Purchasing and wearing a suit can be an intimidating experience. Sure, it's easy to wear the one that you've had for years, but if you're anything like me, you look to the big screen and see guys like Daniel Craig and Jude Law just killing it in a sharp suit and want to make your way into those leagues.
However, it seems that no matter where you go, the guy selling you your next suit off-the-rack tells you that you look great, even if it's three sizes too big. So where do you start? There are a few straightforward rules that you can follow to make sure you get the basics nailed down. Sure, beyond these you can get into all sorts of details, fabrics and styles, but what I'm offering below is some straightforward, no-nonsense suiting 101.
The width of your tie should just about match the width of your lapel. If on trend with today’s standards, your lapels will be relatively narrow (think Don Draper in Mad Men). There’s nothing wrong with wide lapels – the guys at Suit Supply do it pretty well – but they should be avoided until you really know what you’re doing.
When purchasing a suit off the rack, always note if the shoulders fit you before anything else. The shoulder pads should end where your shoulders do. Just about everything else can be fixed relatively easily (and inexpensively) by a tailor if need be.
Seriously, stick with two buttons. Not one, not three. When standing up, the top of those two buttons should be buttoned, leave the button one undone. When sitting down, you should unbutton both of them – you risk ruining your suit if you don’t.
Ever notice how some pants bunch up at the bottom of your leg? That’s called the break. The higher the break number, the more they bunch up. Opinions differ on this, but when it comes to suiting, I believe that the hem of suit pants should hit right at the top of your shoe. Your socks will show a little bit if you’re sitting down, but there’s nothing wrong with that as long as they are long enough. Feel free to get a little colorful with them, but please, please avoid white athletic socks.
Finally, a lot of guys ask me what color they should go for when first buying a suit. First things first, avoid black. The top of your list should be a navy blue or charcoal suit. Add a well-fitting, solid-color shirt underneath and you’re well on your way (bonus points if it’s custom made). Once you’ve got a decent rotation of your basics going, you can break out into the more advanced khakis, tweeds and non-traditional colors.
9Tailors didn't sponsor this post, but they did provide the photographs used throughout. As a side note, they are offering a 20 percent discount to our readers who donate their gently-used suiting and professional clothing. 9Tailors will be making the clothing donations to the St. Francis House and Pine Street Inn. Both have job-training programs for poor/homeless individuals who are seeking employment and provide clothes to interview in.
Special shout out to our friend Jordan for providing the good looks for this shoot.