Whether you’re buying your first suit, your wedding suit, or a new bespoke suit ‘just because’, there’s a lot to consider. We know, we know…it can be daunting, especially if this is your first rodeo.
Luckily, here at Frencheye, we’re experts. Not just because of our experience in tailoring, but because we’ve helped hundreds of men create a made-to-measure suit that’s just right for them. From fit to style and everything in between (and believe us, there’s a lot in between) here are 20 things you should consider when buying a suit.
First things first, where are you planning on wearing your suit? Is this for everyday use? A special occasion? Is that occasion formal or informal? Are you planning for this to be your prom suit? Black Tie? White Tie? Do you have a job interview? Are you buying a new suit for a special presentation in front of your board of directors? We could keep going but we’ll stop there…
The point is, the occasion is important. It’ll dictate the general style of your suit (more on that later) including the accessories you choose.
Generally speaking, you have four options when it comes to colour: grey, blue, brown and black.
For an everyday suit, opt for grey or blue (navy, to be specific). Black tends to be more formal and brown, while dashing, can be difficult to pull off. We don’t want to dissuade you from brown, because it can look smart. But, done wrong, it can look tacky and outdated.
Of course, pastel suits, cream suits and burgundy suits are always an option, too…
The season will dictate the colour, style and fabric of your suit. In the summer, everything is more laid back and (obviously) hotter. This calls for something light-weight and lighter in colour. Pastels, remember? In the winter, you’re looking at much heavier suits in darker colours that you can match with the perfect wool overcoat. It’s all about practicality.
Of course, with a new season comes new trends. You may have noticed that designers come out with Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter lines?
When buying a suit, the fabric should be far from an afterthought. Do you want something lightweight and breathable? Thick and warm? Are you concerned about sweat stains?
While this isn’t exactly a definitive guide, here’s a quick run-down for you:
Wool Suits: Versatile and common and can even be found in a lightweight version called tropical wool.
Flannel Suits: Heavy, resistant to creasing and best suited for winter
Corduroy Suits: Durable, trendy and warm
Silk Suits: Trendy, incredibly lightweight but won’t hide perspiration
Linen Suits: Lightweight, comfortable but stains and creases easily
Tweed Suits: Thick, sturdy, warm and stylish
Cotton Suits: Breathable, absorbs moisture well, easy to care for
While we’ll be the first to admit that considerations 1-4 are quite broad and open-ended, we’re starting to get into the finer details now. For you, that means fewer options and hopefully an easier decision.
In terms of lapels, you’ve got notch lapels or peak lapels. That’s it! Just two!
A notch lapel is considered standard and is seen on most single-breasted suits and blazers. A peak lapel is considered more formal and is commonly found on double-breasted jackets and dinner suits.
If you’re creating a bespoke suit, why not stand out and add a peak lapel to a single-breasted blazer. This style was popular back in the Twenties and (as with all styles) it’s coming back ‘round!
Again, we’re getting down to the nitty gritty here so you have fewer options.
One Button – One-button suit jackets tend to be reserved for more formal events. But, if you’re worried more about ashtethics than the occasion, the perk of a one-button jacket is that it creates a deeper V and shows off more of your shirt and tie.
Two Buttons – It’s classic and timeless. You really can’t go wrong here. While – yes – it has a higher stance than a one button jacket, your shirt and tie will still show through.
Three Buttons – This look is generally considered outdated and isn’t flattering on most body types.
Remember back in the 80’s when shoulder pads were big and bulky? Today, that’s what you don’t want.
The shoulder pad should lie flat and should end at your shoulder bone or slightly past it. It should meet the sleeve exactly where your arm meets your shoulder. If it meets below that, it’ll look lumpy and baggy, like you’re wearing your father’s suit. If it meets above that, not only will it look too small, but your range of motion will be terribly inhibited.
Ideally, your suit sleeve should end at, or just above, the wrist bone when your arm is at rest, showing about half an inch of your shirt (assuming it’s long-sleeved). It should never (ever) fall below the base of your thumb. If you have a look at the distance between your wrist and the base of your thumb, you’ll know that you don’t have much wiggle room.
It’s virtually impossible to find a suit jacket off-the-rack that hits this ‘sweet spot’ on both sides because most of us are asymmetrical. With a made-to-measure suit you’ll be sure to get the perfect length on both sides.
The Length of the Jacket
This one’s easy. Put on your jacket and let your arms hang. Keep your shoulders relaxed and stand up straight. If your suit fits properly, you should be able to gently wrap your fingers under the sides of your suit jacket. If there’s excess fabric or nothing at all to grab, you’re in need of a tailor! In which case, give us a call.
To see if the closure fits properly, you’ll have to first button at least one button on the jacket. If it’s too tight, not only will you feel restricted, but you’ll see that the lapels are bending and folding. If it’s too loose, the jacket will flare out on either side at the bottom.
The Trouser Break
In case you’re reading this guide for advice on your very first suit, we should first define what a trouser break is. It’s the crease or wrinkle that’s created when your trousers, chinos or jeans meet your shoes. It used to be that your pant should rest on the top off your shoe so that a slight pool of fabric gathered and folded. The keyword here is slight. You shouldn’t look like you’re drowning in your trousers!
Now, it’s more of a personal style choice than a hard rule. You can opt for no break and show off some ankle. A slight break means that your pant and shoe meet but just barely. A conservative (but respectable) medium break (somewhere in between the standard break and slight break) says ‘I understand trends and have a good tailor’.
Your Body Type
Slim, athletic, bulky, short or tall…all men need a suit. What’s more, all me deserve to look good in their suit. It should go without saying, suits don’t fall into the category of ‘one size fits all’. In fact, your body type should dictate not just the size you get, but the material, the cut, single breasted vs. double breasted and more. Check out Our Guide to Suit Buying for the Larger Gent on our blog now and look out for more body type guides. Of course, one of our expert tailors can advise you in the meantime. Book an appointment today!
We’ve touched on fabric which is often a practical choice. Patterns, on the other hand, come down to personal taste and style (see #18!). If you work in a creative industry, take risks with the pattern! If you’re more of a traditionalist, go for a herringbone or birdseye.
Contemporary Vs. Timeless
Some suit styles will never go out of style. With a smart waistcoat, tweed, or a navy two-piece…you’ll never go wrong.
But what about if you want to take a risk and try something new and contemporary? You could mix and match colours and patterns by putting separates together, hike up your trouser hem and go sockless, or even rock a short suit in the summertime.
If you’re looking to add a ‘WOW!’ factor to your suit, have it lined. We recommend going for a bold colour or eye-catching pattern. Paisley is a house favourite. But, it’s not just about aesthetics. A proper silk-lined suit will feel great and keep you cooler. (See #4)
At Edit Suits, your customisation options are almost endless. Of course, you’ll be able to customise the fit, material and cut. But we also offer quarter, half or full jacket lining, hand-embroidered monograms, and a choice of flap, jetted or patch pockets.
Before you start customising your suit and choosing fabrics, you have to consider your budget. Instead of building your dream suit and then being disappointed when it’s out of your price range, be upfront about what you can and can’t afford. At Frencheye, we have a range of fabrics (including house fabrics!) in order to accommodate your budget. To see our price list, click here.
When putting together an ensemble, the accessories you choose are almost (almost) as important as the suit itself. Pocket squares, ties, bowties, belts, braces, socks, watches, sunglasses, cufflinks and shoes can all be used to create a look that’s uniquely yours. We’ve already talked a bit about contemporary vs. timeless in terms of your suit. Your accessories should be in line with this choice.
A few rules to bear in mind, though:
Your accessories should complement the colour or pattern of your suit. For example, if you’re wearing a patterned suit, opt for simple neckwear.
Your shoes should be appropriate for the occasion. While there are plenty of instances where trainers or okay with a suit, a wedding isn’t one of them.
Don’t overdo it. Use accessories to enhance your outfit, not clutter it.
How much time (and money) do you have to properly care for you suit? After all, it is an investment. If you don’t want to send off to a dry cleaners every week, choose a low-maintenance fabric like cotton. Likewise, if you’re looking for an everyday suit, choose a durable material that will hold up after dozens of washes. If it’s a seasonal suit, do you have somewhere to store it?
This should be a no-brainer but it’s worth mentioning. Get a suit that you love. Despite 19 other things to consider, this one is the most important. If simple, navy suits are you thing, go for a simple, navy suit! If double breasted suits strike your fancy, get one! There’s no rule against what you can and can’t like. But, always (always!) make sure it fits properly.