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A Gentleman’s Guide to the Clothes Brush


We wish we had a butler. In fact, it’s one of the great disappointments of our life that we do not. And, if you stop and think about it, we bet you’ll get pretty worked up about it too. But in the absence of a butler, valet, coachman, footman or personal chef, it falls to us to perform some of these tasks ourselves.

Starting with the clothes brush.

It’s a habit that’s fallen out of favor in the age of dry-cleaning, but it should be a solid part of your pre-party routine. Brush your suits the right way and you’ll add an extra level of sharpness, along with a few extra wears between cleanings. Do it wrong and you’ll leave awkward diagonal lines across the back of your favorite jacket. So naturally, we’re going to make sure you do it right.

First, you’ll need a brush—ideally as soft as possible. This is a pretty good one, but you can get more weathered versions around the vintage market. Horsehair is usually a good sign, as soft as you can find.

Once you’re equipped, lay out the garment in question as if you’re about to iron it. That means a flat surface, as stable as you can make it, with all the cuffs unrolled and collars popped. Drip some water onto the brush (you want it moist, but not wet) and you’ll be ready to work. Brush once against the grain of the cloth to raise up the dust in the fabric, then a second time in the opposite direction to bring back the sheen of the cloth. Then you’re ready to put it on, finish your drink and head to the party.

The rougher the fabric, the rougher you can treat it. So when your tweed jacket comes up for brushing, you’ll want to really dig in. For your wool suit, try a little tenderness. For velvet jackets, it’s best not to brush upwards at all, since even a light stroke is enough to raise whatever dust is in there. All told, it’s ten minutes on your way out the door—and your reward is a better looking fabric and the invaluable knowledge that you’re heading into the world schmutz-free.

But if it sounds too elaborate, you can always hire a footman.