12 rules every man worth his money should follow when buying a suit

The suit. The clothes that make the man but also confuse most of them. A suit is not a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, it has a whole protocol around it, a certain discipline, and rules you must follow in order to wear it properly. 

It’s this protocol, pretty much unspoken, that confuses most young men when getting a suit. Should it be a two-piece or a three-piece? Single or double-breasted? How many buttons? How long should the jacket be? What color shirt and tie? What about the shoes? 

It’s all a little complicated, to be honest. 

But worry not. Here is your guide to the very basics of wearing a suit, so you can always look elegant and prepared in all the important situations in your life. 

When should I wear a suit?

Well, it depends on how formal the suit is and your lifestyle.  

A three-piece suit with a double-breasted jacket is the kind of thing you’d wear to a wedding or to meet a very important person. Don’t wear three-piece suits to informal occasions as you will look overdressed and out of place. Treat the three-piece suit with respect. 

Some working environments, especially in business and banking, require three-piece suits as the daily outfit. 

You can make a three-piece suit less formal by not wearing the vest, hence making it a two-piece suit. Remember that even if you’re not wearing a vest and you are in a less formal situation, you cannot ever unbutton a double-breasted jacket and wear it like a blazer. A Double-breasted jacket should remain buttoned at all times, except when you are sitting down. Practice buttoning and unbuttoning your jacket with one hand so you can look badass like James Bond or Tony Stark. 

A two-piece suit is less formal and it’s the common outfit for most occasions. Unlike the three-piece suit, you can wear a single-breasted jacket with a shirt with an unbuttoned neck and jeans and look quite dapper.  

You can also wear a two-piece suit as it’s meant to be worn too: with formal pants made of the same fabric as the jacket, a buttoned shirt, tie, and suspenders, with matching shoes. 

While you may not live the kind of life that leads to days at the races and meeting the Queen, it’s important that you own at least one well-fitted three-piece suit and two or three two-piece suits in different colors. If you work at an office, you may need more than three two-piece suits, and you should stick to the classic black, navy, and brown colors for your work outfit, preferably with white shirts. 

Also, remember that when it comes to suits, quality is better than quantity. One good-quality well-tailored suit will serve you better than ten mediocre, ill-fitted ones.

So, what are the rules of wearing a suit? 

The rules of wearing suits are many, but they are very easy to understand and memorize. Once you know them, you will always look elegant and well-dressed on any occasion. 

The first rule is the Golden Rule of Suits: It must fit you perfectly.  

There is no worse crime when wearing a suit than wearing a suit that doesn’t fit you. Here are some guidelines to make sure your suit fits you as it should, so you know it’s the right one for you: 

1 The jacket must be shorter than your arms, even if it’s a “long” jacket. You should be able to fold your finger under the hem without it creasing and the sleeves must never cover your hands.

2. The tips of the shirt sleeves should peek under the jacket sleeve at the wrist, but keep in mind that shirt cuffs should never cover your hands.

3. The jacket must feel like it’s holding you tenderly. It shouldn’t be so tight you can’t move or so big there is a gap between your body and the jacket. A general rule of thumb is that a fistful is a good measure of space between your body and your jacket.

4. The sides of your jacket must meet at the front of your body firmly but not tightly. The jacket must not look like it’s being pulled to the sides, creasing around the buttons.

5. The collar of the jacket must fit around the collar of your shirt without covering it.

6. The color of your tie should be matched to both your shirt and your suit.

7. Several things determine how formal your suit is: the lapel, the pockets, and the size of your tie knot. Generally, notch lapels and jetted pockets with a bigger tie knot are considered the most formal, and shawl lapels, patch pockets, and small knots are considered most casual.

8. The rules about ties are these: if you wear a tie, button the shirt all the way up. The collar of your shirt shouldn’t be uncomfortable when buttoned up and it shouldn’t look like it’s strangling you.

Also, keep in mind the widest part of the tie should be as wide as the widest part of your lapel. Lastly, the tip of your tie should touch your waistband.

9. Your trousers should never look baggy or tight. You shouldn’t see horizontal marks around your buttocks –a sign that the pants are too tight- or material gathering around the waist and buttocks –a sign they are too loose. Your pants should fall straight from your buttocks to your ankles.

10. And speaking of the ankles, the bottom of your pants legs should touch the border of your shoes. If the material gathers over the shoe, it’s a sign the pants are too long and that will make you look less elegant.

11. Always wear suspenders with a three-piece suit, since the belt buckle will cause a bulge at the front of the vest that looks quite unfashionable.

12. Match the shoes to your suit. It tends to be complicated but in general, wear black shoes with black, charcoal, and navy suits, and brown shoes with brown suits and other light-colored suits.

As you can see, tailoring is a real art, and there’s nothing like a well-tailored suit to make you look like you mean business. It looks like a lot of things to keep track of, but a good tailor will make sure your suit meets all these requirements. Even if you buy ready-to-wear suits you may have to send them to the tailor to have them fitted. 

There is no rule against buying your suits online, and being able to try them on before paying for them as if you were at the tailor’s brick-and-mortar shop is very important, which is where Stage Try’s Try Before You Buy solution comes in. Pick the suit you like, try it for 7 days and pay for it when you decide to keep it. Download the app right now and start the online search for that perfect suit. 

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