Back “in the day” when I was a young bodyguard and finally was making the Big Bucks I made a Big Mistake. I thought I should look as much the super-star as my client, so I went and bought myself the most gorgeous $2000 designer suit you’d ever want to see. It was tailored to fit my frame perfectly. I knew I looked good in that suit. Imagine my pride as I stepped out of the limo next to the celebrity, sporting my new suit for the first time. Imagine how pleased I was as we strutted to the venue, paparazzi cameras flashing. Later that night, I had to vault over a barrier in the line of duty. Imagine my horror when I heard my new expensive suit rip! It was the sound of twenty $100-dollar bills tearing. Now, there’s not much that will bring a big man down–but I think I might’ve cried a little that night!
–Harlan “Hucky” Austin
It is important to have the right wardrobe for the job interview, and for the job itself. But you can learn from the above story. You don’t need to spend a fortune on suits to look sharp. Be sure to check with your employer as to his/her expectations for on-the-job attire. Some clients prefer that their Executive Protection Staff NOT wear suits, but rather “blend” more in dress slacks and shirts. For the most part, however–you will need to own a few suits for the job, and that can get expensive.
Did you know that you can purchase designer-named suits that look great without having to pay a fortune? You can find suits for $20-$60 if you go to thrift stores or second-hand stores. (Ebay also has suits but remember, you cannot try these on before you purchase.) At the bottom of this article are some of the “designer names” you may want to watch for in your quest for a nice suit.
Finding a really nice suit without breaking the bank (especially when you’re just starting out) is a little bit of a treasure huntâ€¦but you can find what you need if you just put in a little effort. What you need are 3 dark suits in these colors: black, dark blue, dark brown, and charcoal gray. Also, you will need dress shirts (button downs) and a few ties. Purchase several white shirts, and maybe one or two in colors for special occasions. You will have to comb carefully through the racks to find the really nice or designer stuff, but they can be found, and for a fraction of the cost of buying retail. You will need to visit more than one store, so set aside an afternoon to look. HOT TIP: Go first to the upscale department stores to see what is current in suits and ties. For example: Pants with cuffs come and go. Polyester is dated, and not the right fabric for this kind of work. Pinstripes? A little risky, be careful because if too wide, you’ll look like a 1920’s gangster! Select ties that are fairly “subtle” nothing too bright, too busy with patterns. Keep things low-key.
Before you spend any money on a previously-owned suit, here is a check-list:
â€¢Â Try it on. Sit down in it in the dressing room. Be sure you can move easily in
it. Try it on with a button-down dress shirt, so you can see how the cuff of the
shirt looks under the sleeve of the jacket. Make sure neither the sleeves of the
coat or the pants legs are too long. Nothing looks worse than an ill-fitting suit.
Think about bringing the shoes you’d wear with the suit–and wear white socks.
Try on the suit with those dress shoes and white socks, and you’ll know right away if the pants are too short–you should not see any socks!!
â€¢Â If at all possible, bring a friend with you for a 2nd opinion–don’t let a low price tag influence your decision, because you could end up with a cheap suit you hate and that doesn’t look right on you. Ask another shopper for their opinion if you can’t bring a friend along!
â€¢Â Find the brightest light in the store and check for: stains, spots, rips, tears, missing buttons, frayed or stained hems. Check the under arms for any rips or stains. Triple-check the zipper. Smell the garment. Some smells can never be removed from clothing. A missing button is not the end of the worldâ€¦sometimes there is a spare inside the jacket. Or, you could replace ALL the buttons with new buttons, with the help of a tailor (unless you’re handy with a needle and thread.) If it’s a great suit, new buttons is a small investment to make.
â€¢Â Invest the money in dry-cleaning the item prior to wearing it.
Lastly, don’t forget to hit the after-season sales at the major department stores. Chances are, if you are a very large man, that there will be nice suits left at the end of a season (“average” sizes
always sell first.) Take advantage of these markdowns. You may only wear it in the current season a few times, but you’ll be ready for the following year.
Now After reading all this great information, I have learned a lot about Dress Attire. Thank you Harlan.
Hucky, I really like this article. One of the first suits i wore on assignment ripped at the croach when stepping down from a stretched 4×4 limo onto the red carpet. “be sure you can move easily” is an understatement in my case (haha). Thanks for the informative article. Keep Safe and All the Best.
Good advice Jim, I would like to add a couple points as well. Extra material for Lats or back area also helps. I canâ€™t stress the next point enough, do not waste a ton of money on a suit that will be used as a work suit. I personally have two types of suits, my work suits which are of medium quality, and my non work suits, which are much better. I just do not like spending a bunch of money on something that I know is going to be worn out quickly.
Also limit the amount of dry cleaning you do on your suits, it is hard on suits, just get them pressed a majority of the time. This will be relevant to your body type and working environment however. If you sweat a lot, and work in dirty areas, then obviously you need to dry clean more often.
As an executive protection agent, your expected to dress in the same attire as your client or dignitary. If he/she is in business attire, most of the detail will be dressed in business clothes. If the VIP is out on his or her yacht, then you will be wearing Dockers or khakis a loose fitting shirt (don’t forget the under shirt as it hurts like the devil to have the butt of your weapon rubbing up against your bare skin). The loose fitting button down shirt in these informal settings is so you can fit a radio, holstered weapon, handcuffs, extra magazines, and a non-lethal weapon such as an expandable baton or pepper spray.
In terms of dress in general in doing protection, during my first day of training with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (State Department agency), I attended a class given by a fashion consultant and tailor. Now, we were all getting about $18K a year, and were being urged to buy Brooks Brother suits and $120 Rockport shoes (expensive shoes in 1987). In any event, I did like Hucky did and almost went bankrupt in clothing myself for protective duty. The thing is I found that all my suit jackets were ripping on the inside, the result of the fabric cathing on the hammer of my .357; you will find similar points on semi automatics where it will catch and tear the fabric. Moral of the story: EVERY SUIT YOU BUY, TELL THE SALES PERSON YOU ARE IN SECURITY OR LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THAT YOU CARRY FIREARM ON YOUR HIP. HE OR SHE WILL HAVE A PROTECTIVE PIECE OF FABRIC, DOUBLE REINFORCEMENT OF THE AREA THAT GETS TORN. You will pay a little extra for this slight alteration; however, it is well worth the extra money in terms of the longevity of your suits.