Suit Review: Indochino Essential Gray Herringbone by J.Z. Bales

Friday, February 8, 2013

Indochino’s Essential Gray Herringbone Suit

When it comes to suits, it doesn’t get much more versatile than gray. When you’re feeling bold, a gray suit provides the solid foundation upon which you can make a statement with colorful shirts, ties, and pocket squares. When you’re just looking to ease your way through the workday, however, a gray suit also lets you tone things down. And when you head out for a night on the town, the jacket is equally at home with a dark shirt and jeans.

Despite gray’s versatility, I’ve always felt underwhelmed by various manufacturers’ offerings. One thing that has always turned me off of light gray suits is that the fabric is typically not uniformly gray throughout, like charcoal or navy fabric is. To me, this random variance creates the perception of roughness, even in suits that I know are made of quality material. Although I’m sure there are many men who like this about gray suits, it’s just a personal gripe of mine.

Indochino’s regular gray fabric (left) and gray herringbone fabric (right)

When I happened upon Indochino’s Essential Gray Herringbone suit, however, all of my qualms about color variance disappeared. My hand was forced when Indochino offered a rare 20% off coupon, and I pulled the trigger on it and the Gray Double Pinstripe suit (an excellent choice, by the way). On previous suits, I had gotten my measurements ever closer to my “perfect fit,” but I still felt there was room for improvement. I was feeling rather brave, so I shaved down a few of my dimensions, chose my options, and placed the order. It turns out that I was a bit too brave on the measurements, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Fast forward to five weeks later, and my suit arrived. Upon opening the box, I was immediately struck by the herringbone pattern: I really like it! In my opinion, the herringbone pattern adds a level of sophistication that plain gray suits lack, yet it is not overpowering and still plays well with patterned shirts and ties. Furthermore, unlike windowpanes, the herringbone is slightly slimming and contributes to the suit’s sleek appearance. I have a naturally slim build, so I don’t necessarily require a suit with slimming properties, but I imagine that this suit would complement larger men nicely. Despite being listed as only Super 100s, the fabric itself is quite smooth and soft, and has a nice drape. I looked at that Super 100s number with some trepidation, but I am very pleased with the fabric’s quality.

The blue Bemberg lining is a few shades darker than my royal blue tie

As for custom options, I chose a two-button jacket with regular notch lapels, two vents, functional sleeve buttons, a functional boutonniere, a pen pocket, and blue Bemberg lining. I ordered the suit right around the time that Indochino moved to offering only Bemberg linings, and I am pleased with the material. The Bemberg linings are not as shiny as Indochino’s older linings, and the color does not have a pearly appearance in the light.

One thing to note about the functional boutonniere is that it is not just an open hole on the lapel: On the underside of the lapel, there is a small loop that allows you to insert a fresh-cut flower and have it actually stay in place without a safety pin. Although I have never actually used it, I like knowing that I can. As for the functional sleeve buttons, this is purely a matter of personal preference. I have only needed to unbutton my sleeves once, but again, I like knowing that I can. Before you order functional sleeve buttons, however, make sure you have your sleeve measurements where you want them—alterations are no small feat.

Now, remember how I said I was overly brave when trimming my measurements? It turns out that the suit jacket is a bit too tight in the midsection. I should stress that this was no fault of Indochino, because the jacket’s measurements are exactly what I entered. It’s not too bad, however, and I haven’t felt compelled to have the suit altered in the two months that I’ve had it. Plus, if I stand just right, it looks like the kind of oh-so-perfectly-tailored fit that you see on the cover of GQ. In all seriousness, though, don’t be a hero—make sure you give yourself a little breathing room in the chest and midsection. I’ve already gone back in and adjusted my measurement profile accordingly. Despite the tight midsection, the jacket fits to my liking where it really counts—the shoulders, jacket length, and sleeves.

Doing my best to channel Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

As for the pants, they are just how I like them. The waist is perfect, I’ve got enough room in the crotch and backside, and the inseam leads down to a full break at my ankles. I opted for no pant cuffs, and I really think that this suit looks best without them. However, everyone has different tastes, so feel free to get cuffs if you really like them.

In the short time that I’ve owned this suit, it has already become my favorite. Even though I also own one of Indochino’s Vincero suits, which I absolutely love, I find myself pulling the Essential Gray Herringbone out of the closet more often due to its versatility. Although it looks exceedingly sharp with a crisp white shirt and power tie, I frequently pair it with shirts of almost every color and pattern. One of my favorite ensembles includes a solid light blue shirt and bright royal blue tie (pictured). It’s a safe combination that never fails to receive compliments.

For the bow tie aficionados like myself, however, just be sure that you don’t wear a red bow tie with this suit. I found out the hard way when I wore this combination to work and wound up as the butt of several Pee-wee Herman jokes.

Just in case you’re wondering, the pictured shirt is from Modern Tailor, and I definitely recommend checking them out. Don’t get me wrong, I like Indochino’s shirts, but Modern Tailor offers more fabrics and options at a slightly lower price point. The tie is from The Tie Bar, whose ties are absolutely amazing. I don’t know about other men, but I’ve always had a hard time justifying $40+ ties. The Tie Bar’s products are on par with the best ties I’ve ever encountered, yet they’re just $15. Seriously, check them out.

Indochino Essential Gray Herringbone Suit Reviewed by J.Z. Bales. Rating: 10/10 (Excellent) An extremely versatile suit with a touch of sophistication.

Special Bonus: My friend, Calan, recently picked up the three piece version of the Essential Gray Herringbone suit. He chose largely the same options that I did, except with burgundy Bemberg lining and a seven-button vest. He really likes the suit, but notes that he wishes he had gone with the five-button vest. Check it out: