You've done it. You've decided to get your first suit.
You do a little research and you think…
What in the h*** did I get myself into?
There are so many options that you don't know where to start.
We're going to fix that problem, gents. I've put together a simple guide to buying suit, so you have all the tools at your disposal.
Your journey into style and professionalism begins now. Let's get started.
- The right reasons
- Embrace the process
- Precise measurements
- Good communication
- Knowing what you want
- Buy ONE at a time
- Fabric choice
- Keep it simple
- Make minor adjustments
- Wear it to the ground
Buying A Suit 1. The Right Reasons
When you delve into buying a suit, you'll run into the terms “off-the-rack” and “custom.”
The difference comes down to whether it is ready-made or made to order.
Off-the-rack clothing is ready-made. These are garments designed to fit a wide range of body types. They are predetermined.
The idea is that you buy the garment and wear it “off the rack.”
The problem with this is fit. There is a high chance that off-the-rack suits will not fit you well off the bat, and you'll require tailoring to perfect it.
The other issue comes with quality. Such suits are often mass-produced and made by machines.
There is also a compromise when it comes to materials. Most off-the-rack suits feature a glued interlining, for example. While these tactics save money, the garment itself suffers…
And so do you.
Custom suits are made to order. They are crafted to fit one person: you.
There are two types of custom suits: Made to measure, and bespoke.
Made to measure suits are usually cut from existing patterns using machines. The tailor then adjusts it as needed.
Bespoke suits are the highest order – make no mistake, these are works of art.
These suits are built from scratch to your measurements. The process may require multiple fittings in order to get it just right.
Do not confuse these with tailored suits. A tailored suit is ANY such garment that a tailor adjusted for you. They can be off-the-rack or custom.
Custom suiting yields a considerable advantage. For one thing, your fabric and styling options are endless.
You have the chance to have a suit that is made exactly to your specifications. This means you can choose your favorite fabric, your favorite patterns, and your favorite details.
From the lapels to the inner lining, to the very buttons on the suit…
The choice is yours.
Who Benefits From Custom Suits?
But especially men with a unique body type – if you're larger, taller, or shorter than the average guy.
The process guarantees that you have a great look regardless of build.
Want to cultivate your personal style? This is the avenue to take. The sheer options available to you means you can experiment to your heart's content.
Buying A Suit 2. Accept The Process
Time is a major factor to consider when buying a suit made to order.
You will not get your custom suit on the day you come in. In fact, you won't see it for weeks.
Custom suiting is a multi-week process. Locally-produced suits take anywhere between 2-4 weeks.
Getting online tailoring overseas? You're looking at anywhere between 1-2 months!
You want to plan accordingly. Start the tailoring at least 2 months prior to you need the suit. This allows enough time to make the necessary adjustments after completion.
You will likely come in for multiple fittings. You'll be at the tailor's for at least an hour during your first visit as they take all the necessary measurements. We'll go over those in more detail below.
Buying A Suit 3. Precise Measurements
When it comes to buying a suit, expect to have every part of your body measured.
we're talking chest, torso, waist, and more. Upwards of 50 different measurements!
Some key measurements include…
- Chest size – determined by measuring around the widest part of your torso.
- Overall height – in feet and inches
- Waist – Bend to the side to find your natural crease. This is where the tape will be applied. It should fit comfortably. Two fingers should be able to fit between you and the measuring tape.
- Seat -Measured by going around the widest part of the hips.
- Inseam – From the crotch to the bottom of your shoe.
- Sleeves – From your shoulder seam to (approximately) 2 inches beneath the wrist.
As stated above, do not rush. There is nothing worse than making a mistake and having to send your garments back.
Manufacturers often produce block patterns (templates) based on the wide size ratios that complement most men.
Think of the block system as a painter's canvas. Once they have a template, they can hone in on the finer details. In this case, it's the perfect fit.
When a tailor has your pattern, he/she has an easier time finetuning the measurements.
Buying A Suit 4. Good Communication
When it comes to buying a suit, it's essential that you ask the right questions.
- Do you offer bespoke and made to measure?
- Which styles do you offer?
- Can I see what the tailor has already made?
- How long is the process?
- How many fittings will be needed?
- Can I get this adjusted?
- How do I look?
It helps to make sure your tailor speaks English as a first or second language.
Online forms are also great – it's an objective and secure way to list your preferences while following the retailer's system.
Buying A Suit 5. Knowing What You Want
It's harder than it sounds.
Remember the Style Pyramid: Fit, function, and fabric. This is where the function comes in.
Ask yourself one question: why?
WHY are you buying the suit? WHY are you going to wear it? Will it be for a special event, or for the office? Do you plan on wearing it regularly?
You may not be looking for a full suit. Perhaps you want a sports jacket for business-casual wear. You might want a pair of odd trousers to complement your other garments.
These are all factors to highlight when talking to your tailor. They can't read your mind!
Buying A Suit 6. Buy ONE Piece At A Time
This section is all about consolidation and control.
Why wouldn't you want to get 5 suits made at once? If you have the money for it, surely it'll be fine.
Wrong – this could prove catastrophic if there if just one measurement is askew.
Imagine getting back 5 suits with the collar being too tight, or the sleeves too long.
Now you have 5 flawed garments to send back. It's a hassle multiplied by however many suits you had made.
Just be patient – you will have as many suits as you want with time. Make sure each and everyone comes back perfect.
Buying A Suit 7. Fabric Choice
It's time to choose your armor plating. We're going deep into the rabbit hole here, gents. Strap in…
If this is your first, second, or even third suit – get a versatile color. Build an interchangeable wardrobe.
- Charcoal gray
- Medium gray
Why isn't black on the list? It's a bit too formal for my taste. Any of the above colors befit an office environment while likewise being useful in slightly less courtly situations.
Tan is a viable option, but keep in mind that tan will be more on the casual end of the spectrum. It is also a strong summer, so be wary if you have all four seasons.
A note on matching colors: If the contrasting color has a bit of the main color integrated, it is sure to match!
You want no patterns for your first few suits. If you insist on a pattern (I know I do when buying a suit), then opt for something subtle.
Herringbone is a good starting point. It consists of columns sewn short, parallel lines.
They are arranged in such a way that they resemble fish bones. You can start to see them up close, but from afar the suit will look solid.
More aggressive patterns include pinstripes, checks, windowpane. I don't recommend this starting off.
The bigger the pattern, the less often you can wear the suit. If you wear them more than once a week, people may assume you cannot afford additional suits.
Subtle patterns are reliable and versatile when buying a suit. Swap out the dress shirt and tie – boom, you're a new man each day.
100% worsted wool – settle for nothing less.
“Worsted” simply means that the wool has been woven into a tight enough thread so the suit can drape.
We've been seeing worsted wool used in suits for over a century – it's here to stay!
Do not get a blend. A blend mixes polyester with the natural fiber. We sometimes see 50/50 between polyester and wool. Unfortunately, these make for a cheap-looking suit.
Avoid wool blends with other natural fabrics as well. It will require more upkeep. Linen, for example, is great quality material but is prone to wrinkling.
You want to avoid this the first few times you get a custom suit.
The big question: How much will it cost?
It relies on several factors.
It takes approximately 3.5 yards of thread for a full suit (2.5 for solids). Depending on the kind of fabric you use, you might be set back a few dollars per yard – or over a thousand!
Like everything when it comes to buying a custom suit, the possibilities are endless. On one end, we have cheap synthetic fibers.
On the other, we have grossly ostentatious threads. Among the most expensive threads is silk coated in 24ct gold! Ties made from this retailed for about $8,500.
The fabric will not affect the work done by the tailor. I advise you to look at which materials the retailer considers to be its bread and butter.
If you opt for the local staple, it'll drive costs down.
What Do The Numbers Mean?
You see this all the time – Super 80s, super 120s, super 220s…
The numbers refer to yarn size.
The 80s means that there are 80 hanks of yarn in a pound. 1 hand is equal to about 840 yards.
None of this is regulated. One company's super 120s might be another's super 220s. Just know that the higher the number is, the pricier it will be.
Overall, super 120s is a solid foundation for any purchase.
Buying A Suit 8. Keep It Simple
Despite the powers of customization oozing from your fingertips, remember that with great power comes great responsibility.
Hold true to KISS – Keep it simple, silly. The suits I wear the least are the most complex ones. They're abominations that I regret purchasing!
Your basic suit is going to be single-breasted with two frontal buttons. It'll have notch lapels with a double vent.
A double-breasted suit might be a kickass showpiece, but it won't stand for daily wear.
Keep your suit restrained with 1-2 garish details. I chose to go with peak lapels and contrast stitching.
The same goes for trousers. I recommend getting them with suspender buttons on the inside of the waist. That way, you always have the option to use them.
Buy an extra set of trousers as well. Unfortunately, when suits get damaged it is usually the trousers that suffer the brunt. This will help make sure you always have a suit on hand.
Consider side adjusters later on. They help the trousers sinch a little against your waist for added support.
What about a vest? I decided to go with a contrasting blue vest to add a little pop. Keep in mind that vests are the hardest part of a suit to fit, so these measurements have to be exact!
One area you can go nuts on is the inner lining of the suit. No one will see this unless you open the jacket, so go crazy!
Buying A Suit 9. Make Minor Adjustments
This is where the magic happens.
It's been a few weeks, you got your suit back. It's 99% ready.
That last 1% will take it from really good to amazing. Take it back to your tailor and get him/her to finetune it.
Like adjusting the pitch on the strings pf a violin, final adjustments fine-tune the suit.
These are usually minor issues – a sleeve that is slightly too long. Maybe you've slimmed up and need to take the jacket in slightly.
No matter what it is, the suit is a constantly evolving garment. Don't be afraid to speak up!
Buying A Suit 10. Wear It To The Ground
You've done it!
You have the perfect suit!
Now… wear the heck out of it. Seriously, men will spend hundreds of dollars on top-notch clothing but never wear it.
It doesn't make sense.
You put in the time, money, and effort to bring that thing to life – flaunt it!
Summary – Buying A Suit
Gents, we covered a lot today.
There's a lot that goes into making a suit – and a lot that goes into buying them
It's up to you to do your research and know what you want. Keep it simple, and make sure it fits!