The Secret to Making a Suit Last Forever

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Suit & TieBack when I worked as a consultant in the defense industry, I was expected to wear a suit every single day into work. I was fortunate in that I had just made a trip to China and came back with five suits (at around $80 a piece – they were very nice quality too) so I was well equipped to wear one every single day. (I would later learn that you just left a jacket behind your door and only wore a full suit to meet with clients) Even with five suits, I wanted to make sure I maintained them properly so that I could get the most out of them. While they were under $80 a piece, a great price for a great suit (that’s what happens when you go straight to the tailor), I knew they were worth two or three times that and wanted to treat them that way.

So I read up on how to maintain a suit and was surprised how simple it was.

Don’t Dry Clean After Every Wear

First, understand what dry cleaning is. Next, understand that you don’t need to dry clean your suit after every wear. That great Art of Manliness article covers when you should dry clean your suit or will a quick brush or ventilation do the trick. Dry cleaning is a pretty harsh (and expensive) process and so if you can avoid it, it’s best to dry clean when only absolutely necessary because it damages the suit.

Ventilation for 24 Hours

After you wear your suit, let the suit ventilate for at least twenty four hours. The idea here is that the suit has picked up some moisture from your body and will need some time to dry out. Also, if your suit picked up any new scents, like perfume or smoke, this also gives the suit a chance to rid itself of its new friends.

Hang On Thick Heavy Hangers

You know those wire hangars the dry cleaner sends your suits back home in? Those suck. They’re fine for shirts but those wires dig into the shoulders of suits. Also, sometimes those wire hangars aren’t strong enough to even hold the suit and pants and you might find your suit in a crumbled ball on the floor the morning you need to wear it.

While we’re in the closet, make sure the suit has enough air around it to breathe a little. You won’t need to ventilate it like in the previous tip but don’t jam it in either. And check your pockets!

Cedar If You Can

The saddest thing that could ever happen to a suit is discovering it’s become food for moths. It’s never obvious but holes just start appearing and all it takes it one hole for a suit to be ruined. If you can store in a closet lined with cedar, that’s the best defense. Moth balls are also a good option, whether the traditional naphthalene mothballs or the newer cedar ones, especially when storing summer suits for the winter. The downside to moth balls is, of course, the smell; so cedar might work better. 🙂

Rotate, Rotate, Rotate

By rotate I mean don’t wear the same suit every single day. If you need to wear a suit every day, have a few on hand in order to cycle through them so they don’t get beat up. As silly as it sounds, suits need time to recover and if you wear the same suit every day it’ll wear it down faster (plus people will notice).

Always Launder Your Shirts

Always. Wash. Your. Shirts. Even if you wear it for just an hour to an event and then take it off afterwards, always wash your shirts. The biggest reason (well, besides just the simple fact that you should keep your clothes clean) is that it slows the development of the dreaded “ring around the collar,” which is a mix of sweat, oils, dirt, and dead skin cells. It may not look like you got it dirty, just wearing it for an hour or two, but if you stick it back in the closet then whatever you did leave behind will yellow and be baked into the shirt.

To this day I still have all five suits, added a few more to the group, and they still get use at weddings (along with the twenty or so $1 ties…).

Do you have any suit maintenance tips I missed?

( Credit: .faramarz )

{ 10 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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10 Responses to “The Secret to Making a Suit Last Forever”

  1. John G says:

    No one gave a clear idea of the suit materials that are a better value in terms of durability. Wool or Wool blend?

  2. Kurt says:

    **note to self….shirt from Sunday, move to hamper. Thanks Jim.

    ….a friends successful grand-dad once said, “any bum can wear a suit, you can spot a quality person by their polished shoes.”

  3. admiral58 says:

    Suits can certainly last a while. I’ll wear my colored shirts twice or so, and try to launder the whites after the first wear.

  4. Shirley says:

    That jacket that’s left behind the door except when meeting clients needs to be on a thick hanger, NOT a hook. Gravity will produce a ‘hump’ at the back of the neck.

    Suits often used to be sold with two pair of pants since those often need cleaning before the jackets. If that is still an option, it might be worth looking into.

    • Vin says:

      I was going to mention the 2 pair of pants idea mentioned in this post. Jim’s comment
      (I would later learn that you just left a jacket behind your door and only wore a full suit to meet with clients) is probably true for most suit wearers. The jacket sees far less use and wear than the pants. Especially if having the suits custom made or where the jackets and pants are sold separately getting the second pair of pants (also generally the less expensive component of the suit) is a great way to extend the life.

  5. Louise says:

    Button your jackets before you hang them up. Not only keeps the shape better, but actually saves space in the closet

  6. D. Fazio says:

    Bad advice about drycleaning. It is not “harsh” and does not “damage fabrics”. Fabric damage is accelerated by abrasive action of soil particles rubbing against the cloth.

    I used to be in the business and have clothes that show no wear because I drycleaned them after almost every wearing.

    Writer should do better research and get his facts straight.

  7. JoinOly says:

    When I was “honky-tonkin” in my younger days, my clothes would become so saturated with tobacco smoke that I could not stand to wear them.
    Solution: hang them outside in the sunshine for an hour and the smell is gone!

  8. Anonymous says:

    WE bought an expensive (700) suit on sale at Neiman Marcus once and his advice was similar, expept he added to steam it occasionally to kill anything and freshen the fabric.

  9. D. Fazio says:

    The salesman is an expert on fabric care because he sells suits???

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