Menswear designer Kirk Miller’s outfit for a typical mid-week lunch of fried chicken and apple crisp practically called for a menu-style rundown of its own: a three-piece navy suit — his own label — a matching blue and white striped shirt, and brown suede Barker Black wingtips. Add in the dark green silk tie, horn-rimmed eyeglasses, a lavender and army green horseshoe-patterned pocket square, and you’ve got one superbly dressed dining partner.
No big deal for this stylish gent who cut his teeth in the menswear trade at Soho’s Seize Sur Vingt, as well as working alongside the designer Thom Browne. His shop in NYC’s West Village and clothing label Miller’s Oath comprises custom-made suits and clothing for gents, from top coats to pocket squares. He’s a firm believer in dressing your best, regardless of the occasion.
We sat down with the opinionated dresser while tucking into some delicious grub at Harlem’s Red Rooster to get the lowdown on investing in tailor-made clothing, preserving your new threads through proper care, and the bespoke item every man should own.
When did you get your first custom suit? How has your style evolved since then?
My first custom suit was when I worked at Seize Sur Vingt. I paid the tailor on the side to make one with fabric my father had given me. It was this great dark English tweed. I thought it would be cool to use bright pink lining and totally ruined it. The jacket was also super big and boxy compared to what I wear now — the big lapels and trousers were way too full.
So your aesthetic at Miller’s Oath tends to follow a much slimmer silhouette, we take it. Do you wear your label’s clothing every day?
Of course! Besides playing soccer, I wear almost only my things — and underwear by Marks & Spencer.
Marks and sparks! How much time goes into picking out what to wear in the morning?
Sadly not as much as I would like! I still try to find something every day that’s inspiring, and build the look around it — or try something new with texture, color.
What’s a good everyday suit color?
Gray! You can never go wrong with anything charcoal down to mid-gray.
To someone who doesn’t want to invest in a full custom-made suit, what would you recommend for a single piece?
Jacket, depending what you do. I would get a navy hopsack or a heavier wool in grey, brown or olive. You can do anything with those — dress them up or down, and they will always be in style. Get a neutral lining, of course!
And for pants, pleats or no pleats? What’s your personal preference?
My pants are always flat-front, but I do have a cool model for a pleated pant so I’m not totally against them. But the shape and cut is much more important on the pleated pant as it can easily go “Hammer pants.”
Can you help demystify the rules of caring for a suit? How frequently should one get cleaned, provided there are no stains or damage to the fabric?
As little as humanly possible! Have your suit pressed, not dry cleaned, and if you do need to have it dry cleaned, make sure you go to a good service. All of the details of a proper suit are what is lost at a terrible dry cleaner: lapel shape, firmness of the canvas, structure of the coat.
What about tips for first-time buyers? What helps you as the designer and suit maker?
Do your research. Figure out what price point you’re at, and then look at the options. Sometimes a well-made suit off the rack can be a better bet than some of the cheap “custom” suits you can find now. Bottom line, not all custom is created equal. There is a difference between the $600 dollar custom suit and the $3,500 dollar custom suit.
What’s your favorite garment or accessory in your wardrobe right now? Why?
I don’t really have one favorite thing, but I just did these cashmere, silk and wool scarves, which are really amazing to wear — gauzy, but still super warm and robust.