I disposed of the last of my Hugo Boss suits last weekend. They were great looking suits in their time, and they still held up well, but some of them were over 5 years old and they looked odd when I put them on. I used to love Boss suits, especially in the 1980s when they made them in West Germany and they took the time to make them fine.
However, I haven’t bought a suit from Hugo Boss (or any high end line) for years. Instead I buy my suits from Zara. I do that for a number of reasons:
Price: in Toronto, a high end suit that’s not on sale can cost between $1000 to $2000, if not more: a typical Zara suit costs less than $300-$400. On sale they can cost less than $200.
Style: I like my suits to be stylish but not too stylish (hence Hugo Boss and not Gaultier). Zara’s men suits have that. Even if you wear the suit often (like a charcoal gray one that I picked up a few years ago) and it starts to come apart after 3-4 years, it is very likely at that point that cut of the suit, the style of the lapels or the position of the buttons will look outdated and you will want to replace it. During that time the suit cost you $100 per year vs $400 to $700. You can use the $300 to $500 you saved for something other than suits. (If, like me, you have kids, I am sure you can think of lots of other things you can do with that money.)
Quality: the standard suit at Zara is a very lightweight wool (mind you, Zara changes a lot, but last time I checked, that was true). And that fabric drycleans well, is wearable most of the year and it looks great. Once the low end suit makers used non natural fibres for their suits. Zara uses mostly wool, although for the spring/summer lines they also feature cotton — a drycleaners dream suit! — and linen. You can find better quality wool in high end suits, but you pay considerably more for that.
While the fabric is good, the overall construction of the suits is not bad but not great. I have had one suit pucker on me after a few months (it was final sale, which meant I couldn’t return it, alas). And I expect none of pants to last longer than 3-4 yrs. But so what; I’ll be tired of the suit by then and I won’t feel bad about ditching it.
Convenience: Zaras are everywhere it seems, and there are a number of them in Toronto. So are discount stores like Winners. But buying a suit at a discount store is really hit and miss (although the one on Bloor near Avenue Road in Toronto has a great selection with high end lines like Armani, Valentino and Costume National…highly recommended). And like a lot of guys I want to go in and get it done. Zara is great for that.
Finally, Zara isn’t perfect. I’m not a fan of their shoes (I prefer Browns, B2 or even Aldo for casual shoes). And their sweaters are “meh”. For really really basic stuff like t-shirts and casual wear, I go to H+M or even Old Navy or Walmart (I bought “George” stretch t-shirts for $8 that cost $25 at the Gap and other places.) Club Monaco I also like for coordinates, although they cost more than Zara (their slacks are better constructed, though, or at least used to be.) Same with Banana Republic: nicer clothes than Zara but I find better value in Zara.
Now if money were no object, I would have closets full of Prada and Armani and Jo Ghost shoes (ok, I do have a lot of the last one) but I am a middle class guy with two kids and all the costs associated with that. But I still like to look sharp. So I head to Zara.