After graduating from The University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in Film Production, I moved to Boston where I had landed my first real job. I was a program coordinator for a non-profit organization. I had a very public job, which meant meeting people on a regular basis. So I had to ditch the casual look I had grown so fond of in college, and step up my professional wardrobe. More specifically, I needed to buy suits that reflected my position as well as the positions I want (ed) in the future. The following are the lessons I’ve learned along the way when buying a suit:
Invest in the proper style.
Suits come in two basic styles – the single-breasted suit and the double-breasted suit. The single-breasted suit, which you can find with 4 buttons, 3 buttons, or 2 buttons, is the more flexible of the two styles. You can wear it for work or for more formal occasions, or you can dress it down for happy hour or a date. The double-breasted suit, on the other hand, is a formal look. However, with a mock turtle neck, you can go from the corner office to a night out with friends.
Choosing between the two depends on your personality as well as your body type. If you are a larger man or have a gut (like I do), a 2 button suit is a much more flattering choice. Not that you can’t wear a 3 button suit, but what you are looking for is coverage (over the stomach), room (ability to reach without bulging in the back), and drape (how the suit falls on the stomach and overall fit). If you have an average-build or on the slimmer side, you can feel confident in wearing the 4, 3, or 2 button suits. As for the double-breasted suit, I say leave it for the Boomers. It really isn’t a style that every man can pull off well.
Your pant selection again is a matter of your personal style and your body type. If you are a bigger man, however, go with the pleated pant. They provide the extra room you need in the front and are a lot more comfortable. If you are average, athletic, or a little on the thin side, the plain or flat-front pant works very well with your body type. And as for the age old question of to cuff or not to cuff, go without a cuff if you are 5.9″ or shorter. It elongates the leg. If you are taller, your choice again is a matter of your personal style. That said, an average or shorter man can still look great in a cuff.
Invest in 100% wool suits with a lining to the knee.
Don’t let the word wool scare you. It can be worn in all climates. The fabric breathes well, looks amazing, and feels good on the skin. Most importantly, wool doesn’t get that shine look after a few dry cleanings. It is the only fabric I recommend for a traditional suit.
Avoid busy patterns and colors.
Dramatic patterns and bold colors are an easy way to date your suit. They will also limit the number of times you can wear the suit. So go with solids, thin stripes or subtle window panes. Also, stick to black, gray, and navy blue, which are timeless and never go out of style.
Invest in a tailor.
A majority of men simply can’t afford to get a custom made suit. But, all men can get a suit tailored to fit them properly. Some stores like my favorite, Men’s Wearhouse, have a tailor on-site. The reason you want to get the suit tailored is because most of the times a suit off the rack wears you. It can be too long in the arms, too big in the shoulders, or too wide in the body. And, more than likely, the pants are going to be too big in the waist, too long in the length, and can be too baggy in the crotch area. A good tailor will fix all of it – making the suit look like it was made for you.
Care and maintenance.
Unless your suits have stains, don’t dry clean them more that 4 to 5 times a year. Repeatedly dry cleaning a suit eats away at the fabric. In addition, don’t just let them lie on the back of a chair or pile up somewhere. When you take off your suit, hang it up – either using a pant hanger or clips with a regular cedar hanger. If you don’t have any cedar hangers, use a wooden hanger and put cedar blocks in the corner of your closet. Why cedar? Cedar keeps the moths out.
Since buying my first suit for work, I have come to love wearing suits and can appreciate a good one when I see it. Suits come in a variety of styles, fabrics, fits, and patterns. When choosing a suit, it is important to go with a style that looks good on your body type, a fabric that breathes, moves, and matches your lifestyle, a fit that flatters your body, and patterns that don’t age the suit. With proper care and maintenance, a really good suit can last for years.