A few weeks back, while out scavenging the streets of Philadelphia for some street style shots, I passed the new Center City showroom of Indochino, the online custom-suit company, who is busily bringing the concept of personal tailoring to the mass menswear market. I don't normally let my eyes linger too long on window displays when I'm shooting. It just makes me want stuff. I can't afford to want stuff. But this time, for whatever reason, I let my eyes be caught. "I would love to have a suit that actually fits me right," I thought to myself. As a street style photographer, walking the streets of a city with a long history of menswear, I have seen plenty of examples of what a well-fitted suit can do for a guy. It is past time for me to upgrade my own style and look like the tenured anthropology professor that I am. Perhaps, it occurred to me, Indochino and I might be able to work something out. So I contacted the PR team at Indochino to see if they wanted to do a collaboration. To my great surprise, they did. They are currently doing a campaign with bloggers in 5 cities entitled #YourCityYourSuitYourStyle and thought I would be a good fit. Readers will know, this isn't my first brand collaboration. I have approached collaborations with the same wide-eyed curiosity that I have approached all aspects of the street style game. In other words, collaborations with brands are a great opportunity for research. I had never, however, contacted a brand before. It had always been the other way around. I gotta say, I found the experience kind of empowering. I can see how bloggers start easing their way into making a career out of this.
A week later, I had a fitting set up for Indochino's local showroom on Chestnut Street. Since I am a street style blogger, not a personal style one, I needed to find someone else to shoot, and the first person to pop into my head was menswear blogger and "style influencer" Akief Sheriff, who I have worked with in the past. He knows his suits, and I could use his expertise in picking out my own. This post is about our experiences getting suits made for us at Indochino. It is also about the suit Akief had made for him, and 3 separate ways he chose to style it.
So here's how this works. Once you have decided to order a suit from Indochino, you've got two choices: either measure yourself and buy the suit online, or set up an appointment at a showroom and work with a real human being. Currently, they have showrooms in New York, Boston, LA, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, and, of course, Philadelphia. Since I don't trust myself with a tape measure and still am something of a neophyte to the cult of menswear, I set up an appointment at their showroom. I could use all the help I could get. Akief came down at the same time, so I could document him going through the process.
We began by looking through material samples from the fall line, all knotted and draped over a rack near the front of the shop. Akief, who works as a sales representative in menswear at Saks Fifth Avenue—when he is not working on his own menswear line, or taking pictures of himself looking dapper—inspected the materials with all the artful seriousness of a sommelier sampling fine wines. My own inspection, when it came time for that, was more like a series of clumsy swoops. This looks cool! Yeah, this too. I had no idea what I was doing. But I came in with the idea in my head that I wanted a classic navy suit, and I found myself leaning towards subtler materials—flannels, wool-blends, herringbone, and pinweave patterns. Akief, on the other hand, is not a subtle guy. Being a personal style blogger sort of rules that out as a possibility. He spent the bulk of his time with the plaids and windowpanes.
Once you've chosen a material, the next step in the process is to go through a checklist of options with a sales rep. Single or double-breasted? Peaked or notched lapel? How wide? How notched? What kind of lining would you like on the inside? Do you prefer real or fake pockets? Functional or decorative buttons on the sleeve? To a seasoned menswear aficionado, like say, Akief, these questions all have easy, obvious answers. But to a novice like myself, they instill no small sense of dread and anxiety. I am an educator. I like to do well on tests. I had no way of telling if was acing this one. My sales rep simply nodded and smiled reassuringly at each of my choices. When I seemed entirely at a loss, she might make a suggestion. But the choices remained decisively my own. Akief, as it turns out, was too lost in his own choose-your-own-adventure suit shopping spree to spend his time coaching me.
Then, the waiting game begins. There's nothing to do but obsessively check your order status and wonder if you made the right decision about your suit and its optional features. Am I really so sure I wanted slit pockets? Is a monogram with my blog's URL on it the dorkiest thing ever (for the record, yes, it is. I did it anyway). Three weeks later we were called back for a second fitting. Pins were inserted. Alterations were made. And then... more waiting, while the suit was sent to the tailor's. This ain't buying a suit off a rack, you know. You want it done right, you gotta wait. And the results...you'll have to wait to see the results. My suit is flannel and warm. It fits me like a second skin. I'm going to need to wait until it's properly Autumn to wear it. But I have to say, I do kinda love it. It's a new look for me, but it's one I could get used to. For now, let's talk about Akief's suit.
Akief chose a double-breasted indigo windowpane suit with four-inch peaked lapels, two-inch cuffs on the pants, and all sorts of subtle personalizations, like red stitching on the left lapel's button-hole. "A lot of guys," explained Akief,"are afraid to wear a windowpane suit." It's a bold look. On the dressed-down streets of Philadelphia, you notice it from a distance. Akief, however, is not one of those guys. "It's a statement suit," he says. "But it's a business suit as well." "I love to bring out the windowpane on a Friday," he told me. It's as if windowpanes are building up inside him all week, suffocating beneath more sedate hues of navy and gray. By Friday, the windowpane can be held back no more. For this first look, Akief chose to pair his suit with some cat toe shoes by To Boot New York. Akief loves To Boot New York. He wore a different pair of their shoes on our last shoot.
"The next look," said Akief, "is about leaving work, feeling comfortable on a Friday afternoon, and meeting up with your boys." Did I mention, by the way, that we did this whole shoot on a Friday afternoon? Dressing for Friday night, he explained, doesn't require a major change in styling, or even, you may notice, a change of shirt. "[Just] take off your tie, open your shirt, and change your shoes." Instead of cat toes, he has opted for some comfortable loafers, without socks. Taking your socks off makes every look more casual. This, by the way, is nearly as casual as Akief gets.
Akief's final look is for the weekend. The week is over. The tie hangs in the closet. The socks remain in the drawer. Most people , said Akief, just pull out a T-shirt and pair of sweats on the weekend. Once again, Akief is not most people. "I'm a fashion guy," he told me, "so I can't do that." Instead, Akief has kept on his Indochino, double-breasted jacket. He's pushed up the sleeves, but he's keepin' it classy. This time he's paired the jacket with a striped T-shirt and an ice-blue pocket square. He has swapped his slacks for jeans, and his serious pose for a smile. "The ladies are always asking me why I am always so serious in my posts," he told me. "You've got to give the ladies what they want." Ok ladies, here it is.