Suit Shopping 101

We all know that first impressions are key. If you want to be taken seriously in your job interview, client meeting, boardroom speech, daughter’s wedding, or courtroom trial, you need a properly fitted suit.

A lot of men don’t wear suits on a regular basis. They may have bought a suit ten or fifteen years ago and only pull it out once every two years when something important comes up.

Well, guess what, a lot has changed in that time, and your baggy suit from the 90s isn’t going to cut it in this fast-paced fashion-forward culture.

The jacket is the focal point of the suit and the most complex, meaning, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong with a suit jacket. So, we’ll start there.

The Jacket:

The purpose of your suit jacket is to accentuate your shape. That is why the cut is so important. The modern suit jacket is a European cut (i.e. slender throughout the waist, one or two button, and double flap in the back). The only place for a double-breasted David Letterman suit and a short lapel four-button suit is in a museum.

Getting a proper fit in the shoulders is so important and often the most commonly overlooked area. The fabric should be smooth and end just a tad beyond your shoulders to make a clean line down to the arm. A good way to tell if your suit fits properly in the shoulder area is if you stand with your shoulder up against a wall, your arm and shoulder should touch at the same time.

The sleeves on your suit jacket must end a half an inch to an inch past your wrist. There should be enough room for your shirt to stick out a half an inch to an inch. The sleeve should be fitted without a lot of excess fabric, but enough where you can comfortably extend your arms to type on a keyboard. A poorly fitted sleeve can throw off the entire suit and make you look like an amateur.

The chest of your suit jacket shouldn’t be too small where the lapels bulge out even when you are standing. If this happens, you will constantly be adjusting your suit every time you move and breathe. The rule of thumb on all suits is to leave the last button unbuttoned. If you button the bottom button, then you immediately let people know that you are not a suit wearer, which then makes you look like an amateur. On a two-button suit, you are only going to button the top button. When you do so, there should be no more than a fist of space between you and the suit.

For length, keep in mind the goldilocks principle – not too long, and not too short, but just right.

The Pants:

The length of your pant must end half-way down the heel of your shoe. Too much fabric causes bunching and you will look like a teenager… which is not what you want to look like in a suit.

The inseam is a measurement from the crotch area to the bottom hem. If this is too short, then you’re going to have a low-hanging saggy crotch, and that is bad. Remember what I said about not wanting to  look like a teenager?

The bagginess of the pant should be kept to a minimum. The baggy pant leg was popular in the 90s, but now, not so much. If everything else fits well, but your pants are too baggy, then don’t worry. A good tailor will be able to fix this.

The waist of the pant should fit without wearing a belt. It should rest on the hips – not higher and not lower.

The Fabric:

The last thing, but definitely not least, is the fabric. Most people can spot a cheap suit based on fabric alone. The classic suit is made out of wool (or new wool). Avoid polyester, blends, and, well… anything that is not wool!

Other Important Things to Consider When Buying a Suit:

Where it’s made – if you are unsure, stick with Italian made.

How it is made – check things like stitching, attention to detail, and inspect the overall quality.

Thread count – the higher the better.

Color – something universal and inoffensive.

Pattern – avoid flashy patterns, bright pin stripes, and embroidery.

Matching – make sure shirts, shoes, and accessories complement each other.





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