I raise this question as someone who has purchased second-hand men’s suits, sportcoats, and slacks for over thirty years. My entire tailored wardrobe is comprised of used garments purchased at local thrift shops or online. Generally, the suits I purchase can, in some cases, be ten years old or more. I may wear them over a period of five years or more without any evidence of wear or tear marring their appearance.
Most of the suits and sportcoats I purchase come from well-respected brands such as Hickey Freeman, Brooks Brothers, and others that are favored by businessmen. Generally, I rarely wear out a suit. It is far more likely that I become bored with it or it no longer fits. I recently retired a blue blazer that was worn repeatedly over a period of twenty-five years. It had not worn out. It no longer fit and started to look a bit dated.
That led me to ask if the longevity of a suit as a measure of quality is nearly as important as some would claim. My experience is that we become bored with our clothing long before it wears out.
Most likely, you will become bored with a suit long before it wears out…
How Long Should A Suit Last?
The veteran men’s wear designer, Alan Flusser, stated in his book Style & The Man that “most suits are constructed to provide at least several years of wear.” That’s true whether the suit costs $500.00 or $2000.00. In fact, he considers the fashion longevity of a suit more relevant to its lifespan than its construction. In essence, our taste in clothing will change before our suits wear out.
Spending more does not mean your suit will last longer. In fact, the details that often define high-priced luxury suits, such as surgeon cuffs, hand-sewn pick stitching, and exotic fabrics add nothing to a suits longevity. You can find well-made, durable suits by careful shopping without paying for luxury brands.
How to Make Your Suit Last For Years
There are two factors that will impact the longevity of all suits and sportscoats; how often they are worn and how well they are cared for. The more suits you own (and wear in rotation) the longer they will last. If you care well for them (i.e. brushing after each wearing, dry cleaning only when needed, using proper hangers, etc.) you can greatly extend the life of all suits, sportcoats, and other tailored clothing. All suits, no matter the initial cost, will last longer this way.
How I Care For My Suits
The suit shown above is a good example. This is a wool Jos. A. Bank suit that typically can be purchased new for under $200 if you catch it on sale. It is about six years old. This suit is rarely sent to a dry cleaner (only if it is soiled). Rather, I periodically use a handheld clothes steamer to refresh the fabric and remove any odors caused by perspiration (clothes steamers kill all odor-causing bacteria). I will follow a thorough steaming with a proper at-home steam iron pressing that makes the suit look as good as new. I brush the suit after every wear with a soft-bristled clothes brush and hang it promptly on a proper suit hanger. The suit is worn in rotation with my other suits and is rarely worn more than four times a month. Although this is an inexpensive suit, it looks as good as it did when first purchased because of my consistent care regimen.
All suits can provide years of good-looking service when cared for this way. In fact, this is the regimen recommended by bespoke tailors for their high-priced suits. It allows their customers to enjoy high-priced suits for a decade or more of service. The same regimen is just as beneficial for the more common ‘off-the-rack’ suits.
Need More Suits?
Wearing the same suit constantly wears it out prematurely. Want a smart way to afford more suits? Thrift shop! By means of thrift shopping, I have acquired a collection of gently used quality suits and sportcoats at low cost that will give me years of good service. I wear them in rotation to minimize wear on any one suit and take care of them. As long as the suit meets a reasonable standard of quality it serves my needs beautifully for as long as I require. Online vendors such as eBay and Poshmark.com are great sources for low-cost, gently used second-hand suits.
I hope you find these tips helpful. They can help you to have a wardrobe of suits that will provide years of good service -SplurgeFrugal!