The Best Under $200 Suit of 2013

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Claiborne Charcoal Slim Suit Separates – $119.99 w/ RMN20 ($360)

NOTE: Found this in-store. Online there are two very similar options, and there’s conflicting info on what this one is made out of (wool vs poly). When you click on the jacket it says wool. When you’re viewing the tandem it says poly.

Code is good for 15% off or 20% off $100+ through 8/31. Thanks to Brandon in the comments.

If the Ron Johnson + Nick Wooster influence over JC Penny fades to black in the next 6 months, then it just might be the improved Claiborne… not jcp, not the revamped Stafford, not Stafford Prep, that gets missed the most.

Ever since the J. Crew Factory Thompson suit separates started to spend the vast majority of time north of $200, the hunt has been on around these parts for another ultra-affordable, but still sharp wool suit. Think: under $200 and widely available. Now, as recent as last year, shopping for a suit at JC Penney meant synthetic fabrics, enormous shoulder pads, low armholes, boxy silhouettes, and bad button stances.

This jacket and matching pair of pants are the exact opposite of all of that.

Clairborne tracks getting jiggy with it literallyEat your heart out Flatley. Shown: 38R jacket + 32×30 pant.

Skip by the Stafford (big shoulders) and JF J Ferrar (usually synthetic) suits and hunt around for these. They’re a little hard to find, but finding one to try on is worth it if you’re on a serious budget, and you need a suit that you can be taken seriously in.

The all wool exterior fabric feels fine in your hands. Not luxurious, but not super-rough either. For the price, the quality of the fabric seems solid. But the color isn’t solid… and that’s a plus. There’s a very small amount of color variation going on here. It’s a dark charcoal for sure, with very, very small amounts of lighter grey flecked in. That gives the fabric some depth that you’ll never find in a synthetic fabric suit. Those can look oddly flat. Like they’re assembled from painted pieces of plastic.

The 100% wool jacket is lined in 100% acetate. It won’t be super breezy, but acetate seems to breathe a little better than straight poly. The lining doesn’t catch or pull when you put it on, and the jacket it settles in nicely on your torso. It’s not stiff like a lot of other fused jackets. Canvassed it ain’t, but it’s not like wearing plywood either.

Clairborne SuitNot perfect, but awfully good for $150.

The shoulder pads could be a little smaller, but they’re not noticeable by any stretch. If only the Hilfiger Trim Fit suits at Macy’s could have shoulder pads this reasonable. These are made in Mexico, and the overall feel of the construction of the jacket is nice and solid. More-so than a suit from, say, Express.

The buttons are plastic, but they’re thick and have a nice matte, faux-horn swirl to them. The sleeve buttons are not only non-functioning, they also lack that annoying faux-button hole accent stitching. That makes for easier tailoring. Can’t lose the sleeve buttons entirely, but points to the design department for killing off that stitching.

Clairborne suit fabric and buttonsGood fabric, great buttons, easy tailoring.

Double vents on the jacket, a slim 2.5″ lapel, and while the the armholes could be higher, they’re not terrible. Jacket fits true to size through the chest and shoulders.  If you’re inbetween sizes, strongly consider sizing UP. They fit trim off the rack but run a touch short in the tail. Plenty of guys might be able to get away without any tailoring off the rack.

Been a long time since you could say that about a suit bought from JC Penney.

The only drawback is the lack of colors or patterns. If grey is the new black, then these come in the Model T color wheel. You can have one of these suits in any color… so long as it’s grey.

Clairborne on the tracks

Again, there are two very similar options of these on the web. Here, and here. One says it’s all poly, but then just the jacket claims to be wool. Ships free. Might want to find it in person first.