Daily deal sites features top discounts on top labels like Thom Browne. But do you know how these clothes are actually supposed to fit? Don't be surprised if they end looking completely different on you.

Back when we used to peruse discounted men’s couture on daily-deal fashion websites, two things usually would pop in our heads: (1) we should be doing something way more productive with our time and (2) remember Thom Browne. Why Browne? Because the suits of this renowned men’s designer show up in fashion spreads on a regular basis, making one think his suits are something men should aspire to wear. Until you read this Esquire article about a normal guy who wore his suit for a day. Browne’s suits and clothes are notoriously small and shortly cut, and one of the takeaways from the article is that a $4,000 suit might be the most uncomfortable, awkward-looking thing you’ll ever wear.

The broader takeaway from the article is this: high-end designers, and even moderately priced fashion labels, might adhere to standardized measuring units, like inches or centimeters, but they all seem to have varying perspectives on how clothes should be worn (read this list of instructions from Thom Browne) which is reflected in how their clothes fit. Yes, “fit” can be a vague and mysterious mistress when it comes to men’s apparel. But fit is to an outfit as the economy is to politicians. Clothes that don’t fit properly, and don’t actually complement your body, render the rest of your outfit useless.

We’re writing about this now because recently Rue La La, a successful daily-deal fashion website, announced plans to launch a Chicago-focused section to its website. Rue La La, and others of its ilk like Gilt Groupe or the Amazon-partnered My Habit, offers various high-end and mid-range fashion labels at discounted prices. While site’s like these seem like a helpful resource for guys trying to add some intriguing designer pieces to their wardrobe, or even for guys that need some wardrobe basics, we don’t think these outlet malls in the Internet ether are as helpful as they appear. Mostly, because eyeballing clothes on a website will rarely tell you anything about how they fit. These sites will tell you the sizes they have available, and they’ll make a decent effort to describe the fit of their items. But fit, can only be ascertained when you actually try something on. One designers “slim fit” is another one’s “regular fit” and is another one’s “these jeans are too tight to wear with underwear.” Some other quandaries you might have if you just look at clothes online:

  • Do the pants pockets end up squarely over your butt, or do they hit at lower point, or a really weird higher point?
  • How wide are those lapels?
  • Where will the bottom of the suit jacket come down to?
  • Those lower rise pants are exactly where they should be on that model, but what about me?
  • Am I really a 33-inch waist for Helmut Lang jeans?
  • That shirt collar looks a little small, which is what I want, but that models head looks really small, and mine is not.
  • Are the sleeves on that dress shirt made for men with a semblance of bicep muscles?

A slim window-pane suit might look great on this guy, but we'd suggest trying it on before buying something like it online.

This list could go on, but the moral is, there are numerous details you want to consider when making sure your clothes fit correctly. Simply trusting the descriptions a manufacturer uses should be avoided. Consider our experience with Brooks Brothers: Their “regular” fit shirts a boxy and big enough to fit two average-size men. Their slim-fit shirts aren’t much better. Their extra-slim fit shirts are as close to normal as we’ve found, and even those could use a little less fabric. The lesson isn’t that Brooks Brothers doesn’t know how describe the fit of its shirts, it’s that their definitions have little in common with say, J Crew. And the only way to really understand this is by going to stores and trying clothes on. Sizing up designer clothes online can never compare.

We aren’t here to romanticize the experience of shopping for clothes in stores. It can be difficult and arduous. Looking at websites and plucking fashion deals can feel easier and even more exciting. But we’re a proponent of applying the immortal wisdom of our fathers: things worth doing often require hard work, long work, and sometimes boring work. It’s the end result that’s important. Are your wardrobe and your appearance things you consider important? We hope it is. Fashion mongering daily-deal websites provide immediate stimulation, but they don’t provide a substitute for feeling the materials your clothes are made from, and making sure they provide you with the right fit. Shop online if you’d like, but remember, when it comes to looking good, there are no shortcuts, just short-cut suits.

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3 Comments
  1. Ando

    August 3, 2011

    Love the article. Great advice. I think finding the right pants is an arduous task. Luckily, I just came across a perfect pair when I was in Hollywood last week. Ever heard of Alex Maine? Haven’t taken them off since. http://www.alexmaine.us/

  2. Kristen

    August 4, 2011

    Another takeaway – skirts that hit mid-calf are tough to pull off for women AND men. Recommend knee length or ankle length when shopping for an attractive man-skirt.

  3. David

    April 29, 2012

    You do realize that every guy, whether in a fashion ad, or on a runway, has his clothes tailored? You don’t actually that they just get handed a suit from whatever designer or brand they’re modeling and walk out on the runway, right? The number one misconception in clothes today is that your clothing is supposed to fit right after you buy it. If you’re a man, get every one of your suits tailored, and if you want to go farther, your dress shirts.
    So, don’t rule out one store because their clothes don’t fit you right of the bat, and remember that your tailor is your new best friend.

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