These ‘Building a Wardrobe’ pieces have now been collected into a Guide, which will expand over time. You can see the list at the right (on desktop), at the bottom of this post (on mobile) or simply on its own page here.
When you first start spending good money on tailoring, it’s hard to buy the sensible things.
I certainly didn’t. My first bespoke suit was from Graham Browne in London, and was a double-breasted in dusty-blue wool (below). It was lovely, but didn’t get a lot of wear.
My first Savile Row suit, from Anderson & Sheppard, was a three-piece Prince of Wales. It was what I’d always wanted: a PoW check, from one of the best tailors in the world, with a waistcoat and everything.
But again, it didn’t get much wear.
I was buying things that were exciting, rather than useful. Or perhaps, I was failing to match the situation of working in a professional office every day, with the situation of being in a fancy Savile Row tailor.
Suits are expensive, and bespoke ones even more so. For what they are they remain great value for money, but there’s little point if it’s something you rarely use.
This, then, is what I should have bought, and likely what you should too – if you work in a professional office where suits are regularly worn.
I’ve listed them in descending order of priority, so the first suit should probably be your first. None of this is hard and fast of course, but like everything in menswear there are rationalisations behind every choice. So consider them before making your decision.
[This post, by the way, is part of a broader series on capsule collections, visible here.]
1 Navy single-breasted
Navy is the most universal and versatile colour of suit.
It is smart, professional, and can be worn with both a tie, white shirt and black shoes for a meeting or evening event, and a rollneck and suede shoes for something more casual.
The suit should be single breasted, have a notch lapel, two or three buttons on the front, and nothing else gimmicky like coloured buttonholes or flashy lining.
It should be made from a worsted wool (the material most suits are made from), weighing between 9oz and 13oz depending on your preference and local weather, and probably have no pattern.
At the most, the pattern should amount to little more than texture: a herringbone, pick-and-pick or birdseye, for example.
It sounds boring, but the prime pleasure in a business suit is not the colour or design – it is the fit and the cut. The accessories allow you to make it unusual or just elegant.
[For more on picking the style aspects of a suit, read ‘The Guide to Suit Style‘]
2 Grey single-breasted
A grey suit is almost as versatile as navy. From a business point of view, there is little difference. Navy’s biggest advantage is that ability to look smarter at a particularly formal event.
Grey should certainly be your second choice, though, and mid-grey is a little more interesting than charcoal. Mid-grey is also kinder to some skin colours than navy, and is easier to pair with bright colours. Such colours often look cheap against navy.
One final advantage is that a mid-grey suit can be nice for a wedding. Wear it with a white shirt, grey or silver tie with a subtle pattern, and a white handkerchief.
Few things are such a waste as buying your first good suit for your wedding, and then never wearing it again.
[For an example of that wedding suit, read here]
3 Charcoal single-breasted
For business, the next colour to consider is probably charcoal. It isn’t as versatile as the others, particularly because it rarely works with brown shoes, only black.
But it is very elegant, especially with a little of that textural pattern going on, like a herringbone.
In every other respect, this suit should be the same as the navy and the grey. Resist the urge to add a waistcoat unless you know you regularly wear them. At the most, add small style details like a peaked lapel or slanted pocket.
4 Experiment with subtle pattern or texture
You’ve now set the foundations for a solid working wardrobe. The next place to experiment, if you want to, is with a different material or some bolder pattern.
The easiest is to vary the material, and make it more specific to a time of year. Flannel, for example, is particularly popular with readers who are new to tailoring. It hits the sweet spot between unusual and subtle.
Another material to look at is a high-twist wools that is more suited to the summer – perhaps a Fresco, Crispaire, or 2-Ply from Drapers/Vitale Barberis Canonico.
Or stay with the worsted, but go for a pinstripe, chalkstripe or check. The first two can seem a little anachronistic these days, but pinstripes are usually quite understated. The risk with checks is being too flashy – always err towards small and faint.
Finally, depending on your office, you might be better served by having a jacket at this point, rather than a suit. Such as a classic navy blazer or something in a pale cashmere like oatmeal.
But we’ll deal with jackets in a separate capsule post.
[Read the guide to flannel as a material, here]
5 Get another safe one
In some ways, this is the hardest choice. You already have four great suits. Surely now is the time to run wild?
Unfortunately not. A great business wardrobe would have at least one suit for each day of the week – to allow each to rest and shed its wrinkles each day, and to extend the life of all of them.
And you’re unlikely to be able to, or want to, wear a really unusual suit once a week. That includes a double-breasted suit – which is a shame.
‘Unusual’ is defined by other people, not by us: by what they wear, and therefore how much we stand out. And a DB is now rather rare.
So the sensible choice is to double down. Get another navy suit, just with a different texture (NOT a different, bright blue – there’s nothing professional about that colour). Or go for grey or charcoal, if you’ve found you wear them more.
(Also, don’t buy any of these suits together – add one at a time, so the impact of any mistakes is minimised.)
The further experiments, if there are any, should be reserved for maybe suits 7 or 8. If you can afford it, that’s when to try a DB, a cotton suit or a corduroy suit.
It’s no coincidence that this is called building a wardrobe. You need to set good foundations.
An article like this deserves to go viral …. succinct and incredibly useful.
In addition to this let me pose a further question .
Where would today’s young Simon Crompton’s go for each of these suits today and how much would he budget for each ?
And over what period (1 year, 2 years etc) would such a collection develop ?
(Let’s assume today’s Simon is on a budget having lived through ‘austerity’)
Very much look forward to yours and others responses.
Briefly, if I already had enough cheaper suits to wear, so this was a question of gradually improving my wardrobe, I’d budget to buy two bespoke or MTM suits a year.
Hopefully I’d be able to afford each being at least £1000, from Graham Browne. If I could afford it, they would be more like £2000, from Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. And beyond that there are more options – but I assume that’s not ‘austerity’ levels.
Very useful response .
I’m seriously considering GB for bespoke but also Prologue for a MTM.
Prologue might top a first commission as I’m attracted by the cut and possibly will get more “bang for my buck”.
You will, that’s true. Weighed against local access and communication I guess.
But most important is style – they both do very different styles, and will not be able to do the style of the other, even if they say they can.
Simon – who would you go to in the USA in the $1000-$2000 MTM range?
I don’t have experience of anyone full bespoke in that range – but if you want NY tailors, look here
Sam Leung at 851 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10065 for under $2000, fabric included. Small tailor shop with a workforce of five or six as “in the good old times”, when there were many more good tailors, at least were I come from… that is when I was a teenager and younger. Nothing fancy or big, or larger than life. You won’t get the famous (thanks to the internet) and extremely elegant tailor for measurements and fittings. Good choice of fabrics from the best English and Italian mills. You can also bring your own fabric. Silk lining if you wish, but usually cupro, viscose, etc. Hand made buttonholes, but don’t expect the Milanese ones 🙂
Shane – for MTM, I have had success with Samuelsohn, Hickey Freeman, and Brooks Brothers. They should all have options in that price range (especially for fabrics similar to those discussed in this post). With HF and BB you can tier-up for more handwork. The best deals can be had during trunk shows at your local retailer. Their respective websites should have a store locator function.
Samuelsohn does some excellent work, particularly given the price. They basically only do business in Canada and the U.S. My alterations tailor was initially stunned by the quality of the workmanship.
This is a little after the fact, but you can do Corneliani MTM for under $2k if you catch them at a trunk show.
‘Something minor to consider, perhaps. Depending on what business you’re in, of course, and if you even need a dressier suit, while Neapolitan is all the rage right now, perhaps for its casual style, it’s not considered a “smart” suit in many circles. That is, the features that make it Neapolitan aren’t going to look as formal as a more English cut suit. In my humble opinion, every man should have at least one “smart” suit for when he absolutely, positively wants to look sharp and leave no doubt. And I love Neapolitan suits and have many, but I personally prefer my Gieves & Hawkes or my Chittleborough & Morgan for job interviews and other formal-like occasions.
Good call. I’ve been very unhappy with recent service from GB. Poor fit, poor communication and pushy (I would even say obstinate) including on very minor matters. Not recommended.
I have a suit in french navy.Lovely colour which I wear during the day.Because I teamed it with dark brown buttons it can be worn as a sb blazer in summer or winter.However,I do not like to wear it under artificial evening light…..it just looks black in colour even though it is obviously navy in daylight.At night I wear either a medium grey sb or one in air force blue.
This is a solid list, Simon.
I’ve been building my bespoke suite wardrobe for a few years now.
At present, I have (in order of acquisition): (1) a navy SB in herringbone; (2) a mid-grey SB in narrow pinstripes; (3) a light grey SB in plain summer cloth; and (4) a charcoal SB in a heavier twill.
The first two I bought together.
If I could go back again, I would DEFINITELY commission one at a time, and I would have waited six months or so before commissioning a second. Because one learns so much during the process of commissioning, wearing, and altering one’s first (and second, third) bespoke suits.
I would also have started with charcoal. In my opinion, while not as smart as a navy, it is actually more versatile. You can wear it to any office and look smart. You can also wear it to a funeral, and look respectful. If I could only hold onto one suit, I would choose the charcoal one, hands down.
Another thing I would do differently if I could: I would forgo the summer suit, for now, and get a mid-grey plain SB, as you suggest. That way, I have another smart suit that I could wear to work all year around and still get away with wearing to a wedding.
I would also stick to the Holland and Sherry City of London and Intercity bunches. One of my suits was a Super 150s. Slightly more expensive. Beatiful cloth. However, I doubt it will live as long as the heavier and more durable clothes in those two nuches I just mentioned.
My first bespoke piece was a tweed jacket. I went for it because a) I wanted to try bespoke and buying a jacket is cheaper than a suit b) it gave my the opportunity to go for the tweed I wanted and not the ones on offer in shops. I love the jacket and wear it quite a lot, however, it made me realise the superiority of bespoke and consequently suffer (okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration) whilst wearing my RTW to the office 5 days a week.
So yes, definitely nay suit as a first commission!
I am beginning to think that a linen suit is underrated and I personally would have included it. A linen suit can be worn in the summer if your office allows it and look cool and fresh as well as dressed up (particularly if you travel to hot climates) . It can be worn to any summer social event where a more dressed up dress code is required. Then, you can pair the jacket with jeans and a polo and hit the pub or a dinner party and look good.
Simon, I interested to know your view on what a sensible number of suits to own is. Like others I’m building a wardrobe (both business and casual) so i want to prioritise in the areas that will get most use.
I’m in London 3 days per week and maybe work from home one day. It’s a professional environment but I can get away with trousers and jacket. For me I’ve settled on 3 suits and two trouser jacket combo’s with the aim to wear once each week max. So I’m gradually swapping out older elements and unwise past purchases, and it means I can allocate some budget to my causal wardrobe which has tended to be neglected.
Hi Liam. That sounds sensible. The first aim should be filling those five days a week with appropriate pieces – which it sounds like you’ve done.
I think the sweet spot for number of tailoring pieces is somewhere between there are two weeks (so 10 pieces total). That second five gives you more ability to spread out into seasonal things (tweed, linen, heavier suitings) that will only be worn part of the year, and therefore can’t be included in that five-a-week all the time.
Cycle enthusiasts have the ‘n+1’ rule for the number of bicycles you should own, where ‘n’ is the number of bicycles you currently own.
I’d love to know what your equivalent capsule collection would be now that you no longer work in an office having to adhere to city formalities. I assume it’s somewhere between this collection and the ‘core casual wardrobe’ collection, but that’s a big gap.
I’m a self-employed creative and while I wish I could justify 5 suits, they wouldn’t get worn. Would love to know what your Monday-Friday wardrobe looks like these days.
Thanks as ever.
I’d say my default is now sports jackets and trousers (as per this post), but yes it’s more varied.
Perhaps three days like that, one day suit, one day more casual. So it’s mostly jackets and trousers – of which there are posts in this series now, listed here. And then bits from other wardrobes – the suit, the casual. I can do a more targeted list at some point though.
Interested in your preference for sports coat and trousers, as it seems to contradict your very wise suggestion to follow the norms of those around you.
In my experience, a sports coat and trousers will attract as much attention, bemusement and even derision from those around me as a double breasted, pow check or waistcoat. Whereas , I would suggest, the plain SB grey or navy suit still looks young, modern and ‘normal’ , a jacket and slacks looks fogeyish and fussy to the eyes of the uninitiated. Even when executed as well you do it, everyone I know would still just see a prep school teacher.
Genuinely interested in how different your experiences are of wearing such unusual clothes.
I known exactly what you mean Alex, but in my limited experience of working in different offices,.it doesn’t attract that much attention. But I think it varies hugely between offices and cities. If you’re the only one doing in the whole company – particularly at your level of seniority – then it will definitely stand out
More posts on a mostly jackets and trousers wardrobe would be appreciated. I work in academia and cords and tweeds seem much easier to wear than suits.
Thanks Tom, will do. Have a look at the other wardrobe posts in this guide section too? Linked at the top
When I started with bespoke tailoring back in 2013 I stressed at the beginning on buying bespoke odd jackets and bespoke suits and neglected the trousers completely and also neglected the shoes as I had decent RTW shoes from Crockett and Jones and Alden.
In retrospective I would say that for a person like me who works in an environment where a suit or a jacket is not required (Information Technology), the shoes are actually the most important first step. One could wear jeans and a shirt in the office and a pair of great bespoke shoes will make difference without having to be immediately overdressed compared to your colleagues.
I know that many would disagree. As I say I myself neglected the shoes and wore for years RTW shoes.
If my wardrobe gets destroyed by an Earthquake which decides to swallow my flat, I would buy the following (central European climate):
1. Great dark brown bespoke shoes.
2. One dark blue bespoke suit from a heavy fresco. You could wear it all wear round and suits most occasions. Buy fabric for a second pair of trousers.
And after that when I have cash again:
-> One heavy odd jacket. I like a bright and contrasting shade of blue as it would look good both in daytime and in the evening. Beware that most colours on odd jackets look good only during daytime. At the moment I wear a lot of beige, but only duing the day. The heavier fabric will help in acchieving striking look, will help it survive longer and you can wear it most of the year (cool summer evenings + anytime during spring, autumn, and winter).
-> More bespoke shoes.
-> A bespoke overcoat (like a pea coat).
-> Odd trousers.
And only after that I would start thinking about more suits and more odd jackets.
Nice argument. I’ve said in the past that good trousers are a way to elevate any outfit – eg that shirt with good quality, well-fitting flannels in winter, or the same with linen in summer.
But perhaps shoes are actually the first step. In which case, it’s actually working from the ground up, rather than the head down, which is a little counter-intuitive.
This is great advice Hristo, and I must say, I second it.
As someone who also works in technology/software, this is now more relevant than ever. No one I work with on a day to day basis, wears sports jacket and trousers (much as I love it) let alone a business suit.
Case in point, I spend half of my week working on client site (local government software contractor) and not only do the civil servants I work with subscribe to ‘Jeans/chinos/casual trousers + knitwear and shirt’ (at most) – the gentleman I share my office with maintains a uniform of denim, shirt, knitwear 365 days a year. Even in my head office, other than visiting high level managerial types, Suits are not order of the day.
Therefore, based off of my observations from permanent style (much obliged Simon) as well as simply observing what I wear myself on a day to day basis and my working environment, I have created a prioritised list very similar to that which you have just stated.
At the top of that list, is odd trousers (cavalry Twill, flannel, linen etc.) as well as bespoke casual shirts (imminent appointment with Luca A) as well as outerwear such as blousons, overcoats etc. And indeed, fine shoes and boots, selected with care, slightly more casual lasts (202 or 184 from EG) nothing too chiseled, sleek or formal. Not necessarily bespoke, but Edward Green will be my first ‘good shoe’ purchase in the coming months. Sports Jackets will follow eventually, but not immediately required given no one else I work with or see on a day to day basis wears them. Further down this list (next year probably) is a bespoke Navy suit to cover all formal and occasional bases and replace my existing basic off the rack number.
This may seem like a backwards way of doing things, but in reality I feel this is the wisest move I can make, as I’m investing in tailoring that I can incorporate into my daily uniform immediately, that is paying for itself in value straight away.
I should also add, I simply find it fun to build a wardrobe this way, and I get the impression you are aware Simon, that many like myself are building a bespoke wardrobe in this manner, given today’s modern working environment and lifestyle.
I think you’re right Chris, and thanks for spelling out your situation and approach for everyone
Simon, I really have to disagree with you on this one. A capsule wardrobe – an exercise in simplicity and restraint – should not just be about safe options, but about capturing a something for everything ethos. If versatility is the key there should be safe choices, but also fun ones.
So I’m with you on the first suit – navy or gray. No question. I would recommend a navy for most, but some might prefer a charcoal or darker gray, either because of their personal colour palette or a stylistic preference for monochromes. It’s versatile and elegant, suitable for interviews, fancy nights out, weddings, and funerals alike.
Beyond that, unless your a solicitor or a financier at a particularly conservative investment firm, you don’t NEED another suit. You’ll be wearing separates nine days out of ten. Now 80% of Permanent Style’s readership may be those – like solicitors and financiers at particularly conservative investment firms – who do wear a suit every day and need at least five navies and grays in their rotation, but for most men (whether 25 or 45) wearing a suit is a stylistic choice, a choice made for fun.
For the second and third suits, why not go for the Prince of Wales or the double-breasted brown flannel? If wearing a suit is an expression of style rather than a choice forced on you by an employer, take advantage of all the patterns and styles menswear has to play with. Don’t be absurd or dandyish about it, but make it personal.
I also think season is also important in considering a capsule wardrobe. Your first suit should be 4-season, but the next two should be seasonal. A summer suit, perhaps a linen blend with a lighter color or subtle pattern, is a worthwhile investment, and so is a winter suit, a flannel or tweed with some reassuring heft for the fall.
I haven’t seen sales numbers, but it seems to me that far fewer suits are being worn now than about five years ago, during the heritage/hipster informed menswear renaissance of 2013-2015. You might say that now patterns are less bold, cuts less assertive than then, and that if you’re going to invest in three suits they should be for timeless styles that won’t lick silly next season. And I agree. Don’t go four the the three-piece in a loud check, unless you work in a creative industry where style and provocation are necessary virtues. But play with texture, play with shade and pattern, and most importantly have something that doesn’t make you feel like you’re going for a meeting when you put it on to step out.
Thanks Nat. I’m not sure we disagree much. This particular wardrobe is for someone, as you say, that has to wear a suit every day. Which isn’t that many people today.
As to expressing yourself more with suits, I’d still personally say that it’s safer and easier to do that with the accessories the suit goes with – a cowboy shirt with a sports jacket, stronger colours in knitwear etc – and it means the suit can be both safe and expressive. But for me that’s largely driven by just how large a proportion of someone’s spending a suit is.
Shouldn’t the headline read “If you had only five suits”?
Great article, and probably very useful for most of your new readers (and for veterans like that me that sometimes needs to be reminded to keep our priorities straight).
I have one question. You mention slanted pockets as something like peaked lapels. I don´t think slanted pockets are that extraordinary. I really like them because they give the jacket some individuality without standing out (like peaked lapels or DB). The only people I have encountered that comments on them are people who are really into menswear.
Good point Carl – slant pockets are not nearly as showy as peak lapels
Thank you as ever thoughtful and helpful.
Implicitly this capsule is appropriate for London weather and customs.
How about a similar thought for other places, climes and contexts, maybe with the help of one of your collaborator’s who is a resident there?
Hey Fred. I’m not sure the colours or styles would change with different weather – only the weight and weave of the fabrics might. Basically a lot more high twist wool, eg Crispaire or Fresco.
Hello again, yes indeed more Crispaire and Fresco, but also a wider palette more tans and tobaccos and of course linen.
Would really disagree there Simon. Tonally tweeds and flannels just don’t work the same in the tropical sun as they do in Northern Europe, likewise a linen suit in Scotland (for anytime bar one day a year)
Surely it depends on the season? I know plenty of Florentines that wear tweed and flannel in the winter.
Simon, agree with you on flannel and Florence, but the world doesn’t stop at Naples. I am in a tropical climate, where the only place I might wear tweed would be a walk in fridge.
Great article as always Simon.
I’m of a contrarian opinion. I think the first suit from each tailor should be a fun one, that might not get worn that much, because the fit won’t be dialed in until the second or third. Thus the second suit onwards will be versatile suits. It makes sense to me that the suits which will be worn the most should also fit the best. The only alternative I can think of would be to have many more fittings for the first one, although I don’t know if that would be effective.
I am not sure that it’s true in every case that it takes several commissions to get the fit “dialed-in”. In fact, unless you wear lots of suits, you may not ever get around to owning multiple suits, and even if so, not from the same maker. I’ve always had great fits on every bespoke commission. The question for many, I believe, has less to do with fit on first commission than on style, i.e., lowering/raising the gorge, opening/closing quarters or increasing/decreasing lapel size on a subsequent commission from the same maker, although the house style will dictate these characteristics to a significant degree. In other words, if you are going to invest the time and capital in a bespoke suit, get one that you can take great care of (a durable material) and wear the shit out of.
Fantastic and very useful article Simon and the suits look fantastic. Would you please tell us which tailor made each suit?
Sure, here they are with relevant links:
– Sartoria Ciardi
– Graham Browne
– Whitcomb & Shaftesbury
– Camps de Luca
– Sartoria Ciardi again (man, I love that suit)– Sartoria Panico
– Thom Sweeney
– Ciardi (again again)
Thanks. Sartoria Ciardi is the first Neapolitan that I’m going to commission. I’m still debating between Caliendo and Pasinato as the second choice. Any thoughts?
If you want Neapolitan, Caliendo.
As Simon mentioned, I think it is very dependent on what you are after – something more softer/casual or something more structured/formal?
Pasinato is much more akin to Northern Italian style in that it is more formal than the Neapolitan’s, especially Caliendo which is very much in the modern Neapolitan style category.
If you’re looking for a business suit (more formal, some structure but still soft) then I can personally recommend Sartoria Pasinato.
In fact, I had a suit made in the very same grey VBC 4-ply fabric as Simon’s Ciardi suit and it came our beautifully, and Massimo is a genuine pleasure to deal with as well!
Hi Simon. As someone who can wear suits every day for work I agree completely. So the navy suit pictured between the Panico and Ciardi is by Thom Sweeney? Is it new? Do you plan to review it? Thanks.
Sorry, a mistype, that was actually from Vergallo. It’s not new – a few years old. Another mistake though – it was 100% cashmere! The trousers bagged out horribly
If you were to pick 5 of your own suits to fit into this capsule, which would they be?
That’s a very big question. What budget most importantly, and then based on my taste and style now?
Regardless of budget, based on your own tastes, which of the 5 suits you already own would you choose to keep if you had to give the others away and (in this cruel hypothetical world we’re constructing) needed to wear a business suit 5 days per week. Hope that makes it that little bit easier to answer!
Yes, thanks! In that case it would be:
– My Cifonelli navy SB
– My Ciardi grey high-twist charcoal SB
– My Camps de Luca grey SB
– My Anderson & Sheppard grey flannel SB
– My Dalcuore brown Crispaire SB
Interestingly, most of those are picked on cloth. Though not all (had to have one Cifonelli, one A&S)
I’d generally agree with you – but most interesting for me is that you picked a brown ahead of a pattern. I think I’d personally replace it with a chalk-stripe, although I’m not sure if you actually own one?
One old Graham Browne one I don’t wear. And a Kathryn Sargent one I’m featuring soon…
Looking forward to your review of the Kathryn Sargent suit as she’s on my list, along with A&S, of English tailors to commission a suit.
So sad the Chittleborough & Morgan navy SB didn’t make the list. It’s one of my favorites. But I don’t know if you would consider it meeting the constraints set by H. Personally, I am a fan of peaked lapels on SB suit jackets, so I would (and do) wear them as my daily uniform.
Yes, I know. It’s beautiful, but just too dramatic. Not a business suit
Hi Simon, just to clarify, in your personal 5 suit capsule that you proposed, is the Anderson & Sheppard grey flannel SB this suit: https://www.permanentstyle.com/2010/06/that-delayed-anderson-sheppard.html ?
I’m far more familiar with your grey flannel DB from A&S, and have been trying to figure out what is the SB you referenced. I’m thinking a grey flannel suit is likely my next commission, but I think I should probably go with SB even though the DB works so well for you.
Hi. No, I don’t think I have images of the A&S I referenced. That one you mentioned was a check, not plain.
I agree, a single breasted is the best place to start. Like my Panico. If I had my A&S again I’d go for two button though. English tailors aren’t great at 3-roll-2
Thanks, and pity there’s no photo of that flannel suit. In picking a colour, I’m thinking mid-grey for the flannel would be most versatile–so closest to your Edward Sexton DB flannel, rather than the paler A&S DB or the charcoal Panico you referenced. Do you think that’s right?
Yes, I think that’s right. The Panico is not actually that dark, but yes the Sexton is the most versatile
I get the impeccable rationale for this list and I suppose I agree. However, I kinda want to see the “if you only had five suits” list for people (such as myself) who very rarely need to wear them for work. I feel that would be much more subjective and personality-led and include the sorts of items (prince of wales checks, dove grey double breasted, peak lapel tuxedo) that may not be frequently worn but are much more likely to spark joy when you do wear them.
Interesting, thanks. And are you wearing those suits for work still, or for more social occasions? I think this is a really interesting area
I think this would be a great discussion to have too. I don’t need suits for work. If i wear one, i do so either for a formal occasion (wedding etc) or because i want to (going out for a meal/party/celebration). So i would like something like one of those you discussed, but also something a bit more adventurous/individual. Then a small collection of jackets and trousers for wearing day to day.
Yes the more expressive suits do tend to be more for social occasions. However, I find there is some crossover into the infrequent times I wear suits at work. I suppose most of the time (50%) if the time I need to wear a suit to look professional for work it will be single breasted grey standard business suit. I grant that this will depend on profession etc but the rest of time I can wear something a bit outside the norm – e.g. double-breasted or patterned – which provides a point of difference (which I am aiming for) vs the other professionals I am dealing with (lawyers, accountants, estate agents). When I do wear something with a bit more personality, whether social or business, I do find it tends to put more of a spring in the step and just be a more joyful experience.
Love this, as is describes to a T what I should have done. Though I rarely wear suits for work — mostly jackets and odd trousers in wool, flannel or linen — it would have been smarter to buy a couple of versatile suits to mix up, rather than only jackets.
I’m a bit surprised brown didn’t make it on the list as a conservative, though versatile, choice. Is that due to a fundamental difference in English vs. American attitudes toward the color brown in the office? I have to say, a brown jacket with texture and grey slacks is once of my favorite combos…
Thanks as always for your thoughts.
Good point on brown. I think it would sneak into the next five, but yes it’s not a professional colour for a suit in the UK.
For a jacket though, definitely
Greetings Mr Crompton.
This article has struck my interest that this is my first time to interact and yes this article needs to go viral as the contents are quite logical and easy to understand for beginners alike. I stumbled upon this article in your Instagram.
I did not expect number 5 coming from you considering your stylish nature and the first two choices you stated earlier in the article, I was expecting something a bit more “wild”. However this is more of a representation of the current Simon, so a safe approach is quite understandable. Though the logic of two Navy Suits is reasonable considering it’s every stylish gentleman’s favorite staple.
If you we’re to work in an office environment that does not require a suit or odd jakcet/trouser combinations say like the company I work for(a motorcycle showroom) which has a very relaxed dress code, the closest we get to a uniform is a Polo with a company logo in it (optional if you only feel like wearing it) and trousers of your choice(mostly jeans but some has worn chinos, slacks you get the idea) would you still wear a suit or an odd jacket (with a stylish mindset you currently have) if you were the manager in this said office environment?
It’s hard to say without being in the environment – I’d always want to be appropriate – but I think so, yes. Probably jeans, chukka boots, oxford shirt and tweed jacket
I like the advice to avoid spending on things you will rarely wear. That is even more true of things on sale or that are a “bargain”. Even if it’s selling at a fantastic price, if you don’t wear it it’s not a bargain. Better to save the money for something you know you will wear often.
Many thanks for this. My first bespoke suits were a navy wool 3 Season and a brown flannel. (Grey does not work for me) Because I wore the brown flannel so much I ordered a brown crispare suit as an alternative for Summer. Unfortunatley that suit does not get as much wear because I rarely wear a tie in summer. I found that casual patterned shirts are the only one’s that work in this context. So back to Basics: A Navy Suit in Crispaire had to be ordered. So I can confirm your view that first you have to have at least a wardrobe for one work week before doing experiments.
As wardrobes tend to become more casual an casual: Would you mind doing a similar post for Sportcoats? Personally that would be: Navy Wool, Navy Hopsack, Navy Cashmere, Blue Checked Wool, Silk, Linen, Brown Tweed
Yes, will do.
There’s a post on my sports jackets that’s a good starting point – part of the Guide here.
This list is very much focused on those that wear or are able to wear a suit for work.
In my instance, the most I can get away with, without sticking out like a sore thumb is a relatively casual jacket unfortunately. However I do like suits in general, to use outside work, so I’ve gone for:
– navy suit as described here (in 13oz for autumn / winter events, weddings, etc)
– mid grey in fresco (same purpose for spring , summer)
– tobacco-ish linen / wool blend (not for any formal event). Jacket and trousers are often used separately.
– dark olive corduroy (winter casual equivalent of the linen.
The rest are separate jackets. I’ve been contemplating getting a flannel suit, with some pattern (ie PoW), but I’m unsure if I could use the jacket separately.
I’ve took inspiration in part from your casual suits and how they can be used as separates. Since I have limited opportunities to dress formally, two formal suits are more than enough. Of course, casual suits are a personal preference, jacket and trousers separates would have worked just as fine.
That sounds like a great wardrobe Neil. Have you really made no mistakes as part of that at all? I’m impressed
Thanks Simon! Indeed I did make mistakes of course. It wasn’t my intention to give the idea that I magically arrived to that capsule wardrobe.
In the early days I used to buy relatively cheap high street brands in the mistaken belief that having a lot of variety was preferable to quality.
I originally started with bespoke with a light grey tweed jacket, which I still used fairly often although arguably not the most versatile piece to start with. At that time I also bought a checked tweed jacket (not bespoke) that has had relatively little use because i find it hard to match with other things as the check is not that muted. Since starting to buy bespoke I have tried to think about what would get the most usage and how it would fit with I already have (the price does help in focusing the mind and reducing impulse). I have to say that Permanent Style has definitely been a great source of inspiration in that regard. Perhaps your experiments with a broad range of tailors, styles, fabrics, and so on makes it somewhat easier for us readers to think clearly about what works for us.
Finally, I’ll say that one will always succumb to a nice item even when fully aware that it might not be the most versatile piece: In spite of my discussions in another comment thread about a suede jacket, I bought a lighter, less versatile colour anyway because I liked it. It’s gotten a lot of usage recently during these last sunny days at least!
One of your best articles Simon, thank you. I wish I had read it years ago at the start of my bespoke journey (although I read similar advice and ignored it, so perhaps the stubborn amongst us need to make our own mistakes).
What worked for me was to use a relatively inexpensive tailor (Graham Browne in my case) as my ‘nursery slope’. After a few successes and more than a few falls I was lucky enough to have an increase in income which meant that I could progress to the higher ground of Savile Row, where thankfully I’ve more or less kept my footing.
I was thinking what color my second bespoke suit should be, so the article was very helpful. My first was a very serious navy, and I probably would’ve picked charcoal, but it does seem awfully redundant.
I now see that mid grey offers that slight variation in a wardrobe while serving as a respectable substitute for navy in any occasion if need be.
Again good post! I have done the same mistakes…PoW pattern suit with vest, which I like but don’t wear often. Maybe the jacket or trouser can be worn separate. I would appreciate a similar post for jackets…If I have only (let’s say four) jackets…
I tend to have to much ideas for jackets and sometimes I don’t wear them quite often. Sometimes it seems to be wasted money…even if my suits/jackets are made by a Bangkok tailor…
i did my research before starting with bespoke suits and, as a lawyer, my first commission was a dark navy SB worsted wool / cashmere 3-piece suit (i like to have the option of the waistcoat). this was great and still feel incredible everytime i wear it.
encouraged by the results then i commissioned two other suits at the same time for warmer wheather: a SB light grey pick-and-pick with patch pokets and a SB 3-piece dark gray. of course this was a triple mistake. first, because of the simulationeous commission. second, because of the patch pockets in a rather formal and structured suit. and third, because of the addition of a waiscoat in a “summer suit”. i wear the dark grey regularly (without the waistcoat) and almost never the light grey (unless i purposely choose it so as not to feel that i made a mistake), although i really like how i look on it.
then i went into other areas: flannel trousers, wool/cashmere SB sport coat, dark navy cashmere DB overcoat (best commission ever).
funnily, my whole life i prepared to be a lawyer and wear great suits but on my first day in the firm i receive a HR communication stating that formal suits were no longer necessary in order to adapt to the new tendencies of the argentine market and make the dress code more casual.
i don’t care and i’m going for a charcoal flannel suit next.
Fantastic article, Simon. I have to say I fell into some of that common pitfalls when beginning MTM. Not too crazy or over-expressive choices, just not as practical as it could have been. I had three 3-piece suits (I was living in Geneva at the time) made by Thom Sweeney MtM in about a year (11oz midnight hopsack, 11 oz light navy Birdseye, 13 oz grey flannel). Not too out there but still lacking some the basics.
My first foray into bespoke was a tobacco Linen DB by Edward Sexton. Though beautiful, a anniversary gift from my wife, it only sees a few wears per year at weddings or garden parties.
Now I’m back to that basics with Whitscomb & Sharftsbury- a mid grey SB in finmeresco last year and a navy DB in Crispaire in the make this year (I’m a lawyer and now living in Los Angeles). Great article to remind me to keep it simple at the outset!
These are my favorite kind of articles. Perhaps you could do a trouser one for those of us who don’t particularly wear suits all that often.
Sorry to ask, but wouldn’t Edward Tam be your first bespoke suit?
Will do. There is one on trouser colours if you look at the Guide linked to at the top.
And yes you’re right, that was strictly speaking my first bespoke. It wasn’t really at the level of a real bespoke suit though.
Great post! It did raise an interesting point for me, regarding the shades of grey and blues. Would you consider a post that could highlight the relative smartness of the different hues, hopefully the general names used to describe them in the industry (i.e. regarding blues: navy, french navy, midnight navy, RAF blue, etc.). Photos would go a long way too. But with monitor differences and such the logistics could be a pain, photographing the different items in the same lighting conditions so the relative differences would remain across monitor setups.
Thank you for this post Simon, very helpful. I think I’ve followed this formula, more or less, for my day-to-day business suits. I’m now getting married and would like a new suit for the occasion, something which is ‘special’ enough (I don’t like flashy suits, it just needs to look very nice) but also works in other settings where I’d use a suit, most likely business but could also be for parties/evenings. I saw your article linked above but find that suit to be too light in the colour to get much use later on. Are there any specific combinations of colour / material / texture you would recommend?
I’d suggest something more like a mid-grey in that case – even slightly darker than that if you have to. Remember at most weddings the aim is to look elegant, and provide a foil to the bride.
That might not seem special enough, but there’s no stronger colour or patterned suit that would also work for business
Somewhere on this site there is a picture of a W&S DB in grey. It looked wonderful!
For my own wedding, I wore a navy three piece with peak lapels as a small point of distinction which can be work and cocktail appropriate with a special Capelli tie. Both the suit and the tie still get worn, and they both bring fond memories when they are worn
Nice. That suit, by the way, is on the ‘Perfect wedding suit’ post
What an appropriate name for the post!
Thanks for your response Simon. I have now decided to use my traditional national dress (which is lovely and handmade by a specialist, would love to show you a picture from the day to get your reaction on the tailoring). This outfit is however too heavy and hot to wear all evening (wedding in the middle of summer, albeit in London so who knows), so I will change after dinner (or before, depending on how long I can bear it). So will I need something suitable for a party (and possibly dinner) in central London, where the dress code is suit / cocktail attire but not black tie (what’s the right term for that?). I was thinking of getting a suit which will be useful for future occasions, e.g. weddings (and not necessarily for business as indicated above). I would like it to look sharp and suitable for a party, so a solid mid-grey suit may feel a bit on the ‘boring’ side. I was thinking a not-too-dark navy with some interest in it like a herringbone, or a patterned mid-grey like a subtle prince of wales check, with white shirt, black oxfords, and a suitable tie/pocket square combination with a bit of colour. I think it should be single breasted for versatility. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated!
The balance will be between something that doesn’t feel too boring, and something you will get a lot of use out of later. A very subtle Prince of Wales sounds like a nice idea. I’d suggest perhaps keeping the tie more muted and adding bright colour in the pocket square. It will look more elegant
Thank you for the post. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and those in the comments section. I completely agree with the basic premise (that safe conservative choices can be worn more often and ultimately lead to better value for money when constructing a wardrobe) and have been building my wardrobe accordingly.
I do have a counterpoint in respect of your thoughts on waistcoats (which I read as being, essentially, that a three piece suit will be too unusual to fit into the philosophy). I have made a point of also getting waistcoats with suits that have a solid colour (even when they have some texture). Although I don’t expect to wear the waistcoat frequently, I think that they dramatically change the look of the suit so they give you a broader range of garments than would otherwise be the case. If I were primarily focused on value for money, however, then I might overlook the waistcoats and save the money towards getting another suit sooner.
If you do not need to wear a suit every day then I think that you can experiment a little earlier in the process but I would still keep choices fairly conservative (perhaps a subtle stripe or a styling detail that appealed). I don’t think that’s a real difference in philosophy though – merely an observation that many office environments won’t require a suit every day and that this effectively changes when you reach the equivalent of “suit 5” in the list.
Lastly, given the cost of bespoke clothing, I would stress the importance of getting at least two pairs of trousers. Otherwise you run the risk of wearing out your best suits as fast as you commission more of them! Again, I don’t think this is really a point of difference though, since this article is primarily focused on methodology rather than an order checklist.
Finally, I must say that I absolutely love the Camps de Luca suit. The style is very flattering and I think the fabric is beautiful – managing to provide interest while being very versatile.
I’m starting to think about having my first MTM or bespoke sports jacket / blazer made (since I basically never wear a suit for work). Most recommendations I’ve read for the first one seem to point to a navy hopsack SB in an Italian style.
Is it possible / recommend to have trousers made in the same fabric to be able to also use it as a navy suit (on the few occasions where I need one)? Or is hopsack just to informal for a suit fabric? Or should the cut and details of a separate jacket be different from a suit jacket (so they can’t be recycled in that way)?
Having a suit that can work in this way is not easy, Johannes, but if it’s going to work in any material it will be hopsack.
Have the jacket made with patch pockets if you can, notch lapels, and perhaps buttons that contrast a little with the cloth.
Maybe sports jacket isn’t the correct name for it(?) But since I live in Sweden I’m thinking of going to Saman Amel and have something similar to the jacket you had made by them:
But in a navy hopsack then and with brown horn buttons. Thanks for the input on the pockets and lapels. Or do you think that kind of jacket looks too out of place with matching trousers?
No I think that should look ok, and yes sports jacket is the right term. It’s just a tricky area – very few smart cloths work
Haha this is the exact order in which I got my suits: a grey fresco and charcoal flannel for 4 and 5. I did a black worsted for the sixth piece for black tie. I also echo your rec previously made elsewhere to double up on the trousers for these core pieces.
Ideal suit capsule:
1. Navy medium weight worsted SB.
2. Charcoal medium weight worsted SB.
3. Blue med./light weight worsted SB.
4. Light grey med./light weight worsted (or fresco if climate allows) SB.
5. Grey med./heavy weight flannel SB or DB.
Simon argues against ‘blue’ but it comes in so many shades other than navy to be a view a little narrow : cadet, French, light navy, dark navy, midnight, IKB, cerulean, yale, grey-blue, glacier, air-force blue etc. In an age where more professional environments are tie-less cleaving to a singular navy seems out of step. I do agree however that ‘electric blue’ is probably best avoided. For examples:
To ensure longevity of style all should have a moderate approach to cut, lapel width, trouser length, trouser cuff width, pockets etc. Outside of business suits linen/cotton, cord, heavier wool (or tweed) suits of various colours could later be added as with dinner jackets/evening suits.
By far the most useful suit I have is a navy 3 ply fresco suit. At 13 oz, it’s thick enough to wear in relatively cold weather. And yet the open weave makes it (relatively) comfortable to wear in the humid summers of Washington DC. And finally, the high twist weave gives it great wrinkle resistance, which makes it great for traveling.
When I travel, I almost always take this suit along, as the jacket can double as a sports coat and goes well with grey trousers.
This is a great article, Simon. Have been building my wardrobe and you have confirmed stuff l feared, from funny patterns to odd colours.
Cannot thank you enough for sharing this wisdom.
Hi Simon…..an interesting read. My question for you is how relevant do you think having 5 suits in a workwear wardrobe is today? With the exception of law and parts of the accountancy industry I struggle to think of industries where there is a need to have a suit for each day of the week; I work in Investment Banking where frankly I only need wear one for client meetings. Whilst its hard to deny the appeal of a well cut suit I wonder whether the experimental suit (eg: DB or corduroy in muted colour) comes in around number 3? Are we at risk of holding on to the ‘suit for every day of the working week’ ethos rather than adapt slightly to the changing environment? Thanks
Hi Colin. Yes, you’re absolutely right. This list is only meant for those that still wear a suit most days to work. We’ll address other environments in other capsule collections – and I think most readers will end up picking from a mixture. Eg three sports jackets from the jackets 5, one suit from here, and perhaps a blouson or similar casual jacket from another list.
Do you think that works? Hard to suggest lots of other mixes otherwise.
Yes Simon, I think that’s a very sensible approach and certainly one that would be appropriate within the work environment in my industry, whilst allowing one to stand out subtly
That’s been my experience Colin (see post above). Besides a heavier navy and a lighter mid grey suit, it’s hard to justify any more formal ones given my work environment. However, I do wear my linen and corduroy suits quite often, either as one piece or just the jackets.
Unless you work in an extremely formal environment or have a suit fetish, I think the need for five suits of this type is redundant. For my life style, I long ago narrowed my suit wardrobe down to the following :
1) Navy blue single breasted for births, deaths, marriages and extremely formal events.
2) Sugar bag blue single breasted linen for the summer season.
3) Light Sky blue fine wale single breasted corduroy suit for dinner in town, concerts etc.
4) Golden brown heavy wale corduroy suit for winter.
I often wear 2 to 4 with an open neck shirt or with a Friday polo. 3&4 are also perfect with roll neck sweaters and I often wear the jacket of my heavy wale cord suit jacket with vintage 501 jeans or the trousers separately with sweaters.
All suits are the same style from A&S – two button, two vents, cuffed trousers (exception linen) with single flapped pockets (exception linen). All have matching / non flashy linings.
My oldest suit was bought 10 years ago and my most recent 3 years ago. Total cost about £16,000.
The rest of my wardrobe is casual.
Frankly, I don’t know why any self respecting flaneur could want for more on the suit front. Find your style and stick with it and avoid fashion forward experimentation with these Pitti Peacocks would be my advise.
Great article and some really good tips here – oh the benefits of hindsight! I especially like the one about buying suits one at a time. However, judging by the comments, and my own experience, I suspect rather few readers actually need to / are able to wear a suit for work every day. (Would love to see the results of a reader survey!) For me at least, the issue is not so much with suits (which quite a few people in my office wear) but with ties (which almost nobody wears, and doing so tends to draw all sorts of unwanted attention / questions about whether you’re going for interviews). I don’t like to wear a suit without a tie, so my business wardrobe is mostly flannel trousers (fresco for the summer) and odd jackets, in rather conservative colours / materials (i.e. hopsack and cashmere, vs. the louder tweeds often associated with odd jackets). My biggest mistake getting into bespoke was to assume I should start upgrading my wardrobe by buying good suits, where conservative separates were much more appropriate for my work environment and hence got more use.
Given all this, would it more make sense to combine the two lists (jackets and suits) into a more general list of “commissions” for those that work in tie-less/suit-less offices? In this scenario, you will still need a few suits for weddings, funerals, special events, etc. but they may come a little further down the priority list, and there could be more emphasis on suits that can also be worn as odd jackets (e.g. navy hopsack, or olive green cotton). If I’d known this from the outset (rather than following the advice of many of the “capsule suit” lists on the Internet) I could have saved a lot of money buying fewer suits and eliminating tailors whose styles don’t work so well for separates. I appreciate this doesn’t apply to everybody, but I imagine it’s a pretty substantial percentage, especially among younger man starting their careers, suddenly in need of a new wardrobe.
I’ve come this far, so I may as well suggest how I would do it. Thoughts much appreciated.
1. Navy SB suit in hopsack, with brown horn buttons, so the jacket can be worn with grey flannels
2. Charcoal odd jacket (dark enough to wear with mid-grey flannels) with an interesting texture like donegal or herringbone
3. Dark brown odd jacket in cashmere, again with an interesting texture
4. Olive green cotton suit, that can be worn as separates
5. “Greige” (seriously, it’s such a useful colour) jacket in unlined hopsack for the summer. Possibly have it made as a suit if you go to a lot of weddings
Throw in a mixture of grey flannels / frescos and chinos and you have more than enough combinations for work, as well as social events that require a suit. Get them in a relaxed Neapolitan cut and most of them will also work with jeans if you want to go even less formal.
Great comment. Depends where you work and what form (a few still require suits every day), but as a youngish (35 year old) attorney, suits are for the courtroom or for client meetings, but otherwise my “daily uniform” is odd jacket and trousers, sometimes with a tie. (I actually like ties—I’ve learned to dress down by wearing ties that look less formal—woven or linen or wool or raw silk ties, etc.)
I’ve noticed an interesting generational difference: older attorneys wear suits every day (it’s their uniform), but they’re not very nice suits, and tend to look the same (almost always dark grey or charcoal, with or without pinstripes). Younger attorneys tend to be less formal but are much more likely to wear tailored clothing. It’s an interesting challenge to dress as an attorney: you want to look elegant and stylish but not foppish or like a dandy—you need clients to take you seriously. The look is in the whole more subdued than that of an investment banker.
i fully agree with your considerations, abbot. except for young attorneys approaching tailored clothes, which is not the situation here in argentina. i feel that young attorneys here can recognize when somebody is well dressed but they cannot understand why and have no interest in dedicating time/money/etc. to achieve the same results.
Generational trends will naturally vary depending on the location. I live in Washington DC and I’m familiar with the scene in Washington DC and in NYC, but this isn’t necessarily representative. E.g., attorneys on the West Coast tend to dress more casually than attorneys in DC and NYC. Attorneys in the midwest (like Chicago) and in the southeast (like North Carolina) fall somewhere in between.
I’m interested in hearing more about Your “greige” hopsack jacket (which I take to be similar in color to Simon’s oatmeal-colored cashmere jacket). What do you wear it with? Does it serve as an alternative to the traditional khaki cotton sports jacket? I have one such cotton jacket that I primarily wear with jeans. I guess you went with hopsack is that it can be dressed up more easily? The reason I ask is that I’ve never seen hopsack before in that color. It’s an intriguing idea, as hopsack is such an easy fabric (almost wrinkle free) compared to cotton.
Have you ever done a reader survey? It would be interesting to know (among other things):
– What % of readers actually wear a suit regularly – how many are required and how many choose to
– What proportion of income people spend on their wardrobe
– What proportion have ever commisioned a bespoke piece
– Most popular brands / most disasppointing brands
Obviously having a breakdown of the demographics like this could also be really useful for yourself in terms of tailoring blog content. I’m a regular reader for example, but am only ever required to wear suits for weddings and funerals. It means articles like this are an interesting read in an academic sense, but not really of any practical value for me – all of my needs could be served by one decent single breasted charcoal two-piece.
If the same could be said for a majority of your audience, that would seem useful to know?
Hey Sam. Yes very good point, it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.
I do find that the majority of readers I talk to don’t have to wear a suit in the office most days – but those that do tend to be the ones most into their tailoring. It would be good to be able to put numbers on it though.
r/malefashionadvice run an annual survey, although it’s probably a bit more demographics focused than you’d want:
My gut feeling would be bulk of your readers fall into the “works in an online job that’s quite hard to explain in less than three sentences, doesn’t have to wear a suit to the office but likes to dress well so wears blazers, flannels and nice shoes, constantly gets asked ‘oh, you look dressed up, off for an interview?’ to which they respond with a chuckle through gritted teeth” camp. Just guessing though.
If I used emojis, I would use something crying with laughter at this point
LOL. Check, check and check
thanks for the interesting article. A question to a little different topic. Do you have an opinion on Gaetano Aloisio in Rome (perhaps compared to Sartoria Ripense)?
No, sorry I haven’t used him. We may well be covering him shortly through a friend though.
I’d be very interested to read a review of Ripense, coincidentally. I follow a few or their clients on instagram and their cut is really nice. Quite soft for Rome I think, but very striking.
Hi Simon – do you have a go-to all around cloth bunch that you would recommend? Something 10-11 oz, crisp, dry, British, worsted, good wrinkle performance, etc. Won’t be good when its freezing or sweltering, but fine for everything in between? Thank you.
I think you’re asking a bit much there! But I would probably recommend the heavier cloths in either the Crispaire or Fresco bunches
Really? Read the question again. Not good in freezing or sweltering.
Fresco is made precisely for sweltering. As is Crispaire.
Well, no cloth is going to work for freezing and sweltering and everything in between.
But yes, the heavier high-twists are a good balance between the two. As indeed a reader has said above.
Whilst all a bit kindergarten, l can understand that most of your readers need this king of basic help.
I think, however, that you should counsel against using the coat from a suit as an odd jacket. Or the trousers.
Just not what you should be encouraging really.
Thanks Tom. Perhaps a bit patronising, but yes there are many here just starting out on building a wardrobe.
I would certainly generally advise against using a jacket from a suit separately – it works in very few cases. Mostly with navy jackets that have more texture, and more casual suits like cottons and corduroy, in my experience.
Trousers are easier. A grey flannel suit could quite easily have the trousers used separately, but not the jacket. The only issue is wearing through the trousers too quickly.
Oh goodness, not meant to be patronising! Only really a statement of fact given the very basic starting point.
I’m sure many of your readers get much from your guidance, and good for that! Keep up the good work.
In so few years, you have gone from novice to master, and so your help for others must be greatly appreciated!
Thanks Tom, and apologies if the comment wasn’t meant to sound like that.
The weight of the fresco makes a big difference: I have a 13 oz 3 ply fresco suit that is comfortable in the summer (notwithstanding the weight) thanks to the open weave, however, it also works pretty well in chillier weather. (Of course, if it’s really cold, you’re better off in flannel)
In contrast, I also have a pair of grey trousers in 9 oz fresco, which at that weight, is only useful in the summer or on a really mild Spring / Fall day. On a really hot day, the 9 oz fresco is slightly superior to the 13 oz, but not as much as you would expect.
The wonderful suits, particularly the Ciardi, in this piece make an important statement: men look so much better when they are well dressed. I like wearing a suit whether at work or not. Many of the men here wear bespoke or mtm suits and know how good they make them look and how comfortable they are, so why not enjoy them? I like wearing a suit at least part of every day along the lines of Simon’s conservative suits mentioned here that fit well with a beautiful cut, again the Ciardi comes to mind. Working with shirts, ties, pockets squares, and knitwear can add all kinds of interesting, different and fantastic looks. This is part of the elegant lifestyle that is worth recapturing and pursuing. So my ideal suit wardrobe, finances permitting, would consist of three, maybe four ,suits each in the blue, gray, and brown families, based on Simon’s conservative ideas, for the Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter seasons, minimum of eighteen total. Long live the suit!
Love the Camps De Luca suit, but wowser, that’s a price and a half.
I like that you don’t wear your first two suits often, do you save them for special occasions?
No, I meant I don’t wear them often because they’re not suitable to most occasions. It’s a pity, rather than being deliberate
Do you ever have a bit of spring cleaning where you discard clothing that just isn’t worn any more or infrequently? If so, what criteria do you use?
Yes, it was something that led to that sale last year, and I’ll definitely do it again.
The criteria are basically if I haven’t worn it for a whole season, eg shorts that didn’t get worn all summer
Hi Simon! Currently I want to rebuild my wardrobe starting with the basics, investing in high quality items, however I have a little problem. Because of working out, I outgrow my jackets and trousers, which is why I have been choosing MTM over bespoke in case of waste. Now, I have been focusing more on quality shoes over clothing pieces as the size of my feet won’t change. In my situation, what would your approach of rebuilding a wardrobe be like? Would spalla camicia on jackets help as shoulders have more room for expansion?
To be honest, I wouldn’t invest serious money in tailoring until your size has settled down. Shoes, yes, and even trousers maybe. But not shirts or tailoring.
Even bespoke, which is built to be altered over the years, cannot deal with big changes in musculature.
I recently got my third bespoke suit – I’ve lost some weight as I’m doing cycling training. I’ll probably change waist size a bit more and my tailor knew this. The side tabs on the suit allow for more adjustment more space either way than previous commissions. At either extreme it might not be as perfect as a suit with slightly less give – but still far better than off the peg. Obviously wholesale changes in shape challenge tailoring. And it wouldn’t work for bodybuilding or possibly even for swimming – but for a runner or cyclist I’m hoping this helps.
Hi Simon. This is an “almost” related question. Do you know who are Princes William and Harry’s tailors and shoemakers? I am well aware that they are widely criticized throughout the internet blogs for their style or lack of it, but I believe that all they are trying to do is blend in with the rest of the young gentlemen who are maybe ordering their first not too expensive bespoke or MTO. In other words, it’s done on purpose. They don’t want to be perceived almost only as style icons like their father, their grandfather and The Duke. And they succeed at it. Thank you
The tailoring is mostly RTW or MTM from Gieves. I don’t know on the shoes.
Part of the reason might be as you say. I’m also told by people that know them that they also just don’t care that much about clothes – certainly as much as their father does.
Thank you Simon. ?
This might be appropriate for the capsule posts… Could you please share your thoughts on ordering extra trousers with suits? Especially, in the context of work week suits that may be worn at a once per week frequency. Would your opinion change if the frequency was reduced to once every two weeks?
I had been ordering extra trousers, as habit, for some time. When getting my first “grown-up” suit my father had said to do it in case one pair was ruined, I would have a second pair. But 7 years later, almost ironically, the only trouser incidents I’ve had have been with odd/separate trousers. Now, as I upgrade my wardrobe to bespoke from MTM, I am considering a change in philosophy. I am forgoing the extra trouser in my seasonal suits but have retained them for my year round “work horse” suits (as I have termed my classic business suits). The price on some Escorial “work horses” I’ve commissioned has me reconsidering this approach. I’m thinking of just ordering extra cloth and not having them tailored. I fear I may be too superstitious to give up on the whole concept.
I think it’s generally a smart approach to have extras, but if you’ve gone this long and not needed them, then I think you’re safe to go without. Either you just don’t wear them very hard, or you’re good at looking after them, or both
Samuelsohn is certainly the best buy in MTM I’ve ever seen. I’ve had a couple of gorgeous DB suits made by them, quite exquisite.
But the idea that one goes all-safe with the usual dark blues and greys in single breasted sounds utterly boring to me.
I thought this site was about Permanent STYLE?
If you are going the route of bespoke etc., why not enjoy the fact that there are genuine style options? If you are going to play it so utterly safe with SB dark blues and greys, I’d rather a well-fitting RTW with proper alterations, for half the cost or less than MTM.
You will need the saved $$$ for the all-important other details: first-class shirting and shoes, which make for a stronger presentation than a boring MTM or bespoke suit vs. a well-altered RTW. Great shirts aren’t easily found at bargain prices, nor are great shoes.
Do you not think it would be better to have something more versatile that you’re likely to get more wear out of, given the amount you’d be spending on bespoke?
As to the other parts of the wardrobe, I certainly agree on shoes, but less so on shirts. With the latter by far the most important things are a collar that suits you and a decent fit through the body (which can be achieved with MTM or even just darts in the waist sometimes)
Yes, even if you’re commissioning tailored clothing for wearing in other than a conservative business environment, some of the same concerns apply. My first MTM garment was a summer sports jacket. My thought was “This is special; this will cost me a lot of money; so it has to be distinctive” so I was considering a plaid or a guncheck or some such. Luckily, my fitter talked me down, and I walked away with a plain beige jacket (which I’m very happy with). The fitter’s line was that if I got something “distinctive”, the first time I wore it people would say “Wow! Great jacket!”. Every time I wore it after that they would simply think “Oh, he’s wearing that jacket again”.
So yes, better to splurge on getting the best fit and cut of something that will provide a relatively neutral backdrop, then use inherently cheaper items (shirts, knitwear and accessories) to create a whole range of differently styled outfits.
The article and subsequent comments have been great to read and think about. Lurking in the background, within the article, is the evolution of your own style: from GB and A&S to a favourite, the Ciardi. I wonder if you would oblige with an article on how you started out (looking for the most formal?) through to a style that suits your own taste, comfort and sensibility. Through this journey of experience, what changed and modified to result in, what is now, your style?
I can see how that might be interesting, thanks for the suggestion. I think it’s been more a journey of broadening and discovering, then having different things for different situations – eg English suit for a smart occasion, Neapolitan jacket for day to day. Does that make sense?
If back to the day that you have your first bespoke business suit, what style will you pick? English or Any Italian style?
Usually people say Italian style is not “business formal” enough, is it because of the un-structure shoulder? or the lapel?
Any personal advice for the reader to pick their first business suit?
I’d probably pick English, but a lot of it depends on your office and business environment. If everyone else is wearing sharp suits, go for English. If you’ll be an exception, something more casual would be fine.
The reason soft Italian styles, like those from Naples, are considered less formal is mostly about the shoulder and sleevehead, which looks small and soft, and about the openings of the front
Agree that the style is depend on how serious is the environment. From my case, actually, guys from my office mostly wearing shirt and wool trouser, no one else wear suit except the chairman and CEO
And i picked English too, reason behind because i think a men should have a formal English business suit (sorry, i keep thinking English = Formal, Italian = a little bit casual)
And one more question, does the color/fabric of the suit would have better match on the suit style? e.g Charcoal better on English, Light brown better on Italian, linen bettor on Italian
OK, I think that sounds like a decent choice Stanley, but you could definitely get away with something Italian.
And yes in general, a more casual colour and fabric might be more likely to suit a more casual make/cut.
I hail from Hong Kong, a place full of people passionate about the permanent style of menswear, but also of people who seem to put on whatever tee and sweatpants they have without any thought. This leads to an atmosphere of an extremely casual environment year long, especially since I’m still in university. The most formal style you’re likely to see outside Central is untucked shirt, sweater, jeans and running shoes (I kid you not, trainers).
I’d like to ask how should a young man build his wardrobe in such a way which is suited to the more “casual” social acceptance, while still enjoy tailoring? My initial thought is by using bolder patterns and casual materials, such as stripes and checks, with seersucker or suede shoes.
I’d also like to ask when a young man is starting out, should he still get the foundations first, knowing that he will get less use out of it in the coming few years? An example would be a blazer vs a safari jacket. I myself already have a navy suit, and is experiencing this dilemma. A blazer would be very versatile, especially when I eventually grow up and go to more formal occasions, but still a bit too formal for my age; a safari jacket however, while not as versatile, would be much more suited towards my current age and formality, plus I could always get a blazer when I am older. Some advice would be welcomed here.
Thank you for the awesome and insightful content as always!
Good question, thank you.
I would advise not buying something for the future, but trying to elevate just slightly things you and your contemporaries already wear. A safari jacket is a great example. Also tailored linen trousers with a great cut, in a great cloth. Or higher quality leather shoes, maybe loafers, that are looked after and polished
Thanks for your reply, gave me a few pointers towards my next purchase.
What about the first question, any thoughts?
Oh good. On your first question – how to build a wardrobe of tailoring that’s still suited to more casual dressing – I wouldn’t go for patterns and checks. They’re more likely to date and look too showy.
Rather, I’d concentrate on casual materials. Eg flannel rather than worsted wool; tweed rather than cashmere; linen and cotton trousers. In warmer, more natural and casual colours (browns, greens, tans) and start with things like the trousers I mentioned earlier, than can be dressed down as well as up.
Thanks for the tip! Hope you have a wonderful Sunday.
I understand your point (English suit for formal etc.) but it’s not exactly what I’m getting at: you have mentioned how much you like the Ciardi. As such why? You have many suits – what is it about the Ciardi that stands out for you. What sensibility has developed within you that allows for the appreciation of the Ciardi over earlier suits. As this has been an evolutionary process the Ciardi, presumably, speaks of something different to the suits you started with. Along the way, as you state, you have been broadening and discovering your view but what assumptions have you left behind? I guess it might be an emotional response over logic (i.e. patch pockets over flapped) but deep down you will feel better in the Ciardi than others due to something slightly intangible. I’m really just trying to get you to express what that intangible might be and how it was arrived at…
I see. I think some of these things might be related just to the suit, rather than to any broader trends in my taste or development. Such as it just being a great cloth choice, that I got the style choices correct, that I’m enjoying working with the Ciardi brothers and so on.
I think talking about assumptions that have been left behind would be interesting, but would be a much broader piece accompanying lots of suits. And actually there wouldn’t be too much left behind, more finding different niches for different things, and more emphasis on some over others (eg more striking suit styles just for special-occasion suits).
I hope that makes sense. It would be easy to draw simple conclusions from this but I think it’s more nuanced.
Would you consider writing an article about 5 suits for social occasions? Like the majority of people these days, I do not wear suits to work. I wear suits for fun, whether it’s a dressier double-breasted suit for the opera or a casual corduroy suit for an art opening. Could you write about some of your favourite suits to wear socially, how to wear suits socially and what suits are good for various purposes? It would definitely be more of a piece about your taste since wearing suits for fun has no limits. I’m always looking for new inspiration.
Thanks Matt, good call. Yes I’m planning something based on a few other comments along those lines. It is much more personal, as you say, but a really interesting area to explore
Great idea Matt because wearing suits is fun!
in your opinion, which Italian taylor puts the most amount of handwork (both functional and purely ornamental) in his suits? In particular, which house comes the nearest to Cifonelli and Camps?
The Milanese, like the Caraceni houses
Being Milanese, I totally agree. Thank you Simon! I am a big fan of both, the Milanese and all the English tailoring styles. As we all know, Milanese bespoke jackets are not unstructured as the Neapolitan ones are. They are instead close relatives of the “original” English-tailored ones. A bit lighter… just a bit, nothing more. It used to be that bespoke suits made in the South were just a “local” thing and a lot (and I mean “a lot”) less expensive, despite the fact that the tailors there were , and still are, excellent, the best and largely the “only Italian tailors”. In fact, and I feel the need to highlight this for all the non-Italian readers, the vast majority of the tailors working in the North, including the Caraceni and their descendants, hail
from Southern Italy. They just adapted their tailoring skills and knowledge to the Northern Italian taste. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, and Palazzo Pitti among others, the “Neapolitan” style has become very popular around the world, specially among the younger generations (I was born in 1950) and, due to the high demand (and, again, the internet) much more expensive. Many houses that sell RTW and MTM, like Drake’s and the Armoury, are now reproducing or reinterpreting it.
Agreed that collars are the essential detail of a shirt — it frames the face, as you know, and the wrong collar can upset the entire effect. If one can find the right collar in RTW, more power to you, but I find at least MTM is more usual.
Sleeve length and cuff sizing are important to me too — I like French cuffs (for cufflinks, one of a man’s few opportunities for a little bling — and fun), so specifying cuffs is important to me.
I agree on versatility, butI don’t feel we should all be wearing dark blues and greys single breasted all the time! Depending on one’s body tight and workplace station, one can go a little further, either with ore interesting cloths (tweeds, for example) or, in my case, I wear a lot of double breasted. As you know, this only works if the fit is very well done.
Thanks Simon re. the Ciardi: indeed it is more nuanced and I’m not looking for simplicity just a rendering of your liking for the suit against the background of developed tastes. It seems odd to me, respectfully, that you can’t quite articulate this. The elements you refer to are all external – cut, cloth Ciardi Bros. etc. In your original review you mention the fitting process, the confidence it gave, the crispness of the cloth. You also focus on comfort, not just the lightness of cloth but the freedom of movement. A casual style that can be formally accessorised. The old school style of Ciardi also gave confidence. Compare this to the almost simplistic review of the 2010 A&S POW: high armholes, cloth, trousers, 2 fittings etc. It’s a world away. Sensibilities have clearly developed through experience, it’s not a fault to acknowledge this and discern what was learnt (vs. a nebulous ‘different niches for different things, and more emphasis on some over others’ etc.)? Consider, as readership grows around the world, interest in the author and how he developed his expertise will also grow. Being a little more reflective about this would would be interesting and welcome.
Thanks, I appreciate the points – it probably needs a longer post rather than a comment to go into it in the detail it deserves.
Simon, great article, as always. Wish I had read it when I started working.
And couldn’t agree with you more on a navy suit:
Ha! I hadn’t seen that, thanks for the link
Simon, what would you think about ordering extra trousers for the grey suits, but not the navy? The idea would be that if the navy trousers did go bad ultimately, the navy jackets could still be worn as smart blazers with the grey suit trousers in an office/business environment, not with jeans, chinos, etc. Does that work, or do navy blazers even in such a formal environment need to be made up of more chunky/textured fabric?
Usually during the bespoke , beside the fit, lapel and the length, will you also request something very detail?
I’m not sure i doing the right thing or not during the process, as i asked them to make dinner split on trouser, double button on the trouser front, and YKK front-zip with golden color
And i also wanna ask a question about the pocket style on the jacket; In terms of atmosphere, what is the different between flap pocket and jetted pocket?
Usually those kind of details are OK. It’s asking the tailor to have a different or style that’s dangerous and sometimes insulting.
On pockets, a flap pocket is slightly more casual, but it’s a minor point. A patch pocket makes a bigger difference.
Hey Simon! What if you only had five casual suits? You know just supposing! What could that look like?
A few people have suggested that Ian. I think I’ll do that as a separate post if that’s ok
Love reading your posts. Appreciate your honesty/criticism when it is warranted and praise when something deserves it.
I am starting work at a big law firm in a few months and am taking stock of my suit situation. The law firm doesn’t have an official dress code, but after working there for a summer, I concluded that I will probably wear a suit almost every day (in part because I’d like to, in part because my bosses frequently go to court so they will wear a suit and often a tie, and in part because it allows me to have “flexibility” if an unexpected meeting comes up). My firm is more “dressed up” than most law firms in my city (New York) but in contrast to a few that still require full suit and tie. In other words, you’ll never be out of place at my office wearing a full suit in tie nor would it look weird for people to walk around the office without a jacket on at all (though I presume they have it in their office).
My main question is this: I’ve really come to be a big fan of the Neopolitan look, especially the substantial lapels and unpadded/natural shoulders (aesthetically and for comfort purposes). The first two suits I have more or less have these qualities. I’d like to continue with a charcoal as my next suit, ideally in Neopolitan style. Am I making a mistake here? Will these jackets be seen as too casual? Is it good to have something more structured in my arsenal? Or will a formal color/fabric and overall good fit suffice in the formality department.
Thanks for the advice!
Hi Zach. I think you’ll probably be fine – unless the proportions are dramatic or there is a lot of shirring/ripples at the sleevehead. But why not wait until you start work and then see if there are any comments? That would seem safer
Thanks for the reply.
I think that’s probably what I’ll do. The only issue is that I’ll have to get by for several weeks with just two suits. Do you think I could swing that? (One navy and one mid grey).
As per your advice, I think charcoal is the next addition!
Yes, I think that should be fine
When I commissioned my only neapolitan suit, I wanted something for work use when I’m forced to be outside in summer on hot days.
I was guided not to get the usual spalla camicia shoulder, but instead a clean shoulder (still unstructured, but without the obvious shirring) and welt pockets. Together they add a few formal elements to counterbalance the less formal shoulder. This might be a good approach for you as well.
Fantastic tips Simon-as usual.
I’ve taken your advice re:navy blue suit and charcoal suit(herringbone by Dalcuore).
You didn’t mention a black suit. Was there a reason for this “omission”?
I’d avoid black. It’s not that flattering and can easily look cheap. It’s seen as glamorous because of films and movie stars, but it never really looks elegant. No tailor would recommend one outside of black tie really
Simon – Do you have any experience with any of the online MTM brands such as Lanieri, MyTailor by Hemrajani, Beckett Robb, etc.? Obviously these are a much lower price point than you normally cover, due to not being bespoke, but just wondering if you or any of your readers have tried. Thanks!
I haven’t tried any of those, no sorry. I’ve tried Saman Amel recently for made to measure, which is a good price particularly the cheaper lines
Also Ring Jacket at The Armoury
Simon have you or do you intend to pay a visit to Eric Jensen, of Sartoria Jensen, in New York? He seems to have popped up on the radar for bespoke suits and offers an Italian style, perhaps the only one who does, in his own NY shop. I have not met him but the thought of finding someone local for Americans who don’t want to do the whole and often lengthy trunk show routine sounds very appealing.
I haven’t I’m afraid, but I’ll try to next time I’m there
Simon, I favour solid English worsteds from 11oz upwards..with 13oz as avg. Most S.R houses. seem to stick to Lesser.,.Smith’s Botany and Oyster from Harrisons as their ‘go to’ bunches in this range. On the basis that the price of the cloth is a small part of the total…I assume it is prudent to get the best quality. Would you say there is much difference in these bunches and other contenders such as Minnis/ Bateman Ogden/Dugdale/etc?…or is one as good as the next? Or, are there any to be avoided?……thanks, D.D.
No, I wouldn’t say there’s much of a difference. Many are even woven by the same mills – most are merchants offering a selection they have bought, rather than something they have made.
Tailors generally tend towards the mills they know and have tried, to avoid any risk.
If you want more information on the mills, by the way, you might find this post interesting:
Lately I have been exploring the offers from The Merchant Fox. Their fabrics look very appealing to me (including the ecru calvary twill that bears your name) and I am seriously considering to try one of them. In many of their their descriptions they state that their fabrics are “woven by Fox Brothers and Co. in the South West”. Do you happen to know if they in fact own a mill? Kind regards and good luck in Firenze, Fabrizio
Yes, absolutely. Unlike a lot of names on bunches, Fox own their own mill
Simon, thanks for the link. It is very informative. What about Lumb’s Golden Bale? It seems to be considered ‘the Rolls Royce’ of cloth…have you any views on it?..thanks, D.D.
Well, try to get behind such vague recommendations to some facts!
Golden Bale uses a particular quality merino, which makes it denser and give it a sleekness. I used it for my Edward Sexton overcoat, if you want to look it up there. It is very nice, but only if you want that look
Simon, kindly advise me what do you think about De Petrillo ready to wear range? Regards
I’ve only seen some things in the showroom at Pitti – which looked like good value and well made. But I can’t say much more than that I’m afraid
I wonder why your PoW suit did get much use.
I’ve always thought that it is a classic, English patten for an office suit. Actually I was thinking about buying one although I don’t have to wear suit at work. I thought it would be a nice balance between casual clothes and smart ones. Something more that a jacket and trousers but something less than a navy suit.
What’s your view on that?
I think it can work nicely in that regard, but it depends a lot on the material and the check. This was flannel (already a little unusual), in mid-grey (not quite business grey) and the pattern was quite strong. If it had been a subtle pattern on a charcoal worsted wool, it would have been fine.
You can see it here
Hi Simon, I am looking for a brown check sport coat that can be worn all year round for casual Friday and the weekend and am trying to decide between this brown glen check from Berg & Berg: https://bergbergstore.com/collections/tailoring/products/dan-ii-single-breasted-fresco-jacket-glen-check-1 and this gun club from Rubinacci: https://www.marianorubinacci.net/brown-checked-wool-and-cashmere-unlined-blazer?path=83_94. What advice would you have for me in coming to my decision? I haven’t heard of di Pray and am not sure what the quality of their fabric is like – have you come across them? Many thanks.
Hi – I answered your comment on the Spring/Summer cloths post where you first left it, here
Im going to make a navy suit (Crispaire again),
but i found that it just very difficult to wear the pant as odd trouser,
should i change my mind to jacket in navy, trouser in mid-grey (cost might higher)? or keep it simple?
AS a IT guy, my office style is business smart, not necessary with suit and tie except some special event..
Another question, beside Crispaire, how about loro piana four season?
Navy trousers are not great on their own, no. But I also wouldn’t recommend Crispaire for a jacket material. I’d suggest grey Crispaire trousers and a navy hopsack jacket
so you mean if i really want a navy suit, then Crispaire can be the choose
Beside, can you recommend some navy colour hopsack fabric for me? i have no idea on it
Yes, exactly. Hopsacks don’t vary much. Perhaps Holland & Sherry, their navy hopsack or mesh
Got it, you and Jerry has the same idea regarding on fabric after I told him your previous suggestions. And I pick H&S mesh for the jacket fabric, actually I like mohair too
I have a few questions and ideas about your list.
For someone that is never required to wear a suit (where I live a blazer or casual sports coat is good even for a wedding) but very much likes them, and wears a suit or sportcoat as their usual attire around the city, would you recommend being less conservative than in your list here?
And second, if someone tries different colours (there are few when it comes to business suits) and find one fits them best (be it navy, charcoal or dark grey) might they not be better sticking with that colour for all their suits? Instead of buying a navy, grey and charcoal suit, start with a navy suit in a worsted, then get a navy suit in flannel, then try a more exciting detail like peaked lapels on a single breasted navy suit (which most people are unlikely to notice anyhow), then a dupioni silk or mohair navy suit, and then a double-breasted navy suit.
Finally, how do you feel about three-piece suits? One of the main advantages, in my opinion, is that they can also be more conventional single-breasted two-piece suits, while a double-breasted suit can never be made more conventional in the same way. So if you wanted something exciting as a first suit, you could get a very conservative navy three-piece suit, and then if the waistcoat is too dandyish for the office save it for special occasions, or wear it in the winter for added warmth. Would you recommend this or do you think the price hike of a waistcoat is too much to justify it?
Nice suit questions Sam.
The first one depends on your work and social environment specifically, so is hard to give advice on. But yes, if most people aren’t wearing suits then you perhaps should be less conservative. At the least materials like flannels, or patterns like a subtle check.
On colours, absolutely you can vary texture or design details instead if you want. It’s just that most people like to have variation in colour too, partly because it opens up other possibilities for colours that look good with those alternatives. Eg white doesn’t look as stark with mid-grey, and pink looks better with it often, than with navy. I’d suggest at least trying one grey in a list like this.
On three piece suits, yes a waistcoat certainly has that variety as you say, which is nice. I personally just find that when I’ve had a waistcoat I barely wear it at all. Also, for a waistcoat to look best, it needs high-waisted trousers, which is not a style I like generally.
I’d be really interested in your view on turn-ups on suit trousers. None of my suits have them as I’d always assumed it was smarter not to. However, I am about to get a new (single-breasted) suit made and I’ve noticed that a lot of the most stylish gents on here seem to have them. I’d also welcome your views on pleats. I am a pretty average build and have always gone flat-fronted before but was wondering if I should consider pleats.
Hey Jamie. Have you read the ‘Suit style’ series, under ‘Guides’ in the navigation. Some of this is covered there.
Hi Simon. I had, but obviously not carefully enough. Now I have, and now I know what I am doing!
Thanks very much
Oh good, I’m pleased that Guide was helpful Jamie. Do leave comments on those posts if you have more specific questions
Can you advice me some charcoal colour fabric, since I can’t find any from h&s and Harrison ,they are too light.
What kind of weight and finish? Worsted, flannel, high twist? What season?
I prefer high twist , then worsted, but not flannel .
I hope it can fit to hk weather, except the 30+ Degree summer
Then I’d look first at Crispaire from Holland & Sherry or the 4-ply from Drapers (my Ciardi suit) – both high twists
I owned a Crispaire suit, it is not dark enough, i hvnt see the drapper yet, will check it out. My goal is to hv similar colour as the charcoal suit above
Really? There are lots of shades from Crispaire?
Yes I did share to picture to you previously (the one from wwchan)
Actually I will call it grey instead of charcoal, the colour is quite similar to the draper 4py, even the charcoal in spring ram, still not dark enough
I’m looking for something like the charcoal flannel that you own, like muted black
Biggest mistake I made was getting an Air-force Blue suit from Graham Browne as my 5th suit for the business wardrobe. (Technically it was a 6th or 7th work suit, but I seem to have lost one suit recently at a dry-cleaners or during a house move – ouch, and another suit has gone in both pairs of trousers and will probably be replaced rather than repaired).
Anyway, whilst it’s a fantastic suit aesthetically and in terms of shape/cut/silhouette, it looks out of place in the City on most days. Plus it’s difficult to pair with a blue shirt, as it makes the entire outfit seem very bluish and washed out. A white shirt makes the blue pop even more, which doesn’t help. It also doesn’t look quite right with black Oxfords and when I pair it with my brown Oxfords, the outfit ends up looking even more idiosyncratic – like someone from the 1950s who has travelled into the future and briefly taken fashion tips from Ted Baker/Topman without getting the chance to read Permanent Style. I tend to wear it in the depths of Winter when there are only a few hours of daylight in which to be seen…
Would this subtle pinstripe as versatile as say herringbone, which pairs well with almost everything?
No, I think a pinstripe is always going to be a little less versatile, also more business-y
what are your thoughts on a Tom Ford mid grey suit? understated but strong at the same time with the strong shoulders and peak lapels? Would you go with turn ups ?
The style is nice – a little showy with the peaks, as you say, but not too much if it’s a plain cloth. I’d probably go for plain bottoms, as they would be smarter.
The only question mark is value, as you pay basically a bespoke price for Tom Ford with a RTW fit. But that’s a personal thing as to how much you value the design over the fit.
What are your experiences with having extra trousers made? Worth it if you already have a rotation of suits?
There’s certainly a cut off when it’s less worth it. Not sure what that point is – maybe 6 or 7 suits?
Do you think green crispaire can be an odd jacket too? i understand it doesnt work with blue
i wanna match a green jacket with a mid grey trouser / jeans (yes, im boring)
however i have no idea which fabric to pick
can you give me some advise regarding on green
No Stanley, it’s really designed for suits and I wouldn’t use it for a jacket.
You would also want something softer than a high-twist wool like crispaire if it’s to wear with jeans.
I’d suggest looking in the seasonal jacketing bunches from the Italians – Loro Piana, Caccioppoli, Drapers and so on, for something a little softer
Thanks for the prompt reply
How about MOCKLENO Tropical air from dugdalebros, this is also a high twist bunch
but the patten is pretty similar to hopsack
or i should totally ignore all the high twist bunch
Have you read our piece on high twists? That talks about the differences
First of all, congrats on your blog! I really love. I´m from Spain and I´m trying to start my career in finance in London. I have some doubts about the right way to dress in the financial sector in London or the UK. I want to keep my own style (DB suits, striped shirts, silk ties), but without looking smug. Any advice? Thank you very much in advance.
I’m afraid my advice would be to keep it very simple. Don’t make your clothes a talking point. Don’t arrive in a double-breasted suit. Start with a dark suit, shirt (no one will notice stripes), tie and black shoes. Then adapt to what everyone else is wearing, at least at the start. You may unfortunately also have to lose the tie, at least when you’re settling in.
I’m moving to a new job in a quite formal office: senior management wear suits, and so follow most staff. Unfortunately I expect an inescapable norm of “suits without ties” (and with sports jackets only sometimes appropriate). Could I ask your advice as I build up my formal suit wardrobe again — do you feel some suits work better than others when mostly worn without ties?
Not particularly Richard. More casually made ones might be good – Neapolitan cut, less structure, soft shouldered etc.
But there’s not much you can do about the materials – if they became more casual, I imagine the suits would no longer be appropriate for the office.
Perhaps try a casual tie now and again, like a knitted silk?
Thanks Simon! Yes, I’m keen to try some casual ties, especially if they send a signal that they’re being worn by choice. They should greatly improve the look of the suit (considering I’m going to the effort of getting good suits…) while if there was ever a problem, I could readily switch the tie to something else. I’ll try to post back here with the results, since a formal office is becoming a rarity, so this might be quite an experience!
What fabric weight would you choose for these 5 business suits in London? Maybe 10oz or 11oz for year round wear?
Yes, if they had to be worn year-round then I’d go for 11oz
When approximately 2-3 months a year are very hot (30 degrees and more on average) how high would you go on suit fabric weight for 5 core suits?
Or would it be worth to invest in 5 additional summer suits just for these 2-3 months assuming the first 5 are “english structered”?
I would start with just one lighter, summer suit and see what difference it makes to you.
If you work in an air-conditioned office all day long anyway, it might not be a big factor
Would you say there is a difference between e.g. 10 or 11 oz? If it is marginal one should always choose the higher weight. Would you agree Simon?
Yes, probably, but you’re right it’s pretty marginal – hence why it will often be written 10/11 or 11/12
A friend told me that a subtle texture like sharkskin or birdseye (small, mini) adds visual depth and sometimes a lustrous shine to a suit. Do people really notice a difference when e.g. one wears a navy sharkskin and another a plain navy suit?
Most people won’t, no. I do think it can be nice, but I’d do it mostly for what you like the look of more than anything else. It’s too small to make much of a difference to the overall look or formality
Dear Simon, your wardrobe building posts have been extremely helpful. Could you please do a post on “If you only had 5 odd jackets” since the world is dressing down? Thank you so much!
Sure – did you see the post on my Neapolitan jackets along those lines?
(Though I will do another at some stage soon that’s more focused)
Simon, thank you, again, for an erudite, accessible, and pithy article. May I ask a question? Would the presence of a ticket pocket reduce the formality of an otherwise formal business suit, like a navy one with a two-button jacket? That is to say, could a ticket pocket be worn to business meetings or interviews? The reason I ask is that I have a suit that, through whatever miscommunication with the shop, has a ticket pocket. It is, otherwise, a fine suit with an excellent fit that I feel great wearing.
In other words, is a ticket pocket actually informal, or is this something that I will obsess over, but 98 percent of the rest of the world will never notice?
Thank you, again, for your mission to create a better-dressed world. I hope you and your family are keeping safe and healthy during this coronavirus crisis.
Thank you very much George. I hope you and yours are coping well as well.
A ticket pocket does make a suit more casual, but it’s a tiny, tiny, tiny thing. I think it’s important both to realise the role of these things, and then have some perspective. No one in an interview, a meeting or most places outside a menswear shop will notice, let alone think it looks too casual.
Hopefully that will stop you obsessing over it!
Haha! That’s wonderful, Simon: your perspective does make me feel much more comfortable wearing this suit. Thank you so much.
Besides, if an employer or client is more interested at looking at my midriff region than is in listening to me or reviewing my work, I probably should not be working with them!
Very true. Pleased I could help George
What’s your opinion on an additional suit for social occasions (e.g. light grey) if all other suits in the wardrobe are navy and charcoal grey (dark colours)?
Would you buy an additional lightweight wool suit for summer if all other suits in the wardrobe are 11 oz or higher?
A light grey suit for less formal occasions can be really nice – and a nice alternative in the summer too.
Though if it really is a casual occasion, even something in corduroy might be worth considering too.
On the summer, it really depends where you live. In the UK, I’d personally be OK with 11oz suits. But I wouldn’t be in Italy.
Hi Simon, I’m really enjoying reading all your posts and watching the videos. I can’t believe how far astray I’ve been lead over the last 2 years by lower quality online content. Thank you for being here. I’ve already make some very effective changes to my everyday style and think I’ll be ordering one of your oxford shirts soon…
Anyway, one of the largest focuses for my own wardrobe building is to own as few items as possible. The “minimal capsule” is my current goal. I only get to wear a suit a handful of times per year, so only own one off the rack suit in Navy.
However, I’d like to get a MTM suit soon, and am now considering a mid-grey. I have a mid-grey overcoat plus a greyish/brown sportcoat, and honestly think grey suits my complexion better than the navy.
Because I don’t wear a suit in a business context at all, would you consider mid-grey to potentially be more versatile for me than navy or charcoal? I’m 30 years old in New Zealand and really just want it to cover attending summer weddings, funerals, and times I might want to really dress up for an event, or if I ever get taken to court (haha). I figure I can just change up the shoes, shirt, and accessories to achieve vastly different looks.
I am on the right track? One suit capsule = mid grey single breasted for the win? Or will I instantly regret not going darker?
Please let me know your thoughts.
Thanks, that’s lovely to hear.
I think you’re on the right track. This capsule piece is really for people that wear suits for work all the time. I think a mid-grey would work well for you.
The next one, if you ever get one, might be great in navy, but that’s about it.
I’m looking to buy a made to measure suit for a nephew, who is currently a university student. He has a couple of sports jackets but no suits, and he will be needing a suit for interviews. Naturally I’ll consult him but I was wondering what advice you might have.
I’m thinking it should either be a mid weight navy worsted or a heavy navy hopsack. The standard navy is more traditional and might be slightly more appropriate for formal occasions, but the heavy hopsack would be more versatile (travels better, and the jacket could more easily double as a separate). What’s your advice?
I would go for the most standard thing you can. For interviews it should look good, professional, but anonymous. A good fit certainly, but otherwise nothing of note.
In most professional working environments, suits are now largely reserved for client meetings and have otherwise been supplanted by sports coats. It would be fun (and useful) if you were to do a capsule that mixed both. If I were young and starting my career, I would go with 3 suits and 3 sports coats.
Suits (all single breasted): (1) three piece navy hopsack (the hopsack jacket could easily be worn on its own, and the waistcoat would come in handy for weddings); (2) mid-grey high twist (heavy fresco or similar material would make it more versatile outside summer months); (3) mid grey flannel with extra pair of trousers (easily broken into separates).
Sports coats: (1) mid grey herringbone (flexible enough to dress up or wear with jeans); (2) oaatmeal colored cashmere jacket; (3) wool / silk/ linen blend jacket for warmer weather.
Extra: If I went to 2 or more black tie events a year, I would invest in a tuxedo; otherwise a black suit would be a good alternative (can be made to work for black tie events but can also be worn at night clubs, funerals, etc.)
Thanks, nice idea. The problem with all of these capsules is how much people’s working environments vary, I guess. Though if someone did need two suits and three sports jackets, they could always take the first two suits from the suits capsule, and the first three jackets from the jackets one.
I’m with you on pretty much all your recommendations, by the way, except the flannel jacket being worn separately.
My name is Hyunook, I am 35 years old and I live and work in Seoul, Korea.
I was wondering if I could seek your wisdom and experience with purchasing men’s clothing, in particular suits and other articles of clothing?
I am an avid reader of permanent style and the articles and videos on the site are uniquely informative, brilliantly written and particularly useful. Your articles have changed my entire outlook on men’s clothing. This one in particular.
What tailoring houses would you recommend for good bespoke suits in terms of value for money?
House cut, style, tradition and skill are all very important but building a sensible wardrobe consisting of 4,000 pounds bespoke suits is challenging, even though highly appealing.
Whitcomb and Shaftesbury’s made in India program seems like an excellent option in terms of value for money.
Would you recommend the same houses for coats?
Hi Hyunook, thanks for your questions.
In terms of value for money, purely, you should look at those that make a good-level product in India or China. I would include Whitcomb in that list, but also Prologue and The Anthology. I would suggest that you look at all three, and decide which styles you like. Style should never be sacrificed – it’s just as important as quality.
And yes, I would recommend Whitcomb for coats, certainly. See my post here on the coat they made for me.
Do you think there is any need for a lighter suit in summer if I work in an office with air-condition and if I have to travel I’m mostly only outside in the morning (arrival) and evening (departure)? I’m working in Paris currently where the summer is hotter than in London. Maybe you could recommend me a weigth for an all season suit? Would you choose 11 oz as you recommended for London?
Yes I would, that would come pretty close to an all-season suit.
I’m not sure you ‘need’ a lighter suit in those circumstances, but it might be pleasurable having something that is more adapted to the weather, like a high-twist for example. But that does require a bigger closer – as you’d only be able to wear that for part of the year.
Simon would you go with Fox Air fabric for a suit! Is this what you mean by “High Twist”.
Yes, Fox Air is a high-twist fabric.
You can read a lot about high twists on our guide article here.
And you can see my suit in Fox Air here.
Can a jacket from a lightweight wool suit work as a separate? I thought about getting a navy DB suit from a Neapolitan like Dalcuore where I can use the jacket also with other trousers e.g. grey high twist, cream etc. I know that one shouldn’t wear wool suit jackets as separates but maybe there are exceptions?
It’s unlikely to work, I’m afraid. Hopsack might do, but most lightweight wools are best as either suit jackets or sports jackets separately, because a suit jacket is usually so much sharper
Simon, some of the RTW makers tout a “sous bras,” fabric around the inside of a jacket’s armhole to help absorb sweat, as a major feature in their suits’ construction. I will keep those makers nameless here. However, I do not believe you have mentioned it in any of your articles. What are your thoughts on “sous bras”? In other words, is this something that is typical in high-end (bespoke) coats and is genuinely worthwhile, or is this a feature in marketing brochures only?
It’s not typical in high-end bespoke, no.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a good idea, but I’ve had it on a few suits (from Chinese or Hong Kong makers) and never noticed it had much of a benefit. Maybe we’d have to ask someone that sweats a lot more.
Thank you, Simon. I haven’t had it on any of my suits, either, but have seen it advertised with increasing frequency. Perhaps I can speak with my tailor about having it placed on an existing suit (I am assuming this is possible?) and perform a comparison study.
Perhaps, yes. Though it might only affect you if you do sweat a fair amount
If a charcoal suit works only with black shoes, is the same true of charcoal odd trousers?
I think very dark brown can be OK as well – see my Michael Browne coat outfit
Hello Mr. Cromton,
I have a question for you. I am going to get bespoke suit – my first grey suit. What is your advice about first grey suit? Fabric, texture, pattern etc. I want something classic and as versatile as possible.
Thank you very much.
Could I suggest you have a look at the Guide to Suit Style for all style points (pockets, buttons etc)
And the Guide to Cloth for advice on cloth.
Both have been established gradually over the past few years as good references on questions like this. And if you have any questions that aren’t answered, please ask them in the comments on those pieces.
I, no doubt like all of your regular readers, find the Capsule Collection series of articles extremely helpful, not least because they outline a sensible and logical approach to wardrobe building with principles that can be applied across all budgets.
This may have been asked of you previously, but would you consider creating an ‘If You Only Had Five…’ post on shirt/jacket/odd trouser combinations suitable for most contemporary offices, but also bridging the smarter end of casual as well? I realise this type of advice is scattered across multiple existing articles (e.g. ‘Trouser colours to wear with odd jackets’) but I was wondering if it might be crystallised into a number of fixed combinations that could form a solid basis for a regularly rotating work wardrobe.
After all, we’re creatures of habit (or perhaps merely lazy!) and it’s easy to keep wearing the same combinations to work… and if we do – it may as well look good!
Looking forward to your future articles. Keep up the great work!
Thanks for the suggestion, and I’m pleased you find them all so helpful. Would you say the clothes in such a piece are already covered in the trouser, shirt and jacket capsule posts (though I will be doing a proper one on jackets soon)? So it’s more the combinations you’re interested in?
Hi Simon, thanks for your reply.
Yes – more the colour (and maybe to a lesser extent if we’re talking about the office, textural) combinations.
While the capsule posts on separate pieces do largely cover the approach and highlight specific examples, I personally still struggle occasionally with colour combinations that – on paper – should work, but don’t quite hit the mark… and then in retrospect I realise that I should have gotten that grey-green sports jacket with a little more green in the hue, because it’s otherwise quite difficult to pair with the trousers that I’d earmarked to wear with a muted green. Just one real-life example!
I thought that for those building a work wardrobe from scratch some staple colour combinations across shirt/trouser/jacket might help target which pieces to look at buying first (of course, this could just be me… my wife is always opining that I’m sub-clinically colour-blind!!!).
Best wishes and keep safe.
Hi Simon! How do you decide how much lining to use on each jacket?
I usually wear a suit twice a week (maximum 3 times). Because of the advantages of heavy fabrics, I would like to have 2 three-season and 2 summer suits tailored. For the summer I already know the fabrics, one high-twist wool, and one 9oz wool. Now my question, would you choose 11oz or 13oz wool for the three-season suits? I currently live in Berlin.
Nice plan. I think either would be OK, it’s not a big difference. I would go with 13oz personally, but have you worn a suit in either? Just so you get a sense of what you personally prefer
No, my suits so far are all in the 9-10oz range.
However, I noticed that I could wear long trousers and sweatshirts relatively long into the summer while everyone else around me is already wearing shorts and T-shirts.
Ultimately, the suits should be wearable from about the end of September to the beginning of May. Or up to about 20 degrees celsius.
I’d probably go for 11oz then – or at least, do that first, and see how it feels. Then you can decide on the other.
I always counsel against making too many purchases at once.
Is so much difference between 9 and 11oz?
Not a big one, but it’s gradual. There’s a significant difference between 9 and 13, for example, and 11 is halfway between in terms of feel and drape
Then I will probably try 13oz. I would like to have a noticeable difference.
Thank you very much. It is always a pleasure to visit PS. Stay healthy.
Cheers, and great to hear it
When I first read this, I was surprised to see mid grey second and charcoal third when most other lists suggest either navy or charcoal first and mid grey third. Now that I have a job requiring a suit most of the week this certainly seems the most reasonable and logical list.
Now to choose a MTM suitmaker that’ll work for my build…
Like many others, I am a fan of the grey glen check suit in the two Thomas Crown Affair films. However, I’m unsure whether such a suit fits into a capsule collection. How conservative do you consider a subtle glen check pattern? And would you describe the colour of the suit in the film as light grey or medium grey?
As someone who was obsessed with glen check suits when he started his sartorial journey, I can understand the appeal but I’m afraid they’re just not that useful. Unless it’s the kind where you can barely see the check – and then, what’s the point?
Do you really regard a glen check pattern, which can only be seen up close, as useless? I would put it in a category with semi- solid patterns like birdseye, which add depth and interest to a suit.
Personally, no I think such a faint pattern doesn’t have the attraction of a bolder PoW, or the subtle interest of a nailhead or similar
I am looking to commission a suit with Sartoria Vestrucci later this year and have been pondering whether or not to purchase two pairs of trousers.
The suit would be a navy suit and I am not sure whether or not the benefit of having two navy trousers would be beneficial as I am starting my wardrobe from scratch. The fabric will be a VBC 4-ply like your Ciardi suit.
Thank you in advance.
If you’re starting from scratch, and the suit would therefore get regular wear (say every two weeks at the least) then yes I would get two pairs of trousers.
What fabric would you choose for 5 summer business suits? All high-twist wool or also some in light worsted wool?
Mostly high twist, but it depends how you like the material and if you want some variation. Don’t plan for five now – get one or two and then see what you think
It was more a general question how to build a summer business wardrobe.
I see. Well I think try the high-twists first, and see if you would like variation in any way. A navy and a grey in that will get you a long way
Quite interested in the charcoal option you’ve described here – as I’ve commented before, I work in the entertainment industry, and suits are mostly worn to awards ceremonies rather than the office- charcoal strikes me as a nice alternative to blue for evenings in my life.
I had three questions –
1. would you consider this in a double breasted ? I am unlikely to wear this except for formal occasions , and never into the office so curious if you think it’s risky to get as a DB?
2. What materials would you advise for this? Yours appears to be flannel ? Could you share the cloth you used as it’s very attractive .
3. Yours is neopolitan but without access to neopolitan makers at the moment do you think I could get away with this with an English maker?
Thankyou as ever !
Charcoal is nice, but I wouldn’t say it’s that great for evenings or non-business attire. I’d more recommend it as a business option.
If it’s evening, how about something in black? Similar to a tuxedo, but not. For example a black flannel or superfine worsted. Both would look great. You could even have it in mohair or a mohair/wool mix. That touch of sheen is great in the evening.
But yes, charcoal could still work, would work as a DB, in flannel, and as an English cut. They’d just all add a slightly different style, for example the English cut looking a little more structured and sharp.
Thanks Simon – my thinking was to stay away from black based on the advice of your good self ! But I am absolutely up for exploring it based on your suggestion. I really like this idea !
Black is for events and for evening. Or midnight blue if you prefer, but nothing wrong with black either.
Sounds it would suit your needs well
Simon what’s that suit in the last pic?
My Ciardi in 4-ply – here
Hello simon i am not a business man and work dont work at the company so really i don’t need to wear suit by rules or something but i love tailoring and loves to wear those in this case do you have suggestion to give me?
Yes, I would suggest you dress a little more smartly, but not as smart as a suit and tie. For example, beautifully tailored trousers with a fine knit like the Dartmoor, and some finely made shoes, would elevate you immensely but not look business-like.
Or, wear a jacket but make it very soft and unstructured, such as my jackets shown here. Such that they could go with chinos and jeans, but you still enjoy the beauty of the tailoring.
It’s an area of style we write a lot about, so you will find lots of articles on here in that area. You could start by browsing the Lookbook, and clicking on any outfits you like.
Thanks simom Your reply really helped my thinking thanks for that i was thinking wearing suit very much but changed mind to wear jackets with trousers with shirts and knits and some special times wearing a suit im not that old like 30 but contemporary and modern design cloth do not inspire me so i was really struggling to solve the problem thanks for your experience
Many people say all men fit very well in a mid grey suits. I think I have to be different, because I fit very well in navy but looks pale in mid grey. 🙂 I love other people in grey suits but every time I wear it myself (both mid grey fresco and dark grey worsted wool) I feel pale and very boring like an accountant unfortunately. 🙂 Have you any tip Simon with grey suits to make them less boring, a pinhead/birdseye pattern on a mid grey perhaps?
Yes, that’s a good idea. But also, it depends what you wear with it. If you wear a pink shirt, and a tie with some colour, it will wash you a lot less than a white shirt and dark tie
I have to respectful disagree on the charcoal gray suit, my go to shoes, besides black, is shell cordovan number 8, which is a very dark brown with purplish tint, also, for a pop of color, I pair an oxblood captoe which slides it to more casual on the formality scale. My Charcoal gray suit gets worn more often than my other suits because of the range of shoe colors that can paired.
Simon, out of curiosity – have you ever seen VBC’s 18051 grey fabric? https://drapersitaly.it/us-en/collection/18051/
Would that qualify as your mid-grey mentioned as a possibility for suit two?
Yes it would – I think it might be the same as this suit?
Your suit was actually the next one along in the book, the 18052 – https://drapersitaly.it/us-en/collection/18052/ .
So the 18051 is definitely lighter than your Ciardi suit, but hopefully not too light, to the point where it is no longer suitable for the office/loses its versatility?
Enzo encouraged me to follow suit (no pun intended) on your 18052 choice, on the grounds of both formality and versatility vs 18051, but I wanted grey, so went the sample prior.
Not at all, I think that grey will be fine, and the cloth is great.
Your Ciardi, and the grey in question, above it. Does it tick the versatility and formality boxes?
Yes I think so. It will be a little lighter than a classic business suit, but I think it will work really well
Wonderful – it definitely puts my mind at ease. Your advice, as always, is greatly appreciated, Simon. Without spoiling potential future content, your new brown Ciardi jacket looks great!
Would you ever do a “next five suits” article? I’d be interested in hearing your opinions of what to add after the basics.
To be honest Scott I get very few questions about suits these days, but I can try and add something if you think it would be useful. Is there anything particular you’re considering?
That’s very disappointing to hear, but not unexpected. I’ve been simultaneously adding more advanced and casual suits (in addition to shirts and odd trousers and jackets) alongside the foundational pieces. The best move? Probably not. Fun? Yes. Once I round out all the base suits, I’ll probably play around with more patterns and textures, ie. windowpanes, pinstripes, flannels, cottons, etc.
Thanks for everything you do and here’s to a return to classic menswear!
No problem Scott. I assume you saw the post on this series on casual suits though?
Yes, another favorite! It just seems like there are a ton of resources available for the foundational aspects of wardrobe building, but once you move into that intermediate level, there is far less available. Maybe that is the point, as you should be able to think more for yourself at this point, but it’s be very interesting to hear your input.
I think it’s more that once you get beyond that point, there are loads of ideas and I’ve covered more in individual style pieces and reviews.
Eg if you select ‘Suits’ as a Category in the menu, you’ll see every post I’ve written about suits, and lots of ideas, often with a discussion of the material within them.
For the navy or grey business suit in the office, do you recommend the fabric to have a matte or sheen finish?
It’s quite personal, but in general I’d say matte. It’s certainly what I prefer, and it’s more likely to look both elegant and professional. A shiny finish can look cheap, and is often better for evening wear
Thanks that’s helpful. And is a structured (padded) with roping or unstructured (more natural) shoulder more suitable? Or is this more down to personal preference.
More personal really. Few offices would think one that much smarter than the other
Great article, as always. However, I have a quite different observation on a major point (likely due to my perspective).
I work as a business lawyer in Vienna, hence a conservative field with many formal “events” (e.g. court hearings). Here, black and charcoal for suits (with white shirts) reign supreme and other colours are rarely seen. Generally, it seems that black and charcoal are the major suit colours in Austria/Germany/Switzerland with navy blue rather less popular.
As to a normal office day, most lawyers do not wear a full suit any longer but rather blazers. However, a (black or charcoal) suit is always hanging in the office, just in case something unexpected pops up.
Thanks Markus, interesting to hear. That does happen a bit in other countries too with formal proceedings such as those in court. I think it’s because historically black was so much more common and seen as formal. A really dark charcoal though, to my eye, is always more flattering
How do you feel about a solid Charcoal Blue suit, sort of a combination between Navy and Charcoal? Is it particularly useful and does it look better on some complexions than others?
I’m not sure I can imagine that Reid. Is it just a very dark navy?
Sorry I should have posted an example of the color. This is the shade of charcoal blue I meant.
OK, thanks. TO be honest it’s hard to imagine how that’s going to look at scale – if you haven’t seen it made up as a full suit, I’d go for something more standard myself
In New York law and finance, suits remain common but the tie has become so rare that it is a real oddity in my circles. In addition to completing the business suit, it neatens the shirt by hiding the placket, perfecting the collar, and lengthening the torso, especially if you are carrying some extra Covid pounds. How do I (can I?) work a tie in with my suits without looking completely out of step with the times?
Not easy G. Do knotted ties, perhaps a navy or charcoal, work any better? Particularly when the jacket is taken off in the office, if it is
Thank you for the thoughts – I think that is the best we can do – something as far away from the old silk business tie as we can get. It is a loss.
It is indeed
As I have had made more and better suits in recent years, one thing I have noticed is I always get more compliments on my dark navy suits than any other. I also find I like them the best personally. There is a greater range of acceptable greys in business suits than navy, but with small patterns like herringbone, birdseye, sharkskin, and perhaps even a subtle glen check, one could easily have a week’s worth of suits in navy blue. What are your thoughts on this “uniform” type of dressing. What about doing it in grey (not that I would just curious for your thoughts). Thanks.
If you think navy works best for you, then go for it. Personally I’d like to have a grey or two in there for some variation, and I’m not that much of a fan of little checks or birdseyes – not that there’s anything wrong with them, but I don’t think they add that much to the suit. I’d rather vary by adding a flannel, or a particularly superfine maybe, or a design change like a peak lapel.
Hi Simon, how do the British businessmen dress today? When you’re living outside UK, I think some of us still want to believe that the Londoners buying their suits on savile row and their shoes on jermyn street. Has London become like any other city these days, like NYC, where most of the well paid bankers and lawyers are wearing italian rtw like corneliani, canali etc.
Unfortunately, most are not even wearing tailoring since Covid. But those that are are still shopping at English shops often – just not bespoke like Savile Row. That was always the preserve of the rich and famous (easy to forget) and still largely is
Which English shops?
Oh, a range that I don’t really cover – from a Marks & Spencer or a Reiss
I’d say also tm lewin and John Lewis…
My six choices (If I need six suits) would be Navy, Charcoal, Medium Gray, Silver Gray, Navy Birdseye and a Black and White Hopsack Glen Check. Because I live in Florida where it’s hot all the time, I can’t decide with the first four suits if I want to go with Plain Weave Wool or a Wool/Mohair blend.
Personally, Reid, I would try a mohair mix in one suit first before you try it with any of the others. It is a very particular look – there is a crispiness and a slight sheen, which some people think looks a little cheap, but not others. It’s quite personal.
I would consider a high-twist wool for the suits too, as that will be cool
So would you recommend something like Holland and Sherry’s Crispaire line of suiting fabrics?
Yes, I like Crispaire
Crispaire won’t work well in Florida heat and humidity. It’s not nearly as crisp or airy as advertised. Go with a true high twist or Fresco.
I think it’s important to recognise there’s always a bit of a balance between a smooth, more suit-like fabric and one that’s very crispy, almost rough, but also breathable.
Some don’t like Fresco for being too rough, some don’t like Crispaire for not breathing enough
Interesting article, Simon. I was wondering… Just curious about how many suits do you have? I remember the series “If you only has five…” So I guess five is a short number!!!
I think It would be interesting if you write an article about your wardrobe inventory. Then Im sure there are clothes which get a lot of wearing and some others that barely have.
My thing is that sometimes I have so many clothes that I keep wearing always the same ones!
I do have quite a few, I guess I have the excuse that it’s my job! But I have also given away quite a lot over the years to friends, and indeed sold some to readers. My pet peeve is waste – I hate having clothes that are not worn, and in that way loved.
I know what you mean about always wearing the same things. I’d suggest some kind of rule – eg if something doesn’t get worn for a year, you sell it on…
I was watching the funeral of the Queen today. All men was wearing black suits (what I could see). I suppose that is historically accurate? Why I am asking is because from magazines and podcasts the last years I have heard that is more accurate to wear dark navy or dark gray suit rather than a black one eve to the funeral. A man should never own a black suit etc etc. No problem for me, because I agree that navy and gray suits are more flattering, better at offices and I will never attend a funeral like the today. But historically, what is most accurate, is it a black suit?
There is no single rule or definition Steph. Practices vary in different places in the world, and have become even more varied in recent decades.
The reason men are told not to wear a black suit generally is that the colour is usually less flattering than navy or charcoal, as you allude to.
Certainly, in almost all circumstances a charcoal suit with a black tie is going to look better. But also keep in mind that at such a formal event as the Queen’s funeral, some people will be wearing black morning dress, as that is the step up in formality. It may also be that in that case a black suit is requested or recommended.
Hi Simon, your articles are so helpful, particularily the wardrobe building series!
I am currently planning to commission a suit and would really apppreciate your opinion and the opinion of other experienced readers on my thoughts. I’m 25, working as a research assistant in university and transitioning in 1 year to work in a law firm, so the work environment is informal now but will get quite formal in the future. I have a navy SB hopsack blazer, a grey SB woollen jacket with brown overcheck and a pale blue-grey SB linen jacket. Jackets get worn once or twice a week. Now I need a suit for formal events. Because I always liked the idea of a double breasted (I am very tall and quite slim), why not get one now to bridge 1) formal business meetings, 2) formal evening events and 3) wearing it with flannels as a blazer. Planned is a matte twill worsted 11oz with brown horn buttons and very simple and classic design choices apart from that, cut like your navy DB from Ferdinando Caraceni. Due to the fact, that the buttons would be slightly contrasting I think it would work as a blazer.
My budget is limited and I would rather buy less and better quality than to split the budget into multiple purchases. Do you think that I could make use of this suit/jacket in all three categories? Or do you have any other recommendations to also make it work as a blazer? I am thankful for every bit of advice.
I know it’s not what you want to hear Julian, but I would just get a single breasted navy suit. There’s too much risk with trying to make it a jacket too that you don’t like it as either, and you don’t have the budget to make mistakes like that. Equally with the DB – I know they’re great, but you can get one later. If you’re going to work at a law firm you’ll want to be conservative and it’s the only one you have
Much will depend on the law firm.
I am an in-house lawyer who worked in a City firm in private practice and now instructs a number of city firms.
As a trainee, I would wear single-breasted suits only, in a solid charcoal or mid-gray or navy. Worsted wool. You want something you can wear to a client meeting or court. I v seldom see anyone expect a handful of partners in DB suits.
Odd jackets just aren’t something I see city lawyers wearing much. I’m wearing a tweed jacket today but (a) I’m in house, older, and more experienced, and (b) it’s Friday.
Branch out once you get a feel for the place.
Nice advice John
Thank you John, much appreciated.
That is exactly what I feared. I will take the safe road.
A navy suit for spring summer that needs to work both office and dinner. Could wool/silk/linen suit in navy be a good choice? My local tailor recommended this for me, but I’m not sure I have seen it in irl. Fresco/high twist wool was my first thought before I spoke with my tailor. My plan is to made the suit a touch more casual than my other with patch pockets.
Wool/silk/linen can be a little delicate for a suit. I’d recommend the fresco or high twist probably
Ok thanks. By the way, is it any suit for summer you could wear the jacket as a blazer to odd trousers? Will that look ok with fresco? I know the most people, and certainly you, will say big no no. The thing is though, in my situation, I don’t have so many suits och jackets yet and I have made a decision to buy the best I can afford at the moment, a mtm brand you have recommended. But I will buy one jacket, one suit or I coat per year at the moment to slowly build up my wardrobe. As many other men I know, I have a better winter wardrobe than summer, and for now I honestly don’t have any suits or jackets made for summer at all.
It is a hard thing to do, but it can work with some heavier hopsacks. I’d look at those perhaps if you want to aim for that versatility – fresco is a little tighter and sharper, harder for a jacket