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How to make a suit last forever

Classic business clothes never go out of style, and keeping them in top shape can save a lot of money over time.

By MSN Money Partner May 14, 2013 1:55PM
This post comes from Jim Wang at Bargaineering.

bargaineering logoBack 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 apiece -- 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 wore a full suit only to meet with clients.)

Businessman adjusting necktie © Tom Merton, OJO Images, Getty ImagesEven 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 each, 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 cited above 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 24 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.

Use 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 hangers 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 to 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. Mothballs 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 mothballs is, of course, the smell; so cedar might work better. 

Rotate, rotate rotate

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

Even if you wear it for just an hour to an event and take it off afterward, wash your shirt. 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 have all five suits, along with a few I've added 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?

More from Bargaineering:

May 15, 2013 11:32AM
Styles and cuts change.  Weight flucuates.  Nothing worse than seeing a guy in an old suit that is to small for him.   Good suits can be had on the cheap.   Most people don't know the difference between a $150 and $1,500 suit as long as it's a current style and taylored properly.   Everyone can recognize a old and ill fitting suit.
May 14, 2013 2:19PM
But what about poor people? Can they get away with only one suit like MIB?
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