20 March 2017

When I Bought a Suit

A few weeks ago, I needed to buy a suit, as I needed to attend an event where a suit was required. I used to have a couple of suits, but they were at least a decade old, and was definitely not nice to look at and wear anymore. So I enlisted the help of one of my friends, and together we went to go shopping. It took a whole day, and I realized that when it comes to clothes, I have been buying the wrong things my whole life.

The thing is, I hate shopping. Years ago, when my sister and I were living together, we used to go shopping whenever she would need a new outfit. This happened a few times a year. And I hated it because it involved basically walking around the mall multiple times, trying out multiple things, reserving multiple things, and then ultimately deciding, trying it again, and buying things. This whole process took the whole day.

Looking back, what I hated about it was the seemingly non-directional trajectory of action. See, I couldn't figure out a way to optimize the experience. Say you know your size. That's fine, but different companies don't exactly make the same measurements even though they use the same scale. So no matter what it is, you have to go ahead and try out everything.

So when I needed to get a suit, a friend who actually knows a lot about suits accompanied me, and he pretty much did all the talking. He would screen out some suits for me before I even tried it on. He would say things like "oh I don't like this" or "this is bad quality" and all I could say was "why?".

After all, I am a scientist, and I value rational thought. I needed to know my friend's system, as to how he was able to determine that one suit is good and the other is bad.

Anyway, a few hours and several fittings later, I found myself a suit. And I realized that I have been wearing clothes the wrong way my whole life.

Take a shirt as an example. Nowadays they come in regular fit, slim fit, super slim fit, among others. There are many things to consider, from the length of your arm, to the size of your neck, to the volume of your body. I was wearing a shirt that was too big for me when I went shopping. And comparing that with the shirt that I bought, it was very different.

This whole exercise made me realize that there is a whole domain of knowledge that I didn't know. The knowledge about lapels, about ties and how large the knot should be, the structure and color combinations, and so forth. Fortunately, my friend knew that extensively and I was able to benefit from his expertise.

Like I say, I know what I know, and I know what I don't know. This is definitely something I don't know. And I suppose since I was making a purchase that was equivalent to a round-trip trans-Atlantic flight ticket (during the low season), then it better be good.


  1. I'm a woman, a French woman to boot, and I find clothe shopping is exhausting and completely irrational. Sizing, for instance, is so different from one brand to another!

    1. Zhu,

      Yep, I know what you mean. One company's 44 is another company's 42. And the interesting thing is that some people actually know all of these in their heads!