Whether you wear one to work every day or only on special occasions, a men's suit should have a home in every man's closet. Since not everyone can afford tailor-made suits, it pays to know how to buy the perfect suit off the rack. Focusing on quality and fit will help minimize the trauma of shopping for a great men's suit.
Your jacket collar should lie flat against your neck and the sleeves should end where your wrist meets your hand. For pants, you should be able to fit two fingers in the waistband comfortably and the back hem on the leg should rest on the top of the sole of your shoe.
A double-breasted jacket folds over itself in the front and is considered more conservative than a single-breasted jacket whose sides meet in the middle.
Buying a wool suit? The yarn twist determines the quality (and cost) of the fabric. A twist of 60-80 is the low end, while a 120 twist indicates the highest quality.
Venting are the flaps at the back of a jacket below the waist. If you're larger, consider a jacket with two vents. Slimmer men can get away with a jacket without vents.
Cuffs on suit pants go in and out of style. If you're tall, cuffs will de-emphasize your long legs. Shorter men should go cuff-less regardless of fashion.
Single-breasted suit jackets can have one to four buttons—pick a number near the middle for a look that will last. Double-breasted suits are more conservative and shouldn't be worn by teens or heavyset men. Tuxedoes are great if you attend formal events regularly.
In general, the more conservative you're trying to be, the more solid your suit material should be. The exception is pinstripes, which exude power and sophistication. Plaids, checks and other patterns should be reserved for casual suits.
Vented jackets have vertical slits tailored into them to make the jacket easier to move in. Side vented jackets have two vents and center-vented jackets have one. When it comes to pants, your options are pleated (classic) or plain front (the current style).
Black is typically associated with formal occasions, but can be worn any time. You'll get a lot of mileage out of a navy or charcoal suit. Lighter colors should be reserved for warm weather and casual occasions.
Steer clear of synthetics unless you're on a tight budget. Linen is great for a warm weather suit, but it wrinkles and needs cleaning often. Worsted wool offers the best value for the money.
Buying a men's suit needn't be a painful experience. First, think about where you'll wear the suit the most. At the office? Formal occasions? Church? Once you've figured out why you need a suit, the next step is to get sized correctly so you can get a suit that fits. After that, it's simple a matter of finding a suit that fits your needs, body and budget.
You have a number of choices when it comes to the type of suit you'll buy. Here are the basic choices:
Single-breasted. A single-breasted suit has one column of buttons and the sides of the jacket meet in the middle. By far the most popular type of men's suit, single-breasted suits come in a number of button combinations from one button (for a retro look) to three buttons (the most popular).
Double-breasted. A double-breasted suit has two columns of buttons and one edge of the jacket overlaps the other. Popular with older, more conservative men, the double-breasted may have two or three sets of buttons
Tuxedo. Typically worn at formal occasions, a tuxedo can be an excellent investment if you attend many formal functions.
Men's suits should be constructed of material that is durable, comfortable and breathes well. Avoid synthetics, as they don't provide any of the features you're looking for. While cotton is comfortable and breathes well, it's really better suited to warm weather, casual suits. Worsted wool is the best all-around choice: it's durable, breaths and can help a suit hold its shape.
Men's suits are available in a wide range of colors and patterns. Black suits tend to be associated with formal occasions, but can also be fashion-forward, depending on the design of the suit. Navy and charcoal are great workhorse colors in business settings. Earth tones like brown, tan and khaki have a more casual feel.
When it comes to patterns, you can't go wrong with solid colors, but a pinstriped suit is always considered a conservative classic. Stay away from plaids and herringbone patterns—they scream fashion victim.
Fit is everything. Even the most expensive men's suits can look sloppy if they don't fit correctly. Here are some tips for getting the perfect fit:
Shoulders. Most suits have padded shoulders to give you a squared off look, but the pads shouldn't extend beyond your shoulders.
Chest. You should be able to button the jacket without straining the fabric. On the other hand, if you can fit more than a hand's width between your chest and the button, the jacket's too big.
Length. With your arms resting at your sides, you should be able to roll your fingers up around the cuff of the jacket. Try holding your arms out—the cuff should rest where your hand meets you wrist.
Pants. To test pant fit, you should be able to fit two fingers into the waistband comfortably. Also, the back of the pant cuff should rest on the top of the sole of your shoe.
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