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Where to Buy a Suit: Department Store vs. Men's Warehouse

Updated on July 24, 2013

A Suit Makes the Man, But Where Should He Buy It?

If you are in the market for a new suit or suit coat, there are many choices of retailers. Traditionally, a man would go to a tailor and have a suit custom-made. While this is still an option the cost savings and convenience of pre-made suit have made custom suits a luxury item few buy. Many stores have sales that make a high quality suit within reach of average cutomers. So where should one buy a suit these days? Should shop around or just buy a suit on Amazon. Among the chain retailers available, one stands out as a compromise between the mass produced and the custom made.

It used to be that department stores were fine retailers of fine men's clothing, but in the race to the bottom of the price points, many department stores have left quality behind. It makes sense that a retailer like Macy's would want to provide ever lower prices during a recession, but the quality of all of their clothes has suffered. In no department is this more true than in their suits and suit coats. Their suits are mass manufactured, low-thread-count products mostly suited for people who need a suit that fits the current fashion without spending a lot of money. While this has its advantages, the suit you buy there may not hold up to daily wear, and some of the fashions of today might not be in tomorrow.

Beyond the quality issues of buying at a department store, department stores often do not have knowledgeable or helpful staff. The Macy's I go to is a bit like a ghost town when you need help and once you find a sales person, you might wish you hadn't. I would not trust them to make proper recommendations about suits, styles, or fit, and I certainly would not trust them to mark a suit for alterations.

At Men's Warehouse, one will find a larger selection–it is a warehouse, after all–but the quality still trends towards suits that look good from afar. Many suits can be made to look good from a distance, and again, if you are on a budget, this may be exactly what you are looking for. Their suits can be on the flashy side. Sean John makes a nice suit, but is it the suit for your job interview. Their salespeople are knowledgeable and courteous.

Jos. A Bank, is not a custom tailor, but they are a nice compromise between a warehouse and custom suit shop. They do not have a large selection. Their suits are more conservative and classic in their styling, but if you can only afford one suit, it should be conservative and classic. They do have tailors on site to make alterations, and they often run sales. Sometimes, if a tailor is not on site, the salespeople will attempt to mark a suit for alterations themselves. It is probably worth waiting for the tailor. It might save you a trip back later. If you pay full price at Jos. A Bank, you are paying way too much. Keep an eye out for package promotions where you buy a suit and get another suit, shirt, and tie together. It can take some of the nickel and dime costs that come with building a wardrobe.


Buy a Suit Online?

Many retailers, such as J. Crew and Banana Republic sell suits online as well as in their stores. Can one buy a suit online? If you know your measurements and trust the fit of a particular retailer, go ahead. At worst you might have to take it to be altered on your own. As with all online shopping, what you see is not always what you get. Especially in suits, the difference in quality is something that is hard to see from far away but is unmistakable up close. That's because what separates a $300 suit from a  $1000 is the quality of the fabric. A fine suit will have a higher thread count, a more supple feel and subtle sheen to it, all undetectable in an online photo. So, if you trust the quality and know your size, an online suit sale might work for you, but if you do not know about either, go to a store and get advise from knowledgeable staff.

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