Is a summer suit sale really a bargain at the end of the season?

Is a summer suit sale really a bargain at the end of the season?

Q. It seems that all the stores are having summer sales now. I find it hard to pass up a bargain. But I do have a question: If I buy, say, a summer suit now with only a month or so left for the season, is it really a bargain?

A. Yes, that is one of the great advantages that men’s clothes have over women’s. A garment that a women’s store puts on sale now may be something that is very “hot” this year, but that no one will want at all next year. Such a scenario is very hard to imagine happening in men’s clothes, and especially in men’s suits. 

            Men’s summer suits consist of light-weight wools (generally in blues and grays), cotton poplins, (usually in shades of khaki and olive), and cotton seersuckers (most often in light blue-and-white). None of these has any possibility of being out of style next year. Certainly, some suit design elements may change over the years; they include: lapel width, vents, double-breasteds, shoulders, boxy cut vs. form-fitting, etc. But even these changes are so slight that they won’t be noticeable in the next several years. 

            You are right that the seasonal span for summer suits is only a few months long. Seersucker suits have the shortest season; they are not usually worn before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, no matter how warm the weather. On the other hand, khaki-colored and olive suits have a longer season. Made of either cotton or lightweight wool, they are worn from early spring into early- or mid-fall, as long as the weather stays warm. Khaki suits in wool span have a somewhat longer season than the cottons.  

            Comfortable gray and blue suits made of, lightweight wool are versatile godsends for men on warm days and in warm offices. Suits in light gray and light blue are eye-catching and slightly casual, perfect for summer and warm-weather wear. You can wear a dark-colored suit whenever you wish. 

            As my regular readers know, I am very fond of suits in the khaki range of colors for several reasons. I like that they offer a change of pace from the overdose of more standard blues and grays that men wear all year long. I like that introducing a different color (a shade of brown) to a man’s wardrobe allows for wearing brown shoes and belts and a host of lighter and brighter colors for shirts and accessories. I also like that they flatter most men’s coloring. And that they’re almost always less expensive than darker suits – even when they are not on sale.

            My recommendation for a “summer suit” to buy now is a khaki in cotton poplin. Keep in mind that even though cotton suits are less expensive than wools, they are more difficult to tailor well. Before buying a cotton suit, make sure it is pretty close to a perfect fit (especially in the shoulders). If you already own a khaki suit, you might consider a traditional summer seersucker.            As for ideal add-ons to shop for, check out the “on sale” tables for a handsome brown belt, cognac-colored leather loafers, a good-looking blue shirt or two, a couple of colorful ties, and perhaps a small blue-and-brown silk pocket handkerchief. You will find that end-of-the-season clearance sales offer huge markdowns on such well-known brand names as Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Jos. A. Bank, Hickey Freeman, Joseph Abboud, and many more (with some as much as 80% off).                               

            Choose carefully, and you’ll look great . . . on a shoestring. 

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