How crazy is it to buy a men's suit, sight unseen mind you, on eBay?

I was invited to attend a very important trade show in Germany last May, and seeing how I had packed-on a few pounds since my last suit was purchased I started visiting clothiers, (That’s just fancy talk for suit stores.)
I was surprised by several things:

1.) The selection in my size was pathetic. Keep in mind, I am a large man, but no larger than the three other guys who were also trying on suits at the same time as me.

2.) The prices were outrageous! These were suits that started at $299 for the jacket, and when up from there. Come on now. I’ve been to Jo Ann Fabrics. There can’t be more than $40 in material in these suits, and no more than a couple hours labor. I made a tee shirt in Jr. High Home Ec class 30 years ago, so I’m clearly a voice of experience here.

3.) Everything was made in China! Now, I understand lead Happy Meal toys, Dollar Store items and crappy Zippo knock-offs coming from China, but men’s suits? And remember, I’m not talking about cheap suits either.

At that point I decided that I didn’t know enough about buying a suit to make a good choice, so I did what I always do. That’s right, I’m not known as “The Googler” for nothing.

What I found was that by and large the production of men’s suits has moved away from what we all think of as the center of the fashion world (Milan, Paris, and Houston) and has moved to mainland China.

From there I actually joined a news group for clothiers, where I began reading everything I could about suit construction. What I learned was that a few years back just like welding and painting on the automotive assembly line, CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) machines started to take over many of the manual tasks that used to require the most skilled hands. Clothing manufacturers actually have machines that look a lot like huge printers, where instead of ink the fabric is cut into all the pieces needed for the suit. Oddly enough, once I got to Germany I got to see one of these machines in action. It was mind blowing!

Anyway, I also learned that not everything on a suit is actually stitched together. Many parts of a suit are “fused” together, which is to say that they are glued!

More on this later, but for now I must be off.

I'm Scott, and I bought a Men's Suit on eBay. (Hi, Scott)

Now, I don't know about you, but the thought of buying ANY suit sight unseen sounds a bit crazy; but add to that the fact that I had one week from the day that I placed the order 'till I had to climb on the plane for Germany. The suit had to arrive quickly, it has to fit, and I would also have to get the pants hemmed.
Click link for excellent Men's Suits for sale on eBay

How the Wizard of Aahs saved my life. Now if I only had a brain.

Now, I don't know about you, but the thought of buying ANY suit sight unseen sounds a bit crazy; but add to that the fact that I had one week from the day that I placed the order 'till I had to climb onto the plane for Germany.

The suit had to arrive quickly, it had to fit, and I would also have to get the pants hemmed. What was I thinking? Oh yeah, I was thinking that there was no way I was going to pay $300 for a Chinese suit, which was all I could find locally in my size.

With that I sent a message to the Wizard Of Aahs, which is run by a guy named Jeff Thomas and I asked him what he thought about my time schedule. We discussed the style and with Jeff’s input I decided on a black Mantoni suit. Jeff confirmed my waist measurement to make sure that the pants that he sent would only need the length altered, and with that he said that he had the correct size on hand and that if I sent my payment that evening that he would rush it out first thing the next morning via 2nd day air. The suit was reduced to $150, so with the rush shipping the total was $184.95.

Jeff suggested that I call around to a few dry cleaners to see if they could recommend someone local would could do a high quality yet fast alteration. Three calls later I made a quick stop by a local alteration shop and explained my time schedule. They said that if I could bring the suit in as soon as it arrived that they could have it ready for me at 5pm on Saturday. My flight was at 8am Sunday!

Like clockwork two days later the box from “the Wizard” arrived .
I grabbed the box from my bride and immediately my heart sank. Jeff must have either sent only the pants, or perhaps he shipped the jacket separately. I opened the box and was shocked to find that it contained both the pants and the suit coat! This had to be the lightest suit I’ve ever held in my hands, and of course I equated weight with quality. I started to freak-out, but my wife suggested that I try in on to see how it looks and felt. I love that woman.

This suit was the best fitting, lightest and most comfortable suit I have ever had on my body! With the exception of the length of the pants, everything else fit me like glove. I took the suit off and ran it over to the lady that was going to hem the pants.

She had me try it on and after a little tugging here and cupping there she stepped back and said simply: “That’s a nice suit”. She noted that the sleeves could use about ¼” removed, but explained that we didn’t have the time for that. She pinned the pants and handed me a ticket and I was off.

On Saturday at noon I received a call saying that my pants were ready, so I dropped everything and ran over to try them on. I’m not kidding when I say that these pants felt like all I had on was a pair of boxer shorts. They draped perfectly. They feature a liner that offers just the right amount of additional fabric just where you need it. After my research I learned that the “trousers” had a 3 button closure with tab “in the fashion of” Zanella.

I asked the lady to give me some feedback on the suit and she pointed out a few things that I would never have known, such as:

The sleeves have four non-working buttons with faux buttonholes. Many suits simply have three buttons sewn directly onto the sleeve, not even attempting to mimic buttonholes. She said this was a nice touch.

The lapels have pick stitching, which she mentioned could either be done by a skilled hand or by machine. At the price I paid I’m sure it was the latter, but at any rate she said this too was a nice touch.

The lapel has a non-functioning Key Hole buttonhole. I learned from my Googling that a “key hole” buttonhole can be a sign of lower quality on a suit/sport jacket lapel. When mass producing a garment for sale at a low price it doesn’t make sense to make two kinds of buttonholes, which would only add to the final cost. A round or rounded end button hole is the kind of button holes that are used for lapel buttonholes on most suits, since the function of pulling lapels across the front of you and buttoning them as protection against weather is no longer a practical function. The lapel buttonhole has been converted to a decorative function, or a place to put a flower.

The seamstress offered a suggestion on how I should pack the suit for my trip and I was out the door $15 poorer. (What a bargain!) I was looking at $400+ for a similar sit from S&K or the Gentleman’s Warehouse, and here I was with an excellent suit and $200 still in my wallet!

This suit keeps going, and going, and going

The photo at right is a self portrait taken with my cellphone in the elevator of the hotel in Cologne Germany. Don't you like the buttons that hold the mirror to the wall of the elevator that I inadvertently positioned directly in one of my eyes?

I would have sworn that I would have worn this suit out by now, but after wearing it for four days in Germany, having it balled-up in my luggage twice, dry cleaned three times and then worn for two weddings, I have to say that it's holding up nicely. The pants did develop a very small 1/4" long tear in a seam which is the jacket covers nicely. It looks to me that the stich is very close to the edge of the end of the material, so it was bound to tear at some point. The next time I have it cleaned I'll have them stitch it and all should be as new again.

The pants still feel like I'm not even wearing them, and the suit was never hot even during a summer wedding in Kentucky.

If you need a suit, don't hesitate to give this one a try.

If I had to do it all over again the only thing I might do differently is that I might have gone dark navy blue rather than black. Everything I read said that black is classic, but blue is the best all-around color if you only have one suit. I went black and have noticed that I've been almost the only man in black at most every event I've worn it to.

One more note: The jacket has a fabric patch that is stitched to one sleeve. I was impatient as my wife was looking for a seam ripper to remove the tag, so I went at it with my pocket knife. Id doing so I caused two of the stitches to create something the seamstress called a "pic", which is something like a run in a stalking. She was able to make it almost invisible, but she also reprimanded me to the point that I will not remove this tag on my next suit purchase, but will instead have her take it off. See, I can learn.

A few more things I learn about buying a suit on eBay

This information is a composite of information I gleaned on the web. Is it original? It’s about as original as the suit I bought!

As I mentioned before, almost all of the suits I found for sale locally were made in China. What I’ve since learned is that many suit makers have moved assembly operations to Asia because of the weak dollar and high import taxes from Italy.

"Made in Italy" on the label doesn’t guarantee quality, and it doesn’t even guarantee that it was made in Italy! There are premium suits and poor suits coming out of Italy, just like China, and today it isn't so much where it is assembled but how it is assembled, what fabric are used and by what standards.

If the suit says "Designed in Italy" or simply "Milan Italy" it is not assembled in Italy. (See photo of my Chinese suit) Again, this does not necessary mean it is poor quality, it‘s just that it was made outside of Italy. An Italian assembled suit will almost always have a "Made in Italy" tag. If you are hung-up on the country of origin, just ask the seller.

If a seller is advertising hand basted canvas fronts on his suit ask him what this means. Most likely they have copied it from a web site and have no idea what it means. Hand basting is the Old School way of assembling suits by sewing by hand. It is superior in the longevity of a suit but most suit are now assembled by fusing with glue. That’s right, they use a hot-melt glue to “sew” suits today. It turns out that even the big boys like Armani and Zegna fuse some parts on their suits, so this again isn’t necessarily a sign of poor quality. There are only a few left like Oxxford, Canali, Baroni that still use canvas fronts.

If the suit does not have a label in the pocket that explains the fabric composition, there is a good chance you have received a Polyester suit, despite any other visible tags that may say “Wool“ or “100% Silk“. This is very common with some sellers since the blend comprises a fabric that is almost indistinguishable from a high quality wool or silk. The hard way to find out is to iron the suit. If it melts you have been taken. If it smells like chemicals instead of a sheep that is also an indication that it is not wool or is a wool blend. Again, if it matters to you, ask the question.

Remember that just like you, eBay sellers jealously guard their feedback, and the last thing they want is for someone to leave a comment that says “You ripped me off! The photo showed a tag that said “Milan Italy”, yet the tag in the pocket said Made in China!” Again, these tags are something that I doubt the guys and gals in China can even read; but what they are required to do is to disclose the fabric content and country of origin inside the coat pocket, so ask the seller about this detail BEFORE you buy.

I purchased my suit from the eBay Store “The-Wizard-of-Aahs”, which is run by eBay seller style-wizard. The store can be found at this link: Click link for excellent Men's Suits for sale on eBay