Saturday, June 11, 2011

Suit Shopping

A few weekends ago, my wife and I set out to purchase a new suit for me because the one suit I already own has made an appearance at every formal event since the invasion of Iraq. I was told I needed to look nice for a friend’s wedding, so that Saturday morning we drove to a local men’s clothier to see what we could find.

Upon entering the store, we were greeted by an employee who asked if we were in need of assistance. Happy to take the lead, I informed her that I was in search of a new suit and wanted to see what they had in stock. She asked if I had a particular style in mind and I replied that I was looking for something that said “mistrial.” Consequentially, that was the last time that day that I was allowed to take the lead.

Me (before the "accident")
My wife quickly took over and informed her that we were looking for something young and modern but not too flashy. In other words, something that did not say I work in computers and almost went alone to prom. She quickly handed us off to a male associate who took some measurements and began tutoring me on how to visually gauge the overall quality of a men’s sport-coat. He then laid out two jackets and highlighted how the superiorly-fabricated (i.e. more expensive) coat exuded a sheen that the substandard material used in the second coat did not.

Not wishing to duplicate a color that I already owned, he asked me to describe what my current suit looked like. When I replied that it looked exactly like the inferior coat he had just used in the example, he mumbled something about everyone having “different tastes” and appeared somewhat crestfallen. My wife then offered that she would like to see me in something with a vest and he replied that he had just the thing.

Walking us back toward the front of the store, he explained that they had just started carrying a new European style suit that came in a dark charcoal color and feature a very nice vest. Unfortunately, he did not have any in stock at the moment but could show us one on the computer. After he brought up several photos of the suit being worn by genetically-enhanced fitness models, I had to admit that the design was growing on me and after pec implants it would fit like a glove.

Relieved that our mission was drawing to a close, I asked when they would be receiving some in-store so that I could stop by and try one on. Somewhat taken aback, he informed us that the suit was only available in a select few markets (like Switzerland or Dallas)and that the best he could do at this time was to order a “swatch-book” so that I could touch the actual fabric.  

Beginning to suspect that the suit in question might be slightly out of my income bracket, I nonchalantly asked how much it would cost if I chose to order it. He enthusiastically replied that it was on sale for $995.00 but that I would normally pay twice that for an item of comparable quality. (It is worth noting at this point that I was wearing jeans, sneakers, and an Animal House T-shirt that featured the word “COLLEGE” written across the chest so I did not feel I was overselling my level of sophistication or income.)

Struggling to retain my pride, I listened to the figure impassively as if dropping $1,000 on a suit was a routine weekend occurrence for me. I briefly entertained the idea of telling him that I wouldn’t be caught changing my oil in such peasant-wear but my wife was using our secret signal to indicate we had to leave.* I told our salesman that we had another appointment, but he took my e-mail address and promised to have the fabric samples overnighted for my consideration.

Safely out of the store, we drove to a competing men’s clothier and before my wife could stop me I again informed the floor associate that I had an important manslaughter trial coming up and needed a look that said “acquittal.” She quickly interjected that we were looking for a suit for a wedding, perhaps something that featured a vest. He asked what other suits I had in my “portfolio” and apparently my blank expression told him everything that he needed to know because he said, “Just wait here and I will lay some things out for you.”

Thanks to his hard work and patience, I soon selected a style and the in-house tailor was retrieved to give an estimate. While she was taking some measurements I asked her if I should tumble dry the suit on high and she almost stabbed herself with a push-pin. Finally, our salesman asked me to select my shirt material and I informed him that I needed something that would not chaff my delicate nipples.

One painful card swipe later, and I was the owner of a brand new suit. The employee from the first store did send me an e-mail the following Monday to inform me that they had received the legendary “swatchbook” and that I needed to come by in the next few days before they sent it back. I replied that I had already purchased a suit and he told me that he was disappointed to hear that since he could have gotten me a “substantial” discount but was waiting to surprise me when I came back in. I wonder how much success he has had with that technique…    

*The signal consists of her mouthing the words “We have to leave” while motioning severely with both her eyes and head until I notice her or someone else does and calls an ambulance thinking that she is having an aneurysm.

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