Whether you’re the student on a baked beans budget, or the big-earning gent who’s squandered his weekly pay on other essential classics – cheap suits are like a naughty binge, best indulged once in a while. Fast-fashion, like McDonald’s, has its place for those times. Just don’t make it a sartorial habit.
Breaking Cheap Suits Down
Cheap suits don’t equate to low quality tailoring or a jacket and trouser made from horrible materials and sloppy construction. There are plenty of suits on the men’s wear market today from several reputable retailers that can absolutely work for the office and the weekend.
And, at a price that will leave you with a little extra ka-ching in your breast pocket. Now that’s sorted, click through the slideshow for the best 12 suits for under $350. Then, learn how to piece this look together.
Focus On The Fit
Even cheap suits must fit your body right. The cut of your suit needs to be perfect, running along contours of your body without being restrictive. Most men have never been professionally measured, so this is your starting point.
Have a store person or capable friend measure your chest, waist and leg length before contemplating your size. (Suits aren’t like jeans where you can sometimes wing-it with the fit, given they stretch). Now, with an up-to-date calculation of your body proportions, feel free to buy suits both online and instore, with much more confidence that the fit will be snug.
Alterations Are Everything
While a custom-made suit is best, you’d have to head to China before getting something made-to-measure on a budget. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get things altered, post-purchase. Because you’re not a supermodel, the fit will most likely be ‘off’ – too long in the leg or gaping slightly in the waist because your gym junkie legs forced you to go up a size in the pant. As a general rule, go slightly longer or bigger with the size, as it’s far easier to cut and take-in fabric than it is to lengthen.
Take your suit to a local alterations place and ask them to match your measurements. Pricing, like any service, varies so if you’re on a severe budget, do your research. But remember, you’ve already saved a few hundred dollars by buying off-the-rack and from a high-street retailer. If the suit is for work, you’ll get a lot of mileage from this piece, so it’s worth the investment. Now altered, the suit will automatically look more expensive too, which is what you want.
Natural Vs. Synthetic
Again, like the bespoke option, you’ll be lucky to find a pure wool suit for your price range. So let’s talk fabric. Most cheap suits will come in materials made from the following synthetic fibres: polyester, viscose, elastane, Lycra and spandex.
The cheapest suits will only boast these man-made yarns, which can be recognised for their sturdy feel and sheen. However, synthetic suits are hotter to wear in summer and less insulating in winter, and don’t feel as nice to touch.
Other cheap suits boast a synthetic-natural fibre blend or come made from a fabric that is purely natural, such as cotton. Linen and seersucker fall into the cotton category, as they are all plant-derived. Natural fibre-made suits are breathable and feel nicer to wear, but they often crease more than synthetics and aren’t as indestructible.
As a rule, read the label to understand what suit fabric you are trying on and try on different blends. Elastane and Lycra will offer a more stretch for skinny fits, linen will feel summery and more casual, and a polyester-wool blend suit will feel perfect for the office.
Traditionalism For Work
The cheap suit for work looks best in traditional neutrals – black, grey, navy and brown – and in minimal prints such as checks, herringbone or fine pinstripes (never thick or wide pyjama types). There is nothing worse than a suit that looks novelty, and because the cheap suit may look less luxury in fabric compared to more luxury models, keeping things classic in the office will help you look more suave.
Over accessorising falls into this category, too. Stick to a business-savvy tie with a tasteful stripe and colour and play around with woven and flat-look options for textural difference. A nice watch adds some instant dollars to your ensemble. As do quality-made, leather lace-ups, freshly polished. Add a waistcoat to form a three-piece suit and you’re mighty dapper, instantly.
Trend-It On The Weekend
School’s out for the week and so too is your grey, single-breasted number. The weekend means the office rules are out and colour and unstructured tailoring are in. The beauty of cheap suiting means you can buy one in every colour (well, almost). But trends in colour can be experimented with a bit off-duty, and working some in-season hues such as marsala, mint green and all-white is very doable.
Bolder windowpane checks and geo prints look great on the weekend and give you a chance to flash some personality. Not into outlandish tailoring? Pop a printed pocket square into your navy jacket and loose your tie and socks. And voila, you’re on trend, sharp and no one will ever know just how little you’ve spent.