It’s easy to think that the shape or size of the hanger you put your jacket on doesn’t make any difference, but it does. Without adequate support, well made shoulders on a thin hanger can bend and distort, ruining the care that has been taken to make sure they fit properly.
We are talking, of course, about bespoke suits – the effort there to fit these shoulders to your own is greater, and therefore so is the loss of ruining them. But the same recommendation applies to ready-to-wear suits too. Any suit with a decent padding in the shoulder requires support in its hanger – something that mimics the shape of your shoulders, essentially.
Many ready-to-wear suits these days have little padding. I notice Polo Ralph Lauren suits tend to have little, for example, as do Brooks Brothers’. This is a hark back to the classic American sack suit. But even they benefit from decent support, and their more structured European cousins even more so.
So what should you look for in a hanger? Well, there are two basic elements: width and depth. The width of the hanger from one side to the other should be within an inch of the size of your own shoulders. Too narrow and your suit (or overcoat, they have bigger shoulders remember) will droop down over the ends – and eventually stay that way. Too broad and the hanger will poke out into the top of your sleeve, distorting that lovely line that should run cleanly from your shoulder roll down to your wrist.
Other things are nice too. Wooden hangers absorb moisture and deodorise the suit – they need to be polished or coated, though, or the fibres of the wood can catch on the cloth. It’s helpful if there is a trouser bar (even odd jackets can usefully hang with an odd pair of trousers) and for that bar to be felted, in order to keep the trousers from slipping off. The alternatives, holding the trousers in place with some other form of fastening or folding them far closer to the top of the trouser, both have their disadvantages. Felt is simpler and more reliable.
There are some great manufacturers of hangers out there. Notable in the US is The Hanger Project, started by a man named Kirby Allison a few years ago to fill what he saw as a gap in the market for decent hangers. His success since then has proven his intuition right. As a one-man band, a lone entrepreneur, he also deserves note and our recognition.
Kirby’s hangers fulfil all the criteria above, as you’d expect, and come in more widths than anyone else. Nice finish to the wood too. But a full collection of his hangers for all the suits in your wardrobe would be an expensive purchase (perhaps better, an investment). So in the meantime I recommend that you locate hangers that are the correct width and have some depth for the shoulders whenever possible. Often these are offered with a new suit; accept them. Other times they are just lying around in closets, under used. Whatever the method, a little attention should be enough to put together a basic collection.
Deeper hangers, of course, can be frustrating as they reduce the amount of space in your wardrobe. But better to have fewer, better looked-after clothes.