“The suit makes the man.”
It is often said that a great suit is like a suit of armour to a man. A perfect suit not only makes you feel confident by wearing it, but it elevates your style into a whole new stratosphere. From a peak label to a classic notched lapel, having a double vent or a centre vent, a suit is an indicator to who you are as a man. Yet, despite the fact that we, as men, have grown up with this menswear staple (think your father or grandfather sporting their suits when you were a child), many men still do not understand the basics of how to obtain an actual suit that fits them. We believe that every man should know how to choose their own perfect suit, one that fits their body type and personality. It should be a requirement that every man should have at least one stunning suit that they feel secure in.
So, we will go over what exactly you should look out for to ensure that your next suit is, well…just perfect.
step 1: purpose of the suit
Purchasing a suit is an important investment for a man, much like choosing the right car based on the purpose and your personality. So, knowing all the information as to what you want the suit for, even before stepping into a store, is vital. This prevents you from choosing the wrong suit that you eventually won’t feel comfortable wearing, and then leaving it in its garment bag for years without use. So, what is the main purpose of this suit?
- If you’re looking for something that you’ll wear to the office often, then keep it dark and classic
- If you’re looking for a suit to wear to key special occasions, then black or navy is a safe bet
- If you’re looking for your first suit, then a solid navy blue is always the most versatile choice, followed by charcoal and black
step 2: what do you want
Do you know if you want one button, two buttons, or three buttons? Do you want a peak lapel? Do you want side vents? What kind of fabric and colour do you want? Those are the many questions you should ask yourself when picking your suit. As there are many options available, familiarize yourself with the choices.
choosing your fabric:
If this is your first suit, then stick with a wool suit because it can be worn year-round. Cotton suits should only be worn in the spring, summer, and fall. There are even more choices out there like linen suits which are best for summer days or flannel to keep you warm during our Canadian winters. A wool suit will give you the most for your money, so this is the smartest option.
number of buttons:
Three-button suit: The three-button suit was very popular in the 90’s because the two-button used to be the conservative main stay, but the tables are turning again. If you’re going to get a three button suit, instead of opting for one of those high-cut versions, look for one with a roll-over lapel, one in which you button the middle button, encouraging the soft lapel to roll over the top button. Taller men may prefer the three-button jacket, which will reach higher on the chest and could be more comfortable or flattering.
Two-button suit: The two-button suit is what most men should wear. Every major brand is designing two-button suits, except they’re making them more streamlined and modern, so you’ll see a lot of these around. A man with a shorter torso will appreciate wearing a two-button jacket style. It lengthens your frame, and it has an undeniably classic appeal.
Avoid narrow and extra wide and keep it somewhere in the middle. Also consider whether you prefer a notched lapel, which is classic and always looks on point, or a more dramatic peaked version which is more avant-grade and chic.
single or double-breasted:
The single breasted suit should always be your first pick for both work and play. The double-breasted version is a dashing and chic, but not for men on the shorter or heavier side as it adds fabric to your midsection.
the jacket vent:
Double vents are more European and a bit more refined. They make it easier for you to reach into your pockets without having to fold your jacket up. But they’re the most expensive to make, so they’re going to be more exclusive than the centre vent. Now, the centre vent is modern yet traditional; you cannot go wrong with this choice. There are also the vent-less jacket. They are the cleanest and dressiest in appearance, but they aren’t very convenient. The wearer needs to bundle them up to access his pockets.
pleats on pants, or no pleats on pants:
Menswear is getting further and further away from pleats, but they still do come in a more subtle fashion than it used to. It’s really more of a personal choice. Now, heavier men typically need pleated pants for comfort. The pant should taper each leg and the pleats will loosen with the body movement. As a result, they can be flattering for them. But if you can, try to go for non-pleated.
Classically, if the pants have pleats, then cuffs are required. However for casual pants, for example khakis, cuffs are not required. Cuffs really are better for taller guys, but not for shorter guys because it shortens the silhouette of the legs as well.
step 3: measurements
This seems obvious, but make sure you know your exact size, not just the general category of measurements in which you think you fall under. Reality is, you should recheck your size each year. Even if you’ve bought a suit before, don’t keep asking for the same size out of habit. As you gain or lose weight or grow older and time takes its toll on you, your suit size will undoubtedly change.
Keep in mind: a suit jacket size is determined by measuring the thickest part of your chest in inches.
- Begin by measuring just under your armpits and across the chest and over the shoulder blades. Relax and don’t flex. Make sure you keep the tape measure parallel to the floor when you do this. This will help guarantee that you’re measuring the thickest part of the chest area
- You should take an overarm measurement where you place the tape measure over the outside of your arms at your sides and across the thickest part of your chest. Once you have this measurement subtract 7 inches to receive a corresponding chest measurement. Then compare this measurement with the chest measurement and take the larger of the two.
- Pant sizes are determined by measuring the waist at the belt line. In most cases, the belt line will be found just on top of your hip bones.
step 4: checking the fit @ the shop
If this is your first time buying a suit, the best places to start are large department stores (as they have a vast selection at your disposal). Both Holt’s and Harry Rosen are great for the designer pieces, while The Bay, Zara and even H&M are perfect for the more recession-proof prices. Make sure you don’t rush into picking one as soon as you get into the shop, take your time and always shop around before deciding. And if you’re even a little unsure, always talk to the staff. They are trained to know the different pieces. Once you find something that you love, try it on! That’s the only sure way to know if it’s the one for you. Here are some points to keep in mind when you’re standing in front of the mirror in the change room:
- The shoulders of a jacket are crucial to a good fit. Check this area first to determine if the proper suit size has been chosen. Tip: if you stand sideways against a wall and the shoulder pad touches the wall before your arm does, the suit is too big
- Very few men can buy a suit without having the collar raised, lowered, or shortened. Look in a three-way mirror. The jacket collar should hug the back of neck with a half inch of shirt collar showing above it. If the shirt is hidden or there is a buckle of excess jacket fabric then try a different jacket…but a tailor can also fix this issue too
- The jacket should not be too long. For example, not halfway down your thigh looking like a men’s mini-skirt
- For the right length: your jacket should be long enough to cover your behind. If you’re really tall though, you may want to wear your jacket slightly longer than your behind to make your legs appear shorter and more balanced. If you’re short, you’ll want to wear your jacket just above the bottom of your behind in order to give the illusion of longer legs
- The jacket sleeve should hit right at the wrist joint. However, some men like to show a little of the shirt cuff to expose their cuff links, which requires shorter sleeves on the jacket. This is not for shorter men though. It shouldn’t look like you’re wearing your little brother’s jacket either
- You should be able to easily button the jacket without it straining, but there shouldn’t be too much space between the button and your chest (no more than a fist’s worth)
- Turn sides and look at the way the pants hang. Legs should fall straight and centre evenly over each foot
- Pants should sit more at the hip, almost like a pair of jeans and not at the navel
- You shouldn’t have to wear a belt (you really don’t need one) and you shouldn’t need suspenders to keep your pants up, it should sit naturally on your waist and remain there
step 5: alterations/tailor
Your tailor will eventually become your best friend. A good tailor can make small tweaks that will be the difference from you exuding style confidence and your outfit failing. After choosing a suit that’s an exceptional fit for you, 9 out of 10, you probably still need to take it to a tailor for some final touches. In menswear, it is all about the details, whether they are big or small. You will always have more versatility with a suit that fits you well (a bit on the slim side) because it gives you the option to dress the jacket down with a pair of jeans if need be.
If your pants are an inch too wide or too tight, a tailor can usually alter them, but don’t buy ones that are more than an inch too big or small as it will look bad even after alterations. They can also take your pants in at the thigh, or shorten the length.
A tailor usually will need to alter the length of the sleeves. Insist that you’d like a quarter inch of shirt cuff to show. The sides of a jacket often need to be taken in so they contour to your torso. And make sure you check out the collar: many times there is a roll in the back of the suit jacket, up near your neck…a good tailor can correct this.
After you have had it altered, don’t forget to try it on again before leaving to ensure that it’s perfect.
Your suit should be well fitted, but not like a straight jacket. Best way to see if it’s comfortable, is to lift your arms up. Because the last thing you want is your suit to burst at the seams while you’re reaching for something in public.