Shopping Know-How for Men: Greater Rewards in Less Time!

Since this is a blog about drycleaning, I am going to focus on those most common garments that must be drycleaned: A sport coat and dress slacks.

Identifying issues before you buy, can save you a lot of grief at the drycleaners and save you money in the long run!

SPORT COATS: There are 6 (or 7 depending on how you count) major issues you should address before you buy a sport coat (and that does not include how it looks and feels when you try it on)!

1. Lapel Roll
  • Lapels are meant to be rolled, not pressed with a crease.
  • ALL jackets are meant to have the lapel roll to about one inch above the top button.
  • Gabardine and soft wools are hard to train to roll, do not buy if it does not roll properly!
  • If you wear your jacket open frequently, you should also avoid these fabrics, the material will gain a new "memory" over time and likely not roll properly after a while.

2. Back Collar Felt
  • The back collar of the jacket should always cover the felt below it.
  • Before buying a jacket. check to ensure this is the case! It usually appears fine when hanging on the hanger, however it may be different when you try on the jacket (a good reason to bring a companion when you shop).
  • If the felt has been cut or fitted poorly, it will show below the collar.
  • Posture may also create this unfortunate condition.
  • If you see progressive shrinkage with drycleaning, ask your cleaner to steam, stretch, and reblock the collar to cover the felt.
3. Fusible vs. Sewn Construction
  • The fusing process usually uses an interfacing, an adhesive, and material.
  • This process gives the jacket a clean, smooth line and is commonly used with gabardine and tropical-weight fabrics.
  • Adhesive will ALWAYS break down eventually. In time or after several years, the glues just give up.
  • This results in a bubbling or puckering most commonly in the front area.
  • There is some debate over what causes this - but I am certain it is just the chemical nature of adhesives!
  • Price does not dictate the quality of fused construction. However fused construction is typically less expensive than a sewn construction jacket.
  • If you want your jacket to last over 5 years, I recommend not purchasing a fused jacket
  • The Problem with Sewn Construction? The lining is typically made of a different material from the jacket. So after several cleanings, different rates of shrinkage cause a rippled effect.
  • -- A decent tailor can normally correct this problem.
4. Two-Button vs. Three Button Jackets
  • ALWAYS keep the extra buttons that come with your jacket!
  • The traditional 3 button jacket (made famous by Brooks Brothers) presents a special problem: the top button is usually hidden under the lapel roll. However, since most cleaners machine press the lapel, you will be left with a circular button impression! That is quite unsatisfactory! (if you have any 3 button jackets, go check and see if you have that ugly button impression).
  • I recommend removing the top button if this is the case. You can's see it anyway, so why not avoid having your cleaners mess it up?
  • If you want to wear a three-button as a three button, please get a designer jacket that was designed to be a three-button jacket.
5. Single Breasted or Double Breasted
  • Single-breasted jackets are easy to wear and have less material than double-breasted jackets.
  • A single-breasted jacket can be worn unbuttoned and still look neat.
  • Double-breasted jackets may not be the best choice for a shorter man with a full build.
  • Double-breasted jackets are designed to be worn buttoned at all times! Wearing them unbuttoned not only looks bad, but it can damage the lapel roll.
6. Fabrics: The fabric you select will have a tremendous impact on the life, wear and cleanablity of you clothes!
LOW MAINTENANCE: 100% Wool wears longer than blends. Fall and Winter weaves (flannel, tweed, herringbone, etc) are the easiest to maintain because they are 100% wool, wrinkle resistant, and respond to brushing after wearing (you should always brush your wool jackets after wearing!)

Blended Fabrics that contain some polyester are wrinkle resistant but tend to shine faster. Fabrics with a nap or texture show less soil and tend to press well.

Of the cotton fabrics, seersucker is the most durable and least labor-intensive. Some seersucker can be washed, although drycleaning is more gentle.

HIGH MAINTENANCE: Thin, summer cotton may feel great, but it wrinkles easily. And frequent pressings of a light color will cause the jacket to wear more quickly.

Lighter fabrics also show perspiration and may have more damage due to perspiration - be sure your jacket is lined if you have a summer jacket!

Natural fibers do not hold color! So a brightly colored linen, or cotton jacket, besides needing to be pressed frequently and damaged by perspiration, will fade. And if you get a stain, there is a high likely hood it will not be removable without pulling a little color. This leave a light spot where the stain used to be! NEVER RUB A STAIN ON THIS MATERIAL - You will be left with a damaged area!

Gabardine - can shine easily, and if it is heavy weight - often has fusing issues.

Superfine Wool - also known as Super 100, Super 120 and even Super 180. This is very delicate material and not a good idea for an everyday suit. It wears easily and most quickly at the elbows.

Camel, cashmere and silk blends - not for everyday wear. These materials should be cleaned on MANUAL drycleaning cycle and are therefore expensive to clean. If your cleaner is not charging for these items, beware!

Raw "nubby" Silk - Pill easily, Difficult to clean (fading and stain removal - this is also a natural fiber),

Suit and Dress Slacks: Pants take more abuse than the jacket does, and they are typically drycleaned more often than the jacket. Consider the fabric (discussed above) when you are purchasing your pants!

GOOD IDEA: When you buy a suit, purchase an extra pair of slacks at the same time!

Whew! This is already longer than I intended. Now you know why none of my friends take me shopping! Take my advise, and you will be enjoying your purchase for years to come.


Violet said...

Hello I found your blog while looking for advice about whether I can hand wash a lined wool jacket that I bought from a thrift store (seems not). Not only did I not expect to find a whole blog about dry cleaning, but I didn't expect to find it so interesting!

John Kenly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Kenly said...

This is another very informative post by you. Thanks a lot for sharing such a valuable tips.

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