At a party last week a nice young man asked me what my top five tips would be for wearing suits. It sounded like a nice practical question, so here we go:
1. Have a ready-to-wear suit altered
Most men that buy suits don’t have them altered, but for £50-£100 you can make the suit look twice as good and twice as expensive. Always put that money aside in your budget when buying ready-to-wear. Make sure the neck and shoulders fit well when you try it on; don’t worry about the waist (trousers or jacket) or length of sleeves or legs. Then get all those points altered – and make sure it’s done by someone good, preferably a tailor, so the waist adjustment is worked effectively into the chest and skirt.
2. Button your jacket
There’s no point having a suit that fits if you don’t button it up. When you’re standing, it should be buttoned. Always the waist button (top on a two-button suit, middle on a three-button), never the bottom button and only the top if it’s a three-button suit with no roll. As the folks at Wilkes Bashford put it to me yesterday: remember ‘sometimes, always, never’ when looking down a three-button jacket.
3. Made to measure and bespoke is worth the money
In the UK you may find that a ready-to-wear suit costs around £400, made to measure is £600 and bespoke over £1000. Each one is worth that money in terms of how it will fit, aside from questions of quality or longevity. Some body shapes get more out of MTM or bespoke, given their lack of average proportions, but I maintain that it is worth the money for anyone. Spend your money on these levels of fit rather than on bigger labels or more expensive cloths: a bigger Super 100s number just means it’s thinner.
4. Spend money on shoes
Whenever you see someone in a nice suit, the next thing you do is look down. And their shoes nearly always disappoint. Too many sharp suits are worn with sharp (read pointy) shoes. This is largely because cheap oxfords and derbys put men off and they don’t think it’s worth spending hundreds of pounds on shoes. It is. Spend at least half the money you’re spending on your suit on a good pair of shoes. A bespoke suit deserves Edward Green, not Barker.
5. Have some colour, somewhere
If you don’t like ties, that’s fine. But for god’s sake find a way to wear some colour somewhere else. A pocket handkerchief, a cardigan, anything. There’s nothing more depressing that seeing a group of young men outside a pub where everyone is wearing a dark suit, a blue shirt and plain shoes. You all look the same and you all look dull. Find another way to introduce colour or, reconsider the tie. There are few enough excuses for a man to wear coloured silk around his neck without fear of ostracism. Take advantage of it.