Banana Republic’s Bad Suit Advice

Banana Republic’s Bad Suit Advice

Banana Republic Suiting 101 – Bad Suit advice.

If you follow Banana Republic’s new Suiting 101 guide, you’ll end up looking like you fell out of 1996.  The jackets aren’t just roomy, they make their new model (he used to be the Perry Ellis guy) look like he’s swimming in cloth.

J. Crew, Express, even Tommy Hilfiger and the Macy’s house brand Alfani Red have gotten it right these last few years.  They’ve been making suits that fit again.  For decades American Men wore suits that were at least a size or two too big.  But thankfully, that all started to change 5 or so years ago.  Men started to once again look like men, and less like little boys wearing their Dad’s clothes.  With the growing popularity of shows like Mad Men, and the rebirth of the James Bond franchise, guys were reminded what a great fitting suit looks like.

And now comes this.  Banana Republic’s new suiting guide rejects most of the well tailored progress the affordable men’s retail industry has made.  Even the colors of suits they suggest (see right side) are reminiscent of the Clinton Administration.  What follows is that new suiting 101 guide, which you can find by clicking here, and analysis of what they got right and what they got wrong.  Your feedback is encouraged in the comments section below.

How you can tell it's bad advice.  Look at the guy.  He looks like he's wearing a garbage bag.

How you can tell it's bad advice. Look at the guy. He looks like he's wearing a garbage bag.

1. Chest and Waist

Key Quote: “A well fitting jacket buttons easily.  When you sit with it fastened, there should be 3-5 inches between your torso and the jacket’s top button”
Why they’re wrong: Here’s an idea, unbutton your jacket when you sit down.  And button it when you stand back up.  3-5 inches when you’re standing is a ton.  3-5 inches when you’re sitting?  And you’re wearing a blanket.  American Men have looked bad in suits for a long time because they’re wearing at least a size that’s too big.  And BR now wants guys to size up?  This isn’t good.  At all.

Most guys don't need a black suit.

Most don't need a black suit.

2. Armhole

Key Quote: “Give yourself room to move.  The armhole should be wide enough to allow considerable motion”
Why they’re wrong: One of the biggest issues I have with the otherwise decent design of Banana Republic suits is the armholes.  Width in an armhole isn’t what matters.  It’s where it’s placed on the jacket.  BR suits seem to set their armholes ridiculously low in proportion to the jacket, meaning when you raise your arms, the pit of the armhole drags the rest of the suit up with it.  Raise the armholes up, and your suit should fit like a glove, giving you a dynamite fit with plenty of range of motion.

Taupe = No.  Light Gray = Yes.

Taupe, No. Light Gray? Yes.

3. Sleeve Length

Key Quote: 1/4″ – 1/2″ of your shirt sleeve should be visible below your suit sleeve.
Why They’re Wrong: They’re not.  Just a bit of contrasting shirt color looks great underneath the suit.  Same reason why pocket squares look so good.  But when combined with their other advice (big armholes, too much room in the jackets) finding a good fit on the sleeve-length might end up being tough.

4. Jacket Length

Key Quote: “…wrap your fingers around the hem.  If you need to raise your shoulders or bend to the side to grasp it, then quite simply, keep shopping.”
Why They’re Wrong: Again, they’re not here.  The length of the jacket just isn’t something your tailor can change.  You need this to fit, off the rack.

5. Pant Length

Key Quote: “Your pant hem should rest at the highest point of your instep”
Why They’re Wrong: Let me translate into plain English.  If your pant crease hangs straight down and doesn’t kink in, at all, and barely touches the tops of your shoes… then you have “no break.”  You want about an inch of break, or kink in that seam because the hem of your pant legs have come to rest at the top of your shoes.  That’s a good fit.

Are you buying what Banana Republic is selling?

A few years back I was at an event wearing my favorite Kenneth Cole two-button suit.  A middle aged gentleman in a way too big for him sack-suit asked me: “Is that one of those new skinny suits?” I told him no, because it was far from skinny.  It was just an athletic cut Kenneth Cole that I had well tailored for my body.  He nodded and moved on.  What this poor guy failed to realize, is that the type of fit I was wearing, wasn’t “new” at all.  It just simply fit.

This new suiting guide from Banana Republic seems to reject that tailored look entirely.  Their list of the four suits every guy should own (black?  Taupe?) also feels like a step in the wrong direction.  Esquire’s list of the Four Suits every guy should own is more than a few years old, but it’s still the standard. The brand new Banana Republic list?  It looks like it was dusted off from the 20th century.

Banana Republic has always been in the top 5 of places to shop for a new well fitting affordable suit.  But if they’re really making their suits to fit like this new suit guide suggests, be prepared to size down and have your tailor do some work.

(Below: How your suit should look. Two-button herringbone Ludlow Suit from J. Crew)

J.Crew at ShopStyle