We have often stated that one of the basic rules to follow when purchasing a ready-to-wear suit was to never believe the salesman, whose goal is almost invariably, not to make you elegant, but to either sell you his pricier pieces or those he is unable to clear.
Having myself heard, in the last few years, enough outrageous sales pitches to fill an entire book, I am pleased to offer this checklist to my loyal readers. Albeit short, simple and sweet, the questions it contains will help you instantly spot an incompetent salesman so that you can immediately turn your back and move on to the next shop. It shall be noted that in no way is the notoriety of a company a byword for the competence of its sales staff. I have often dealt with salesmen (pompously called tailoring advisors in some loudly marketed brands) just as knowledgeable on the masculine wardrobe as I on plumbing. Such peremptory and self-assured characters are what Steevy Boulay is to Michel Serres, or what Snooki is to Marlene Dietrich.
This said, it remains treacherous to generalize, as there are, God bless them as they are few and far between, competent professionals who do provide excellent advice. They are often found in highly respected labels such as Pierre Degand (Brussels), Boggi (Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris), Cifonelli’s quaint Rue Marbeuf shop (Paris), Albert Arts boutique (Nice), as well as in a few Milanese houses, just to name the few that come to mind. I could mention formerly great labels who have elected to focus quasi exclusively on Russian and Middle Eastern wealthy clients and employ young lasses with strong Eastern European accents, seemingly tasked to barely acknowledge your presence without deigning to offer guidance, but that would be disgressing.
For your eyes only, here is a purely subjective and necessarily incomplete cheat sheet. These clues and questions will help you, regardless of your mastery of the masculine vestiary, of your financial means and of your needs, avoid labels that have yet to grasp that good advice is just as important as quality to earn the loyalty of increasingly knowledgeable clients who, more importantly, have certain expectations in regards to the quality of the service they receive when purchasing a garment (of any price).
At first glance, make a few observations:
- Get a swift and discreet look at the salesman’s shoes I have VERY often seen salesmen sporting undignified galoshes that should never be seen, even on the feet of the least sartorially concerned. This is unacceptable and non-negotiable. Immediately walk away.
- Second, focus your attention on his shoulders: 90% of men’s suit is too big for their built, a mistake easily noticeable on the shoulders. This fundamental erring stems from the absolutely false view of a bigger suit as more comfortable than a fitted one.
- Then, venture a simple question such as: How many drops does this come in? (The drop is the shoulder/waist ratio and a fundamental element to be understood by salesmen) Unless he knows what the drop is, you have assuredly opened the wrong door even if many low range shops only make their suits in one drop. The heart of the matter is not to discover the number of drops to choose from, but to reveal how well your salesman simply understands his craft.
- Ask another simple question to find out whether peak lapels are available. Oftentimes, you will be stunned by how many have not the slightest idea of the difference between notch and peak lapels.
- Then simply utter the word interfacing and watch his reaction to the mention of this other fundamental concept. It will make an irrefutable distinction between a professional and an amateur.
- Pay very close attention to the words used during the discussion. “This year’s trend” and “very in this season” denotes that you are talking to someone who believes you are first and foremost interested in blending in with the crowd, not to acquire a well-fitted suit.
- Lastly, you must run as soon as you hear what may just be the worst yet most common sales pitch: “This piece is wonderful: I bought the same last week!” I have heard it, years ago, from such a vulgar lad that I desired nothing more than looking NOTHING like him…
Of course, the list of “fatal” questions is infinite and I can only urge you to write your own. It will be of great service.
I invite you to share your personal tips in the comments, to help your fellow gentlemen be better armed against these snake oil sellers.
Your suggestions will be used by PG to create a buying trouble shooting tool!