Men usually take the easy route when it comes to fashion nowadays; there's the clean shirt, jeans and sneakers combo, or the dress shirt, slacks and dress shoes combo on those days where casual wear isn't suitable, like working in a office. This lackadaisical dressing is even rampant in men's suits, a garment that should be anything but crisp and proper. Ill-fitted suits that make them look like they are practically swimming in wool, ties that don't compliment anything they are wearing and dress shirts that are three times the size that they should be. So what happened?
When I look at photos of Steven McQueen, John F. Kennedy and Michael Caine, icons from back in the day, I see men that know how to wear a suit. Maybe it's from our own self-suppression or a lack of knowledge of fashion, some men tend to crutch to today's standards of mediocrity, or maybe some think it's too difficult to put a suit together.
But in all honesty, it's actually pretty simple. And we should know how to wear and look good in a suit, because sooner or later we will have to wear one. So, here is a Men's Suiting 101 course, with easy tips to find your perfect suit and turn you into a well-dressed man in no time.
Pick Your Fabric Wisely
There are three characteristics your suit's fabric should cater to: color, season and most importantly, comfort. With these three attributes, you won't have to feel any resentment on your first suit purchase. There are many fabrics you can choose from that will fall in two categories, wool or non-wool material. In my opinion, the safest route to take is to buy a Worsted wool suit. It's durable, can be worn year around and depending on the weave, it can be light or heavy. Once you have a solid, go-to suit for any event that might come your way, I'd suggest you venture out in other fabrics like flannel or linen, wool or non-wool, depending on the occasion, season and fashion trends.
Styling Tip: Also, keep in mind the quality of the suit and twist count. A "high-twist 100" means a higher quantity of thread was used. Higher the number, the better quality suit.
Breaking Down The Jacket
To say that your blazer is "just a blazer" and that there's nothing really to look for in buying one would be an understatement. From your sleeve to your buttons, here is a breakdown of the anatomy of a jacket and what you should always look for.
Single or Double-Breasted Jacket
The difference between single and double-breasted is that double-breasted jackets fold over one another, single doesn't. Style wise, double-breasted is more formal than its counter-part. So I suggest playing it safe and go for a single-breasted jacket.
Suit lapels are the extension of the suit's collar that fold and are located where your chest and jacket meet. You have a choice of high, low or no notches. All of them are ok in my book and to your liking. But be sure they are flat on your chest and discreet. They are there to compliment your jacket, not make a statement.
You can choose up to three buttons to close your jacket. An easy pick is just to go for the two-button closure; it will be sufficient for most body types. If you have a slimmer physique, a single button jacket would be suitable as well. Men with heavier bodies should stray away from jackets with a single button closure and instead opt for the more secure two or three-button closers.
In a stylist's perspective, sleeve length is an important part on how well a jacket fits on your body. If the sleeves are too long for your arms, the proportions will be off and it will separate you from being a well-dressed man, to a slob in a straightjacket. Make sure your sleeve ends where your hand and wrist meet. Your dress shirt should be around one-fourth of an inch longer than your suit sleeve. Don't take it in too high either. Moving freely in your suit jacket is a must and will prevent tearing at the seams. Remember Chris Farley in Tommy Boy? We don't want that to happen, do we?
While looking for a pair of pants, here are some guidelines to follow. First, with any bottoms, make sure they fit around the waist. Test out the fit by placing one or two fingers inside the waistband while wearing them. That's an easy trick to see if you need to size up or down. Also, try to purchase trousers with regular rise. Too high of a rise will make you look shorter. As for low rise, tucked in dress shirt would easily come out and that's sloppy upkeep.
Styling Tip: Cuffed bottoms might be stylish if you have a height advantage. Smaller men should stay away from cuffs because it will make you look shorter than you already are.
Suits From Around The World
There are three different suit styles that cater to different male body types.
American cut suits were first introduced by Brooks Brothers and are ideal for men with larger frames. Usually made with a three-button blazer, American suits elongate the torso and make you appear taller and thinner. These suits don't have too much fitting so the silhouette is boxy with straight hanging lines and also has no padded shoulders and flap pockets.
British Suits (English suites)
For the average and athletic body type, the British cut is ideal. With a slight fitted design at the waist, higher armholes, padded shoulders and flared skirt, it's a suit that follows the bodyline closer than its American counterpart. If you like the fit of an Italian suit but have a larger physic, a British suite would be perfect for you.
Italian Suits (Continental suit)
With its close cut fit and sleek, modern aesthetic, Italian suits are made for men with a slim physic; bulkier men must avoid this style at all cost. This style of suit must fit properly. If poor fitting occurs, the outcome is unflattering. Also, for being an already fitted suit to begin with, don't up the ante and make the suit more fitted than it already is. It should be like a glove, not a rubber band.
Top It Off With The Right Accessories
Now that you picked the right suit, lets finish it off with the right accessories.
The right dress shirt should match your suit's color. I would go with a solid color, but pattern shirts are good, as well as gingham or plaid. But try not to cross patterns with your shirt and suit, that's a fashion "Do Not" and it might give people a headache, so watch out.
Styling Tip: Make sure your dress shirts fit you properly, especially around the neck. You can check by placing one finger inside the collar when it's buttoned to the top. Your finger should fit inside comfortably.
Neckties come in all shapes and sizes. But personally, I like skinny ties rather than the fat, clown ties. Also, your tie should compliment your outfit. Don't make your tie too matchy-matchy.
Belt, Shoes and Socks
Your belt and shoes should match each other, simple as that. Your preference in shoe style is all up to you, but please update your shoes if they are square toed, they have been out of season for quite awhile. With your socks, you have the option to match your pants or you can go a shade darker, either is perfectly acceptable. But one rule that should never be broken: Do not wear white socks with your suit. You are not the King of Pop, so leave your white socks for other things, like the gym.
Find Yourself A Good Tailor
Finally, after a long and tiring search for the right suit, you need to make adjustments so it fits correctly. Most ready-to-made suits are made to accommodate everyone (as in, it won't fit everyone the way they're suppose to), so find a reliable tailor to shape your suit to your liking.
Discover these San Diego suit stores and men's specialty clothing shops for your next sexy suiting.
Ron Stuart in Downtown San Diego
Ron Ford established Ron Stuart Clothing in 1981. Since then it has become San Diego's premier men's clothing store with high-quality classic and contemporary menswear with competitive prices. With Master Tailor Joe LaFata, tailoring for more than 22 years, Ron Stuart is a great place for your suit needs. For more information, visit Ronstuartmensclothing.com.
Nordstrom in Fashion Valley Mall
Nordstrom is your place for mid-range designer suits ranging from BOSS, Versace and Burberry. With on-site tailors, Nordstrom is a one-stop shop for all your designer needs. For more information, visit Nordstrom.com.
Tom James Co.
The Tom James Company is the world's largest manufacturer and retailer of custom clothing. Its highly trained tailors come directly to your home or office, saving you valuable time. Tom James plans, coordinates and maintains your wardrobe so you are perfectly attired for any situation — business, casual, social or formal. Its tailors are wardrobe consultants, well versed in fabrics, style and patterns. Also, Tom James offers a complete line of custom, made-to-measure and ready-made executive apparel. For more information, visit Tomjames.com.
La Moda in Kearny Mesa
La Moda has been offering custom clothing and alterations for more than 30 years. From their fine men's clothing, custom suits, shirts and tuxedo rental, La Moda is experienced in men's fashion. For more information, visit Lamodaonline.com.
Neiman Marcus in Fashion Valley Mall
If you are looking high fashion brands like Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana and Armani Collezioni, Neiman Marcus is the place to go. It also has a tailor on-location, dress shirts, ties and accessories. For more information, visit Neimanmarcus.com.
Discover more San Diego men's specialty shops and follow our San Diego shopping blog for tips and trends.