People like to call out Jos A. Bank and Menswear House for making some of the worst suits out there. They like to cite quality concerns, fit issues, and an overall outdated or boxy look look that is made worse by the “overpriced yet crazy discount”model that the company operates with. Just look at some of their markdowns. However, I absolutely pounced at the chance to buy one. I did cheat though; it was on eBay!
The eBay Listing
I spend a lot of my free time on eBay. Most days I find nothing, but there are a few times that I’ve found something worthwhile; the last time was my 1960’s ivy suit. Since then, I’ve become enamored with Ivy suits. They have a 3 roll 2 configuration, undarted fronts, cuffed pants, and (usually) a soft shoulder. Many companies like J. Press, Chipp, and Brooks Brother’s still make these “sack suits” today, but I try to find vintage ones as they are often cheaper and semi-prevalent on eBay.
While perusing eBay, I stumbled upon an ivy suit made by Jos A. Bank. To my surprise, it actually looked pretty good. It didn’t look like something a typical business man would wear. Instead, it was a light grey pinstripe wool suit, with the matching Ivy details. You could even compare the look and details to something you’d see the Armoury or B&Tailor guys wear. I’ve always wanted a nice grey pinstripe suit (for conservative outfits like a job interview) but I definitely don’t have the money for bespoke or even certain MTMs. After looking at the measurements, I bought this suit on eBay for around $50 shipped. Cheap for a good suit!
Shoulders (across the back) – 17.5″
Chest (flat across front) – 21″
Sleeves (from the top of the shoulder) – 24″ (with 2″ to take out)
Length (down back, bottom of collar to bottom hem) – just under 30.5″
Waist (flat across front) – 17.5″ (the waist has been taken out all the way, it can be taken in 2″0)
Inseam – 27.5″ (with 3.25″ to take out, including the cuffs)
As I’ve said in another article, looking at the measurements are extremely important when buying online. My pant waist is a 32-34 and these hit right on the money; my inseam is about a 28-29 and these pants could be altered to lengthen them. As for the jacket, we were pretty good. I disregard the chest (I wear a 38s, so I can definitely take in the jacket) and pay more attention to the shoulders and length. The shoulders were within my range, as I only buy 17-17.5 inch shoulders, but the length is pretty long. Most of my jackets are around 29.5 inches long. I don’t always recommend getting a jacket shortened, but if you shorten it around an inch, you don’t mess up the proportions or stance of the jacket too much.
The Suit and Tailoring
The suit was darker than expected. The pictures in the listing show a semi-light grey fabric, but the suit itself was actually more of a true charcoal with a light chalk stripe. The pants were a little loose in the waist, but the length was pretty perfect, stopping at the top of my shoe. The jacket is where most of the issues lie; just take a look! Here it is before tailoring:
You can see that the jacket is boxy, too long, and the sleeves were too long! However, I will say that that the lapels are gorgeous and full, almost reminiscent of the ones used by B&Tailor. It’s still a very ivy suit, with spaced buttons, a hook vent, flat front pants, and 3-roll-2 buttoning. I am not familiar with this style of Jos A. Bank suit, but its pretty great. It doesn’t look too much like the ones you see on their website, though this suit was probably made in the 1990’s which may have been when Jos A. Bank was a reputable company with good products.
The pinstripe is still gorgeous and not the terrible corporate ones (with shadow stripes or stripes that are super close together) that you usually see. At first glance, you’d probably assume it is a true vintage ivy pinstripe suit! Note that the key is that this suit has “chalkstripes” not pinstripes, as chalkstripe suits have a lighter, less defined stripe that are more spaced apart.
The tailoring cost about $120, which is cheap considering everything I had done to it:
Take in jacket
Taper Jacket Sleeves
Shorten jacket 1″
Taper pants to 7 3/4″ opening
Take in pant thighs
Add suspender buttons
All of these are my typical alterations that I use to make the suit the way I want it! While I do like straight leg pants for vintage wear, I prefer a straight/slim silhouette for my everyday clothes, so that’s why I tapered and slimmed the thighs. It’s still a classic look that isn’t too vintage and too modern either. My tailor Ruben understands my aesthetic and is able to do everything I want in record time. It only took a few days for him to do all the changes, which is amazing considering all the work done and the great price.
Boom, there it is. You can really see how important tailoring is! The jacket is slimmer and shorter while the pants have been tapered from the thighs to the opening, both of which help my short stature look its best in a suit! If you take only one thing from this article make sure its this: fit matters, but tailoring matters more.
As you saw the non-tailored suit earlier, it fit “okay”. The shoulders fit, the pants were straight, and the jacket wasn’t too baggy; it just wasn’t perfect. Only tailoring can get a suit to fit you exactly, unless you get bespoke. There are plenty of nice retailers and MTM services, but even those will require fine tuning to get right. That’s why I prefer to buy vintage! The prices are super affordable (if you know where to look) and the price will still be cheaper (after tailoring) than buying a luxury suit that will still require adjustments! At less than $200, my suit looks like it was made for me.
Let’s take a look at the jacket. We already pointed out the good stuff: Shoulder fit (natural with no padding!), large lapels, nice button stance, great pattern matching (note that the breast pocket lines match with the rest of the suit). It was still baggy and long, so I fixed that! Look at it now; shorter length for my proportions, nipped waist (but not too tight) and slightly tapered arms. All signs of a great fitting jacket.
On the topic of jacket shortening, I will admit that I’m always afraid to make this adjustment. Typical ivy jackets have the last button on the same line as the pockets; this suit does not do that and instead has the button a inch or so below the pocket line. As a result, shortening of the jacket does mess with the proportions a bit, making the jacket have a “lower” buttoning stance in relation to the rest of the jacket.
It is this slight imbalance that I don’t always recommend shortening a jacket. I only do it because I know that it won’t look right on me if a jacket is too long. If there is a lot of space on the bottom of the jacket and the last button doesn’t extend too far beyond the pockets, then you can make the adjustment. If the jacket already has a low buttoning stance, then avoid shortening!
Now lets look at the pants. Yes, I know that my tie is short, but that’s because it’s from the 1930’s and guys wore their ties short regardless; it didn’t hit the belt until the 60s and 70s. Anyway, remember that I have nothing against wide leg pants (as long as they are hemmed properly). With that side, I don’t think that wide pants flatter every body type, and as a shorter guy with big thighs, I need a slim silhouette to make myself appear slimmer. The high rise of these pants certainly help (a detail that was a welcome surprise upon receiving the garment), but having a nice taper through the entire leg helps! They might be a tad snug in the upper thigh, so might make another adjustment. However, I think they look great from a visual standpoint.
Note that I did not make the cuff bigger to a 1.75″ cuff (as I normally prefer) since there is absolutely no extra fabric in the pant leg. The default cuff is tiny, but I prefer it over no cuff at all!
Now lets talk about styling the outfit. Most guys are afraid of a pinstripe suit because of the fact that it is patterned. When experimenting with pattern mixing, guys tend to go for patterned shirts and ties and stick with a solid suit in order to ground the outfit. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I tend to wear multiple prints at once just for fun! If you look closely, I’m actually wearing three different prints in one outfit: striped suit, striped shirt, and print tie. Not exactly trad or ivy, but its still cool!
The key to pulling off these patterns is scale. The larger scale pinstripes are offset by the thin stripes of the shirt; both of these are contrasted greatly by the bold print of the tie. People say that pinstripe suits are super formal and prints tend to lessen the effect, but the fact stands that guys have been combining patterns for a long time. This gentleman wears his pinstripe suit with a striped shirt and dotted tie! The amount of pattern mixing is almost contemporary with his choices.
I will say that this tie is one of my favorites, due to the very deco style print and that it looks like it is a vintage version of a modern Drake’s tie. In fact, the entire outfit is my interpretation of this Armoury outfit. I simply added more patterns and 1930’s details, like a spearpoint collar shirt and collar bar.
Total Suit Cost: $50 (suit) + $120 (tailoring) = $170
Jos A. Bank Suit, Custom Shirt from Natty shirts, 1930’s tie,
Socks from Uniqlo, AE Loafers (eBay)
I am not a rich man. I don’t have much money, so I try to make do with what I can! I do have expensive taste, since a lot of my inspiration comes from tailors and sartorial aficionados, but I find ways to dress the way I want. That’s why I try to buy on eBay without too much discrimination. If a suit looks the way I want, has the details that I desire, and has enough measurements for me to save, I grab it! More often than not, the suits I find are less than $100. Why? That’s because I buy vintage and not second hand designer. There’s nothing wrong with second hand designer/bespoke but the prices are often much higher.
This suit was a beauty to find and a fairly simple one to tailor. For about $120 in tailoring, I was able to get a garment that has everything I wanted in a gorgeous fabric that fits the way I want it to. Why spend a lot of money on buying certain brands when you can pay a lot less for something on eBay and get it tailored? The closest I could find to my suit was this by Suit Supply, and even that doesn’t have the details I want, like a high rise pant or a 3-roll-2 button stance. This one by the Armoury is close, but I definitely don’t have $1,500 to spend on a suit! I think I had a great call by going with the one from eBay, even if it is Jos. A Bank.
Now I know that not many of you guys like buying on eBay, but this is a great example of how you can find crazy stuff. If you want to get a nice suit and you have the time, save your money, avoid over paying full price for retail, and stick with vintage or used on eBay! Use the money that you would’ve spent at BR, J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, Suit Supply, or Indochino, and find something that has a bit more character. It takes a lot of trial and error, but always check the measurements and don’t be afraid if your tailor bill ends up pretty high. Chances are that you’ll still come out with more money than if you paid retail!
And as always, never be afraid to mix patterns when you’re wearing a suit. It’s not something modern, it’s something that guys have been doing for almost 100 years.
Yours in eBay,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by David W.
Great and informative post! What’s the usual ideal range for your leg opening on trousers and if you don’t mind, your shoe size? I’m working on the right balance between thigh, knee and leg opening when tailoring trousers.
I wear a size 7.5-8 shoe! My leg opening is 7.5-7.75″! Most of my newer pants are 7.75 now, as I don’t want too much of a dramatic taper on the legs, especially if the trousers are pleated!
I hope this helps!
Only lace ups with a suit.