So you’ve made it. You’ve graduated from sweatpants and gotten yourself a job that doesn’t involve selling video game characters online. And you need a suit. Not just any suit, your very first suit. Something that will look the part without sending you to the streets.
Welcome to the big bad world, champ. Now there’s a lot that can go wrong (and right) when buying your first suit. The most common offence you could ever make is getting a suit that’s too big for you. Beyond that there’s also a plethora of details that could turn your first suit experience into a minor nightmare.
Fear not, young dapper Jedi. We’ve compiled some simple rules to help you ditch Dad’s suits in order to become your own sartorial king. Button up, son.
Picking Suit Colour & Materials
Don’t splurge on that Prince of Wales check or chalkstripe that you’ve seen at Pitti. You’re no baller just yet so instead, opt for a colour with a certain air of versatility to it – a French navy or mid-grey will both do this, looking austere enough for formal occasions while being something you can dress down when necessary – i.e. from the office to the bar.
Depending on your needs, wool is the best fabric and will serve you well in most conditions. Cotton is more casual and creases more easily, which does not suit all workplaces. Linen is best suited to warmer climates.
Keep in mind that your suit colour also needs to be matched with your dress shoes whether they be existing or brand new. The general rule is that brown leather shoes are slightly more casual and black are for more corporate affairs. In today’s day and age though, brown leather shoes are pretty much acceptable anywhere and a good choice for a bit more personality in your look.
If you need more details about the right fabric cloth for you, check out our expert tips on suit cloths.
Suit Fit Types: The Right One For You
This is the golden rule. A fully-canvassed construction or a luxurious spalla camicia (Neapolitan tailoring speak for “shirt shoulder”) will make up for an ill-fitting suit. If you’re buying off the rack, you need to be aware of a few key areas where the garment must fit correctly.
Sleeve and trouser length, in most instances, can be easily adjusted. Shoulders, while not impossible to alter, are one are you really do not want to fret with. If they don’t fit, move along and try on something else. What you are looking for is a jacket that follows the contours of your frame across your shoulders, chest and waist.
An oversized jacket is never a good look, but neither is the aggressively tight magazine look – look for something that drapes with elegance. As for sleeve length, a useful test is to place your arms by your sides and have the sleeves finish at your wrist bone.
Don’t Go Too Small For Your Suit
A fitted suit is trendy these days but a common mistake is to buy a suit that’s way too small. A suit that’s fractionally big can be adjusted, but most ready-to-wear suits don’t have enough fabric to let out, and it doesn’t always look right when they are. Either hit the treadmill to lose some girth, or buy a jacket that buttons easily leaving at least an inch or so for your phone in your breast pocket.
Know Your Suit Shoulder Width
We all love to think we have the shoulders of an Adonis, but that’s not always the case. Whether the shoulders are heavily constructed (with padding for more formal look) or completely deconstructed (without padding for casual look), the shoulder seam should sit neatly on the corner of where your shoulders end and your arms begin. Fabric shouldn’t be bulging out. If it doesn’t fit here, move along.
Choose Pants That Fit
With so much focus on the jacket, it’s easy to neglect the trousers. Don’t do it, man. It can equally ruin your suit if you get this part wrong. Trousers should fit well around the seat, crotch and thighs.
When you’re trying the trousers on, always sit down to test how comfortable they are. If they’re uncomfortable in the store or tight around the waist, this isn’t going to change. Don’t rely on “stretch” or fall into the trap set by an eager salesperson by being something that’s not the right size.
The waist can be adjusted, either by being taken in or let out, but both within reason. Even better, find a pair of trousers with adjustable side tabs and your job is half done.
Get a feel for these basics and your next suit purchase will be as easy as wearing it.
Know Your First Suit Budget
Ah, we’ve left the best till last. Budget is a big deal when buying your first suit. It’s a given that you won’t have thousands to spend so making your hard-earned cash go the distance is paramount.