Looking After Your New Suit
It’s often said that the suit is our modern day armour. And with good reason. We put it on, we walk to the office, we run to a lunchtime meeting, we hop onto the bus, we board the train, we sit, we stand, we win clients and close deals.
Day in, day out, we give our suit a thorough workout and it’s essential we give it the care and attention it needs in order to guarantee its longevity.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked questions like “How long should a suit last?”, “Why has my shirt collar worn out after just a year of wear?”, and “How often should I have my suit dry cleaned?”
But how long is a piece of string? The answer is: however long you want it to be. The same applies to the length of your time you’d like your suit to last. If you have purchased a suit of decent quality (you should have, if you read our previous guides), how long it lasts is largely down to you, how often you wear it, and how you clean and care for it.
Dry cleaning. Pricey if you have it done regularly but essential for keeping your suit in good nick, right?
Wrong. Too many people take their suit to the dry cleaner far too often. Dry cleaning isn’t the elaborate, painstaking and highly beneficial laundering process many of us imagine it to be. In fact, dry cleaning typically involves bunging your clothes into an industrial-sized washing machine and washing them in harsh chemicals that are highly effective in ridding your clothing of unsightly stains, but, unfortunately, can ruin the fibres of the fabric.
Avoid dry cleaning your suits where possible
With excessive exposure, wool (found in most suits) loses its lustre and its fibres begin to break down, resulting in a loss of richness of colour and an undesirable shine. This is especially true of suits made from wools of higher micron numbers, which are softer to the touch but also finer and more fragile.
The Alternative: Sponging & Pressing
The best way to keep wool’s fibres vibrant and encourage them to retain their shape is to employ an old technique used on Savile Row every day: ‘sponging and pressing’. First, a damp clothes brush is used to lightly brush the suit (always downwards, never perpendicular to the fibres), removing any surface debris. This raises the suit’s woollen fibres, making them appear more full-bodied, and priming them for steaming.
Next, a steam iron is used to thoroughly clean the suit. The great thing about wool is that it’s very springy, so with a little encouragement – i.e. a good sponging and pressing – it returns to its original shape, or at least close to. Although it can be difficult to find a cleaner that provides a good sponging and pressing service, taking the time to track one down is worthwhile for extending your suit’s lifespan. You could try your hand at the process at home, but some things are best left to the experts.
For those of you plagued by shiny spots on your suits, steam should be your first port of call for minimising the issue. Suits develop shiny spots as a result of wear and friction between fibres. While steaming won’t completely rectify the problem, it will work to dull the shine, so either invest in a powerful steam iron or steamer for home use, or give your cleaner strict instructions.
Steaming can be used to reduce shine spots
It’s also worth noting that steaming at home is best done with a garment steamer, rather than an iron. While professional pressing with an iron isn’t a problem when done by the experts, ironing at home can often lead to the development of more shiny spots due to the friction between the iron and suit. If you must iron at home, be sure to use a press cloth as a barrier to protect the wool.
One of the easiest ways to keep your suit looking its best is to simply have a good rotation in your wardrobe – in other words, give it a break! Being made from wool, a natural fibre, a suit needs a little R&R every now and again to retain its structure.
When not wearing your suit, ensure you hang it neatly in a well ventilated, spacious area (not crammed into an overfull wardrobe) on a proper wooden hanger that has wide but well-fitting shoulders to preserve the shape and drape of your jacket.
The perfect suit hanger is made from natural wood (which helps soak up the moisture in your suit after a day’s wear), wide enough to touch the edge of the suit jacket shoulders and chunky enough to fill up a portion of the shoulders.
Suit hangers should be made of natural wood and touch the edge of the jacket shoulders
Savile Row Fold
If you want to keep your suit in a suit bag, use the ‘Savile Row fold’ to store your trousers: grab the trousers by the legs and fold one through the hanger until the hem reaches the crotch, then fold the second leg similarly over the first.
If you’re not using a suit bag, invest in some felted clamp hangers and clamp the trousers at the hem.
While thorough cleaning should be practised sparingly, keeping your suit in good condition does involve some daily maintenance.
Before hanging your suit up after a day’s wear, be sure to brush it down. As most suits are made from wool, they easily gather debris – whether loose hair, dandruff, dust or other materials – and if not removed, these particles can cause damage to the fabric over time.
Simply use a suit brush to remove debris, starting at the shoulders of your suit and working your way down. The occasional once-over with a lint roller also helps.
Despite following all of these steps, regular wear can result in a few problems that although pesky, are easily solved. If a button falls off, learn to fix it yourself, or take it to your local alterations service and have it replaced.
Likewise, if you wear through the ‘fork’ of the trousers, don’t immediately write off your entire suit – just have your tailor replace the fork.
Packing Your Suit
Travelling with your suit? The only sure-fire way to minimise creases is to carry your suit in a suit bag (unfolded, on a hanger), rather than actually pack it in your luggage.
An ideal suit bag is one that’s easy to carry and breathable.
Folding Your Suit
In situations where your suit is destined for the suitcase, fold it neatly (see process below) and pack it at the bottom of your suitcase so it doesn’t move around during transit.
Here’s how to pack your suit correctly:
- Fold the suit jacket completely inside out so that all the lining is showing and even the shoulders have been popped inside out.
- Fold the jacket in half down the centre back seam.
- Fold the jacket again from the collar to the tail.
- Press your trousers so that there is a crease down the front of them, then roll the legs up tightly from the bottom to the top.
Unpacking Your Suit
At your earliest convenience, once you’ve touched down, unpack your suit and hang it immediately.
Tip: In place of a steamer, you could hang your suit jacket and trousers on separate hangers on the bathroom door while you take a hot shower – the steam can help the fibres of your suit relax and reduce wrinkles.
Travelling With Shirts
When packing shirts, fold as you would normally, making sure all the buttons are done up. The collar should also be turned up and not down. As with your suit, when you arrive at your destination, unpack and hang the shirts as soon as you can.
If you are making use of the hotel laundry facilities, it’s worth bearing in mind that often they won’t value your shirts to the same degree you do. They will mostly likely be washed and tumble-dried, which isn’t good for keeping cotton in good nick.
After that, they’ll probably be pressed on machines that have been on (and very hot) for the majority of the day, resulting in excessive heat being applied to the collar, shortening the shirt’s lifespan. Although utilising this type of laundry service is sometimes essential, try to refrain from having anything cleaned that really isn’t crying out for it.
Making the decision to purchase a suit isn’t one that – given the financial outlay – most of us take lightly. Just as it’s important to properly inspect the quality and fit of a suit before making the leap, it’s fundamental to give your suit the adequate care and attention it needs to keep it in superb condition.
Are there any other tips we missed out? How do you care for your suit?
Let us know in the comments section below.