A Winning Off-the-Rack Wardrobe

The Best Off-the-Rack Wardrobe

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Long having the reputation of the best suits (below) made in the United States (some say anywhere), Oxxford is the great traditionalist. With as much handwork as in any custom suit, Oxxford prefers moderation in styling, as best befits the American businessman: moderate shoulder and discriminating waist suppression on the jacket. Super 150 Worsteds, Loro Piana cashmeres, Duppioni silks. Suits from $1,500.
Polo/Ralph Lauren
867 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10021
(212) 606-2100
New for Fall is the Ralph Lauren Collection. Handmade in England, the silhouette is classic Savile Row: broad shoulders, nipped waist, high armhole, and side vents give suits a strong architectural look. Done with all the custom details--handmade sleeve buttonholes, custom linings, extension waistbands on trousers--and the finest chalk-striped flannels, glen plaids and bankers Worsteds. Suits from $2,000. Shirts and ties designed for the tailored clothing available as part of the collection.
Mariano Rubinacci: at Bergdorf Goodman
745 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10022
(212) 339-3342
Rubinacci has a tailoring shop and haberdashery in Naples, but he also makes a complete line of ready-to-wear that is characterized by an easy elegance and softness unsurpassed in tailored clothing. He crafts his pared-down classics using only the most sybaritic of fabrics: unconstructed silk blazers that are absolutely whisper-weight, buttery flannel trousers in smoky hues, unlined cashmere jackets that are a poem. Suits from $1,450, sport jackets from $1,100, flannel trousers at $295.
There are two other names that should be included in our list: Both Canali and Zegna produce well-made garments of the most fashionable cut, using fine fabrics. And they are more widely available in the marketplace.
*A category of cloth made from extremely fine fibers.


Ike Behar
39 West 55th StreetNew York, New York 10019
(212) 315-2626
Behar doesn't make the most expensive shirt, just one of the best. It offers a variety of collar styles--its medium-point button-down, button-tab and moderate spread collars are models of styling--in traditional oxford cloths and broadcloths. Average price about $110.
Luigi Borrelli
730 Fifth AvenueNew York, New York 10019
(212) 265-1995
At the turn of the century, the Borrellis were custom shirtmakers in Naples with a reputation for shirts of superior comfort and elegance. Today, they make their shirts the same way--completely by hand. A Borrelli shirt is found at that point where beauty and comfort meet. Only the finest 200-count Egyptian cottons and double-thick shell buttons are used. Priced from $195 to $275.
Charvet: at Bergdorf Goodman
745 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10022
(212) 339-3342
Some consider the seven-floor building in Paris' place Vendôme to be the mecca of shirts, and Charvet is reputed to have the largest selection of shirting fabrics in the world. The ready-to-wear line is characterized by exceptionally fine workmanship, trimmer-cut body and very clean-cut, city-smart collars. Charvet shirts are known for their subtle colors and delicate stripes. Priced from $200 to $425. Their ties have a cult following; particularly prized are the jewel-toned basketweaves (at $105).
11 East 57th Street
New York, New York 10022
(212) 751-3181
Only the best two-ply cottons are acceptable for Hermes. A moderate body shape is combined with a fairly bold collar (cut on the bias) to produce a youthful-looking shirt. Color also plays a strong role here, with bold stripes and checks making up a sizable portion of the collection. Priced from $275 to $450.
Charles Hill: The British Apparel Collection
745 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10151
(212) 582-9834
Handsome English silk ties handmade in London is what Charles Hill is all about. The firm does all the classic patterns, but specializes in jacquard-woven styles in a variety of weights to suit every taste. Silk neckwear from $65 to $100.
Robert Talbott
680 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10021
(212) 751-1200
Made in the United States with an international flair, the Robert Talbott shirt boasts solid quality and exceptional fabrics. With half a dozen collar styles (their cutaway has an unmatched sophistication), this collection presents real style: classic taste with a streak of jauntiness. Talbott is the only maker of the seven-fold tie in the United States. Completely handmade from finest silk, each one is numbered as befits a work of art (currently priced at $150). Talbott also produces one of the largest selections of quality ties in the United States (priced at $45 to $85). Shirts from $90 to $150.
Turnbull & Asser: at Bergdorf Goodman
745 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10022
(212) 339-3342
This is the ready-to-wear line from London's famed Jermyn Street shirtmakers. The body is full-cut and has the distinctive signature three-button cuff. The preferred collar style is an English spread with real Duke of Windsor presence. Colors and patterns here are bolder than those found elsewhere, with Bengal stripes in bright primary colors and checks and plaids in bold and unusual combinations. Priced from $155 to $250. There is also a good selection of silk neckwear with the same urbane sense of style, priced from $85.
Other tiemakers of repute that make our list because of high quality workmanship and silks are Ferragamo, Richel, Tino Cosma and Countess Mara.


Alden Shoe Company
Middleborough, Massachusetts 02346
(508) 947-3926
Alden has been a New England shoemaker since 1884. The firm crafts a good variety of business and casual shoes, but one of its shoes stands out as an absolute model of the genre: the Alden original penny loafer. Handsewn on a last, with true welting, in black and burgundy genuine-shell cordovan leather (at $360), it is the real thing.
Tanino Crisci
795 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10021
(212) 535-1014
Gaetano Crisci began making custom shoes in a small workshop in Milan 100 years ago. Today, the Criscis are still there, albeit in a larger workshop outside the city. But there is still the meticulous care for detail and soft leathers that characterize their elegant footwear. Crisci is particularly good for a variety of slip-on models--the "Emerson" model driving shoe in honey-colored pebble-grained calfskin is a marvel, priced at $410. Other styles from $350.
Edward Green & Company: at Paul Stuart
Madison Avenue at 45th Street, New York, New York 10017
(212) 682-0320
"We are English master shoemakers to the few," is how John Hlustik, manager of Edward Green, likes to put it. "The few" include the Queen's own Household Cavalry, for whom the firm makes those handsome knee-high, glossy black riding boots. Other customers are merely aristocracy, statesmen, celebrities and gentlemen. Only the most stately brogues, monk straps and slip-ons will be found here, although they are known to do an exceptional snuff suede chukka boot and a marvelous antique green velvet Albert slipper as well. Prices begin at $455.
John Lobb: at Hermes
11 East 57th Street, New York, New York 10019
(212) 751-3181
Lobb is the world's most famous shoemaker. The firm opened its London shop in 1850 and a Paris branch in 1902. In 1976, Lobb introduced its ready-to-wear line in Paris at Hermes. It takes 15 skilled craftsmen, using only the best box calf (as well as a few exotic leathers), to produce the 35 styles offered in sizes 6 1/2 to 11 1/2 (in widths B to EE). Priced from $450 to $725.
Sutor Mantellassi
730 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10019
(212) 265-1995
Each pair of bench-made Mantellassi shoes receives 22 hours of handwork. The uppers are shaped on a last over an open flame, left to settle, then hand-welted to the soles, creating what many consider to be a perfect fit. The firm makes an extensive range of styles, but it is known for a distinctive square-toed design derived from seventeenth-century Italian styles. Priced from $350.
J. M. Weston
42 East 57th Street, New York, New York 10022
(212) 308-5655
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