Recently, I was asked by two friends to weigh in on a sartorial question they had been arguing about. "What do you do with those tags on the sleeves of suits and overcoats? The kind with the designer's logo on them. Do you leave them on or take them off after you purchase a suit?" I'm here to set the record straight about this and a few other small details when purchasing a suit or overcoat. Do you remove these tags? The short answer to this question is yes! Please, for the love of all that is good and right in the world, remove this tag after you make a purchase and for sure before you ever wear this suit out into the light of day.
When you walk into the men's section of your local department or specialty store, you'll most likely be greeted with rack after rack of very similar-looking suits or overcoats. Those tiny labels on the sleeves my friends were referring to are there to identify the designer easily so you don't have to go digging on the inside of the suit to find out who made it. That is their only purpose. They aren't there as a design statement or an artistic embellishment. Leaving them on more or less announces to the world two things: First, you want everyone to know how much or, worse, how little you've spent on this item and second, you don't know enough about suits to be wearing one in the first place. Either way, this clearly isn't the message you want to be putting out to the world in the one garment men have to convey power and refinement.
Buying an "off the rack" suit unfortunately does not mean you can actually wear it off the rack, as the list of rules in purchasing a suit don't stop with just the arm label. Because suits and overcoats are expensive investment pieces, there are other hidden element's that need attention before you take that suit out for it's maiden voyage. You'll notice on most suits that certain areas are sewn shut. (Usually the pockets and the back vents…) The reason for this is shipping—it prevents major creases, rips and tears, and keeps the garment in an overall pristine condition on its way from factory to store. I can't tell you how frustrated I get when traveling around New York on the subway and see people walking around in their suits and overcoats with the back vents still tacked shut. I once even had a friend argue with me that it was meant to be this way. (I promise you, it isn't.) All it will do is make the back of your suit jacket pull in odd ways and restrict your movement.
The pockets on a suit are more of a grey area. My tailor insists I keep my exterior pockets on a suit tacked shut except for the breast pocket. His argument is that the suit has plenty of pockets on the inside to hold the essentials, and the moment you start shoving a wallet, keys, cell phone, etc. in your outside pockets, the more the suit looks like a bulky misshapen mess. I do what he says partly because he has a long list of powerful and well known clients that look impeccable at all times…and partly because I don't want to get yelled at if I bring these things in to him for alterations in the future. However, I'm usually of the school of thought that you should wear your clothes and not the other way around, so if you prefer to open the pockets and use them, do it. Just don't use them as a hold all because it will alter the shape of the suit drastically and make you look lumpy.
If all these rules sound complicated or you are too afraid to take a seam ripper or scissors to your brand new purchase, my advice would be to find a reputable tailor that can make these adjustments for you. You'll likely need to pay a visit to one anyway as most suits do need minor alterations in the beginning. The pants may need hemming, the sleeves may need slimming and the back may need to be tapered to fit you properly. Just ask your tailor to remove the tacks and tags while he's making the other alterations and he'll most likely do so gratis. Keep these things in mind the next time you purchase a suit or overcoat and you'll look like you paid a visit to Savile Row.