A Brushing Up

 Garment brushes relaxing between shifts.  The one of the right is rimmed in soft white bristles for more delicate clothes of cashmere, flannel and lambswool.

Garment brushes relaxing between shifts.  The one of the right is rimmed in soft white bristles for more delicate clothes of cashmere, flannel and lambswool.

    I sometimes wonder if brushing a suit is really just an arcane performance, long surpassed by evolved technology or shifting cultural practice.  Like shaving with a straight razor, more efficient means exist for the job, and if a man really can’t be bothered he can display facial hair without fear of raised eyebrows.  Curiously, while five days growth might not attract much attention, dusty lapels and shoulders do get noticed.  Something to do with a cultural repulsion to dandruff, I suspect.  So what is the correct tool for combat?  

    The most widely used is surely the adhesive roller.  These work, but have two problems.  The first can be ascribed to Murphy: if in a rush for some important appointment, the roller will have a single used sheet remaining.  The other problem is that a roller only grabs surface dust and hair, leaving other matter embedded in the cloth.  Those velvet pads are unhelpful for the same reason, and anything battery-operated is obviously out, if not for the potential of failure (batteries are a famous entry point for Murphy) then for the control one gives up in pressure and vigor.  I have heard accounts of mangled pic-stitching and premature threadbareness while in the hands of dry-cleaners and their exotic devices.  

    I still say the traditional brush is best.  What it gives up in immediate gratification it makes up for by never running out, and while removing hairs and dust might take a more diligent session than the ten seconds previously spent with a roller, the results over time are clearly superior.  You would’t take a few hasty swipes with a straight razor, lop an ear off, and decide the blade’s sharpness was the problem, would you?  No—like any manual solution the results are in the persistence of correct technique.  Here is what works for me:  

Have one stiff and one soft brush.  Use the former for hard worsteds, dense tweed, crisp linen and cotton, the latter for flannel, cashmere, lambswool and anything that seems delicate.

Angle the brush down in the direction of the pass to avoid the bristles biting into the cloth.

Several long, gentle passes are preferable to short, brisk ones.  The danger of raising an undesirable nap is real, even on seemingly robust tweed.

Use the free hand to gently pull taught the cloth being brushed.  Alternatively, support the cloth from inside, running the free hand in tandem with the brush.

Pay particular attention to the shoulders and lapels.  Not only are these the most noticeable portions of a suit, they also collect the most debris.  

Avoid brushing too heavily the sleevehead.  Cloth and shaping can show wear here more readily.  

Set aside half an hour to brush a full suit.  A two minute job achieves virtually nothing.