Every man should own at least one great suit – no exceptions. There are countless quotes that bear testament to the fact that clothing is THE most important way to make a good impression: ‘Clothes make a man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.’ said Mark Twain ‘You button up into one of those suits,’ Mad Men’s Don Draper told us once, “and it’s like, ‘Okay, there’s a certain way that I feel. I feel confident. I feel put together. I feel great-looking.’ ‘You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.’ said Edith Head; ‘People will stare. Make it worth their while.’ Harry Winston stated. Finally Bo Derek hilariously once quipped ‘Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.’
While a great suit will make you feel (and look) sharp, world-wise, and sophisticated, a bad one will make you look like a hack or some man-child who still gets dressed by his mother. So it helps to know a thing or two about buying, wearing, and caring for the one you love.
Our suit guide is here to help you understand what makes a great suit, or enable you to recondition your older suits if budget is an issue.
What Suits You?
Let’s start with the basics. Buying a new suit doesn’t start with the tailor; it starts in your head. Is the suit for work? Date night? A friend’s wedding? All three? Is this your first and only suit or your thirteenth suit, intended for a special occasion? Know that and you can make the right choices, starting with colour. Your best bet is to opt for one in a solid true navy blue or charcoal gray. Both colours work with every shirt-and-tie combination you can think of and a lot more (denim shirts, T-shirts, fine gauge knits). They’re the standard.
There’s also black, not for daytime wear and not as foolproof as you think. You imagine The Strokes, but you might end up with the security guard. If you decide to go for black, make everything as fitted as possible. You won’t look like a maitre d’ if the cut of the suit is as aggressive as possible.
If you want to go bolder than solid colors, your best option is going the plaid suit route. Wearing a plaid or check suit is going to get you noticed and remembered—that’s the point. Make sure you stay out of overkill territory by keeping yours to one of the trusty menswear neutrals we just talked about (that would be gray, navy, and black).￼
Single-breasted jackets are 100 percent approved and always will be. Most of the suits in your arsenal should be single-breasted. But if you’re the kind of daredevil who wants to give 110 percent, step up to a double-breasted jacket. The new double-breasted suit is slim and trim, without the shoulder pads and droopy fits that signaled ’80s Wall Street excess. We like it because it projects an air of power and confidence.
There’s also the three-piece suit. You can still blow the doors off the conference room in a killer three-piece. The point we must make here is that the three-piece suit is not a costume. It should not be worn with a pocket watch or a newsboy cap. (Yes, Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders looks suave…for 1919.)
And for the purposes of getting the most style miles out of your next suit, go for one in a light-to-mid-weight wool such as Dormeuil 365 (so-called for its relevance for every day of the year).
Make The Cut
Once you have a colour and/or pattern in mind, the next step in your sartorial decision-making process is to decide on the type of suit you want. We’re talking silhouette and there are two ways to go:
More Details, More Decisions
Before you start getting OCD about the size and fit of your suit, you should decide what style of suit you want. And that’s all about the construction. Two buttons or three? (Answer: almost always two.) Notch or peak lapel? (Depends on the image you’re trying to project.) Meanwhile, a fourth button (don’t do it!) or cartoon lining (eek!) can send all the wrong signals. The details make the suit.
If you go the single-breasted suit route, your next course of action is to figure out the button stance that’s best for you. All or most of your suits should be two-buttoned. This is the modern standard. One-button suits are good for formal, nighttime events and for skinny rocker types who can wear anything (damn them). Unless you are an advanced suit-buyer, don’t go for a three-button suit unless the third button is hidden behind a “roll” of the lapel—an Italian move—so it actually looks like a two-button suit.
Next we’re moving on to lapels. There are two types most common in everyday suits and they’re names are peak (because they jut up and out toward your shoulder, ending in a point) and notch (self explanatory). Going with a notch lapel is like ordering the roast chicken: it’s a total fail-safe. A peak lapel is flashier and more formal, a brasher, power move compared to the standard notch.
Don’t ignore the back of the jacket. It plays an integral role in a suit’s character. Most suits have rakish double vents these days, but the single vent is still a classic and perfect for a smart-casual look. No vent however, = no dice. No vent is like having no friends at school, if you opt for it you’ll find yourself similarly deserted.
You also need to consider your suit’s pockets. The most common example are flap pockets, featuring a rectangular flap of fabric that hangs about two inches over the front of the pocket. (Your new jacket will arrive with its flap pockets sewn shut, but a seam puller, your tailor, or a simple index finger and a pull will open your flaps and make them functional.) Patch pockets look like they were originally found on sporting jackets and are stitched to the outside of the jacket, not the inside. The sartorial net effect is that they give off a more casual, utilitarian vibe. Besom pockets are found on more formal jackets and tuxedos and have no flap. They’re super-clean and mean but not right for the office.
Now Make Sure It Fits
No matter how much it costs, a suit is only as good as its tailoring. Fit is everything. Once you’ve decided you want a two-button, single-breasted suit with a notch lapel, a double vent, and flap pockets (nice work – it sounds like a winner), you’re ready to focus all your attention here. It doesn’t matter if your suit costs £50 or £10,000; if the thing fits like a sack of potatoes or it makes you look like a haggis in a condom, it’s not good.
Suit jackets are shorter than they were a decade ago, but you don’t want your entire derrière showing, either. If you hang your arms loose at your sides, your fingers should be able to easily cup the bottom hem of your suit jacket. Any shorter and you’ll look like a doll. Longer and you’ll look like an undertaker. Here’s how the rest should fit:
Your Shoulders: A tailor can’t fix a bunk, saggy shoulder, so make sure the seam ends right at the outside of yours. You want military precision here.
Your Chest: With the jacket buttoned, the lapels should lie flat on your chest. If they bow out, you need some alterations. The modern way is to keep the lapels moderately narrow. For the record, the rule of thumb on lapel size goes like this: Big, wide lapels are for testosteronal alpha men (Jay Z, Lapo Elkann, Tom Ford), skinny lapels are for slick rock-’n’-rollers (Mark Ronson, Alex Turner, Hedi Slimane). Generally speaking, the rest of us should fall somewhere in between.
Around Your Torso: With the jacket buttoned, slide your thumb between the button and your gut. If your thumb is snug, good. If it’s a little loose, you’ll need to have your tailor take the jacket in a bit in the back.
Your Arms: The sleeves should hug your actual arms, closely following your natural lines, and stop in time to show half an inch of shirt cuff. Most people don’t consider the width of their suit sleeves, but it’s imperative to do so.
Your Trousers: Fasten your trousers at your natural waist (about an inch below your navel). Too loose? You know what to do: Talk to your tailor. One more oft-misunderstood/neglected step: If there’s too much fabric through the leg (i.e., if you can grab a fistful), ask your tailor to taper them. It’ll create a cleaner, slimmer more contemporary line.
If budget is an issue and you can’t rush out and buy ten new tailored suits then we offer a reconditioning service, for just £150. We will take account of all the most common areas such as the jacket shoulders, waist and length; the trouser waist, seat, thigh and length. Click here to schedule a fitting.