How to buy a suit

A colleague recently asked me for advice on buying a suit – probably navy, certainly single-breasted, possibly three-button. It’s the kind of everyday question that I get asked a lot, and probably concerns far more people than ‘Which French tailor has the best finishing?’

So here’s a guide through the posts on Permanent Style that should help answer that question. Even with the new categorisation system, I realise it’s not always easy to find the exact post you want. 

1 – How to look good in a suit

General advice on both buying and wearing suits. A good place to start.

2 – How to find a quality suit

What to look for in a ready-to-wear suit, from canvas to stitching, in one of my columns for How to Spend It, the Financial Times magazine

3 – Style and colour

A much broader area this, and one that has never been covered in a single post for that reason. I recommend looking through the Reader Question and How to Wear It sections, however, as that covers most of the points. 

2 – How to have a suit altered

If you’re going for ready-to-wear, you should have the suit altered, at least somewhere. This post has become a reference tool for such alterations, with 37 comments since it was first posted five years ago. Remember to glance at the comments on all posts – often the follow-up question you had will be answered there.

3 – Going to the tailor

If you decide to go for bespoke, read this post. Given my colleague is in Hong Kong, bespoke is a very real possibility. But you need to know what you want, and be firm with it.

I hope that’s helpful. I do notice there’s no post that deals with style basics such as 2 vs 3-button however, or navy vs grey. I’ll put that on the list. And if anyone wants a lot more people, there is also of course my book

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I’ve seen you reccomend Austin Reed a few times when it comes to RTW, why is that? Is it better quality than a RTW suit from somewhere like Oliver Brown? As a student with only about £400 to spend I want to make sure I get the best for my money!


Also to follow up obviously alterations are a good idea, but if I am buying a suit and I am probably a 39 chest should I buy a 38 that is probably the tiniest bit too small, but younger looking, or a 40 that makes me look more like im in my 40s than my early 20s!


Great set of articles .
I know it’s not your level but would be so good to see you compare ‘High Street’ suits around the £400-£500 mark.
Please, please ….pretty please!

Scott Fisher

Mr. Crompton,
I appreciate your advice concerning suit construction and proper model. Are you familar with the Oxxford suit that’s made in the United States? If so, would you please comment on the quality of garment as well as your opinion of the models of the garment. I personally prefer the classic italian silouette and have found that some suitmakers,particularly americans, have trouble with the italian model. They prefer to the more boxy Ivy leaque look and only grudgingly will make their own italian version,and it shows.

Scott Fisher


Hello Simon,

I may be mistaken, but I thought you were publishing a new book for 2013?


Hi Simon,

I love to read your articles and I love your style. I was wondering where you had the suit made as shown on the picture. I love the sharpness of it.

Best, Yvo


Hi Simon,

I have 5 metres of cloth and I am working out what I want to do with it. I was thinking of having a jacket and waist coat made at Anderson and Shepphard and once this is completed having the trousers made at Grahaem Browne. I am doing this because I want the Anderson and Sheppherd cut for the jacket and waistcoat however
with the trousers I am not too fussed and I am put off by the prices charged for making up the trousers. I don’t envisage this affecting the overall look of the suit however I am not an expert on these matters so I would value your opinion on this?

Thanks in advance.

Michael Murray


Given that one wants to properly care for a quality suit, there is a lot of advice floating around out there. I have been told by a tailor, and read on other sites, that if one needs to get the trousers of a suit dry cleaned, they must get the jacket dry cleaned as well even if the jacket does not require a cleaning. Do you find this to be true? Any thoughts, as always, are much appreciated.


Michael B. Murray