There are over 700 Men's Wearhouse locations in the United States of America — 1,300 if you also count Jos. A Bank storefronts, which Men's Wearhouse also owns. They're everywhere, just like mattress stores. But the sheer abundance of these stale suit stores isn't a cog in some grand conspiracy. Instead, they're pretty popular — because they're where a lot of men buy (or rent) their first suits, and where they return when their new job, or an upcoming wedding, requires one.
It's a familiar feeling: the compressed carpet floors, the overhead LED lights, the overflowing sale section, the racks of suits mounted above eye level, sartorial gargoyles accessible only via step ladder. To be honest, I vowed to never return to Men's Wearhouse after I'd rented my prom suit there in 2012. Once an adult — I was 18 then, but no adult — I allowed myself to feel above it, as if my new taste for well-tailored suits entitled me to shame others for favoring an easy, affordable alternative to stuffy ateliers or complex tailor shops.
But buying a suit isn't easy. It requires reading over dedicated how-to guides with extensive 'terms to know' sections. Sure, there are a number of new operations that allow you to order a custom suit online, but even then you're left to guess how the final product will look. That's where Men's Wearhouse has the advantage: you can actually see the swatches hands-on and compare your custom suit to ones like it that are already in the store.
My Men's Wearhouse Appointment:
When I showed up for my 7:00 pm appointment, I took a second to browse the store. I didn't see the manager — Connie, a 17-year veteran of the Western Pennsylvania Men's Wearhouse team — I was supposed to meet up with, so I watched as men slightly older than me shop the walls, or walk through custom orders with their wives over their shoulder.
Then, I was approached by a salesperson, directed her way and my appointment began. We stood at a table dedicated to custom appointments, where she could lay out fabric swatches, pull over a sample suit and take my measurements, too.
Ordering My Custom Suit
To begin the custom process, Connie pulled out her iPad and a book of swatches. Unlike newer DTC brands, you can't order a custom suit online, meaning you must walk through your options in person. But I found it easier this way, even if I already knew my way around an appointment like this.
She explained the components of a suit, my potential choices for lapel and button style and beyond. I got the sense that most men that make appointments here — she says a lot do — don't know much at all about suits. The others, I assumed, were elsewhere, using their self-possessed knowledge to order a nicer suit.
But I didn't mind Connie's long-winded briefs, because everything she told me helped inform the decision at hand on her iPad. There were no unnecessary sidetracks, just a constant stream of information meant to help me make selections I was confident with.
Making My Preferences Known
And my preferences were emphasized throughout. Sure, Connie made suggestions — she's been doing this for nearly two decades — but she let me push back, and even say outright no to options she put together. At times, we worked together. Other times we clashed, but there was never tension between what she envisioned for me and what I really wanted. Together, we started in one place, but I ended up with an entirely different suit than I'd originally thought of — a testament to her ability to guide men through this process.
Honestly, if I'd went the direction I initially intended going, I probably wouldn't have liked the suit as much as I like my current one, a textured wool option from Joseph Abboud with peak lapels, a ticket pocket and a tonal lining.
She helped me along the way by presenting real-life examples of the options I was considering. If I wondered how a peak lapel looked, she could show me. If I wondered whether I wanted one button configuration over another, I could see both laid out on the table in front of us.
Then, after I'd made all of my selections, we stepped behind a wall so she could take my measurements in a mirror, with dress shoes on. She grabbed a size-12 sample from her supply and I stood there while she laid out a measuring tape and took notes. The whole process started and finished in under a minute. She typed those numbers into her tablet, she took down my email and I went on my way — and an order recap was in my inbox by the time I climbed back into my car.
In an era where men's suiting can feel more exclusive than ever — at least at the upper end of most men's budgets — Men's Wearhouse made it feel accessible. And it really is; most custom suits start at $399.
Returning for My Suit
To my surprise, the store was busy, and it wasn't the week before a major holiday or even prom season — just a random Thursday in August. "Busy, huh?" I asked Connie. "You wouldn't even believe it," she told me. And I probably wouldn't. They had pick-ups positioned in the corner of the store, sales people occupied all over and a queue for the handful of dressing rooms at the back of the store. And this wasn't in a bustling mall, but a standalone store across the street from a strip mall.
Despite being busy, Connie greeted me as soon as I walked in. She grabbed my suit, I took a peek and then tried it on. I okayed it, and she had them hemmed on the spot. I was in and out in 30 minutes.
Sure, purists probably prefer savoring the experience — embracing the romanticism of a custom suit, ideally from a storied tailor. But few can truly afford such treatment and are left with a place like Men's Wearhouse instead. And though I entered with skepticism, I left with a suit I actually enjoy wearing — arguably even more so than ones I own that are two or three times the price.