How To Buy A Suit

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How To Buy A Suit

-By Caleb Jones

I love suits. High fashion has never been my strong suit (pun intended), but I know suits. I've been wearing them since I was a teenager in the 80's when wearing a suit with a t-shirt underneath was cool. (Stop laughing you prick. It was cool back then.) Even as a young dork in my early 20's making very little money, I still did my best to save up and buy the best suits I could afford with my meager income.

Suits are cool and masculine. Most women (not all, but most) will find you more attractive wearing a suit than not, and that includes much younger women. I have field-tested this quite a bit. I have had many successful first dates with VYW where I went out of my way to wear a full suit and tie (though I would not wear a suit on a date with a woman over 30...that will help activate the gold digger / provider-hunting buttons).

Most women like suits because wearing one conveys power and competence. It's also a strong male gender cue. Not to mention all the benefits a suit will have on your own confidence and business career.

Today I'll give you a quick primer on how to buy the best suit. One quick note: The following is written from an American point of view. If you live in America or Canada, this will apply to you. If you live in Europe or Australia or elsewhere, most of this will apply to you but some of it will'll have to do a little more research on your own.

First and foremost, the most important thing about fashion, at least in my opinion, is to wear clothes congruent with who you are. Therefore, if you're really not a "suit guy", don't bother with suits. You don't even need to read this blog post. Really. Wear what works for you, don't wear what doesn't. No worries.

Okay, here we go:

How Much To Spend?

There are essentially four levels of suits:

Get-It-Done Suit - Budget range: $100 to $200. This is the standard, basic suit that the everyday guy would buy if he needed a suit to wear to a job interview or a wedding, or if he had a lower-income job that required a (cheap) suit, like a bank teller. They're cheap and simple and get the job done, but not much else. Examples would be the type of suits you would buy at JC Penny or Men's Warehouse.

Decent Suit - Budget range: $400 to $600. These are nicer suits made of denser, higher-quality fabrics, have cooler styles, and look good. Most men who wear suits purchase suits at this level. Examples would be suits you would buy at a place like Nordstrom.

Nice Suit - Budget range: $700 to $1100. These are the truly nice suits, aimed towards men in the upper middle class. They look fantastic and fit your body like a glove. They last forever, and I mean that. I have a few of these that I've worn often for years and years and they still look like brand new. Examples would be suits by Hugo Boss or Burberry.

Expensive Suit - Budget range $1700 and up...way up. These are the top-of-the-line suits, worn by Hollywood movie stars and affluent businessmen. They look perfect, fit perfect, and are extremely expensive, sometimes ridiculously so. Think Armani, Gucci, and other name-designer suits.

The general rule of thumb is to purchase the best suit you can at your income level, shooting for Nice Suit as the most-bang-for-your-buck. Even when I was poor, I would go for low-end suits in the Decent category, even if that meant I had to wait a few months to save up for it. Most women (and many men) can look at the fabric of a suit and instantly identify if it's cheap fabric or "nice". Therefore shooting for Decent or Nice is best.

I would personally not go for Expensive suits, unless you make plenty of money and really want to make a fashion statement. I personally wear Nice suits, and I know many men who make way more money than I do who still wear suits at the Nice level, forgoing the Expensive ones. Of course, if you can afford an Expensive suit and like them, go for it.

What Brand?

First, decide what level of suit you're going to buy into. Then determine the brand. I can't tell you what brand to'll have to go try some on. Every man has a different body and different style, so it would be impossible to advise you.

For me with my body and my style, my favorite brand is Joseph Abboud, by far. This is because I'm a barrel-chested, broad-shouldered guy, and while that looks good for when I'm wearing a normal shirt or normal jacket, I don't want to be quite as huge when wearing a suit. Joseph Abboud suits tend to make my body look more proportional, as opposed to a brand like Hugo Boss (which I also really like) that tends to be more boxy. However if you have an average or small build, you might love Hugo Boss.

See what I mean?  It really depends. Just go to the store and make sure to try on a bunch of different brands and cuts within your budget range.  Within about 15 minutes you'll figure out what looks best on you.

Double Breasted or Single Breasted?

Single breasted. Yes, double-breasted suits look very cool and I used to wear them...back in the early 90's when they were still in style. Double-breasted just aren't in style at the moment, so stick with single breasted unless you're trying to make some audacious fashion statement.

How Many Buttons?

Two buttons. You can get away with wearing three-button suits in a's not as bad as wearing double breasted, but you'd best avoid it. I personally have a three-button suit that I still wear occasionally, but two buttons is much better, especially if you're looking at buying a new suit right now. It's what in style.

Pleated Pants?

Pleats are not in style at the moment, so go for non-pleated. However, this fashion standard changes all the time, very quickly. So if you purchase a suit with one pleat in the slacks, it's not horrible, but I would still stay away from it if you want to remain in style. Plus for you bigger guys like me, no pleats makes you look less fat.

Pinstripe or Solid?

Pinstripe suits look awesome. They really do. The one downside is they aren't as versatile as solid-color suits. It's tougher (though not impossible) to wear an obviously pinstriped suit while wearing jeans, or while not wearing a tie. With a solid suit, even a nice one, this is no problem. My general advice is if you're buying a suit purely for tie-wearing business and not much else, go for the pinstripe. They kick so much ass. But if you want a suit you can wear to work and whip on for a cool night on the town while wearing jeans, then I would lean away from pinstripe and go for a solid.

What Color?

If you're a fashionista, wear any color you like.  However if you're a normal guy like me, darker colors are safer and look better. That means grey, charcoal, black, or dark navy. Avoid brown (this is not the 60's) and earth tones like green and beige (unless you work for the mafia). Also avoid suits that look too blue.  Dark navy is fine. If you have very pale skin, avoid stark blacks.

I tend to not like "shiny" suits but you might, especially if you live outside of the United States or are looking at some pretty expensive suits. That's really up to you. I tend to go for bold but non-shiny dark charcoal suits, but that's me.

What Type of Fit?

Here's the deal on fit, and it's important: A well-fitted suit will make you look more of what you are not. If you're a skinny guy, a good suit fit will make you look bigger and stronger. If you're a fat guy, a good suit fit will make you look more trim. If you're a big guy, a good suit fit will make you look more proportional. If you're short guy, a good suit fit will make you look taller, but you don't want to look taller if you're a tall guy.

You get my point. A good suit will make you look more balanced, and sadly a lot of staff at clothing stores don't understand this. It's very easy to be a big guy and purchase a boxy suit or a skinny guy and get a suit that looks slimming...both of those guys are making a big mistake. So be careful.

Like the bad guy in Die Hard said, "I could go on about suits all day," but that covers the essentials. Have fun shopping!

(And if gal helping you is cute, get her number.)

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This article was originally published on April 26, 2012


  • MrSnow 2012-04-26 10:47:26

    **My .02, with questions below** Spot on. One thing I've noticed: I'm poor (at the moment, probably not for long) but I wear suits often (running a small company). Girls definitely respond to me when I'm in suits, because I suits complement my clean-cut professional look. In fact, one hot 18 year old in January told me she wanted me to wear my suit over to her house ( I was wearing one all day) the first time we hung out, even before we had sex. She told me she wanted me to wear it because "it looked dominant and powerful." No shit. We had sex that night. All suits need to be tailored. NEVER, ever buy one off the rack and wear it around--it will look like shit, and you'd be better off not wearing one if it's not tailored. **Q's** Q1: As strange as it seems, I actually feel inhibited when I'm in a suit from going up and chatting up hotties. I feel like I'm dressed more professional, so I should be more professional..and I never get my mack on. Strange. I don't feel like a "bad boy" in my suit, and it actually throws my game off. Any ideas on how to get around this rationalization? Q2: What the hell's up with people (especially Midwesterners) wearing black suits? Black is supposed to be for formals and funerals--and I've heard that it is usually considered too intimidating to be used in business meetings with clients. What's your take on black suits?

  • Jeb Bush Sr. 2012-04-26 10:49:04

    Good review. Anytime I'm in a suit and out and about I can feel women "eye fucking" me. It really is noticeable how many women take notice. Pin stripe w/dark colors works best for me. Also don't overlook the psychological aspect of wearing a suit. Most men feel more powerful and confident while in a suit, which we all know is 95% of the image we should be trying to portray anyways.

  • Shamus 2012-04-26 10:50:52

    Great article. What are some examples of good fit? I know how long sleeves should be, so you don't look like a child borrowing his father's suit , however a fit that makes a skinny guy look broader or a fat guy look slimmer is lost on me.

  • Janie 2012-04-26 15:58:31

    Suits are to women what lingerie is to men...

  • Blackdragon 2012-04-27 10:33:18

    @Snow - You make a good point about getting suits altered. Yes, always get alterations done with your suit...don't just buy off the rack. Many stores do minor alterations for free, which is often all you need. Your questions: 1. If you feel more nervous sarging in a suit, don't wear a suit; wear it when you go out to certain venues. When I used to do daygame I didn't wear a full suit, instead I wore a suit top with a button-down and jeans. Also if you feel self-conscious you could always use the "I just got off work" excuse. 2. I forget...are you from the east coast? I have noticed that east coast guys really dislike black suits and black shirts. I've heard that "it's for funerals!" thing before from east coast dudes, especially from Irish east coast dudes. So fine, if you're on the east coast, stick with dark blue or grey suits. No problem. I love black suits, but I'm very west coast as you know. @Shamus - It's hard to describe without showing you pics. A boxy fit is a more square shape, with the bottom of the suit top draping lightly or even flaying slightly outwards, with more room between the arms and sides. A more slimming suit hugs the body a little more.

  • Ken 2012-04-27 13:26:21

    This may also be helpful to someone:

  • The Barney Stinson Guide to One-Night Stands | 2012-12-27 10:44:31

    [...] Suit up with either a suit or some nice-fitting clothes, and make Barney proud. Build a cool outfit. [...]

  • W. Norman 2016-03-13 00:35:09

    This is the guide that has helped me the most: Practical Thoughts on Coherent Combinations By F. Corbera @ StyleForum (aka Vox Sartoria, Cliff's Notes for city / formal suits: Fast forward to page 18. If you're new to wearing suits, keep this in mind: the style of your suit, shirt and tie is less about your taste and preferences, and more about consistency.  Once you learn how to match the parts of your outfit, you can mix and match. Your first suit should be dark blue (navy) or a medium shade of gray.  Solid colors are the easiest and most versatile for matching; subtle stripes are okay, but are less formal, and are more difficult for beginners to match with shirts and ties. A good suit's outer material is 100% wool, not polyester or synthetic.  Super 110 or 120 is good; higher fineness ratings mean thinner fabric that will wear out more easily.  The fabric should not be shiny.  The suit should have notch lapels, should be single-breasted, and have flap pockets.  Your shirt should be solid white; solid light blue is okay.  Your tie should be solid, striped, or have a small or moderately sized geometric pattern (like medallions), and the tie's colors should be subdued -- black, gray, dark blue (navy), dark red, brown.  Your shoes should be black balmoral or blucher oxfords with leather soles, and plain toes or cap toes; avoid brogues (wingtips) -- those are informal.  Socks should match your suit pants; again, solids are best, and subtle patterns are acceptable -- socks should not be bright and colorful.  "Solid, solid, solid... that's boring!" Maybe so, but it's the easiest and most versatile approach to gentleman's dress.  After you learn more, you can branch out with more styles and patterns. The great thing about solids is they always work with each other, and you can always add patterns later. Solids are always in style, and they are always classy. The most important factor in selecting a suit is the fit.  It's difficult or impossible for a tailor to change the fit of a suit around your neck, shoulders, arms, and chest -- make sure the suit fits you in those areas, *before* considering tailoring.  A tailor can take in the body (making it fit more snugly around the waist), shorten the body, and shorten the sleeves -- that's about it.  Suit sleeves with fake cuffs (no buttonholes) are easier to tailor than sleeves with functional cuffs (real buttonholes).  Most men need to have new suits tailored.  If your budget is $1000, save $200 or so for a good tailor to make your new suit fit you properly. Most suits in Jos. A. Bank and Mens' Warehouse are fused, meaning that the layers of fabric are glued together.  This is an inferior construction technique; if these suits are dry cleaned too many times, or too much heat is applied, the glues will bubble and permanently deform the suit.  High-quality suits are "canvased" -- they are made with a layer of stiff horsehair canvas, which is sewn onto the other layers.  This method ensures that the body of the suit will keep its shape.  Half-canvased suits are priced from about $500 and up.  Full-canvased suits are around $750 and up.  Check out Indochino and SuitSupply for affordable quality suits.  (Keep in mind that these still need to be tailored after they are delivered.) I have a local tailor which will make a completely custom half-canvas suit using Guabello fabric (good quality wool) for $700, or a full-canvas for about $1200. Look around your area for tailors. If the suit has more than one button on the front, the bottom button should never be buttoned. Hope this helps...

  • Anthony 2016-03-25 07:17:47

    I have an inheritance due next week. I'm looking to buy at least 3 nice suits. All black with two buttons and single breasted. I've lost 15kgs the last 5 months and look forward to wearing them on my new body.