So yesterday we featured the latest in Matt Allison’s men’s basics guide in which he talked about suit buying. Today Ashley has created an article with advice and information from a bespoke suit tailor which expands this subject a bit further whilst talking in more advanced terms. This should be used as a quick reference guide for those males who already have experience or regularly purchase suits want to know what to look out for. I have also included some new season collections of the “off the peg” suits you can find available online at the bottom of the article. So enjoy…
So let me set a scene for you: The date of your 3rd cousins, Aunties, Brothers, Half Sisters wedding is looming and it is time you got the old trusty charcoal suit off to the dry cleaners. During a routine try on (to generally check that you can still fit in to the suit) you notice a slight shadow underneath the arm… no wait, its a hole?! You then make your way over to the wardrobe and your suspicions are confirmed. There passed out on your wardrobe floor are a cluster of fattened up Moths and old trusty is half the suit he used to be. Now once you have gotten over the initial horror and general mourning of your loss you are going to be hit with emotional phase 2; dread! Because like it or not, you are going to need a new suit. Aka… SUIT SHOPPING!
For many men I meet that don’t wear suits on a regular basis, the 2 words suit and shopping put in the same sentence have the ability to make them react in a way that not even ‘Jeans shopping’ can bring out. Of course we would all like our own personal tailor and the bank balance to fund those tailor made suits, but unfortunately this is not always realistic. So, I have decided it was about time I shared all the little tips to buying a good quality, well fitting suit that have helped me along the way along with a few I have also picked from the brain of good friend Darius Walker (owner of sw71.co.uk) who has around 9 years experience within the tailoring industry.
Style of the jacket
OK so the suit jacket. Now for an everyday suit, or a suit you intend on keeping in the wardrobe and pulling out for those certain occasions you should be going down the single breasted route. The key advantages that it has over the double breasted is the fact it can be worn unbuttoned, it is more slimming to the waist and therefore adds an overall better proportion/silhouette. It can also be dressed down much easier and teamed with jeans/chinos for a more casual look. So basically more versatile in every way. I would only ever recommend buying a double breasted suit to a man wanting a one off ‘show piece’ or one who already has an array of suits gracing his wardrobe. 3 piece suits have also made a massive come-back recently and are a great way to achieve that classic look, also bearing in mind that the waistcoat alone could also be a great addition to your wardrobe.
The fit of the jacket should be judged when holding your hands straight down by your sides. None of this trying to touch the ceiling or pretending to drive nonsense! Of course you need to be able to move but remember what activities a suit jacket are, and are not made for. There should be minimal rippling in the fabric across the back, just enough room on the shoulders to pinch 1/2 an inch or so of fabric and it shouldn’t be pulling at the front buttons. How much room you would like at the waist is completely up to you but I would suggest being able to pull the front of the jacket out around 2 inches in front of you and of course, still being able to breath after lunch is always a bonus. The length of the suit jacket again is usually down to preference, but it should usually be just long enough to cover your backside.
Material of the jacket
Firstly I would like to clear up a common myth that many people believe to be true. Wool is not the most durable/hard wearing material for an every day suit, it is infact a wool mix that you will get the most wear out of. If buying a wool mix suit make sure that the suit contains no less than 45% wool (ideally looking for around 50-60%) and is spun at around 100-120. Obviously the higher the speed that the wool is spun the finer the weave, making 100-120 ideal for an every day suit.
We also have synthetic suits, which in all honesty I would advise you to stay well away from. However, if you do come across your dream suit and it happens to be Synthetically made, the advice I would give to you is to trust your own hand. If it feels like wool, it has possibly been well enough manufactured to just about do the job. Look out for virgin/pure new wool suits if going down the 100% wool route as these tend to be of the best quality. Here in the UK, a good all round, all season suit should be between 8-10 oz. A good summer suit should be between 7-9 oz, Autumn should be 10-12 oz, with a 12 oz+ carrying you through winter.
So to summarise, although that 100% wool, super 140 Paul Smith suit may be literally whispering in your ear, asking to be your brand new work suit, this really isn’t the way to go unless you want to be replacing that bad boy on a yearly basis.
Again my rules are quite straight forward when it comes to the trouser. Stick with flat fronted. Some men with a slight ‘belly’ will opt for a pleated trouser as the feel they can then wear it under their stomach without the trousers falling down. When in fact all this does is make it appear as though there is way too much material around your crotch all bunched up and creased. The trick is to buy low rise flat fronted trousers and buy them in the size of where you will wear them i.e. your hip size and not your waist.
Another idea would be to get your trousers tailor made and have them cut at an angle, so you will then have a low rise front fastening on your hips but the seat will reach up to your waist. Men who are heavier set up top should not be wearing tapered trousers as it completely throws off your proportions. A straight legged or bootcut trouser is the way to go. Also, a belt worn with trousers should only ever be for decoration, never to hold the trousers up. All suit trousers can be taken in at the seat as well as having a good 2 inches in the seat that can be let out. If your are lucky enough to stumble across a brand that sell the trousers separately then grab yourself an extra pair, or even 2 as the trousers will wear out way before your jacket will.
Traditionally, sleeves on a gentlemen’s suit finished around 2 inches up from the end of the wrist, were ALWAYS worn with a double cuffed shirt and had working buttons. Great examples of this come from Michael Cane in the film Alfie and none other than Prince Charles. But as time went on suit jackets were worn with t-shirts and jumpers, single cuffed shirts became more popular (so the suits sleeve length dropped) and suits became available off the peg meaning that the arm length wasn’t always accurate (meaning that less suits were being made with working buttons). In my opinion, for a good all round suit the sleeve should end at the wrist bone. However, if you intend on only ever wearing the suit with a double cuffed shirt I suggest you bag yourself a copy of Alfie and take notes.
As for the buttons on the sleeve I think we’ve already covered that you won’t want the working sort if the sleeves need to be taken up (unless you know of a very good tailor that can take the sleeves up from the shoulder). As for buttons on the suit, for a fashion suit or if you are maybe thinking of wearing just the jacket with jeans etc by all means go single button. Especially if you want the jacket to be extra tapered around the waist and it can also help make guys that are bigger up top to appear slimmer by braking up their frame. For the standard every day suit (and also one to be worn more casual if you wish) I would suggest 2 buttoned every time, you just cant go wrong with one as it adds length to your body if you do require those few extra inches. 3 buttoned suits I feel should only be worn by extremely tall men with long bodies, but even then you will more than likely lose inches from your torso. Which then leaves us with 4 buttoned suits which is quite simple really… NO!
As for the vents, it is yet another case of personal preference though I would recommend double vented jackets every time. They fall more neatly over your backside and on tapered jackets they don’t part quite as obvious and untidily as a single vent does.
Of course we are all different shapes and sizes and suiting more than any is such a complex and individual subject. So see this as just a brief, overall guide. My honest advice for anyone looking for a perfectly fitting, good quality suit would be to go and see your nearest bespoke tailor. That way your getting exactly what you want in your exact size. I know my friend Darius’ suits start at £399 so they maybe aren’t quite as expensive as you may think?
If buying off the peg make sure you give that salesman a hard time. Ask him the weight of the suit, the spin of the wool etc. As soon as they realise you know your stuff they are far more likely to just cut the bullsh*t and sell you a decent suit. Any particular questions please just comment below and I’ll get back to you asap.
So like I promised earlier, here is a quick run-down of a few of the suit styles available across the internet and on the high street this season. I have split it into sections so you can see quickly and easily if they would be in your particular clothing budget. Remember to read through the article and take note of what you should be looking in terms of material and fit for your particular need, shape or preference. Also do not be afraid to email the companies if you want specific details about a product before you buy:
High Street/Budget (below £150)