When a Man Needs a New Suit
If I’m being honest, I felt for the guy.
In the Boglioli store a couple of weeks ago, on a weekend afternoon, a youngish couple stumbled in. They looked around in something of a daze, taking in the brightly patterned carpet, the sleek and obscured shelving, maybe even a couple of the actual garments.
“Belts?” the man asked, unsteadily. “A black belt?”
His wife, or girlfriend, or mobile therapist, was caressing him without laying a hand on him. She looked sad. He looked frail. He just needed a belt. Sometimes a man needs a belt, and many of those times, a man has no idea where to acquire such a thing.
Even after a good decade or so of accelerated interest in and information about men’s fashion thanks to the internet, many men still perceive clothing as a Hail Mary pass, the last finger gripping the side of a mountain before a cruel fall to certain ruin.
And, you know, fair enough. To my knowledge, there is no store specializing in belts in the East Village, or in NoHo — maybe there’s a stall on St. Marks? — so this couple, presumably seeing a sweater and a scarf in the store window, pushed open the heavy door and hoped for the best.
I opted for empathy. Sometimes the thing you need just isn’t in reach. For me, it’s a suit. Or at least, a new suit. Every time I’m called upon to wear a suit, I shrug, because my options represent a different time in my life. The ones in my closet skew 2000s Prada and are largely unloved
Not needing to wear tailored clothing has become something of a point of pride. I harbor only a few resentments, and many of them have to do with class. During college summers, I worked jobs that required suits. I was thrilled, after I graduated, to not be so burdened full time.
But suits happen — for weddings and funerals, for important meetings in stiff and even some not so stiff places, and for days when you might feel like shattering a few ankles on the way to the hoop.
And so it was with an open heart that I endeavored to refresh my closet this month, or at least engage with some new silhouettes, at the new Brioni flagship on Madison, and also at the Boglioli shop on Bond, which opened quietly last summer.
As suits go, I prefer Italian. British cuts strangle me, physically and emotionally. American suits, in so much as there is such a thing, have a certain stolidity to them. They are designed for earnest, dull labor, and, even in a fancy fabric, tend to hang like drapery.
The Italians grasp the eroticism and power of tailored clothing. At the Brioni store, that extends to the décor, heavy on marble and wood, with ample space to gaze upon the racks as if you are on safari. What the suits here lack in imagination they make up for in touch: The fabrics are lavish, the construction immaculate, if slightly old-fashioned.
I tried on options in super 180 ($6,450) and super 200 ($10,475) wools that were austere and unreasonably luxe. I am tall and broad, and these options made that an asset, not a liability.
Still, there was a quietness to the energy of these suits, which felt destined for a nice enough table at the Pool in the reopened Four Seasons. They screamed wealthy executive, not wealthy executive with panache. (Surprisingly, the other clothes did better at that, particularly a burgundy moto jacket, $6,450, and a luscious baby blue turtleneck, $950.) You could shop here and be ably outfitted for a season’s worth of benefit dinners, but never once be the most provocatively suited man in the room.
Which is the point, of course, but not an approach that speaks to my Isaia-loving soul. The Boglioli store was, for me, more soothing. That carpet, made of purple, yellow and gray squares, would be perfect in my apartment. The fabrics communicated vim and joy, like the icy blue overcoat that screamed loudly, though not in my size ($2,000).
A fashionable couple came in to the store when I was there, and the woman instantly gravitated to this coat, trying it on and engaging a clerk about the possibility of having it tailored. (While we’re here, it turned out there was, indeed, one black belt, in suede. It was lovely but maybe a little too delicate.)
I admired the sport coats in heavier fabrics, including a beige herringbone ($1,950). But I was most intrigued by the company’s “K” jacket — generally called deconstructed, but which my salesman referred to as “empty.” It had a cheeky, philosophical bent to it. It was a robust read on a middle-market sport coat, both peacocky and sly. Paired with some green corduroy pants ($375), it wasn’t a suit, exactly, but it would do the job.