There are many important decisions to make when selecting a suit: style/cut, fabric, color, and having the suit fitted properly.
Nowadays there are many suit styles to choose from but all of them are based off of three traditional styles: America, European/Italian and English. Although some of the elements of each of these tradition styles have crossed over to other styles, they are still considered to be a useful guide in determining which cut or style should work best for your body type.
American-style suits are good for people with huskier or larger body types because the American suit was designed to fit the larger frames of Americans as opposed to Europeans. It is common to find American suits that feature three buttons and a single breast although jackets with two buttons are quite popular as well. It’s easy to find double-breasted American suits too.
European-style suits, which might also be called Continental or Italian suits, typically are cut close to the body and feature two buttons and a single breast. These suits tend to make slender men look very good, but, unfortunately, they do not flatter larger men. These suits are fit to a man’s form, and they can make a man whose body type isn’t slender look like a small boy.
English-style suits, which are also referred to as British-style suits, look very flattering on people of average or athletic body types. English suits are somewhat modeled on military uniforms, which can give the wearer a sharp, authoritative look. Military uniforms tend to follow the lines of the body, and English suits do the same. Tall men also tend to look good in English-style suits.
Once you’ve decided which cut you like best, you then need to think about fabric, color and fit.
Choosing which fabric the suit is made from is very important. Certain fabrics, like cotton, wool, silk, and linen, breathe better than other fabrics. Additionally, these fabrics can help keep the wearer warm during the winter and cool during the summer.
Luxurious fabrics, like silk and cashmere, will feel great on the skin but will also be much more expensive than common materials like wool and cotton.
If you are only going buy one suit, it should wool. Look for suits made of 100% “worsted” wool. The worsting process involves selecting long wool fibers and twisting them into tight and resilient yarns. Worsted wool suits are durable, hard-wearing, and usually fine for wear in all seasons.
For a first suit, it is a good idea to choose a dark, solid color such as charcoal gray, black, or navy blue. For men who purchase many beyond the basic solid colors, subtle patterns such as pinstripes or herringbone may be considered. Try to choose colors and patterns that will stand the test of time and will be appropriate for the settings in which the suit will be worn.
When shopping for a suit, the salesperson to take all measurements: neck, shoulders, sleeves, chest, waist, and inseam. Have them measure first, before you begin looking at suits.
If there is any part of the suit that doesn’t fit correctly, it should be altered by the shop. In some stores, alterations are free, and in some you will pay a fee. Again, it is good to be working with a salesperson that has your best interests in mind when it comes to fitting.
Here are few general rules…
- The jacket should lie smoothly over your shoulders and across your back, and should look proportional to your physique. The length of the jacket should cover up your entire backside (your butt). The back of the jacket should end where your butt meets your leg.
- Jacket sleeves should end at the point where your hands meet your wrists and show 1/2 inch of your shirt cuff. Higher armholes may help your suit to drape better on your body, but they should never feel tight or binding. Make sure that you have free movement of your arms. As a test, bring your arms straight out in front of you.
- The collar should hug the back of the neck without buckling or pulling. 1/2 inch of your shirt collar should show from under the suit’s collar.
- Shoulder pads, if you have them, should help the suit to hang properly and help you achieve more of a “V” shape. For guys with narrow shoulders, pads might help you look more masculine, but they should never be too bulky or obvious, nor should they be so wide as to diminish the appearance of the head. The shoulders of a jacket should frame the head for a balanced presentation.
- Lapels should lie flat to your chest, and should never bunch up or buckle.
- Vents are in the flap of cloth below the waist at the back of the jacket that covers your backside (your butt). You can have one, two, or no vents depending on your body type. If you have a large backside, two vents are advisable; if you have a very flat backside, you can opt for no vents. The idea is to not have the back of the jacket stretching across your butt.
- The waistline should be comfortable; make sure that you can stick two fingers into the waist while you’re wearing them. Suit pants tend to be worn a bit higher than jeans, which are usually worn on the hip. Usually the waist of suit pants falls at or just below the navel.
- Cuffs help the pants provide a little weight at the bottom and help the pants to hang correctly. Stick to a maximum 1.5″ cuff, unless you are short, in which case you might want to try a 3/4″ cuff, or avoid them altogether, as they tend to make the legs appear shorter.