Editor’s Note: If you’re shopping for your very first suit, or it’s just been awhile since you bought one… you might want to check out our How to Buy your First Suit guide.
We don’t do a lot of hyperbole or ultra-declarative statements. Despite us all living in a hot-take society, and #menswear internet “culture” being a best/worst world, there’s too much nuance. Style is subjective. And we’re all working with a different budget, under different conditions, with different priorities.
That said, these are the best suits you’re going to find for under $300. For a wedding, for a job interview, for whatever. What Spier and Mackay has done here is very, very economically impressive.
Preemptive TL;DR: Half canvas construction. 100% wool.
Lightly padded shoulders. Tailored but not tight fit. Five colors.
They’ve set a new standard for $300.
First a bit of history for context
More than a few years ago, the sub $300 suit of choice around these parts was the J. Crew Factory Thompson. Made from worsted wool with a slimmed down but not tight fit, it satisfied the needs of most purchasers. Sure the jackets were fused, which means they were cheaper feeling and lacked the flexible canvas piece in pricier suits. And along with not feeling or draping as well as a half-canvas suit, all that glue in a fused jacket could go rogue if you dry cleaned them too much. The worst-case scenario was that fusing (adhesive) releasing, then re-gathering in bubbly, weird, visible patches lurking under the surface of the cloth. But they were cheap! They’d go on sale, they looked pretty good, and they were just fine for those who didn’t need to wear a suit often.
And then one day Spier & Mackay and Suitsupply, two competitors, hit the market offering half canvas suits for incredibly reasonable prices. These were a noticeable step up from fused suits, for not much more money. Not only were they using better fabrics and tailoring details, Spier and Suitsupply had that flexible canvas piece inside which would mold to your body over time. Wearing a suit became a pleasure, instead of a battle between your upper body and the garment which covered it.
“Would you like to discuss economies of scale?”
Flat front trousers. Standard “drop-6” sizing. (trouser waist = jacket size -6)
Therefor a 40R jacket comes w/ a 34″ waist trouser (shown).
A tailor can bring in or let out within 1.5″. You’ll need the legs hemmed anyway.
J. Crew would then file for bankruptcy. It was a long time coming. And while mainline J. Crew still manages to crank out their hits (secret wash shirts, Kenton boots, Sussex quilted jackets, their half-canvas Ludlow suits and blazers when on sale, etc…) , the overall quality of their step-down Factory branded clothes seemed to acquire the structural integrity of meringue in a hurricane. So a lot of us gave up on JCF, and therefor, abandoned their once priced at under $300, fused Thompson suit separates. Sorry. Shrug guy emoji.
Got all that? History lesson over.
But here’s the state of affordable suiting at present:
- J. Crew Factory Thompson – $400+ They still make the Thompson, but they now charge $400 or MORE
- J. Crew mainline, Half-canvas Ludlow Suits – $675 Half canvas, almost never on sale
- Banana Republic Italian Wool Suit Jackets + Trousers – $600 Nice, but only go on sale a few times a year
- Suitsupply’s Perennial Line – $499 Half canvas, used to run $399 or $449. No longer.
- Spier & Mackay’s Core Line Half-canvas Suits – $378
- Spier & Mackay’s Red Label Half-canvas Suits – $298
More details/further breakdown/links to reviews for those ^^^ can be found here if you’d like them.
But look at those options again. Nothing about that list makes sense. J. Crew Factory’s Thompson line now costs $400(!!), BR and J. Crew’s suit separates are almost never on sale. Suitsupply’s entry level suits now start at half a grand.
Spier was already by far the best bang for the buck at under $400.
And then they dropped a new, still half canvas line on the market for under $300.
The entire market is trending in a less-customer friendly direction, except for Spier who is basically saying “Here, we made a really affordable but still nice suit. We’d like to have your business if you wouldn’t mind.”
The Red Label’s “Tailored” fit. Somewhere between slim and contemporary.
Shown = an unaltered 40R on 5’10″/185
According to Spier, they listened to a lot of feedback from guys who needed a suit for a wedding (specifically groomsmen) or a job interview. Yet those same guys said they just weren’t going to wear their new suit that often after the event in question was over and done with.
Still half canvas construction, which is a huge upgrade over “fused” (read: glued) interiors.
It’ll move with you instead of fight you. And over time, it’ll form to your body.
It turns out renting a suit isn’t cheap ($149! to RENT!), yet spending $400ish – $500 wasn’t in the cards for most of these guys either. Therefor, Spier saw an opportunity to meet an unsatisfied part of the market somewhere in the middle.
Still comes with non functioning sleeve cuff buttons, which are much easier to tailor
Now what follows is total speculation on strategy, but I’m guessing Spier is hoping these well made, easy to tailor, all wool suits for under $300 are gonna lead to repeat business.
It’s just like dealing drugs! It is not like dealing drugs. Whereas with illicit narcotics (and sports gambling sites), the first one might be “free”… the first one certainly isn’t “free” with these suits. But I’m thinking they think it’s a good use of their resources and perhaps even taking a hit on profit margin. Y’know, in order to get some new customers on board.
Here’s a fresh delivery of
dru.. the “drug” that is feeling good about how you look!
Okay but HOW? What’s the catch?
To their credit, Spier is honest about how these are not quite as nice as their Core line. But unless you’re a seasoned suit wearer/Spier customer, you’d be forgiven if you thought they were the same. For the record, here’s what’s different:
100% Worsted Wool fabric isn’t from a fancy mill – It’s still smooth and 4-season weight, but it’s not the Australian merino they use in the core line. Nor is it one of their more expensive Italian wool suits. And to save more money, they bought bulk batches of the basic colors most would want.
They bought fabric in bulk for the expected (five) wheelhouse colors.
Just one fit = Tailored Fit – No option between slim fit or contemporary fit here. They went with something in-between. The jacket should fit similarly to their Contemporary fit jackets (review here), and the trousers will fit somewhere between their Contemporary and Slim cut (Slim suit review here). They’re trying to make a fit that hits a sweet spot for the largest audience.
Shown = an unaltered 40R jacket (and therefor 34″ trouser) on 5’10″/185
Some of the bits and bobs are a little cheaper – Their other suits use some imported (from Germany and Japan) details that these Red Label lines don’t. For example, while their other suits come with a Bemberg Cupro lining, the Red Label line comes with a less expensive 55% poly / 45% viscose lining. It won’t breathe quite as well as the Bemberg lining on their other suits, but it’s far from some cheap, scratchy, all poly lining you’d find on a crummy bargain store suit. The rest of the details on the Red Label suits feel more than fine. Buttons still feel and look good, shoulder pads aren’t bulky or stiff, etc.
55% poly / 45% viscose lining = a bit cheaper than the Bemberg Cupro used for their other suits.
That’s part of the cost savings. Although it feels fine and shouldn’t suffocate you.
By buying less-expensive fabric in bulk, by making larger orders with a manufacturer they’ve got a good relationship with, by making just one fit they hope will fit the most frames possible, and by not importing German/Italian/Japanese “trims” for some seen and unseen details, they can lower the cost.
By lowering the cost they tap into a market that was reluctant to by a suit. Any suit.
And by getting those who otherwise wouldn’t have bought a suit to buy in and try their product, maybe… just maybe… they can somewhere down the road get them to buy another.
Here’s their policy. The highlights are:
All regular priced items are eligible for returns within 30 days of delivery. The Red Label suits are (understandably) excluded from sales and promos. But if that ever changes, anything purchased with a promo code or on sale has a return eligibility window of 14 days instead of 30.
They do free returns if it’s your first suit purchase with them (which the Red Label line is geared towards first-time-suit buyers.). They’ll also cover return shipping if it’s your first sportcoat, pair of shoes, dress or casual trousers, outerwear, and dress/casual shirt order. Clearly, they want you to try their stuff.
After that, it’s a $14.95 pre-paid label if it’s a suit or sportcoat. Return fees vary depending on the item (size/weight clearly comes into play), so yeah. Read that policy.
Spier is seizing on an opportunity with these Red Label suits. They’ve cut costs where they’d mostly (totally?) remain unnoticeable, made smart decisions with sourcing raw materials and committing large orders to production facilities, and landed on a fit template that would appeal to the most while alienating the least amount of potential (new?) customers.
The end result is a new line of half-canvas, all wool, year-round-appropriate suits that once dialed in by a local tailor will make the wearer look like a million bucks. Whether it’s the customer’s second or third suit, their first and only suit, or their first of many.
And that final option might be precisely what Spier is angling for.