THE ART OF A GOOD SUIT
I wrote these words on Medium today and I started thinking about what it means to dress well. If you remotely value your self-worth, you should wear a suit. Regardless of your job title, where you work, who you hang out with, your lifestyle, et cetera… there is no excuse for not at least owning one go-to suit (or more) that fits you well, boosts your confidence, and provides for you a heightened sense of panache. I do my best work in a suit, and I know I’m not alone. Let’s just stop right here and all get on board with the fact that suiting up is where true manhood begins. Just to be clear, I’m not looking for navel gazing converts. Okay, now when considering business-minded fashion, it is my personal belief that a sartorial paradigm–in this case, learning to suit up properly–is a foundation and a condition upon which all other success may follow.
Call it a stretch if you want, but consider times you’ve encountered men in bespoke suits in which you didn’t feel immediately compelled to respect them and then all-too-eagerly ask for a business card. Even if you don’t want to admit it, you admired them.
That’s what I thought.
Don’t mistake what I’m saying. I am not saying that throwing on any old suit will do it for you. Your dad’s suit or that basic suit you bought off the shelves at H&M will not a confident man make. No, this needs to be done properly. Here’s how:
1. Fit is Everything
Fit is the difference between a mini dress and a potato sack. It’s the difference between you looking like an incompetent bum and a sartorial god. It’s the fine line between whether or not your first impression will be “who is this clown?” and “this man means business.” The single most important favor you can do for yourself when it comes to dressing is to get clothes that don’t just fit, but fit well. When you try on a suit, be sure to test it out in your “natural stance,” meaning standing tall with your arms at your sides. If it doesn’t fit well in this stance, it certainly won’t be comfortable as soon as you start moving. Consider the way the suit sits on the shoulders, the way the trousers drape over your seat, how the trousers break over your shoes, and the fit of the jacket after you button it up. If, by now, you think I am speaking a different language, read up on some superb, detailed advice on fitted suiting here.
2. Your Tailor Is (Or Should Be) Like a Brother, or a Business Partner
You better know your tailor so well that you’re sending him Christmas cards every year (and I’m dead serious). Tailoring is the bridge between a simple suit you found in a low-end store, and something designer. Tailoring is also essential for those of us on the more frugal side, as altering cheaper retail suits to appear bespoke is oft cheaper than going full-on custom. In the suiting world, a modern, contemporary man is defined in part by the way his suit fits. A cheap, well-tailored suit will do much more for you than an expensive suit that hangs off you like you got it at Goodwill. Some things to consider when you take your suit to a tailor:
- Most men believe they are a size larger than they actually are. Wipe this notion from your brain right now and slim it down. A slim, well-fitted suit is essential.
- Consider slimming down the sleeves, and you should definitely be showing some cuff.
- Taper your jacket to contour to your body.
- Alter the length of your trousers so that they just clip the tops of your shoes. No sloppy bunching.
3. Bespoke If and When Possible
Beyond tailoring, bespoke is the way to go if you really take yourself seriously (and if you don’t, you can stop reading this now). If you have the means in your budget, you should 100% invest in one custom suit. I’m not talking about that made-to-measure nonsense either. I’m talking about the multiple-fittings-required-most-precise-fit-ever-curated-only-for-you, real deal. A true bespoke suit will be designed to serve you and your individual needs. Nothing trumps that.
4. You Won’t Get the Full Effect Without Also Nailing the Details
Yeah, I’m an advocate for a good suit. We’ve established that by now. But you aren’t doing anything right–even in a suit–if you don’t know how to accessorize it and keep in mind every last detail. A man like me notices if your tie bar is too big, if you’re doing too much (more accessories doesn’t always make you look cool. FYI), if your tie is too long… the list goes on, gentlemen. Don’t be discouraged, though. All it takes is a little research and a little introspection about your own personal style. Follow style aficionados on social platforms, find out what works and doesn’t work for you. This is the fun part.
5. Consider Having More than One
In fact, don’t “consider” it (unless you’re considering it done. Hold for applause). Do it. Have a wide variety of suits to choose from that differ in material, pattern, fit, number of buttons, whatever. Personally, I own at least 25 suits, most of which have been tailored. I feel like a boss in my Tom Ford but I can honestly say that every suit I own is a power suit in its own way. Try to aim for at least 1 suit in each basic color (black, charcoal, navy) and 1 wildcard (I own a bespoke cerulean suit that I got at a market in China that I can’t live without). At the very least, have a few different suits for every season. Summer suits are worlds apart from winter suits when it comes to material. Having a variety of fabrics like linen, cotton, wool, and tweed in your arsenal will help you switch things up throughout the year.
6. But if You Can Only Afford to Get One…
Try to get one that’s tailored–a good fit is a must. Your blazer should have 2.5 – 3 inch lapels. You can do peak lapels if you’re a little more daring. Three pockets on the outside with no flaps. I typically have the pockets stitched up. This way the blazer is more likely to retain its original shape. I like one-slit and two-slit openings in the back of the jacket equally. Typically, two slits will make you look taller, so if you’re shorter lean towards two slits. I warn you though that two slits also makes you butt look bigger. It is what it is.
7. Get Over Your Fear of Patterns
Yeah, large pinstripes are too old school. But that doesn’t mean all patterns are off limits. Thin pinstripes are a great suiting alternative to have at hand. If you want a different winter suit, why not herringbone? All patterns require is confidence. Own it.
8. Add Personality
This goes hand-in-hand with paying attention to details. Don’t buy a suit because I told you to (well, not entirely because I told you to). Buy a suit because you want to define your personal style. Interject some “you-ness” into it. If you walk around in a suit all day without adding anything extra–who are you, really? What message are you sending out? I’m a proponent of signature accessories: a favorite tie bar, an arsenal of ties, some conversation-starting cufflinks. Always conversational, classy socks. The suit should be your foundation for greatness. Everything else you do to and with your suit is entirely up to you.
But by all means, please do something.