Introduction

The 3-piece suit is a classic staple in the menswear community. If you’re looking for something that makes you feel put together, powerful and ready to take on the world, then you can’t go far wrong with it.

In the same way the double-breasted suit is making a resurgence amongst designers across the board, the 3-piece is starting to wiggle its way back in as a key purchase for anyone with a passion for tailoring.

The 21st Century 3-piece

Let’s be honest, sometimes there are days when you just can’t face the whole thing. Sometimes you want a relaxed aspect to the suit. Sometimes you just want to put a new twist on a traditional look. You may just not want to fork out all that money for one extra piece of tailoring (although I highly recommend it). And for all those times, there’s the cardigan.

Think of it as updating the idea of 3-piece tailoring in a really simple and versatile way. I’m sure you all have suits and I’m sure you all have cardigans, so why not put both of them together?

Aside from the practical bonus of having an additional layer to keep you warm, the introduction of a cardigan gives you the opportunity to experiment with both colour and pattern.

How To Wear: The Basics

First, you need to nail the cardigan. For layering purposes, it needs to be lightweight and of a thinner gauge. So think cottons and merino wools which make it easier to wear under your jacket.

My personal favourite brand is Uniqlo due to the quality you get for a relatively low price point (especially if you do want to get fancy and go with cashmere.) But any brand will do as long as they nail the gauge and the fit.

  • Asos CardiganAsos Cardigan
  • Gap Outside-seam CardiganGap Outside-seam Cardigan
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V Neck CardiganUniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V Neck Cardigan
  • Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V Neck CardiganUniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V Neck Cardigan
  • Topman Peoples Market Brown CardiganTopman Peoples Market Brown Cardigan
  • Gucci Mohair Wool CardiganGucci Mohair Wool Cardigan
  • Farhi By Nicole Farhi Indigo Cotton Double Placket CardiganFarhi By Nicole Farhi Indigo Cotton Double Placket Cardigan
  • John Smedley Navy Sea Island Cotton Blackwell CardiganJohn Smedley Navy Sea Island Cotton Blackwell Cardigan
  • Alexander Mcqueen Silk And Cashmere-blend CardiganAlexander Mcqueen Silk And Cashmere-blend Cardigan

From there on out, it all comes down to personal preference. If you prefer to keep your suits in a conservative light, then it’ll be best to stick to monochromatic colours. For example, with your trusty navy suit reach for a grey or brown cardigan to really bring out the blue and highlight the cardigan. And with grey why not try navy and black?

Or, if you do want to go full on crispy and refined, just opt for the same colour as the suit for the most deceptive of 3-piece twists.

  • Asos Skinny Fit Suit JacketAsos Skinny Fit Suit Jacket
  • Reiss Corden S Single Breasted 2 Button Notch Lapel Mid GreyReiss Corden S Single Breasted 2 Button Notch Lapel Mid Grey
  • Asos Slim Fit Herringbone Suit Jacket In CharcoalAsos Slim Fit Herringbone Suit Jacket In Charcoal
  • Austin Reed Red Merino V-neck CardiganAustin Reed Red Merino V-neck Cardigan
  • J.lindeberg Lymac Merino CardiganJ.lindeberg Lymac Merino Cardigan
  • Allsaints Code Merino CardiganAllsaints Code Merino Cardigan
How to Wear: Adding Colour

An injection of colour will help bring this look to light when you opt for contrasting and complimenting colours.

For example, with a navy suit, why not try a deep red cardigan with a yellow striped tie, or perhaps a forest green one with a simple light blue shirt?

The good news about adding a shot of colour is that – due to the monochrome nature of most suits – nearly any colour will work. For a full run-down of colour combinations, why not check out some of my previous articles on the topic.

  • Allsaints Code Merino CardiganAllsaints Code Merino Cardigan
  • Reiss Corden S Single Breasted 2 Button Notch Lapel Mid BlueReiss Corden S Single Breasted 2 Button Notch Lapel Mid Blue
  • Osborne Gentlemens Attire Yellow Fine Sateen Striped TieOsborne Gentlemens Attire Yellow Fine Sateen Striped Tie
  • Asos Military CardiganAsos Military Cardigan
  • Topman Navy Tonic Skinny 2 Piece SuitTopman Navy Tonic Skinny 2 Piece Suit
  • Topman Light Blue Washed Oxford ShirtTopman Light Blue Washed Oxford Shirt
How to Wear: Playing With Pattern

But what about a pattern I hear you say? Well, just as easy.

Again, this works best with simple, monochrome suits. However, nearly any pattern will do as long as it isn’t too loud or in an obnoxious colour. For example, in the winter, why not experiment with Fair Isle and Nordic patterns? In the summer you can try out argyles, wide stripes and subtle Aztec or African prints.

As long as the pattern doesn’t get too out of control the suit will always act as the perfect anchor to your look.

21st Century 3-Piece Lookbook

Check out the lookbook below for some great examples of how to wear the 21st Century 3-piece:

Men's 21st Century 3-piece Lookbook

Conclusion

It’s not wrong to assume that most of your wardrobe is a modern variation of a fashion forefather. The idea behind our updated twist on a traditional look can be applied consecutively across the board when done carefully and with consideration! Have a scout around and see what you can bring in to the 21st century.

  • What do you guys think?
  • Have you been wearing this particular look for a while?
  • If so, what combinations are your favourite?
  • Alternatively, are you a purist that thinks the 3-piece shouldn’t be tampered with?
  • What other looks do you think need an update or subtle twist?

Let me know in the comments section…

Matt Allinson