Editor’s Note: Keeping to my moral compass in benefit of you the reader, I have only recently started entertaining third-party offerings or sponsorships. My “closed door policy” to Industry was originally to ensure that my writings remain pure in personal opinion for my – and my alone – interpretation of what I consider to be authentic Trad and Preppy style; giving my raw translation for your own discernment, so you can pick up whichever themes I live by in my personal style into yours.
However, it would be a disservice to you just as well to nail the door shut completely, in refusing a potentially favorable Industry update. I have now corrected my course a bit to now allow myself to cipher between the various campaign requests (…not that I receive a ton or anything)… with an open mind; only accepting to write a featured post if something new can be brought to the table. Usually to jumpstart a particular nuanced topic of conversation, as I had with Vintage Campus USA and Bobobos. However in this case, the following below is the first of its kind in CollegeTrad’s five year history: An exclusive review of samples sent directly from the company. I include open disclaimers when needed, starting with this one, to not betray your trust. So without further adieu…
Perhaps nothing perplexes a young gentleman more than buying his first suit. Fortunately for you the reader, you had stumbled upon this blog where I can at least point you to the right direction. Or at the very least, you had the foresight and care to do an inkling of preliminary research online, or perhaps at your Barnes&Noble flipping through mens lifestyle magazines like Esquire and GQ as you kill time sipping on a Tall Cappuccino at the in-house Starbucks cafe. To go along with the other thousands of articles, slideshows, video clips, blog posts, and forum posts you had found in your Google query – I have also written about formalwear plenty of times in my articles and Ask Me replies. There is already The Guide that lays the foundation, and then this extended primer on fitting a suit. So you are probably tired of the proverbial “beaten dead horse” by now.
But what of the rest of our fallen brethren? The majority of the population, whose uninitiated members make up the brainless mainstream masses, as like to colloquially call out Average Joe Brothers…where is their Savior? You see them growling about, with their head down in despair, lumbering behind his Mommy or Girlfriend at a mall department store, making him adorn a Black 3 Button Pinstriped Suit that is clearly two sizes too big. For his cousin’s morning wedding no less in July, where the black itchy wool swallows up the sunny gentility. That black suit will surely look smart for such a fun occasion, according to his Mom’s or Lady Friend’s so-called-expert-intuition-on-the-other-sex’s-way-of-dress. Indeed…these victims need someone to look up to…A Savior that can rescue their poor souls from the clutches of an Evil Tyrant Loved One, who declares her menswear savvy by forcing her emasculated victim to fasten all 3 buttons on the suit jacket. Oh, the humanity! Well, lucky for our plenty of Average Joe friends, there is a new sheriff in town. A crime fighter who guards the Gotham evening skyline, helping these clueless young gentlemen to escape from the intimidating grasps of the fashion police, or worse, his misguided omniscient Girlfriend/Dominatrix.
There in the night! Our Hero’s own calling sign, shining as a beacon of hope into the dreary night filled with countless bad guys: Department store collections showcasing ill-fitting suitwear from “name brand” Calvin Klein and Nautica. Polyester blends. Mall brands Express and Banana Republic and their overpriced rags.
…A Combatant-of-sorts, that does the job for you, for double the quality and half the expense…
Alright. So I could not resist a corny buildup, seeing that black & white logo above got me reminiscent of Batman (we want another one damnit, give us what we need Nolan and Bale!) and just ran with it. But as it turns out, this audacious newcomer actually does have something to offer us; not just simply looking pretty on the pages of a fashion magazine/comic book. Something intrinsic. Thoughtful and Tangible. And its quite good. Certainly so for the Average Joe who knows nothing about mens style…but YES, even for us God Mode Preps and our impeccably high tastes that scoffs at the 99%er suiting options at Macys and JosABank.
Last Autumn, I received a pleasant greeting from a Mr. Hafez Adel, a marketing strategist for Combatant Gentleman, who inquired if I may be interested in sampling their product in return for a blog review. At the time, I had never heard of this venture, and so naturally I was part skeptical and part curious. Mr. Adel went on with his sales pitch, saying how their aim was to provide suits in quality finishing and perfect fitting. They do this through an eCommerce Model that passes the savings directly to you – cutting out the middle man, the brick&mortar, and even your tailor – with exceptional product.
Which is not an entirely new concept mind you. It has already been proven before as a very profitable model by the original innovators, like Neo-prep outfitter Bonobos and the Neo-politan outfitter SuitSupply. Also adapted by established MTM online suitmakers such as ThickasThieves and Indochino. Therefore, what does CombGent have to offer that differentiates themselves from the pack? Well, I will let the company speak for itself. Here below are the highlights from Mr. Adel’s email to me, with my taking the liberty of bolding the noteworthy for your ease:
“…We offer 100% wool (Super 140s) half-canvassed suits for $160, in both modern and slim fits. Our dress shirts start at $25, and our ties start at $16. The reason we can offer quality clothes at these prices is because of our vertical integration – from our 80 year-old wool mill in Italy, to our cotton fields in India, to our factories in the US and abroad, we control the product every step along the way and cut out the middlemen (and their unnecessary markups). We even own our own sheep! We’ve been featured in Men’s Journal, Forbes, and CNN Money, among other outlets…”
Did you nod approvingly at the eye-grabbing details the same way I did? if not, then you may lack the surrounding context. I will add perspective of how potentially awesome CombGent’s value proposition truly is over their competitors: Consider than one of their main online rivals, Indochino, sells their lowest priced Essential Line Suits at $449, and that it is only made of Super 120s wool woven in China. While the Combatant’s starting pricepoint is cheaper by almost three hundred bucks and comes in a better quality wool that is sourced in Italy! Plus, they even own their own sheep…actually have no idea if the others do either…but c’mon, that is a cool sound byte!
My first brownie points awarded, my intrigue captured. But still need to be impressed by more cool company facts?
Interesting Tidbit #1) CEO & Co-Founder Mr. Vishaal Melwani is a third generation tailor coming from a family lineage of Versace boutique owners.
Interesting Tidbit #2) “We want to be the bad-ass version of Men’s Wearhouse…” as he eloquently said. Men’s Wearhouse is the antithesis to anything fashionable who push out crap to the mainstream public. So it is nice to know that Mr. Melwani is a fellow MW hater! A good sign that he aspires above the mainstream masses just like us! You want someone In the know running a fashion house in-considering.
Interesting Tidbit #3) Return rate at CombGent’s is only 4% for suiting, which is shockingly low thanks to their own proprietary algorithm (called the Fit Tech) that predicts sizing to a pinpoint 98th percentile. I doubt Indochino can compete with those kinds of retainment stats. Reading from the many disgruntled users on this SF megathread led to my own personal decision to cross Indochino’s MTM service out when I was in the suit market myself a few years back. My research led me think that all of those returned product forced the Indochino executive decision to introduce the Traveling Tailor to help mitigate the customer in his physical process of finding a true size. All the while, Boy Genius Crusader over here smugly developed his own complex algorithm that promises a great fitting – the first time – from the comforts of his Combatant Cave.
Background Reasoning: Price to Quality
Before going on, some of you who know me all too well are, at this moment, calling foul on my review. “I thought Tony only recommends buying from the Best of the Best? Those so-called ‘authentic heritage outfitters’ that source their suits in prized homelands like the United States or Europe. Especially given the fact this is for suitwear?”…Yup. Correct. You caught me. In strict following my own commanding 10 Rules with unquestioned discipline, one may negate CombGent by default. A Combatant Gentlemen suit is ultimately imported from a production point in China and ultimately going against my hardcore biases. My go-to fallback for suitwear is the Brooks Brothers 1818 Collection that is made right here in the USA. And truth be told, I still abide by this original intent; that declares your first few suits being of a CollegeTrad Approved label like Brooks or HSM or Hickey. However, you should also recall that my principles are mere suggestion, assisting your judgement in keeping True North while exploring the whacky world of Trad&Prep. My hardened curricula derives from a blend of sartorial theory. Which in reality, empirical findings will always take precedent. The real world can never be perfect, and so theory can never be neither with too many input variables.
Plenty of my readers simply cannot afford a Brooks Brothers Fitzgerald suit, despite my protips of treasure hunting on eBay or stockpiling discounted gift cards or whathaveyou. Even at its cheapest pricepoint of ~$500 during the annual post-Xmas sale at Brooks (when the 1818 line is at its lowest) many of you still cannot sacrifice a semester’s worth of textbooks for your very first staple suit. You will realistically wear that 2 Button Fitzgerald Navy maybe, what, twice a year? It is a better decision to spend that $500 of student debt elsewhere. Yet, you still need that aforementioned first staple suit for the rare event you actually need it – which happens to be your cousin’s upcoming wedding in three weeks. And the Xmas sale at Brooks Brothers is half a year away! Many of you who are in high school, college, or just starting out in your career will need budget friendly options as alternatives to pricey Granddaddy Brooks. In my blog’s mission statement, I leave myself an exit door for this very purpose…that even I don’t follow my own rules all the time. Bipartisanship is required. I fondly push for cheap Lands End chinos that are made in China just as I do for my Bills Khakis made Stateside. And the same argument applies here folks! Aim for the premium custom tailored Golden Fleece suit whenever your wallet allows down the road, and obey your common sense now with a safe cheap option that does the job in the mean time.
Which leads to another justification: CombGent provides us an extremely affordable suit that is fashionably forward for the upward mobile. This fact, on top of the earlier mentioned pros of using raw textile from quality sources such as Italy that removes the often-pricey step of requiring major surgery at your favorite tailor (don’t worry, she will have your dozens of other clothes to alter and keep her busy!), and then stacked with the notion that most all other budget outfitters heavily rely on imported goods too; gives us our biggest corollary yet: That if your suit is Made in China, then why go with the likes of J Crew’s Ludlow suiting that is more expensive? Or Express? Banana Republic? Bonobos? If your small budget can only afford a starter suit that holds you off through college, internships, first few years on the job (again, at least until you can buy that $7000 bespoke Brioni suit when you become V.P. of Daddy’s Firm), then why not go with the Least Common Denominator? CombGent has set a new high bar….or low in this case….for our wallets. They cut out the big competitors in providing all of the awesome brownie point extras, with the $160-entry-level making up the biggest brownie of them all, that more than makes up for the CombGent’s Chinese birth. So what, if it was assembled in China when all the other guys have their factories set up there too? After all, we should accept that the third world labor is what allows for the incredible Price to Quality Ratio that outperforms a significant amount of the competition to begin with, giving us one of the best values on the market today. The Combatant’s resultant Value Proposition is easily amongst the best I’ve seen from any outfitter, pound for pound. Thank you Capitalism (?)
If Hickey, Press, HSM, and the rest of the heritage labels make up our Promised Land, then CombGent gives us a steadfast life boat to float us to that fabled island where GMPs run amok. A quick and easy solution for the Now. While JCrew, Indochino, and other popular mall brands – that we would have initially looked to – are starting to reveal the leaking holes in their moldy hulls.
Here is one last reason that plays on our necessity to have a balanced, versatile wardrobe that is made up of trad, preppy, and fashionably forward elements: We know that CombGent is not inherently reminiscent of the Classic East Coast Style that this blog so heavily gets its inspiration from. Yet, that is perfectly fine with you and I, because we take a Slim Cut Modern Suit for what it is. Not a tradly Ben Silver 3/2 Sack Roll Blue Blazer with Gold Buttons that fits conservatively boxy, worn only to fraternity meetings and happy hour at the country club . Instead, a CombGent suit sits poised in our horse stables as our sophisticated stead. A $160 Charcoal Two Button that is just quiet enough to wear to your first professional job interview on Monday morning with a Big 4 Recruiter, paired beautifully with a solid Kent Wang blue Grenadine Tie and Allen Edmonds Park Avenue Captoes; and then vogue enough to wear to an uptown lounge in some renovated basement of a tobacco warehouse on the following Friday night, sans tie, top two shirt buttons unfastened, and bare ankled Cordovan Alden Tassle Loafers in relaxed triumphant celebration, treating your closest buddies with a round of spirits in honor of learning that you just nabbed that job. (Jakes on you! Have fun working those 70+hour weeks and becoming a depressed accountant/office drone!)
Mr. Adel, and one of CombGent’s Personal Stylists Ms. Nikki Hablani, walked me through the steps of ordering a suit. I was asked to fill out a Fit Profile, seen below, which provides them the coordinates for which to map out a good custom fitting, as decided by the earlier mentioned Fit Tech algorithm.
(Note: I am unsure if the Fit Profile is still utilized for the current customer process. It appears Fit Tech, seen on the website as you choose your sizing, has replaced the profile)
If our continued correspondence over these past few months has been any representation of their approach to individualized customer service, then I eagerly award CombGent more delicious brownie points. Both Hafez and Nikki have been top notch professionals in their sincere assistance. For example, where then was an unforseen logistical lag period in the manufacturing stage that delayed my samples, Hafez had personally saw to it that the delivery of my package was in an orderly and apologetic manner. Nikki was able to answer my rather detailed inquiries, at one point being the liaison between me and their Graphics Dept. (which I will get into soon). Good to know that there are professionals running the scene of their brainchild!
As many of you already know, OffTheRack sizing often leads to clothes that never feel absolutely perfect on your body. My own measurements are particularly annoying because I enjoy the occasional gym session, and have developed body stats that test the very extremes of clothing sizing. I have a 10 Inch Drop, meaning my chest and waist circumference is ten inches apart. And with the normal practice of Suiting paired in Jacket+Pants combos cut from the same cloth (which is to decrease the chance of imperfection), buying a suit with the industry standard 6 Inch Drop makes it harder on my wallet since I require the costly supplementary step of having my tailor expertly, but severely, alter a 42/36W slacks to a 32 in a risky surgery known as Re-Cutting. That procedure is way more expensive than a simple Take-In…It seems the major downside to maintaining an athletic prose is the exuberant detriment to one’s wardrobe!…Hence, it is utterly fantastic to see CombGent offering Separate Suiting. And their suit catalog comes in Slim and Modern (i.e Regular) Fits, giving us even more ample freedom to select according to body type. Likewise, their shirts are stocked in Slim, Modern or Regular, and Athletic Cuts. These extra incentives allow for all types of customers to choose their fancy. 3 more brownie points to the House of Gryffindor…err CombGent!
My unique body proportions led me to ask Nikki for the specific numbers. Below, straight from their Graphics Department, is the raw data:
Notice that their vanity sizing for button downs start at 15.75/34 for a Regular Small. Conversely, a Slim Large is 15.5/34 which is unusual because many of the other retailers carry that size in a Medium. Peculiar.
Mr. Adel allowed me to pick a suit, shirt, knit (i.e. sweater), and a tie. [Disclaimer: These samples were given complimentary in return for my online review. I informed Mr. Adel that I would be objective in my critique, which he happily honored.] Ended up going with the staple choice of the Slim Fit Charcoal Suit (MSRP $160), Pink & White Windowpane Semi Spread Collar Shirt ($40), Black Cardigan ($35), and an Inversed Stripe Tie ($14; my trim no longer offered).
It’s the small things that end up mattering the most! I like the fact that their suit slacks come in 36″ unhemmed, despite the imposed super ease of Separate Suiting. This encourages you to get the pants altered to your exact individual leg size (basically hand holding the uneducated guys of the mainstream masses into submission, so they may finally be introduced to their neighborhood tailoring shop!) But what I really love is that Combatant is extremely candid about their products. You will see the “Produced in Southern China -Shenzhen” and “Poly/Rayon Blend Lining” specs alongside the “100% Italian Wool” selling point on their website catalog. The other guys will try to smother these dark details on their garments with the Imported tagline, while CombGent wants to be refreshingly honest. Because they know that their customer base is starting to care about that kind of stuff and will ask those kinds of questions. And that being upfront with honesty, they know we will forgive the minor-in-the-grand-scheme trivia of the China made aspect, especially with making it up to us in cash savings. CombGent is not aspiring to be the next Tom Ford or Oxxford or Brioni. They know who they are and they wear that identity proudly: “An outfitter of stylish products at an affordable price.” They may not be the first one to do this, but they are certainly more deserving of our attention than most of their predecessors. Will I totally switch allegiance from my favorite mall retailer JCrew to CombGent? No of course not. I still love my JC Cotton Cashmere V Neck sweaters. But for a righteous path to painless suit shopping? I have been persuaded to the Combatant. The Ludlow Shop can keep their high markups!
Another detail that I love. CombGent’s tag replaces “China” with “PRC”. People’s Republic of China. Absolutely genius. Honesty without the blatancy. Maybe the random guy who happens to glance at your CombGent button down shirt’s inner tag while you two love birds are in the gym locker room will know what the PRC stands for. Maybe he won’t.
“Proudly Made in PRC”. Not China. PRC.
Fit Pics: Before Tailoring
Very basic but organized packaging. (Please disregard the box condition. I blame the shipping service)
You get a simple unbranded plastic suit bag and wooden hanger. These modest supplies are to be expected – CombGent wants to give you a nice suit at the sub $300 range, so there will be some obvious shortcuts. No complaints from me. You wear the suit, not the bag.
Charcoal Suit in Slim Fit. 2 button, notch lapel, double vent, slanted flap pockets. The suit pictures below were taken before any alteration.
I can honestly say that this was the best fitting OTR jacket that I have ever tried on. I was completely bewildered by how great it felt coming straight from the producer and not having visited my tailor yet. As previously explained, my extreme 10″ Drop always forces me to buy a jacket that fits my chest correctly, but makes the rest of my torso swim in the extra fabric. This was not the case here. The jacket shoulders and its minimal padding did not protrude past my own. The armholes were not too low, allowing for a “glove”-like feel. The sleeves ended exactly at the point above my wrists, allowing a sliver of dress shirt cuff to show. Just these few defining characteristics alone made me super impressed. There was still some work to be done for the jacket and pants to be perfect for my tastes, but it would be a very light job relatively speaking. It was also the first time in my history of suits and sportjackets of not having to take up the sleeve length and take in the shouldering. You cannot imagine how excited I was about that.
For visual reference, I am 6’1 and currently weigh a lean 170lbs. I wear a 15.5/34 shirt, 42R jacket, and 32 pants waist.
The chest felt exactly true-to-size and did not give any slack. This shows when my jacket is stretched at the slightest.
I am very pleased with the jacket silhouette. I had to keep reminding myself that it came straight from the box and not the tailor shop!
Guantanamo Prisoner Pose.
Unbuttoned side view.
The Slim Fit shoulders are a hugging 18.5″ while many other 42R jackets come in at 19″.
I did not take shots with my whole bottom half because the pant hemming was still unfinished. Waist felt true-to-size.
The Details. I am happy to report that the horrifying “Made in China” is not stamped anywhere visible. More brownie points awarded! They had the foresight to know we do not like see those disgusting words, especially on the prominent hanger tab (I hate brands that do that!)
The only merchandising I saw on the suit. No price tag to cut off since you did not buy this at a Brick&Mortar.
The buttons are somewhat left to be desired. Not demanding Mother of Pearl or anything, but the buttons are a give away of the suit’s humble upbringing. However, only 0.01% of people would notice this, and foreseeably 0% of that group would care. The suit is handsome otherwise, and the fitting is what makes this $160 suit look like it cost $1600.
The contemporary labeling can go two ways. I like the nouveau spirit of it for one, proudly showing off a new company that champions e-commerce retailing. On the other hand, I would have opted to not show the website (anyone curious enough will google the name anyway, with the homepage coming up as the first result). I feel like it cheapens the image.
“Not for the uninitiated….but for the uneducated”. Here again though, I think this extra label on the right inner breast is not needed. A trademark mentioning of the 80yo Italian Mill (based in Naples to be exact) used to make the suit and/or a “140s 100% Italian Wool” tag would have been better.
Chevron-like vertical pattern on the inner lining.
Double vented tail. Those sewn finishings are the lone details, unlike the higher end suits that typically have shoulders and jacket buttons unfinished too. Again that is perfectly okay with me. Just hope the “uninitiated” remember to cut off those white threads…..too many times I have seen such unspeakable evil.
Both pockets on the back of the pants have button closures. I favor this over other formal slacks having only a single.
Tab closure. Medium rise for comfort. I like the minimal tag here. Rise is a fashionably forward but comfortable 9.75″ for a 32 inch waist.
Fit Pics: After Tailoring, Final Product
My tailor only had to taper the jacket sides and the pants slightly for the very slim silhouette I wanted. Hemmed to No-Break. I chose to not do our default tradly Pant Cuff to emphasize the fashion forward minimalism. For me, my CombGent suit is NOT intended to be the preppiest option in my wardrobe. I save my staple Brooks Brothers for interviews, and this Combatant mostly for going out to fun and informal venues without a need for a stuffy tie, belt, or even socks.
Double Vented Tail actually long enough to “CYA”, unlike other modern offerings that are too short.
Fit Pics: After Tailoring, Sample Kit Ensemble
CombGent suit, shirt, knit tie, and cardigan thrown together. Worn with Merlot colored Allen Edmonds Grayson Tassel Loafers to compliment the red accents. Think Friday Business Casual for a young Analyst.
Worn with Black Cardigan Knit. Size Medium and very slimming. Tie removed, cardigan thrown on, and top two shirt buttons unfastened for the Friday evening date with a long-legged date.
The Pink & White Windownpane Spread Collar Dress Shirt is a size Regular Small in accordance to the odd novelty sizing extrapolated to my own measurements. The Regular Cut is decent and similiar to most all OTR shirts I own. Construction seems paper-thin which is unfortunate for the rather steep $40 MSRP all things considering. The 34 sleeve length ended up shrinking post-washed, as expected, but perhaps a little too short in comparison to my other OTR shirts.
Comb Gent logo on the bottom of shirt placket.
Whats Next: Eveningwear
I have berated the point by now. Combatant Gentleman’s suitwear is not grandstanding like the rest of ‘em! They really do give us the best suit at the lowest pricepoint. The “$160 that looks like $1,600″-kind of suit. Cheap, but only in regards to retail, and yet just as formidable as…if not more than…the pricier JCrew, Bonobos, SuitSupply, Indochino, and all the other neoprep fashionably forward big labels.
Something was still missing though. An *almost* perfect menswear outfitter. Their knits, shirts, ties, and accessories prove a valid point that supports the Comb Gent flagship catalog of suiting, so what gives? When I did my initial research a few months ago, I thought it strange that CombGent had not offered formal eveningwear. It was the missing elephant in the room. Tuxedos were quite noticeably gone from their lineup, and I was very close to putting that wasted opportunity against them, when I noticed just a few weeks prior to this very publishing that their tuxedo collection made its debut in the upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 collection. This is great news! This helps to answer a larger untapped need for affordable tuxedos, given that there are less choices out there than even budget suitwear. Young men such as you and me are now acclimating to the Red Carpets of the Social World. We find ourselves actually looking forward to dressing up in our best formal gear; whether it be for counting down for New Years, dropping your stacks of George Washingtons at a Carnival cruise with your law school buddies, or bidding on a pair of courtside game tickets at a fancy charity fundraiser. Endpoint being, you wanna impress the golden head of blond locks across the dance floor, with her hazel eyes hiding mysteriously behind an ostrich feathered mask, and you in a pitch black laser-guided-cut tuxedo; whisking the sweet princess away from the masquerade ball when the clock strikes twelve. Or simply look like a balla’ in your friend’s Instagram feed. Sure, you’ll want a Tom Ford or Brioni tuxedo eventually, but you don’t need Daniel Craig’s tuxedo branding of choice just to feel like you are a sexy and sophisticated British agent. If there was ever a need for the quick n’ easy fix, the affordable tuxedo is the one to fill up that void the fastest. Maybe you are a Best Man in a wedding only a few weeks from now. Renting is out of the question. And you do not want the same lump of coal that you wore for your high school prom. Although, you also don’t want to allocate too much of this year’s shrinking clothing allowance to an outfit that you will wear, at best, twice or thrice a year. What to do?
As predicted, CombGent proves as a worthy challenger on the dressiest side of the spectrum too, giving us one of the best Quality to Price Ratios for the lower budget market. Their bigger mainstream peers suffer too much from the markup. Ludlow Tuxedo Jacket *alone* costs more than double the Combatant Jacket+Pants kit. While SuitSupply’s tux is much lower in cost than JCrew….and has those fugly airplane wings for lapels. Banana Republic premium label Monogram is not only expensive (Jacket alone is $274 right now. On Sale from $475. Pants sold separately.) but someone in their design department made the egregious forced effort to update the handsome minimalist look of a dinner jacket by adding a ticket pocket and double venting (FYI a tuxedo jacket traditionally has no vents or at most a single). Dinner jackets are not meant for your business client meetings! The version from Express comes with a jacket that suffers from stitched lapels that screams UNCLASSY. Oh and yeah of course it is $$$ just like all of the above. H&M appears to be the only big mainstream retailer that offers a suit under three hundred bills (H&M cheapest tux is actually lower than CombGent’s $200 pricepoint to be fair) but even at a total of ~$110 MSRP for dinner jacket and slacks, I fail to see H&M’s justification for the savings with…is it a fad gone wrong?…stitched accents! And cheap imported synthetic fiber. Lastly, the growing BlackTux.com rents their slim cut suits for around the $100. I’ve actually had a chance to try their product for a wedding party I was a part of and it was not too bad. But for the money, why not spend a few Twenties more for something you can keep?
CombGent gives us Italian wool and satin lapels with a proper, modern width that is not too choking nor too Dumbo Ear-ey. Just as well, the shawl option is perfectly wide enough to give that relaxing vibe that is not too casual either. I like the various colors, that with the lower price almost begs you to grab a tuxedo in two or three unique tones. Black for the Opera Premiere, Charcoal Shawl for a champagne party, and the all-the-rage Midnight Blue for kissing your new girlfriend Lady Hazel Eyes at an exclusive Hollywood shindig you got invited to because she knows Beyonce’s personal assistant.
There are some downsides that The Combatant could work on. A tuxedo, no matter how fashionably forward it is in cut, should always obey the rules of yore. This is not to suppress the creative juices (because we must recall that CombGent is urbanprep in distinction and not a heritage label like Ben Silver that appeals to our conservative tradly needs) but to remind the creators and customers alike that you shall not mess with perfection. The tuxedo is a gentleman’s blank slate. We let our female companions be the eye catching arm candy that gives happy detail to the void. Thus, the recipe remains as follows: Always a peak lapel (or shawl). Always single vent or none at all. Always one button. Always two jacket pockets. Always a satin strip running down the slacks. Always a slight break with no cuffs. Less is More is rarely so true as it is for mens eveningwear, which is precisely why our best sartorial saints continue to look timeless – Connery, Grant, Dean, Bond. We can now even go more minimalist these days by shedding the studs, the “cumbersome cummerbund”, and the frilled placket shirts. But don’t mess with the basic skin.
My humble plea for Combatant Gentlemen: Remove the extra ticket pocket. Remove the second jacket button. Go with the peak, not the notched. Those design elements are the signatures of a timeless dinner jacket. Mind you, my knowledge sources from the best of the best, as one of my favorite sartorial mentors Glenn O’Brien of GQ reiterates the “no notch lapels” mantra as well. Peaked lapels are the only extravagance to the otherwise somber tuxedo, and using the notched destroys any pomp displayed – replacing the novelty with boredom. I want to feel special that night, in my polished shoes and Dinner Jacket satin regalia; and instead not feel like I just took a taxi from a court hearing I was summoned to, wearing an all-too-common 2 buttoned notched suit jacket that pretends to be worthy of real deal evening etiquette!
The satin-esque finishing on the lapel and chest pocket, along with the jackets with satin finishes on the non-flap pockets, are divine. Definitely keep those options, especially the availability of the slanted double non-flap pockets which helps to further cut down on any material excess with absent outer flap. And I have no doubt that the quality and fitting of the tux line is on par with your flagship suiting that I am obviously so fond of. Same approval for the flat front satin-running slacks.
The few major plotholes I talked of above are the only hesitations that prevent me from buying a Comb Gent tuxedo in this present state. Remove the second button and replace with a peaked lapel. I will ask my readers to make up your own mind on these proceedings, since my hangups may not be as sinful as I depict. There are tons of makers who do not know any better either. Our infallible Grandaddy Brooks has been my one true mating partner in a love/hate relationship for the longest time, as for example they too sell a notched lapel Fitzgerald when they should know better. Yet, the 99.99% of those dudes who are not a tyrant clothing dictator, like yours truly, will barely have enough attention span to notice that second button – much less know to never fasten it so that both buttons are closed, nor know how to tie a bowtie, nor know that the long satin tie is not an alternative for said bowtie. Never ever ever never. Anyway, I just think the current Combatant Tuxedo can can be improved upon to reach those final few points to make it perfect, but it is your trigger to pull. $200 is a good deal nevertheless.
The takeway cliffnotes.
Super 140s Italian sourced Wool, Staples starting at $160 (and lowest seasonal suiting at $140), Separate Suiting, Various Fittings, Attention to detail like “PRC” and hidden labeling, Unhemmed slacks, and Amazing OTR fitting that reduces need for extra alteration. Half-Canvassed Suit Jackets [see edit below].
Made in China, Tuxedowear is promising but not yet perfect, Rest of clothing collection besides suiting is so-so for the money. Vanity sizing that can be confusing.
Verdict: Combatant Gentlemen is now my favorite supplier of budget conscious suiting.I suspect they will see me as a repeat customer. The Price to Quality is unmatched by their competitors. Use CombGent for your starter suit(s) if you cannot afford the higher quality range just yet, especially if you are a student or young professional. Or if you are like me and want a cheap and fashionably cut option as your 4th,5th,6th+ on top of your tradly, higher quality, primary suitwear. The rest of the CombGent collection of shirts, knits, and ties are on par with other brands and can be skipped over. Keep a close eye on their tuxedos for future improvements.[**Edit 5/5/15]
A fellow reader asked if their suiting is half-canvass or fused. Sorry I forgot to add this rather important detail in my original publishing! As seen in this Dappered Forum posting from a company brand rep, the Combatant Gentleman suits are half-canvassed. Since pretty much all of their competitors use fusing to save costs, which is arguably deemed to be of lesser quality than canvassing, this reply from a Dappered user sums it up:
“Wait, half canvassed 140s wool from Naples… for that price?…. I think you’ve got our collective ear.”
FYI my usual favorite suiting suggestion, the Brooks Brothers 1818 Line, are half-canvassed. Brownie points to CombGent. Brownie points galore!