Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Guy Is Incredible

I received an email over the weekend from an old friend of mine. We used to jam all the time in his parent's basement until we were nearly deaf. As far as I'm concerned, this old friend taught me more about syncopation, improvisation, groove, soul... essentially, he taught me more about music than any other person I know. And, he never charged me.

My old friend, is Lucas Haneman.

Visually impaired since birth, the life Lucas lives is very different from most people. He never brings attention to his visual impairment, and I know he probably doesn't want me posting this, but I am in constant awe of how he goes about his life. Anything he does, whether it be a simple riff on his Fender, to picking out what to wear, amazes me. Hell, he even operates an iPhone better than I can.

So, when he shot me an email asking whether I'd make some suits for his groomsmen, I was more than happy to oblige.

We met up over the weekend, reminiscing about all the fun we had as kids, and eventually went through fabrics and suit designs along with his fiancĂ©, Megan Laurence (another talented Ottawa musician). Suit design, by nature, is a very visual thing, so it was quite a different experience showing Lucas all the possibilities in designing a suit for him. Though he has some visibility, it is limited, and to this day I still don't quite know what he sees exactly.

That being said, there was no issue in designing something that suited Lucas. Instead of visually inspecting fabrics and patterns, he would run his fingers over them; occasionally, I would draw patterns on his forearm with my finger to give him an idea of how certain fabrics and patterns looked. When we could, Megan and I would shine a flashlight over certain swatches so he could get a better look. When all was said and done, Lucas and Megan picked out a charcoal suit swatch and a white-on-white-pinstripe shirt.

Lucas, feeling some swatches.

Aside from having great tastes in suits, Lucas is - obviously - a phenomenal guitar player. He performs regularly through various channels (including large festivals such as Bluesfest) and has a steady stream of students who line up at his door for lessons. I can't say I've met many individuals who can make a living with music, but Lucas has done quite well for himself (and I'm sure he's not even close to being done yet).

Congratulations on all your success (so far), Lucas. You are inspiring, and I mean that in the sincerest fashion. And, congratulations to you and your fiancé on the engagement. Now, let's get you suited up so you'll look ALMOST as good as the bride on the big day.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Off-The-Rack Options

Last week a client asked me if it was possible to 'fix-up' his off-the-rack suit so that it would look and feel like the custom tailored suit we made for him. While we could have made alterations, the results would have been average (at best) and the cost would have been significant. Unfortunately, the shoulders of his off-the-rack suit were too big for his frame. (Altering shoulders is very expensive and can be difficult to reconstruct if it needs to be drastically taken in or let out.) I learned, however, that he used to be larger man, which is why the shoulders were so big, so I guess it's not an entirely 'unfortunate' situation.

I do get asked about buying off-the-rack on occasion; some people scoff at buying off the rack, but there is no reason to do so. For some, a custom tailored suit may simply be too expensive so going off-the-rack is the best option available. Though I prefer going custom, there is definitely nothing wrong with wearing an off-the-rack suit, especially if it fits you (and your budget). So, here are some options and helpful tips when going off-the-rack:

First, focus on your shoulder and chest fit.

This goes not just for suits, but any item of clothing in general. Any fit relating to width (shoulders, chest, waist, seat, etc.) will be more expensive to alter, whereas any fit relating to length (sleeves, jacket, pants, etc.) tends to be cheaper (and easier) to alter. Therefore, if there's a good bargain or sale going on at your local department store, focus on suits that have the best shoulder and chest fit. If you can find one that fits well, you will save on the alteration costs associated with the shoulders and the chest.

Then, consider making length alterations.

Once you've found a suit with a decent shoulder and chest fit, look at the length and consider making the necessary alterations (if any). These minor adjustments, no matter how small, make a big difference at the end. In most cases, anything related to length can be taken in or let out by at least an inch, so there is definitely some flexibility when it comes to altering lengths.

It never hurts to ask the retailer if they can make the alterations; you'd be surprised what retailers are willing to do to move a suit off their rack and into your closet. Sometimes they'll do it for free!

The jacket sleeves should end right before your wrist (i.e. where the ball of your wrist lies) with your arms by your side. The jacket sleeves can be a bit shorter than normal shirt sleeves; this will allow the shirt cuff to show.

The jacket length should end at (or just before) the bottom of your pant zipper. If the jacket length is too far off (either long or short) it will look awkward on the wearer.

The pant length is the easiest to alter (and often the most inexpensive). Altering the pant length so that it rests just over the tongue of your shoe will make your bottom half look clean and fitted.

Finally, check the fabric composition.

I say this last because, in all honesty, fit trumps everything. I've seen expensive suits with a bad fit and economical suits with a great fit; the great fit always wins. The suit fabric is important, but I would say it comes second to fit for the average shopper. A 100% wool suit is desirable, but is expensive and can run up your dry cleaning bill. For the budget-conscious shopper, an economical option would be blended suits (such as poly-wool); in most cases, blended suits look just like 100% wool suits and can be easier to maintain.

In summary, going off-the-rack is a great option for shoppers, especially if there are great deals out there. And, for an extra $50~$100 in alterations, your off-the-rack purchase will look immensely better, and much more customized.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Grey Matters

Grey Matter - Breaking Bad (S1 E5)

Sorry, I couldn't resist the Breaking Bad reference. The episode "Grey Matter" was, and continues to be, one of my favourite episodes from Breaking Bad. For anyone who hasn't watched the series, I highly recommend it.

Anyways, to the topic at hand: Grey. In the last two weeks I had a two clients and a wedding party inquire about grey. Usually clients have an idea of what colour they would like in a suit, but they always want to compare. Often, grey swatches get brushed off because there doesn't seem to be anything special with grey.

Though the colour and decision is ultimately up to the wearer, I always suggest a grey (or some variation, such as charcoal), or at least make them aware of grey options. Why?


A grey suit can go with almost any type of shoe and belt colour (it looks fine with classic black, but pairing it with chestnut, burgundy or brown also works), as well as various shirt and tie combinations. And, it doesn't really matter what kind of grey a client selects either; grey suits are very complementary to most colours.

Grey fabrics, such as these, are easy to match with various colours.

Black suits can be paired with various shirt and tie colours as well, but they are essentially restricted to black shoes and belts. Therefore, it can be difficult to switch up the style and feel of a black suit versus a grey suit.


I'm not recommending that you wear a grey suit to a black tie event, but in general a grey suit can be both formal and casual. How formal or casual a grey suit can be depends mostly on its supporting cast, i.e. the shirt and the tie. For more formal events, going with a classic white shirt, dark tie and black shoes and belt will make any grey suit appear more formal.

Conversely, a grey suit jacket can be worn with various pants (such as jeans or some khakis) which will create a more casual look. As previously mentioned, grey suits can also be matched with chestnut, burgundy and/or brown leathers, which can keep your look stylish but not too formal at the same time.

Therefore, with a grey suit in your closet, you can achieve more than one look at various degrees of formality without breaking your bank.


Most importantly, grey suits are forgettable. It may sound odd to want to have a forgettable suit, but ask any woman who has an amazing dress and she'll tell you that she wished it was forgettable. Dresses that stand out do just that; they stand out. Therefore, after wearing it only once, many women find it hard to wear that dress again because everyone remembers where and when she last wore it.

The same argument could be made for suits that stand out. It may be fun to get a unique or flashy coloured suit (like purples, teals, burgundies, etc.) but you may find yourself limited once you wear it. Because you've worn it once, chances are people will remember that distinctive suit colour, so the benefits of wearing it again and again may diminish.

Robert Downy Jr. rocking a purple suit.

Unorthodox suit colours, like the one above, can look amazing and work really well. But, for most of us who don't have an arsenal of suits in their closets (or the bankroll to amass such a collection), it is best to go with suit colours that can stand the test of time; look great while you're suited up, but camouflaged enough that you can wear it on other occasions without someone saying, "Hey! You wore that last time!" The better (and more economical) option would be to change up your look with shirts, ties and leather, as opposed to suits (which would be the most expensive out of the bunch).

So the next time you are out suit shopping, don't brush off they grey. After all, Grey Matters.