Suits For Men
THE ULTIMATE MEN'S SUITS GUIDE
When it comes to men's suits, we see the same questions all the time. What suit style should I wear? How many types of suits are there? What's the difference between 'Regular' and 'Classic' fit? And why do I look a bit...hippy?
Relax, young padawan. There are answers to all these questions. That’s why we've put together this (frankly gigantic) men's suit guide. It's got everything you need to know, from different fabrics and styles to sleeve
lengths and accessories. Of course you can walk into any POLITIX store and get this advice first-hand, but if you'd rather research from the couch with a cold beer, this is the guide for you.
How To Pick A Suit
Before anything else, it's worth talking a step back to think about the occasion.
Occasions are going to inform pretty much every decision you'll find below. Is this suit for everyday office wear? Do you need a spring racing suit? Got a mate's wedding coming up and don't want to look too corporate? At the very least, every guy should have one
suit they can fall back on, even if it spends most of its life in the wardrobe. A navy or dark charcoal modern-fit suit will take you pretty much anywhere you want to go. For everything else... well, that's what this guide is for.
Suits are pretty much like anything else: you get what you pay for. The difference between a $100 suit and a $1000 suit is the different between a Mazda and a BMW. Cheap suits are usually machine-made in about two to three hours. They’re woven from artificial nylon or polyester, or in some cases, low-quality cotton or wool. The button holes are generally sewn then cut, rather than the other way around (which can lead to
fraying). In theory, a $100 suit can still be great, but it's very rarely the case. Having said all that, you don't necessarily need to shell out $1000 for a quality suit. The $300 to $500 range is a nice sweet spot between tailored style and good old fashioned value. If in doubt, go by feel. Does the fabric feel smooth to the touch? Is the lining well made? Are the armholes too high, or do you have room to move?
Fit is everything when it comes to suits. It's your North Star. The most expensive suit in the world will look like a sack of potatoes if it doesn't fit correctly. As you'll find below, there are lots of different measurements to consider, but the biggest trick is what we call 'clean
lines'. Does the fabric bunch or stretch anywhere? Does it balloon away from your shoulder blades? Is your buttoned jacket making that dreaded 'X' shape? These are all signs of a poorly fitted suit.
How To Take Suit Measurements
First of all, you don't have to take your own measurements. Every reputable suit shop should have a tape measure handy, and experts that know how to use it. But here are the basics, anyway.
Start with your chest. This will play a big part in jacket size. Take a tape measure and run it around the thickest part of your chest. And remember, suits are measured in inches, not centimeters. If your chest is 40 inches around, start looking at suit jackets which are 40 or 42.
Sleeves can be tricky, because a guy's arms don't always neatly match the length of his torso. Ideally, the suit's sleeve should finish right on your wrist, and you should see about one centimeter of shirt cuff poking out. Hang your arms down by your sides: the bottom of the jacket should line up with your thumb.
There's nothing worse than seeing suit shoulders too wide. This isn't the '80s. We don't need power shoulders anymore. When it comes to shoulders, look at the seam where the sleeve meets the jackets. It should be sitting right on your shoulder. Not too high, and not too low.
When you’re trying on your suit jacket, do up the top button and take a look in the mirror. The overall shape of the jacket shouldn't change too much. You don’t want to look like a sausage that's been cinched in the middle. Make sure your tie isn't poking out beneath the button point, too. That’s a sign your jacket is too small.
Pants will often need a bit of tailoring to fit just right, and that's okay. They shouldn't be too lose or too baggy, and they need to fit around your waist, bum, thighs and ankles. Another little detail is 'break' (the way the trouser hem sits on your shoes): you want to see a little dent, but nothing too baggy. It's what we call a mid-break.
Types Of Suits
If you're going the full-tailored suit, good for you. That's the best way to guarantee a perfect fit. But it's not the only way.
There's nothing wrong with shopping ready-made suits - you just need to be aware of the various cuts, styles and size. A lot of the time this will come down to your body type. Slim builds will do better with slim-fit suits, which taper down to the waste. Bigger guys need a bit more room to move, so look for modern or classic-fit suits.
Modern-fit suits are sort of a compromise between slim-fit and classic. They sit on the waist, and they're trim through the hips and thighs. The jacket and leg opening are both slightly tapered, so you get that subtle V-shape going on. Modern-fit pants are straight-legged, but with some fabric than your average slim-fit.
Classic suits are probably the most common suits out there. They've got a more straight-up-and-down silhouette, and a relaxed fit through the shoulders, chest and waist. There's very little tapering going on. Classic suits also have a very straight leg, sitting up on the waste line. They're made for comfort, more than flash.
Skinny suits really depend on your body type. Because they fit so close to the body, with narrow-cut shoulders and a shorter jacket, not everybody can pull them off successfully. Skinny suits have the narrowest possible leg opening, with a low rise on the waist. If you never miss Leg Day, this might not be the suit for you.
Slim-fit suits are also known as Italian or European-cut suits. They're fitted much closer to the body, with straight-legged pants that really hug your thighs and calves. The pants also sit a little lower on the waist. Slim-fit suits are great for thinner, taller guys who find classic suits too bulky. This is probably the most popular type of suit.
Suit fabrics are another factor to consider. Sometimes they’re driven by price (cotton suits, for example, are usually much cheaper than wool), but think about the seasons too.
In the height of summer, you're going to boil inside that fancy, Italian wool suit. But in winter, you want that extra thickness. Linen suits don't offer much warmth or insulation, but they're very breathable. At the end of the day, it's all down to personal taste.
Chances are, the average suit in the street is made of cotton (or at least a cotton/polyester blend). Cotton is breathable, durable and relatively soft to the touch. Cotton suits are a good choice for the warmer months.
A lot of premium European suits are woven from wool. And the really fancy ones use a mix of wool and cashmere. Wool has a couple of advantages over cotton: it's softer, more textured, and offers better insulation.
You don't see a lot of linen suits anymore, even in summer. They tend to evoke memories of dads on holiday. But linen is a great summer option if you're looking for something light and breathable. Just be prepared for creases.
Polyester suits aren't what you might think. They’re never going to feel quite like 100% wool, but they’re still soft and durable. The biggest advantage of synthetic polyester is price: you can get a crisp, stylish suit for under $400.
Finishing touches are what separates 'cheap suits' from 'good value' suits.
They're little flourishes like contrast stitching, jacket vents, interior pocket lining, decorative buttons and well-notched lapels. Poor quality suits usually won’t bother with these details. If you've ever seen a guy at a wedding and thought, 'Damn he looks sharp in that suit', it's probably because a) it fits properly, but b) all the finishing touches are spot-on.
Lapels are the folded flaps that sit beneath your neck, and there are several types and sizes (just to confuse you). The most common types of lapel are ‘notch’ (what you see on most business suits), 'peak' (where the lower blade extends above the top blade) and 'shawl' (the rounded, smooth lapel you see on tuxedo jackets). Think about lapel size too: slim lapels are considered more contemporary, while thicker lapels are more retro. As a rule of thumb, don't go beyond 4.5 inches for a notched lapel.
'shawl' (the rounded, smooth lapel you see on tuxedo jackets). Think about lapel size too: slim lapels are considered more contemporary, while thicker lapels are more retro. As a rule of thumb, don’t go beyond 4.5 inches for a notched lapel.
Check out the sleeve of your suit jacket. What colour are the buttons? What are they made of? Do they clash with the fabric, or provide a pop of colour? Decorative suit buttons are an entire industry in themselves. Ready-made suits will often use polished buttons, but Saville Row tailors have always favoured a matte finish. The general rule is: the paler the button, the more casual the look.
Your pockets, believe it or not, say a lot about your suit. Formal dress suits tend to have 'jetted' pockets, which are sewn into the jacket lining and nearly invisible. More casual suits will usually have 'flap' pockets. They're like jetted pockets, but with a small flap sewn over the top. The least formal pocket is the 'patch' pocket, which is sewn onto the front of the suit. You’ll usually see patch pockets on casual summer blazers, rather than formal or business suits.
Jacket vents are the slits cut into the back of your suit. They're there for ventilation (makes sense), but they also help the suit fall and move correctly. When you buy a new suit, the jacket vents will often be fastened shut with a slim bit of thread – you’re meant to cut that thread before wearing the suit. Whether you choose one centre vent or two side vents is up to you. There's no wrong answer here.
'Pant break' isn't when you sit down after too many slices of wedding cake. It's the little crease that forms when your trouser hem hits your shoe. A 'full break' is quite a baggy, old-fashioned look, so avoid anything that droops too long. 'No break' is when the hem sits one or two centimetres above the shoe, with no crease. This look is strictly for slim-leg trousers. What you're really aiming for is 'mid break' or 'half break', which is where the trouser hem just hits the top of the shoe, causing a slight crease. You'll probably need a tailor to get a good mid-break.
Classic Suits Every Man Should Own
There's nothing wrong with going full Harvey Specter and filling your wardrobe with suit after suit, but unless you're in suits every single day, it's not really necessary.
The trick is to pick three or four key styles that give you flexibility: suits you can wear in summer or winter, to a job interview or the races, out on the town or giving your Best Man speech. These four classics should be a pretty good start.
THE NAVY SUIT
Elegant, timeless and well-received pretty much anywhere. There's a reason this is the first suit most guys ever buy. If in doubt, go dark navy, rather than full-on ocean blue. You'll find it easier to match with various shirts and shoes. And speaking of shoes, navy suits can be worn with black or brown shoes (don't let anyone tell you otherwise). It's best to keep a pair of each on standby, just in case. Heck, if you're wearing ultra-skinny fit with mid-break hem, you can even get away with wearing a white tee and crisp white sneakers in summer
THE GREY SUIT
Grey is a fantastic neutral tone, and can range from light stone to deep charcoal, depending on the season. It's regarded as the best transitional suit: something you can wear when the seasons start to change. Grey suits have also been the inspiration for a number of classic styles, including Prince of Wales and Gatsby-style windowpane check. When it comes to matching, the white-shirt-black-tie is an ever-reliable combo, but don't be afraid to mix things up with light pastels patterned ties and silver lapel pins.
THE NAVY DOUBLE BREASTED
Double breasted suits aren't just for grandpas anymore. Some of the most stylish men on the planet rock the double breasted these days. Technically, 'double breasted' refers to any jacket with two parallel columns of buttons and overlapping front flaps. It's a slightly more formal, old-school look, although modern double-breasted jackets are cut shorter, have smaller shoulders, and sit closer to the body than they did in the 1930s. For styling, don't go overboard here: match with a white shirt and muted tie.
THE SUMMER SUIT
There is no one 'summer suit', but every guy should have something ready to go when the weather warms up. Generally speaking, that'll be a linen suit in either grey, cream or light blue. Tan cotton suits are also an excellent option here. They're a little stiffer than wool, but also cooler, helping you breathe and keep a nice silhouette at the same time. Think about your jacket lining, too: unlined or half-lined jackets are great for summer, especially if you're sitting down. They help avoid those sweaty back scenarios.
HOW TO MATCH YOUR SHIRT
You could write a thesis on the precise colour combinations between shirt, suit and tie. But nobody's got time for that stuff. Here's our no-fuss guide to matching suits and shirts.
You basically can't go wrong with a navy suit and white shirt. It's a timeless, elegant combination, and it pairs well with solid tie colours like red, orange or violet. For something with a bit more oomph, try a pale pink or sky blue shirt with a contrast striped tie.
This will depend on the exact shade of grey you're going for, but grey suits tend to work well with white shirts, pink shirts, black shirts or blue shirts. For a killer look, match a soft blue shirt with a dark grey suit, navy tie and navy pocket square. Perfect for summer.
Black suits sometimes need a bit of help. They're classic and simple, but with the wrong accessories, the look can be a little...lack lustre. A plain white shirt and striped or foulard gold tie is a good look. As is pale blue. For some after-dark daring, try a black slim-fit suit and black shirt combination.
HOW TO MATCH SHOES
We're almost there. You've got a well fitted jacket, snug, tapered pants...and bare feet. It's shoe shopping time. Matching shoes and suits is a real skill (we've already written an in-depth guide on the subject). And while there are, in theory, hundreds and hundreds of combinations, if you memorise a few simple rules, you'll avoid the worst fashion mistakes.
Black shoes work best with black or dark charcoal suits, but you can get away with navy too, if the colour is deep enough. Just make sure you match the belt: black shoes should never be worn with a brown belt. In general, black shoes are more 'formal' than brown. They're good for job interviews, funerals or anything corporate.
Brown shoes go with almost anythying. Emphasis on the almost. Brown oxfords or brogues will look great with a light grey, navy or brown suit, but don't wear them with dark charcoal or (worst of all) black. The formality of those darker tones, mixed with the more casual brown loafer, just looks weird and uneven.
Sneakers with a suit? Yep, it can be done. But there are some ground rules. Make sure they are clean, and no high tops or Air Jordans for this one. Sneakers also need a pair of slim, tapered pants, ideally with a high hem. Loose, classic-fit pants and runners are not a good combo. Obviously this look isn't suitable for every occasion, but it's a nice way of adding some 'street' to your ensemble.