Saturday, February 19, 2011

Suits make this man

This column originally appeared in Capital Business, the Washington Post's new local business weekly.

By Dan Beyers
Monday, January 31, 2011; 21

I bought a new suit the other day.

Actually, I bought several.

There's something about a new suit that makes a man, at least this one. That fine wool and those pinstripes make me stand up straighter, and mumble less.

It's been a while since I spent any serious time in a men's store. I blame the 1990s tech boom and the rise of business casual. To me, business casual is just an excuse for not spending a lot of money on clothes. All you need is a pressed shirt and an ironed pair of khakis, and sometimes not even that.

My fall off the clothes wagon coincided with the demise of Britches of Georgetowne. When Britches went out in 2003 so did my guy. My guy was a sharp-dressed salesman who used to call me periodically, always at just the right time, and suggest I come in to look at a "sweeeet" new suit or tie or shirt or pair of pants. He was chatty but not pushy and he was always honest in his appraisal of how I looked when I tried something on.

I never regretted a purchase.

We stayed in touch after he moved on, but it was never quite the same. His new gig was at a store far off my beaten path, in a mall, and I don't shop in malls.

Don't get me wrong, I've met perfectly agreeable salespeople in malls, but somehow I have never developed a satisfying relationship. I often get the feeling that the person helping me is looking over my shoulder for the next customer. I feel rushed.

Before Britches, I had my guy at Raleighs, another D.C. chain that faded into the sunset. My guy from Raleighs picked out my first tie. I used to buy one new tie a month, which always made the selection difficult. What color? Striped or paisley? I would study my options for what seemed like an eternity.

My guy was endlessly patient.

Sales help like that is almost as hard to find these days as a tie on a collar in the suburbs. I realized as I was getting fitted for my suits the other day that I can count on one hand the new neckwear I've bought over the past couple years.

I miss my sartorial expeditions. While I don't plan to go all Mad-Men-pocket-square on the world, I silently resolved to return soon to check out the merchandise.

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