Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Affordable Ways to Care for Your Suit

Most people don't like doing laundry, and the option of using a dry cleaner puts a dent in your bank account. When it comes to caring for suits and shirts, it can be even more annoying. But, there are some relatively easy - and affordable - solutions out there for the budget conscious individual.


Suit hangers (a.k.a. U-shaped/curved hangers) are really good for hanging suits, jackets and blazers and they do not cost a fortune. Thicker, and with rounded sides, they help retain the shoulder shape of the jacket. Because they are curved, they also take up more space; while this may be a nuisance for those who have a cluttered closet, the extra space is meant to give the suit more air to breathe and fall back into its original shape. 


This isn't just to protect your wallet. Dry cleaning can be a very tough, rigorous process and it uses lots of chemicals which damage your cloth fibres over time. It weakens the fabric and breaks it down. The tumbling that is done at most dry cleaners is so aggressive that machines actually have a button catcher to collect all the buttons that may fall off during the process. The buttons caught are collected and then resewn onto a customer's garment, leaving customer clueless of what happened. Reducing or avoiding the dry cleaners saves you on dry cleaning bills and increases the longevity of your suit.

Avoid if possible.


Lots of suits come with the pockets sewn shut, mostly because the pockets are there for aesthetics. I've always disliked this because pockets are really useful, so what's the point in having one if it's sewn shut? It's completely fine to use suit pockets as long as they aren't stuffed or outstretched; doing so can affect the way the suit looks and over time it can cause permanent creases or splits. Clean out your wallet so that it doesn't get too bulky; you could even try a slimmer wallet to restrict the clutter.

Does your wallet look like this?

Sitting in a suit jacket doesn't cause any damage, but if you sit for long periods of time it can cause creases that are harder to get out, which could lead to higher dry cleaning bills. A mild crease from wearing a suit jacket will usually resolve itself if hung up; gravity pulls the fabric downwards and the creases diminish. But, if you sit in an office chair with your jacket on for the entire day, the creases will be a lot harder to get out, especially in the back. So, if you can, take your jacket off while you're sitting; try hanging it up in a closet or on the back of a chair.


By far the most significant cost saver. A household fabric steamer can save you a lot of money, and the upfront cost could be as low as $50-$60, depending on what you buy. A decent steamer doesn't take up much space in a home and will be able to get out wrinkles within a few minutes. I purchased an upright steamer from a retailer for about $60 including tax and it does the trick for most jackets and pants. Considering that a trip to the dry cleaners could cost me the same amount, a household fabric steamer really saves money in the long run.

One thing I will note about my $60 fabric steamer: it doesn't do a good job on shirts. Perhaps if I splurged on a better steamer (FYI I've heard that the J-2000 is amazing, costing about $300 CDN) I wouldn't have this problem. But even at $300, you'd probably make back the savings within a year or two (depending on how often you use the dry cleaners).


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Small Business Man (3) - A Marco Memoir

One of my favourite by-products about working independently is the opportunity to meet and connect with individuals that I would not have otherwise met. This past September I attended Lucas Haneman's wedding; he's an old high-school friend of mine and he commissioned YourSuit to make suits for his groomsmen. Included in his party was Marc-Olivier Vezina-Bedard, or Marco, for short. Here's a picture of the group at the wedding:

L to R: Mubarak, Nevill, Marco, Tyler and Lucas.

Like Lucas, Marco is a fellow musician, though he resides in Montreal as opposed to Ottawa. He travels occasionally to Ottawa for gigs, many of which are performed with Lucas. At the wedding ceremony, Marco played some tasteful interlude music while papers were being signed. I took a small clip of it here:

Afterward, Marco and I chatted; musicians tend to have the craziest stories so I always look forward to hearing about their background. Making a living off of music is no easy task, but both Lucas and Marco are doing it, which I find incredibly impressive and admirable. I asked Marco about how he supports himself through gigs and what types of styles he's able to play. Not surprisingly, his musicianship spans across all sorts of genres, and because of this he currently has a library of over 2,000 songs - memorized in his head - which he can recall and play at a moment's notice.

I asked Marco if he uses a Fake Book. For those who don't know what a Fake Book is, it's essentially a large book that provides a musician the arrangement and chords for songs; if a hired musician shows up at a gig and doesn't know a particular tune, he can open up a Fake Book and find the song and sight-read the chord progressions as the band is playing it. The book looks like a giant dictionary, though nowadays many just use a tablet.

Marco took a drag from his cigarette and shook his head.

"I don't," he said, exhaling. "I don't like it."

"Why not?" I asked him.

"If I play out of a Fake Book, I'm not really playing," he replied. "I'm reading. I'm being cautious. Any time a musician plays, he's taking a risk. He's keeping time or flirting with time. He's supporting or being supported. If he screws up, it could either be the best thing or worst thing that happened to him."

I nodded. He went on.

"If I play out of a Fake Book, I might as well just press play on a record player. There is no risk in that. No creativity either," he said. "I play because I want to play. I want the risk because it could turn into something beautiful."

We talked a little while longer before heading to the reception. I've been thinking about what he said about the Fake Book ever since. About risk, reward and the opportunity to create something beautiful. Not relying on a Fake Book is a lot like being a small business owner; you choose not to go with the conventional and risk being a screw up. You are not guided and you flirt with your own rules. But, you may just create something beautiful.

Cheers to those who live and play outside the Fake Book. May your risks be rewarded and your creations be beautiful.