The ultimate suit survival test: Sydney to London in the same suit

We've all stepped off a long-haul flight in clothes so crumpled it looks like we've slept in them; usually because we have.

Even for seasoned frequent fliers accustomed to back-of-the-clock travel from Australia to anywhere, maintaining sartorial sharpness from airport to an awaiting boardroom isn't easy.

With this in mind, suit maker M.J. Bale dressed a model in one of its suits and sent him from Sydney to London, with a photoshoot awaiting him on arrival.

An amazing race

The catch was that the non-stop journey took five bleary-eyed days, without once getting changed or setting foot in a hotel room. Over more than 20,000 kilometres, Tom Bull transited through nine countries, visiting Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Rome, Naples, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Harwich along the way.

As well as numerous flights, his transportation included trains, taxis, tuk tuks, and bicycles. The last part of his journey involved an overnight ferry across the North Sea, from the Netherlands to the UK.

I think the team from M.J. Bale wanted to destroy me, and they got close.

Tom Bull

"It was on that ferry trip that it really hit me and I was going to throw in the towel," Bull told Executive Style. "It was cold and wet and windy and I was really struggling. I think the team from M.J. Bale wanted to destroy me, and they got close."

Long-haul look

Bull had been told nothing about the challenge until he arrived at M.J. Bale's Martin Place store in Sydney, when he thought he was going to do a quick photo shoot for the new autumn/winter range.

It was then he was told the shoot would be in London, and only at the conclusion of a road test to see what would be more resilient – the suit, or him. He wasn't told his route – then, or even as the trip unfolded – or that there would be no hotel stops.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't collapse on a few plane trips and park benches for a quick kip throughout the journey," says Bull. "I would have loved to check-in to a hotel, but the crew I was with were keeping a close eye on me. Every time I passed out, they'd get a few frames of video and then rouse me up."


Suit of armour

One of the rules was that the suit had to be worn for the duration, although he was allowed to change his socks and jocks and managed to grab a shower or two. "I think this was as much for the crew's benefit as mine," Bull says.

He says his unusual itinerary raised a few eyebrows at border security checkpoints, especially when he told security officers he didn't know his next destination (this was handled by the crew).

"All I could say was that I was on a shoot, and I had no idea where I was going next. I think the fact that I was wearing a suit and tie helped alleviate any concerns."

Footage and photos shot by the crew show the suit looking considerably more dapper than Bull on arrival in London, with the latter almost ready to collapse when the long-awaited shoot finally took place.

Wearable wool

M.J. Bale founder Matt Jensen says Bull wore an $899 Saunders Suit that is part of the company's core range. "It's made from 100 per cent Australian merino wool that has been woven in Italy," he says.

"We chose this suit because of the very high twist in the wool which gives the cloth a natural crease resistance, and durability. It was the same suit we used to dress the Socceroos in when they were travelling."

Acclaimed Sydney tailor John Cutler of JH Cutler agrees the best fabric for travelling is pure wool, especially with a twisted yarn. "On other hand, fabrics that have a synthetic content resist crushing initially, but once crushed, they tend to stay crushed," he says.

Cutler, who has suited some of Australia's top CEOs and politicians, says those wanting a lightweight or tropical suit for warmer climes, should look towards a worsted wool with a high count of silk (around seven to 10 per cent) added. "The silk not only adds lustre and softness, but it helps keep the lighter-weight wool from crushing."

His main tip for travelling from the departure lounge to the boardroom in style? Have the flight attendant hang your jacket for you; and don't slouch around or sleep in it.

Scroll through the gallery above to see highlights of M.J. Bale's "Unsuitable Journey".