Chapter 5: Suits – Three Degrees of the Well-Dressed Man

IT’S NO COINCIDENCE THAT SUIT IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD. THINK ABOUT IT FOR A SECOND. IF SOMEONE REFERS TO YOU AS A “SUIT”, HE’S CERTAINLY NOT PAYING YOU A COMPLIMENT. POPULAR CULTURE DICTATES THAT THE GUY IN A SUIT IS THE DORK, THE KILLJOY. THE GUY IN THE SUIT REPRESENTS THE ESTABLISHMENT. BUT SINCE WHEN IS THAT SUCH A BAD THING? WEB 2.0 HAS SPAWNED COUNTLESS INVALUABLE LIFESTYLE CONTRIBUTIONS, BUT IT’S ALSO CREATED A GENERATION OF SLOBS. THE DAY OF CHINOS AND PULLOVERS AT THE OFFICE ARE OVER IT’S TIME TO START DRESSING LIKE A GENTLEMAN AGAIN, AND A GREAT SUIT IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARD RECLAIMING YOUR PLACE AT THE TOP OF THE SARTORIAL FOOD CHAIN. THE SUIT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SET OF CLOTHING IN A MAN’S WARDROBE, AND IT SHOULD BE WORN PROUDLY – AND REGULARLY. THE RIGHT SUIT HAS THE ABILITY TO TRANSCEND MERE DRESSING. LIKE SUPERMAN’S CAPE, A SUIT BRINGS OTHERWISE HIDDEN ATTRIBUTES TO THE SURFACE: POWER, CONFIDENCE, AUTHORITY. NO WONDER IT’S BEEN THE STAPLE OF MASCULINE DRESS FOR THE BETTER PART OF A CENTURY. SO THE NEXT TIME SOME PUNK IN FRAYED CORDS AND FAUX VINTAGE TEE GIVES YOU A SIDEWAYS GLANCE, FEEL FREE TO UNLEASH AS MANY FOUR-LETTER WORDS AS YOU CAN THINK OF.

 

 

SUIT BASICS

1.) THE SHOULDERS

A good suit starts at the shoulders. It should fit your posture and flatter your frame. If your suit jacket doesn’t make you look better when you put it on, you’re wearing the wrong one.

2.) THE LAPEL

Avoid narrow and extra wide and keep it somewhere in the middle. Also consider whether you prefer a notched lapel-which is customary-or a more dramatic peaked version.

3.) THE BUTTONS

Suit snobs pay close attention to the buttons on the sleeve of a suit jacket. Most suits, even those from top European designers, have sleeve buttons that don’t actually unbutton but are strictly for show. The best suits have working button holes on the sleeves. And while you’re not likely to ever see anyone rolling up the sleeve of the suit jacket unless his name is Michael Jackson, some flashier types like undoing these buttons in order to show off the superior hand tailoring of their garment.

4.) THE PATTERN

Stripes and checks are the most popular patterns for suits-though these are often so subtle they are not noticeable from even a short distance. A better suit carefully matches where the pattern meet and overlap, with stripes continuing across the seams perfectly.

5.) THE POCKETS

Most suits are delivered with the pockets sewn shut. Pull them open, but don’t load them with your PDA, keys, or iPod as this will ruin the silhouette.

6.) THE LINING

Subtle or shocking, a good lining, like functional button holes on the sleeve, allows suit junkies another opportunity to demonstrate their sartorial flair.

7.) THE STITCHING

Superior suits are hand-stitched by a tailor. Although fusing-a fancy word for the suit being glued together-is commonplace for off-the-rack suits, a truly handmade suit will be sewn by artisans. This will be reflected in the price.

BLACK

Not just for undertakers anymore. Worn with a soft blue shirt, the black suit can feel decidedly informal. Try a crisp white shirt and skinny black tie, and you’ll understand why this look is such a classic.

GRAY

Next to midnight blue, a gray suit is the essential component of any well-curated closet. Nothing is so versatile: Whether worn with black, brown, or cordovan shoes, you can wear the same gray suit every day of the week. As long as you vary shoes and shirt and tie, no one will be the wiser.

HERRINGBONE

A classic gentleman’s suit, herringbone gets its name from the zigzag pattern of the twill used to make it. Generally, this is a heavier suit, which is at its best in the winter.

COTTON

Warm weather isn’t an excuse to dress down. Cotton, brushed or otherwise, will let you maintain your style without suffocating.

LINEN

Most suits are wool, and no matter how lightweight they may be, are too warm to be worn during the summer. The linen suit offers an antidote to overheating when the mercury starts to rise, and can be worn with more casual shoes, even sneakers, if it’s appropriate for the occasion.

PRINCE OF WALES

A glen-check suit with a light-blue overplaid, is the classic Prince of Wales. A French-blue shirt will bring out the best in it.

WINDOWPANE

An elegant alternative to pinstripes, a subtle windowpane plaid is a beautiful addition to any wardrobe.

THE PERFECT FIT

 

You could have the most expensive suit on the market, but if it doesn’t fit properly, you’re going to look like a farmer. A suit should be neither too tight nor too loose, it should gently hug the body, but not restrict you in any way. A suit jacket should pull smoothly across your back when buttoned. The lapels are means to lay across the chest. Some padding in the shoulders, we’re not talking David Byrne here, can help fill out your frame. Needless to say, there is no one style that works best for all men. Take your time. Do your research. And whatever you do, trust the mirror. No matter how much your wife or girlfriend (if you’re still shopping with your mother at this point finding the right suit is the least of your problems) tell you how amazing you look, if you aren’t feeling it, try something else.

THE ENGLISH FIT

The British have a rich tradition of impeccable tailoring. While Savile Row has changed significantly over the years, there’s still no place like it. English suits tend to fit close to the body, accentuating a defined waist, strong chest, and naturally sloping shoulders. These features are exaggerated by the British taste for double vents that flare at the bottom of the coat. High armholes, trim sleeves, and tapered pants only add to the lean look. English suits tend to hug the body without feeling, or looking, tight.

THE ITALIAN FIT

Europeans developed a very different suit with a high, padded shoulder and longer jacket. The Italian suit drapes more than the British and is accented by narrower pants, which are often worn much higher on the ankle.

THE ALL-AMERICAN FIT

Classic American style emerged in the 1950s with – the Ivy League look. It reached its epitome in the Sack suit, a three-button model that is more forgiving than the tailored looks from across the Atlantic. This Brooks Brothers look has lower armholes, three buttons, and a natural, sloping shoulder and is generally more relaxed and informal.

THE LAPELS

The lapels of your suit jacket are meant to lay flat across your chest. If they bow out even a little, then the suit is too tight. Make· sure the notch on your lapel is close to your tie knot, otherwise you’ll look lopsided.

THE BUTTONS

The number of buttons on a suit has more to do with preference than fit. On a three-button suit, the only button that gets used is the waist, or middle, button.
You may be tempted to button the top button in a rakish way, but resist this urge. When there are two buttons, fasten only the top one. An elegant alternative is the single-button suit, which offers a sharp, formal look.

THE VENTS

Double vents make it easier to pull the jacket close to your frame, particularly if you’re solidly built. Single vents keep the silhouette slim, but allow for easy
access to your pockets.

DOUBLE-BREASTED VS.
SINGLE-BREASTED

The single-breasted suit should be your default choice for both work and play. The double-breasted version is a dashing, continental choice that’s chic, but not for men on the shorter or heavier side as it adds fabric to your midsection. One other tip: Always keep it buttoned.

HOW TO BUY A SUIT

A full-on custom suit is a collaboration between client and tailor. Each tailor has his own style so you are better off finding a tailor whose work you admire than trying to make a tailor bend toward your imagination.
Once you’ve found a sympathetic sartorial soulmate, discuss what you want to use the suit for and what details he can add to make it special. Custom tailors are artisans, if you find the right tailor, stick with him.

DON’T SETTLE FOR BAD FIT

A suit just isn’t a suit until it fits you. There’s nothing worse than looking like you’re wearing bad hand-me-downs.

DON’T BUY CHEAP SUITS

It may look like a bargain, but you’ll pay for it in the end. When building a suit wardrobe, remember that quality trumps quantity. One great suit is better than two cheap ones. The right navy or gray suit can be worn with a mix of shirts, sweaters, and shoes to make it seem like you’re wearing a different outfit every day.

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