‘That’s a cheap suit!’ isn’t a compliment

June 22, 2010

suitMemo to the men of the United States of America, including myself: it pays to invest in a suit, and it pays even more to invest in a few. When I was growing up, my father and other older guys told me that if I spent more money on a small number of suits, they would last a long time.

Apparently much of the rest of America’s men have decided that durability and classic style count for less now that their wallets have gotten a little lighter in the past few years. Perry Ellis Chairman and CEO George Feldenkreis, speaking at the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit, said that men are wearing fewer suits these days. “Not only that,” he said. “Men are buying cheaper suits.”

Sales of suits that cost more than $300, and particularly ones that run more than $1,000 — often the price that can buy you a long-lasting, classic cut made from good material — are suffering, Feldenkreis said. Ones that run less than $300, and even less than $200, are growing, he said.

“You’re either a guy who wants a well-branded suit, or a practical guy who doesn’t care too much about the life of it,” he said. And as things look from here, the cheap suits are winning.

Perry Ellis does not make suits, we hasten to add, but Feldenkreis knows how to wear one. He showed up in a natty gray pinstriped number — complete with magenta tie, no less — for his summit appearance at our Times Square bureau.

Read Pam Perdue’s explanation (second one down) of what kinds of prices get you in terms of suits. And a disclaimer: I once owned a suit for which I paid $700. I don’t own a suit any longer. Being an editor, I don’t usually have to wear suits, and on top of that, the only ones I can afford now are cheap ones — and I’d rather wait and save for two or three good ones. I’m a cheapskate, but not for suits.

(Photo: Reuters)

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