Every man should own a suit – it underpins the formal part of your wardrobe and can serve you well at job interviews, help you pull a bridesmaid and cover you for those events where jeans and tucked in shirt just don’t cut it!
In an ideal world we’d have all the dosh to get properly fitted with a suit – insuring the perfect fit and style. Ever ready go to that extra mile for Civvy Street’s readers, I recently was fitted for a new suit by online-based tailors A Suit That Fits.Com – and they also let me in on a few tips about what to look out for – whether you’re hiring or buying off the peg on the high street.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Fabric is crucial. A 100% wool suit is ideal since it’s natural, breathes well and looks the business. Brett, a tailor from A Suit That Fits advises: “If you’re on a budget go for something in plain wool. It’s got good all round use and starts at £160 for a two piece with us.”
Despite suggestions from some colleagues to go for bright red, I plump for a classic chocolate brown. “Brown in town is always a good thing,” Brett agrees. Well it rhymes, so it must be true! The lining presents a few more difficulties. I don’t want to look like either a game show host or a tree, so green’s out, as is duck-egg blue – too Queen Mother (God rest her) – and turquoise (too minty).
The final choice is between a paisley pattern (too “busy”), dusty pink and a sky blue. I like the pink but I’m drawn to the blue. “You should always go with your first gut instinct with these things,” says Brett. “With lining you need to be flamboyant or subtle and not land in-between.” So blue it is then.
Single or double breasted? Contrary to remembered tradition Brett insists that double-breasted on slimmer people can work very well and looks good. “It’s not just for the slightly bigger guys; in fact in most cases it’s a trend: slightly shorter jacket, quite fitted, slim trousers can look amazing,” he says. In a moment of Jeeves-like advice, however, he advises me to go single-breasted. “You wouldn’t wear double breasted to everything,” he explains. “You could wear your single breasted jacket on occasion with jeans and brown shoes, or cords. Keep it useful.”
Collar: “A good look is a peak collar,” says Brett. “Slightly more trendy at the moment and good on single breasted. It’s traditional on double breasted. A peak collar is a pointed collar. A notched collar has a cutaway edge. It’s really smart on every suit. Keep it plain, not too much hand stitching on the peak- it can look a bit too much.”
Buttons: “Probably two for winter,” according to Brett. “You tend to wear more with a suit at that time of year (such as an overcoat). You could wear a scarf and tuck it in, for example.”
Buttons on cuff: Brett suggests that three or four is standard. “To me if you put two on the cuff it looks as if the others have fallen off,” he says. “Unless you see that one is working, two ordinary ones just look like you haven’t sewn the missing ones back on. Not a good look.”
Single or double vent? “Single gives a nice slim profile at the back,” says Brett. “If you have a fitted jacket and a double vent it might become a bit dovetailed. It opens up on the sides of your ‘seat’. Most of the suits in the UK are double simply because of the horse riding traditions. Not too many people ride horses in jackets these days!”
Waist: In the great tradition of British tailoring this sensitive measurement is taken in unbreakable silence. My suggestion is that your trousers are the right size if you can slide two fingers into the waist and still feel comfortable. If you can adjust your janglies without anyone noticing your waist measurement is too big. It’s not a ‘nice’ habit to get into anyway!
With the suit itself sorted, I asked Brett for his views on wearing peanut butters (brown tan shoes) with black or grey suits. “I don’t like that look,” he admits. “It looks strange. Black shoes with black or grey suits and chocolate brown or tan shoes with brown suits.”
My own experience tells me that, when it comes to ties, plain is a safe, smart bet – comedy ties are an invitation for people to consider you an idiot!
Even if cash is tight, this may be a good time to buy a more expensive suit. After all, if it becomes everyday wear for work, it’s going to wear out, sooner or later. Cheap suits wear out faster, so in the long run it may be more economical to purchase a good suit that will stand more punishment. As my mum used to say: “Buy cheap; buy twice!”
A Suit That Fits.com offers a fully online guide to measuring yourself for a suit. “Some get it right and some get it a little bit wrong,” Brett sights. “Some get it so far out that you think – what did you measure? For the most part it’s fine, though. About 30% of our business is online. A lot of our customers will get measured initially and just carry on with an online profile after that; nice and easy.”
Suddenly all of the mystery behind the process has been eradicated, although the fun is still there. Selecting the details is part of the magic of having a suit made to measure. Having an expert on hand, though, is really useful!
Just before we parted company, though, Brett said something that really bothered me, being the owner of a wardrobe bulging with unloved gear. “Most men tend to buy too much clothing,” he said. “They don’t buy the necessary bits, like a good leather jacket, a good pair of jeans, a good pair of boots, a good pair of black shoes and a good pair of brown shoes and a couple of white shirts. That’s all you need if you mix and match it. A couple of big scarves, a couple of styles of hat and you’re absolutely sorted for the whole year but most men tend to buy a million things but don’t wear any of it because they don’t know how to put it together. That’s the problem.”
It doesn’t rhyme but it does make a lot of sense!
JUST THE JOB
Andy Beatie of Slaters explains a package offered through the JobCentre designed to help you look your best at interview.
“When someone signs on they are given an advisor who organises half a dozen interviews for them. The JobCentre sends them to us safe in the knowledge that they’ll be handled properly – they won’t send them to interview without a complete package which consists of a suit, shirt, tie and shoes. They come in all shapes and sizes, so we have the facility to tailor-make the suit for that individual, so that he represents himself in the best possible light.”