In Praise of the Essential Gray Suit

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Writing a menswear blog encourages exploration of bold patterns and colors, but when I need to look my best for a big day, I turn to an essential staple — a sharp, cool gray suit. At least I did, until it ripped — badly — at a conference.  Thank goodness for online custom tailor Black Lapel.

My old gray suit — an off-the-rack Hugo Boss piece made in Turkey about 10 years ago — was like a security blanket.  It shone with a crisp white dress shirt and solid tie for interviews and speeches and other Big Important Days and worked equally well over colorful patterned shirts with an open collar.

And then, the seat ripped as I descended an escalator during a conference in the Middle East, forcing an unscheduled trip to a Topman in Doha to get passable though very scratchy trousers to finish out the trip. (Polyester? Really Topman?)

Back in Washington, I leaned more heavily on light gray, charcoal, blue and patterned suits in my wardrobe, but sorely missed my go-to suit, so I went hunting for a new one.


Suiting has become more serious over the past several years — and there are plenty of gray suits that range from adequate-to-amazing available off-the-rack from the likes of J. Crew, Suit Supply, Bonobos and the high-street brands at Nordstrom.

But there’s something about custom suiting, particularly when you find a custom tailor that has so perfectly captured your measurements that you are 100 percent confident of a great fit, fabric and experience. Over the years, no online custom tailor has done more to lock down that perfect experience than Black Lapel, so I asked them to replace my essential gray suit.

Photo credit: Black Lapel

Three weeks later, I had my new go-to gray, Black Lapel’s cool gray suit.  It fits better than that old Hugo Boss model and has an interesting texture that helps it stand out just a little from its peers.

The thing about a suit is that it should instill in you a confidence that enables you to project your best self.  It plays a particularly important role in your wardrobe and no more so than when you have to get up in front of a room full of people you don’t know to present or go on a big job interview.

Black Lapel’s cool gray suit proves that basics don’t have to be boring.

Black Lapel provided a media discount for the purchase of the suit. 

About Jake

Jake is an expert on men’s style and fashion based in Washington, DC. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs and innovative clothing and lifestyle brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. He has published hundreds of articles on style and apparel, and regularly interviews small business CEOs and startup founders about industry trends. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine.

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