April 22, 2024

Styles For Men

Boldness and Elegance, Timeless Men's Style

Where Are Men Buying Suits Off the Rack?

5 min read

When The New York Times heard from 81 men who responded to a survey about off-the-rack suits they had bought since 2021, the style that came up the most was introduced around the time Barack Obama was first elected president: J. Crew’s Ludlow suit.

The Ludlow suit, which has been offered in various colors and fabrics, has a slim fit and starts at about $675. After its introduction in 2008, the Ludlow became “instantly omnipresent,” according to GQ. The Wall Street Journal said the suit “changed the way we dressed.” Guy Trebay, the men’s fashion critic at The Times, wrote that the style “transformed our relationship to suiting.”

Most survey respondents who mentioned the Ludlow suit said that they owned more than one version. Steve Zegans, 45, a content strategist in New York, owns two. He described the style as “refined and classic.”

Steven Rojas, the director of marketing at the Twenty Two, a hotel in New York, owns four. Mr. Rojas, 42, also has suits from Sandro, Dior and Thom Browne, he said, but he has gotten more use out of his Ludlow suits because the style strikes a balance between contemporary and classic. It is, as he put it, “versatile enough for both professional settings and the dance floor.”

To get a sense of how male shoppers are navigating the off-the-rack-suit landscape, The Times reached out to more than 1,400 men between the ages of 20 and 80 from across the United States last summer and fall. (Off-the-rack, for this article, meant a suit bought online or at a store that fit a person’s body with minimal or no alterations.)

Some men were approached as they commuted to and from Grand Central Terminal in New York, and others while they were getting lunch near Wall Street. Certain professionals — lawyers, doctors, executives — were sought out because their occupations often require formal dress. Some were also approached on Instagram after a search for users who had recently posted about weddings or events where they had worn suits.

While the almost seven dozen responses to the survey show that the Ludlow suit hasn’t lost its appeal, they also show that men have found other worthy off-the-rack options.

Ahead are more suits cited by survey participants, along with some shopping trends observed in their answers.

SuitSupply’s Havana suit, another slim-cut style, was cited by three men in their 30s. It has a classic look, they said, and is something they could see themselves wearing for years. The suit starts at about $500, is offered in various fabrics and comes in three-piece versions.

Herman Singh, 32, a manager at a financial services company in New York, said that he cares more about a suit’s fit than its material and that “SuitSupply seems to put a lot of emphasis on how their suits fit.”

Cody Romness, 33, a founder of Allegiate Gym, which has locations in Los Angeles, liked that suits from SuitSupply can be customized. The personalizations, some of which are free, include choosing options for jacket linings or lapel styles.

Sid Mashburn’s Kincaid No. 3 Suit is, according to Andrew Favorito, a 31-year-old fashion and beauty public relations director in New York, “many steps up from the J. Crew starter suit” that he owns.

Russell Kelly, 49, the chief operating officer at Fourtané Jewelers in Carmel, Calif., also has the style, which costs $1,695 and is offered in a handful of colors.

Mr. Kelly said the suit’s higher price reflects its materials and construction. “I’ve had many custom suits made over the years,” he said. “I prefer these suits over any bespoke clothing I have.”

The Kenmare suit came up as an alternative to the Ludlow, particularly for those wanting a J. Crew style that Ryan Cascarano, 29, an environmental consultant in Chicago, described as “more relaxed and less on the slim side.” He would know: He already owned a Ludlow when he bought a Kenmare.

Starting at about $650, the Kenmare is a bit lower in price than the Ludlow, and it is offered in far fewer versions. It was introduced in 2022, well after many people started opting for wide pants instead of slimmer styles (and started wearing looser-fitting clothes in general). Mr. Cascarano said the Kenmare has a polished look that is not dissimilar to suits he has admired in Wes Anderson films.

J. Crew’s Crosby suit, a style introduced in 2014, came up as another not-as-slim option. (J. Crew describes the Crosby suit’s fit as “classic” and the Kenmare’s as “laid back.”) The Crosby is offered in more versions than the Kenmare but fewer than the Ludlow, and starts at about $675.

Todd Snyder was the executive vice president of men’s wear at J. Crew when the Ludlow suit was created. Mr. Snyder started his namesake label a few years later, and its suits were cited by survey respondents in their 30s, 40s and 50s. The currently available styles start at about $750.

Many of the men who mentioned the brand’s suits brought up the fabrics. Bob Gearing, 42, a sales manager at a cybersecurity company in New York, said his Todd Snyder suit was made with a breathable denim-like material and described it as an upgrade to the “standard” styles sold by J. Crew. (He owns suits from both brands.)

Ross Cassidy, 43, an architect and a furniture designer in Los Angeles, said that Todd Snyder suits generally look modern — but not so modern that they feel trendy. “I hate anything trendy,” Mr. Cassidy said.

Ten survey respondents in their 20s and early 30s said they had recently bought a double-breasted suit, and many of them chose the style for its “personality.”

Daniel Wisner, 31, a jewelry designer in New York, bought his from Stoffa, a men’s wear brand whose fans include the hosts of the fashion podcast “Throwing Fits.” (Stoffa’s currently available double-breasted jackets start at $1,500.)

At first Mr. Wisner saw double-breasted suits as being for “older men with banking jobs,” but he has come to see them as “the opposite of stuffy.” He said of his suit: “The double breast makes it more formal, but the cut is so relaxed that it’s the perfect mix.”

Respondents also mentioned double-breasted suits from Men’s Wearhouse, Tom Ford and Selected, a Danish label.

Other suits that came up in the survey were from the following labels, listed in no particular order: Paul Stuart, Express, Ring Jacket, Alex Mill, Indochino, Ted Baker, Proper Cloth, Prada, Brooks Brothers, Joseph A. Bank and Maison Margiela.

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