's really no need for it on the sleeve opening. The three-roll-two fastening is just at the right position, not too high or low. I prefer the buckle side tabs to the button type so far. They just seem more secure overall and offer adjustment beyond one or two inches at a time. These particular ones come with loops to secure the fabric tabs, though I think this feature would be more useful if they were farther away from the buckle. To my delight, the brace buttons are sewn on quite securely, like every other button, and spaced out correctly. The spacing is something many others in the online MTM game seem to get wrong. I chose 1/3 lining without knowing that it had shoulder and sleeve lining but none in front. Only 1/2 lining has it in the front. I should have researched my terminology a bit more thoroughly. D'oh. This isn't a big deal though, as living in the southwest United States I try to find ways to look good yet beat the heat doing so. An option that should be standard yet isn't is whether or not the trousers are lined to the knee, which I forgot to ask about. I think it can feel a bit clammy in summer and cold in the winter. Because of the rayon lining it wasn't as bad as I feared in the currently hot climate. In any case, Frank told me that unlined trousers can be requested. The lapel gorge is higher in tune with current fashion by default, but can be lowered a bit by request. It doesn't bother me that much, but may others. I do wish the lapel hole were accompanied by a stem loop however.

The standard construction is half canvas, as it is with most MTM. I haven't noticed anything untoward happening with the lower half of my jacket so far and it all drapes pretty nicely in spite of the unlined front. The shoulders are lightly padded and have a modestly roped sleevehead. This is a pretty good middle of the road look which will suit most body types. I'm curious to know if the factory produces any other type of shoulder. The fabric is very nice. Wool sharkskin naturally resists wrinkling, so it wears pretty nicely throughout the day. You're still going to get some wrinkles on the trouser crotch and back of jacket from sitting down, there is no avoiding that with just about any wool suiting, but it is not as bad as on other lightweight fabrics I've worn. This suiting is 295 g/m or approximately 9 oz/yd and Super 120s. The trousers include Snugtex in the waistband which helps keep them up as well as your shirt tucked in. It is all the way around the waistband in this case; my issue with Black Lapel's was that it was only in two places near the front, which isn't very functional. The waistcoat lapels were a tad wider than I expected, but not out of proportion. The points are also a bit long and could stand to be shortened an inch.

Despite the problems, I think this is a good suit. It would be even better if I got the shoulder measurement right. Given their attention to detail and quality, I don't think you can do better in this price range online.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received material compensation for the purpose of reviewing. However, every effort has been made to remain objective.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

$50 off your first purchase at Ledbury

For those who still haven't tried Ledbury, this link will get you $50 off your first purchase. Since their shirts start at $115, that's basically $65 (the price of many lower quality department store shirts) for a high quality garment. To review, they've innovated by fusing the collar bands from the outside in for comfort and better stability as well as lowering the second button so they look nicer worn with the collar open. They also use two ply fabrics and mother of pearl buttons for almost every shirt. By far they make the best off the rack slim fit I've tried but the classic fit has been said to be quite well balanced too. On top of that, the fabrics are comfortable, have tasteful patterns, and the collars and cuffs are well made.

Do give them a try. With free shipping and returns, you have nothing to lose if you're not satisfied.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sock Garters

I just recently picked up a pair and so far they have been a godsend for all my mid-calf socks. It's easy to see why they aren't that popular anymore. They're often thought of as mere comedy props, look dorky, will not help you get laid, etc. To those accusations I say that the sock garter reveal in Hot Fuzz was indeed humorous, while "dorky" they serve a useful purpose, and if someone is really that shallow then they aren't worth it. Besides, they might find them an interesting conversation piece!

As with braces/suspenders on trousers there's really no need to be afraid of sock garters. They will never be seen in public, which is even less exposure than braces may get. If they are adjusted to be snug yet not binding and are worn properly -- with the buckle and clip facing outside your shin -- you'll forget you're even wearing them. Your legs won't. There will definitely be marks around your calves once removed but, to be fair, underwear does that as well.

Please pardon my pasty, hairy shins for a moment. I swear I'm not trying to be burlesque here.

Some people believe that sock garters are obsolete now. I wish that were true. But, despite the invention of elastic tops, thin dress socks are still prone to sliding down. Add to that, mid-calf styles outnumber over-the-calf tremendously on store shelves. Those great patterns and designs are far less likely to come in a self supporting version. That said, either solution for eliminating sock slippage should be considered in a well dressed man's wardrobe. Let's face it, stopping to pull up your hose every half hour is annoying and embarrassing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuxedos: Bow tie or necktie?

People act surprised and ask why when I tell them they shouldn't wear neckties with tuxedos. Well, it's quite simple -- who would you rather look like? James Bond or that one guy wearing a Reservoir Dogs cosplay?

Two shawl collar tuxedos, one with a bow tie, one with a necktie. I think the winner here is clear.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

50% off pocket squares at Salt + Dapper

A while back I reviewed a few items from Salt + Dapper. Right now you have the chance to check them out for yourself for a pretty good price. All pocket squares are now 50% off using code "PS50OFF" at checkout. Considering they start at $15 normally, you're getting a fantastic deal with the coupon code.

Act fast, though. The coupon is only valid for 11 more days -- August 18.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hands in pockets...

Why has every single menswear aficionado on the internet suddenly gotten up in arms about casually putting a hand in a trouser pocket? I don't understand this. One even described it as a "sick habit" in response to the below image.

Funny, as the first thing I noticed was the white satin bow tie and fashionable stubble. Both are more unbecoming to a dinner suit than one hand in the pocket.

Now, maybe I'm just a twenty-something who doesn't know the first thing about life, but I fail to see how it is all that offensive. Clothes are ultimately still meant to be worn, not treated like pieces of valuable art. Doesn't matter if it's $300 Jos. A. Bank or $3000 Savile Row bespoke suit. We move in them. We talk in them. We keep our wallet, keys, and phone in them. Last I checked, no one stands in them like mannequins all day so people can appreciate that perfect quarter inch of shirt cuff showing. If they do, they have worse problems than behaving casually!

Don't get me wrong. To be sure, it's not a good habit to do all the time let alone with both hands firmly in there. But ultimately we live in our clothes. Surely we can forgive the sin of occasionally putting a hand or two in our trouser pockets. Part of the beauty of tailored clothing is how it still looks nice even when we aren't taking fit pics for the "What Are You Wearing" threads on menswear forums.

What are your opinions on this?

Pierce Brosnan has at times been criticized for this habit. At least with double vents the fabric bunching is limited to the sides instead of raising up the back as well.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: Chipp Neckwear

Chipp Neckwear, previously known as Chipp 2, is named after an iconic American menswear institution. Chipp as it was known was actually a fashion leader at one point, helping weave patch madras and patch tweed into the Ivy League clothing canon. Besides their ready to wear clothing, they were also well known for tailoring some of late President John F. Kennedy's suits in house.

Today, Paul Winston continues the tradition with Winston Tailors and Chipp Neckwear. The only ready to wear items he sells now are ties, braces, and other menswear accessories, but the spirit is certainly the same. Chipp 2 originally sold just dog breed ties and small accessories, eventually moving into grenadines and other ties when it became Chipp Neckwear.

One thing Chipp has always been known for is its humourous -- some would say childish -- tie designs, most of which you need to look closely to see the joke. While they're not everyone's cup of tea, there's certainly been a market for them for decades now. Paul has no reason to discontinue them at this point.

But the more serious tie collector will still find a few goodies to satisfy them.

I was given three ties to review, a lilac grenadine, red ancient madder paisley print, and silk shantung stripe. All of them are the reasonable width and length of 3 1/4" x 57". This is in keeping with the times without looking trendy. I believe their ties were previously 3 1/2" wide. Brooks Brothers ties are currently the same dimensions as Chipp Neckwear, but the narrowing of a quarter inch was a source of some controversy when it happened. Nonetheless, I think these dimensions will look good on most everyone, especially considering they have a firm interlining that makes nicely sized knots.

Grenadine is probably what Chipp Neckwear is best known for on menswear forums besides the dog breed ties. In spite of the allusion to a fictional superspy, these are garza fina, a finer weave of grenadine that is less prone to snagging. Bond more often than not wore garza grossa in films, something The Knottery makes. In spite of what I said in the above paragraph, I think the use of the same interlining as other ties in this one is a bit of a mistake. There's no way around it, the knot is huge. Like, sportscaster Windsor knot huge. My rule of thumb is that if it looks unbalanced as a four in hand knot with a button down collar, it will look too big with any other collar. Consequently, due to the thick interlinining and grenadine's own fickle nature, it is resistant to dimpling nicely though perhaps some wear would break it in. This was my only disappointment. The quality of the grenadine is wonderful, however.

Curiously, despite the change of name, the bartacked label still reads "Chipp 2" on recent products.

Looks a little '70s big. Not my personal taste.

I was pleasantly surprised with the ancient madder tie I received, though. I don't normally like paisley patterns on ties, but this one is pretty tasteful compared to many I've seen. Would I wear it? Probably not. But I imagine those with bolder tastes would be into it. The tie knot is more reasonable in size than the grenadine's, most likely due to the difference in thickness of the fabrics. The fabric feels great, nice and soft. I would love to have one in a simple Macclesfield pattern.

The great depth of colour can be appreciated up close.

Knots quite nicely.

The last one I looked at is quite a doozy and not for the faint of heart. Silk shantung striped in many colours. Wow. Though not something I'd wear, it's certainly in the "GTH" (go to hell) tradition of Chipp. The colour and texture are definitely beautiful on their own. I'd probably wear the checked version over this. I'm not certain why, but for some reason it seems a bit more sober and reminds me of madras plaid. They are both being sold as summer ties, which is appropriate.

Wonderful texture and sheen.

Not my cup of tea, but many could pull it off with the right colour coordination and attitude.

Chipp Neckwear offers some great quality products at the bargain price of $49.50 per tie. I believe the grenadines need a bit of work to knot more nicely, but that's about it. I hope Paul Winston's online business flourishes and I look forward to seeing how the other accessories do.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received the items for this review on temporary loan to evaluate their quality. Every effort has been made to remain objective.