Suit Geek 06 | As a Lawyer, You’ve Got to Present a Very Professional Outlook

On our sixth interview for “Suit Geek”, we invited our client and friend,  Mr. Stephen Liu. After graduating from law school at UC Berkeley, he pursued a career as a lawyer in Beijing, suits then became his daily attire. Today, he shared his style journey being a lawyer and his valuable experiences on choosing wedding suits for both indoor and outdoor occasions. 

Suit Geek 06 Teaser Video

Stephen Liu

” I studied law in China at Southwest University of Political Science & Law, then UC Berkeley for my Master’s degree. Now I’m a lawyer. “

/On His Very First Suit

“My first suit was the school uniform from high school. We rarely wore it. Only once or twice a year, when there was a huge gathering, we would be required to wear the uniform.”

“It was navy. Pretty much like the kind of school uniform you would see at the prep schools in the UK. I remember the tie was pretty tight, and it’s the kind of tie that you don’t need to tie with a zipper on it. Yeah, it was funny.”

Stephen at Barrister’s Ball

“My second suit, a decent one, was a three-piece suit. I got it for the Barrister’s ball we had at law school at UC Berkeley. It was definitely an upgrade from the first one. The first suit you get is usually more conservative, like in charcoal grey, so for the second one I wanted an upgrade, something that could make a statement. I chose this three-piece suit in pure linen. I think it still looks good in the picture.” 

“With my limited budget, I went to an outlet store and tried those big brands, Hugo Boss, Brooks Brothers, but they didn’t really fit me well. Then I picked the Suit Supply. I knew that there was going to be a new store in San Francisco when I was at Berkeley, but they postponed the opening date several times and I couldn’t wait any longer, because I had a very important job fair in New York and I needed a decent suit. Since I didn’t manage to go to the store, I just ordered it online and had it delivered to my hotel in New York just in time for the job fair.” 

/On His Journey to Tailoring

“I studied law, so I’ve seen a lot of  TV series and movies about lawyers, like ‘Suits’. I was fascinated by those guys I saw in the shows who are always suited up, being a strong figure, knocking down deals with the clients. I studied law in China for undergrad, but the fist two years I didn’t really have a general idea of how exactly a professional lawyer should look like.”

“When I was studying at Berkeley, I had opportunities to chat with lawyers from top law firms from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. I started having an idea of what kind of lawyer I want to be in the future. Now, as a business lawyer in Beijing, I don’t go to court doing all those debates and trails, but I still have to negotiate for my clients, and I have to be presentable.

Tom Cruise in The Firm (1993)

“Back then, the purpose of wearing a suit for me was for important occasions like meetings, interviews, etc. After I stepped into this sartorial world, I took a deep dive, then I noticed that you can absolutely wear a tailored piece on less formal and casual occasions, you just need to find your personal style. Right now, tailored pieces are my preference, unless I’m going to a sport event, I mostly wear sartorial pieces.” 

“In terms of the fit, there’s a reason why I wouldn’t go with those big fashion brands – their fit is just too tight.”

Stephen with Principle M and B&Tailor team

“For me, comfort matters the most when it comes to suits. The other thing is that you just keep developing your style along the way, find clothing that fits your personality. For example, I don’t normally wear a three-piece suit because I don’t feel like it fits the context of my life at this point. You don’t wear three-piece suits when you work at the office in a law firm, I’m not trying to make a statement. So, I never bought another three-piece suit until my wedding recently.”

Stephen’s Pre-wedding photo
Photo by The Salt Studio

/On His Wedding Attire

“We went to Australia for two sets of wedding photoshoots. One was with formal outfits. I chose a light grey, 3-piece suit, the second 3-piece suit I’ve ever got since the one in college as I mentioned before. Another one was a more casual one, a beige jacket with a stripe shirt and white trousers.” 

I think my wedding is the most formal occasion I ever had in my life, or in anybody’s life, so I wanted to go with something formal–a three-piece suit. Strictly following the dress code, you should have worn a morning coat in the day time, with a hat or something. But I don’t have to be that formal because people back home wouldn’t understand why I dressed that way. Also, for that kind of outfit, I would probably only wear it once in my life, and I wanted to make something that I can still wear again. I ended up with this great 3-piece suit. I still wear it to work sometimes, just without the vest.”

B&Tailor Beige Linen Jacket
PRINCIPLE M MTM Chinos & Brown Stripe Shirt

“The other causal one was for the photos we took by the cliffs in Australia. I chose a more earthy look, to fit in the scenery — a beige linen jacket, off-white chinos and a brown stripe shirt.”   

“I also wanted to do a formal indoor shoot for weddings, something you can pass on and show it to your kids. So, I made a tuxedo, which really satisfied my imagination for a classic event outfit.”

Your wedding was postponed. Have you thought about what will you wear for your wedding?

“3-piece suit in the day, tuxedo at night (the ceremony is going to be in the evening according to the tradition in the South of China whereas it would be in the daytime in the north.). I also have a beige linen jacket, and I’m probably going to wear that if we’re doing outdoor events.”

Black Tuxedo 
Made by B&Tailor at PM in 2019

/On His Daily Style

“If I have a meeting with clients on a workday, I’d wear a navy suit, with a stripe shirt, and definitely a tie, black Oxfords and definitely with socks.” 

“We have casual Friday at work when you can wear something more casual than a normal weekday, so for that, I’ll pick a versatile jacket. Then I’ll pair it up with chinos, or jeans, or Fresco grey trousers, and penny loafers but without socks.”  

Johnstons Cashmere Jacket
Made by B&Tailor at PM in 2018

“I really like jeans and a jacket. Not only can it cover causal Friday, but also if I have a weekend date with my wife to a restaurant or a theatre, that’s probably what I would wear. My jeans are mostly middle to high rise, not very tight, so it looks good paired with your tailored jackets.” 

“Middle to high rise gives a good looking proportion. We’re not models, you know? We are not tall enough and we don’t have really long legs. 

Also, I care about comfort, I want to wear something that guarantees me enough space to move around, so to make the proportion right, middle to high rise is a good choice.” 

Stephen in Principle M RTW Nola Seersucker Shirt

“I’m not a tie person. The reasons for that are pretty simple. First, wearing a tie really is not that comfortable, right? To put something around your neck like that. Second, I’m a lawyer, my job requires me to always consider other people’s feelings, to put myself into other‘s shoes. I don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable by wearing a tie because they might think they’re underdressed.”

“However, especially in the fall, winter season, sometimes I think if I don’t wear a tie with a shirt when I’m wearing a suit, I have a feeling that the look is not complete. So, what I do instead is wear turtlenecks.” 

Johnstons Cashmere Jacket
Made by B&Tailor at Principle M in 2018

One of my favourite looks that I have is a pinstripe double-breasted suit that can be worn to the most formal occasions, but I’d like to wear it with a turtleneck, maybe a dark green one, and pair it with loafers.” 

If you could go back and give yourself a tip 5 years ago about dressing…?

“Try not to wear a jacket that is obviously too tight for you. Try one size up instead. And if you look good with a larger size, just stick to it. It makes you look more relaxed and even stronger and muscular.” 

Semi-bespoke VBC Suit
Made by PRINCIPLE M in 2020

/On His Lifestyle

“I play basketball a lot. However, I haven’t been playing this year because of Covid-19.”

“My favourite player is Kobe Bryant, rest in peace. He’s the kind of guy who can pull off a full Gucci or Burberry suit the proper way. I think he did a photoshoot back in 2014 where he was wearing Armani or Gucci, he really has the perfect proportions, and wore it so well, you know? Maybe because he grew up in Italy? He could even speak multiple languages. How cool is that?”

“I do cook. Lockdown really elevated my cooking skill. I mostly cook Chinese food, especially Sichuan food because I went to college in Chongqing for 4 years, like Gong Bao Ji Ding and Xiao Chao Rou.” 

“Recently, we got a dog, a shiba. We’re currently learning how to raise this dog and not let him bite every shoe we own. I actually really want to ask you [Justin] about this because I know you have a dog…”

(and then those two went on talking about dogs.) 

Interviewer: Justin
Writer: Carrie
Photographer: Adora
Produced by PRINCIPLE M

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