B.R. Modern Stripe Suit – $475.00 VS. Express Pinstripe Wool Blend – SALE $207.20
You’re going to find a Banana Republic and an Express in just about every mall in the U.S. And the individual shopping experiences couldn’t be more different. Banana Republic offers up well dressed, clingy sweater wearing, 30-something women sales associates who usually ask you five times if they could help you find anything. The music is upbeat, their stores are well decorated, and the lighting is bright but not blinding. You walk into an Express and the college dude behind the counter who’s got Axe body spray lifting off him like morning fog from a pond will look up and say: “S’up man! Let me know if you need a fitting room.” And then it’s off to the racks of way too colorful clothes that are awash in searing fluorescent light.
But they both seem to make reasonably affordable, widely available, and at first glance pretty sharp looking suits. Here’s how two similar suits from Express and Banana Republic stack up against each other after each was tried on at the same mall, within the same hour.
Banana Republic Modern Chalk Stripe Two-Button Suit: Blazer – $325.00 | Pant – $150.00
Made in: China
Fabric: 97% Wool, 3% Other
Vent/Lapel/Pants: Center Vent, Notch Lapel, Flat Front Pant.
The fabric is almost completely wool and it’s neither bulky nor paper thin. It’s nice and smooth, the stripes are subtle, and from a distance it almost looks solid. When I threw the jacket on in my normal size the shoulders fit perfect. Dead on square, and the pads weren’t too big at all. But the torso is where this suit just dies. It’s cut for someone who could probably stand to lose 30 pounds, and carries all the extra weight around their middle. Like I said, the shoulders were perfect, as was the drop in the jacket, but the middle was just gargantuan. Even more odd was that they somehow managed to get the sides tapered in a touch, but left the front end huge. It wasn’t a straight box, it was just really roomy in the gut area. Banana Republic released a “roomier is better” suiting guide not that long ago so this shouldn’t come as a surprise… but still. Bizarre.
Express Pinstripe Wool Blend Suit: 30% OFF SALE Jacket – $138.60 | Pant – $68.60
Made in: Vietnam
Fabric: 55% Wool, 23% Rayon, 19% Cotton, 3% Poly
Vent/Lapel/Pants: Double Vent, Notch Lapel, Flat Front Pant.
The fit is contoured and slim but not overly tight. It gives you an athletic silhouette without any sort of restrictions. The armholes are nice and high which is a major plus, and I was able to get almost full range of motion in my arms without the body of the jacket moving too much. The Lapels are slimmer than the BR suit but not razor thin, and the pinstripes stand out a bit more. But in a good way. The mish-mash composition of the fabric is noticeable to the touch, but it’s not a bad feeling. It’s just… different. This is a suit with serious character. You won’t be ignored in this suit but you won’t demand unwanted attention either. Avoid those nasty lime green shirts and nobody will know you picked it up from Express.
Winner: The Express Pinstripe. Easily
Final Analysis: I’ve attended many a summer wedding in my Khaki Chino & Linen Banana Republic suit. But I wouldn’t attend a divorce in the B.R. suit I tried on for this project. The Express Suit is now at the top of my list for my next suit to buy. And at half the price of the B.R, there’s no question which one wins head to head.
Would I recommend either of these as the first suit or second suit for a younger guy? Probably not. Stick with a Charcoal Alfani Red or Navy Tommy Hilfiger Trim fit for your foundational suit. But if you’re looking for something to elevate your wardrobe that can bring some charisma and head turning good looks… then skip the tight cardigan sales associates at Banana Republic, spend half the money, and get the one from Express.