How to Take Care of Your Suit: Dos and Don’ts
Steeped in tradition and enveloped in mythology, men’s suits can be a mystery to the uninitiated. What’s more, a lot of nonsense and marketing spin is thrown around about suits online. Unfortunately this can make it hard to find good practical suit advice. Even about quite simple and mundane matters; such as how to take care of your suit once you’ve bought it.
Just how often should you wear your suit? What’s the right way to store it? And what to do if a serious mishap occurs?
Whether you’ve gone for something off the rack, or invested in a fine made to measure suit from a professional tailor, you can bet that a lot of time and hard work went into making your suit. And that’s without considering all the money you will have spent on it. That being the case, you’ll want to look after your suit well, so as to get your full money’s worth.
Want to know how to take care of your suit so that it lasts as long as possible? Check out these essential suit care tips, and look forward to many years of stylish service from your suit.
How to Take Look After a Suit: The Suit Care Checklist
Don’t: Overfill Your Pockets
Although few items of clothing will make a man look as sharp and modern as a well-cut suit, many of the details that make up the contemporary suit find their origins way back in the depths of history. And in a few cases their purpose has shifted over time; usually from a practical one to that of pure decoration.
Take the pockets on the jacket, for example. Men once did hard physical labor in suit jackets, so exterior pockets were essential and the wearer would have made good use of them. Today though, pockets are there more out of tradition than anything else.
Sure, you can certainly make use of the pockets on your jacket if you need to. But if you want to take good care of your suit so that it keeps its original form, we recommend putting as little in the pockets as possible. At least the exterior ones.
You should particularly avoid sharp objects such as bunches of keys, heavy items such as phones, and bulky stuff like fat wallets, as these will risk stretching the pockets out of shape. Stick to using the internal pockets and your suit will stay in good form for many years to come.
Do: Remove Your Jacket When Seated
Sitting isn’t great for suit jackets as it tends to stretch them out of shape. What’s more, if you’ll be working all day at a desk, the repeated rubbing of elbows and sleeves will eventually take their toll on a fine woolen suit. In practice this means you may end up with shiny patches in these areas, or worse still, eventually wear out the fabric altogether.
It’s particularly important you take your jacket off when getting into a car, as sitting will tend to crease the rear vents out of shape. Meanwhile, as you turn the steering wheel, a lot of strain will be put on the sleeves and armholes.
Don’t: Hang Your Jacket on the Back of a Chair
Having said this, while it can be tempting to take your jacket off and put it over the back of the chair – chairs kind of have “shoulders” after all – this is actually a really bad idea. Unlike your actual shoulders, which are relatively soft and rounded, the back of a chair will be hard, angular, and – on closer inspection – not really shaped like shoulders at all. Eventually the sharp corners of the chair back will conspire with the weight of your jacket to stretch the shoulders out of shape; perhaps even leaving permanent “lumps” in the fabric. Not a good look.
Those who know how to take care of a suit will simply lay their jacket flat on the back seat when driving. Or, better still, keep a hanger in the car especially for this purpose (but see below).
Don’t: Wear the Same Suit Two Days in a Row
Just like you and I, a suit needs to rest, too. The general rule is not to wear the same suit more than twice a week, and never two days in a row; give it a break between outings. This will ensure that the fabric has time to breathe and regain its original shape before you wear it again.
Don’t: Put Your Suit Straight Back in the Closet
Once you’re done wearing your suit, don’t immediately return it to your closet, but instead leave it out to air for 24-48 hours before storing. This will help to ensure that any moisture that may have accumulated in the suit while you were wearing it has time to evaporate. Wool and moisture are not a good mix, and by putting a suit directly back into your closet without giving it the opportunity to dry out, you might risk ending up with mildew.
It’s always good to give your suit a quick brushing down with a suit brush before storing it too. This is an essential part of knowing how to care for a suit as it will help to remove dust, dirt, and other particles that might attract moths.
Do: Use a Suit Hanger
Just as putting your jacket on the back of a chair will risk stretching it out of shape, the wrong kind of hanger can also have a disastrous effect on a suit. Above all, avoid thin hangers – particularly of the wire variety – and instead hang your suit on a purpose-made suit hanger. These are extra wide and curved at the extremities, and so they effectively mimic the shape of your shoulders. Not only will this guarantee that the shoulder areas retain their correct shape, but the jacket will hang much better. As a result your jacket will be crease-free and in as-new condition the next time you need it.
Do: Store Your Suit With Cedar
A big part of knowing how to care for a suit means understanding how to keep it out of harm’s way. So aside from regularly brushing off food and dust particles (see above), you’ll also want to invest in some other form of moth deterrent. Moth-spray will likely be the most effective, but isn’t necessarily the healthiest thing for either you or the environment. Being a chemical poison, it also tends to smell pretty bad.
Better to use cedar wood instead (or perhaps as well). Cedar smells great, it helps to absorb moisture, and – most importantly – moths absolutely hate it. Using cedar wood hangers would be one solution. However, cedar wood needs “reactivating” after a while, otherwise it will lose its moth-repelling scent. But as you do this by giving the wood a quick rub with sandpaper, hangers may not be the best choice in the end (sand them enough times, and they’ll start to lose their shape). Better to buy cedar balls or sticks, and place them in the pockets whenever you store the suit. Otherwise bags of cedar shavings will also do the trick; although quite how you reactivate these once the scent fades is less clear.
Don’t: Put Your Suit in the Washing Machine
This should be obvious to most people, but a suit will not survive being washed in a machine (the only exception to this rule might be an extremely casual, unstructured suit in linen or cotton). For a start, by putting a suit in the washing machine you would risk shrinking the fabric – especially if the fabric is made of wool.
But it’s equally important to understand that a suit jacket gains its flattering shape from a bunch of canvas and other structural material inserted into the chest and shoulders. This is then given form by careful stitching and ironing. Rest assured that this carefully crafted part of the suit would not survive being doused with water.
Do: Spot Clean Any Stains
The best way to deal with any minor accidents that your suit might suffer is simply to spot-clean the area with a damp cloth. If you’re quick about it, most of the time this will get the offending substance out of the fabric before it has time to cause a permanent stain.
Do: Give Your Suit an Occasional Refresh
Even without being subjected to any unfortunate mishaps, though, your suit might benefit from a little refresh every now and then. Especially if you’ve spent any time in a smoky environment.
Mostly, merely hanging the suit outside in the breeze overnight will have it smelling fresh again. However, if the summer heat has left your suit a little malodorous in the underarm area, you can easily remedy this situation by applying a thick paste of bicarbonate of soda and water to the afflicted region and leaving it to absorb the funk for a day or two.
But perhaps your suit smells just fine, but is merely looking a little tired? In this case, hanging it in the bathroom while you take a steaming shower will go a long way towards removing any wrinkles and creases.
Do: Use a Professional Dry Cleaning Service
On those occasions when spot-cleaning doesn’t work, or when the suit has become a little too funky even for baking soda, dry cleaning is the only way to go.
Keep in mind that although some dry cleaning businesses do the cleaning themselves on the premises, most are effectively just agents who send your clothes out to a third party. While there’s no reason to think that the service will necessarily be any better or worse from one type of dry cleaner or the other, the advantage of a dry cleaning company that does the work themselves is that the person who takes your order might be the same person who actually does the cleaning. This means that any special instructions you provide are less likely to be lost in the communication chain.
Don’t: Dry Clean Too Often
As essential as an occasional trip to the dry cleaners can be, it’s important to keep in mind that dry cleaning isn’t some mysterious form of witchcraft, but rather involves putting your suit in a vat of scary industrial-strength chemicals. While these chemicals will get your suit clean without making a mess of its insides, they aren’t all that gentle on its outsides. And the more you send your suit to the cleaners, the more this will take its toll on the delicate woolen fibers of the cloth.
Unless a true disaster strikes – in which case dry cleaning may be the only solution – you’d do well to send your suit to the dry cleaners as little as possible. And ideally no more than a couple of times per year. Also, because dry cleaning can cause chemical fading, be sure to always get the jacket and pants cleaned together; otherwise you might risk ending up with one item a subtly different shade to the other.
Do: Learn to Fold Your Jacket Properly for Travel
Many men worry about how to travel with a suit without it arriving at the other end all crushed up and unwearable. This shouldn’t actually be a problem, just as long as you know how to care of your suit properly. Indeed, as delicate as they are, suits can travel surprisingly well.
The secret is knowing how to fold the jacket. First hold it by the collar and pop one shoulder inside-out. Now bring the other shoulder around so that it inserts into the first shoulder. Your jacket should now be entirely inside-out, and folded in half down the middle with one shoulder covering the other. Fold your pants in two and place them in your suitcase on top of everything else you’ve packed. Now, if your jacket will fit in the suitcase without further folding, place it on top of the pants. Otherwise fold it once horizontally in the middle and add it to the suitcase. Don’t place anything else on top.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, get your suit on a good hanger and take it in the bathroom while you shower (see above). This should help to get any creases out.
Do: Buy Doubles
Usually the first thing that will wear out on a suit is the seat of its pants. If the damage is irreparable, this leaves you with an orphaned jacket. But the pants are the cheapest part of any suit. So why not extend the life of your suit by buying two pairs of pants from the outset? This way you can alternate their use, thus considerably prolonging the life expectancy of your suit.
How to Care for a Suit: Final Thoughts
Nothing is more flattering for a man than a sharp-looking suit. Take care of your suit, and it will take care of you. But keeping a suit in tip-top condition requires a little effort. Not that it’s difficult once you know how. But as we’ve seen, it would be easy for someone who doesn’t know the correct way to look after a suit to cause permanent damage if they’re not careful.
Hopefully you’ve found our guide to suit care tips useful. By following these simple rules you will continue to enjoy wearing your suit for many years to come.