In life you’ll have many firsts. The first car, the first date, the first girlfriend, and many more. First this, first that.
Later on, there’ll come the more intimidating stuff, the first job interview – and the first suit that you’ll decide to wear for this potential life-changing event.
There’s so much on the line, so much that can go wrong. You probably get nervous even thinking (back) about it.
However, don’t worry too much about it – relax!
With the right set of rules in the back of your mind, it isn’t too hard actually. With this article in hand, this guide to buying the first suit, you’ll be just fine. Lean back, take a few minutes out of your schedule, absorb this knowledge and you won’t end up messing up at all.
The Fit, The Function and The Fabric
These terms aren’t known by everyone, but if you know them already, that’s a very good start. Without knowing these, you’re left a bit in the dark when it comes to purchasing men’s clothing – and especially when it comes to suits. Every item that you include in your wardrobe just has to fit, feel and look right – and of course serve the right purposes, if you want to look stylish at all times.
Factor 1 – The Fit
Nail the fit, and you have come far in choosing the first suit for yourself. That very much goes for all clothing, but especially when it comes to suits – if it doesn’t fit – don’t wear it. You can’t just rely on the standard S, M, L or XL sizes that are predetermined in stores. There are multiple aspects of the fit. A suit is by definition a combination of a jacket and a pair of trousers that is crafted from the exact same fabric.
The shoulder fit of the Suit Jacket
The jacket should sit snuck to your shoulders, without coming in by an inch, or going beyond an inch of the shoulder points. No distinct “bumps” should be visible on the shoulder area because that would indicate that the jacket might be damaged (or just doesn’t fit to your shoulders well enough).
The Suit Jacket Torso Fit
Just as important as the fit of the shoulder is the one around the torso. To test for whether the jacket is too loose or too tight when buttoned up, look for these details:
- A dreaded “X” which means the midsection sticks very closely to your body = too tight
- Enough room to squeeze in a full fist inside the jacket comfortably = too loose
If you have checked for this, the next step is to make the suit jacket fit, so it matches your proportions perfectly.
The Overall Length of a Suit Jacket
To check if you have the right length, stand straight and keep both arms to your sides. Next up, measure the length of the suit jacket and make sure that it reaches to about the knuckle of your thumb. Thereafter, make sure that it covers the bottom part of the buttocks. Gents that are below 180 cm should be careful though as to not to wear a super long suit jacket that extends way beyond the buttocks area. If you choose to do it anyway, then you’ll be looking shorter. You’ll want to focus on your sleeves in particular, as you’d want them to reach down to your wrist-bones.
The Collar Fit of your Suit Jacket
Next up, let’s look at the collars. They should be sitting far off your neck, not like you’re being choked to death. Why is that? The fact that the suit jacket is already your second layer at the top should be giving you the wink that tells you that there should be some allowance, unless you want to risk ending up looking stiff or uncomfortable in your suit jacket.
The Sleeve Pitch of your Suit Jacket
You may be asking yourself now what a sleeve pitch actually is. This is what this article is for, among others. The sleeve pitch refers to the angle that the sleeves are attached to, based on your posture and neutral arm position. If you happen to be someone with a great posture, then opt for “X3” or a low sleeve pitch that has the shoulder shift toward the back.
If your posture tends to be more forward-curved, then opt for “X2”, which shifts the shoulder toward the front. You’ve got to stand perpendicular to a full-sized mirror – and see where your arms naturally rest – to figure out the right sleeve pitch.
The Waist Fit of your Trousers
The main issue of the fit of trousers usually lays in the waist area. Don’t underestimate this area when it comes to measuring your waistline precisely. Most of the trousers you’re buying can in fact be brought in or let out by an inch and a half. Just don’t push it any further either way, as it will make the pants look funny on you. A larger waist can cause excess material around the buttocks – making it seem like you’re wearing a diaper beneath (not that pleasant of a look, eh?) – while a tighter waists can lead to ripping your pants the next time you’re rushing to the office.
The Break of your Trousers
This part really depends on your personal preferences. If you prefer your trousers with no break, quarter-break, full-break of half-break is really up to your own style choice. What really matter is that you end up making a conscious choice based on what best works for you, taking your unique situation into account.
Factor 2 – The Function
Since you are buying your first suit, you don’t only have to make sure that it fits you properly, but it also has to represent you in the best possible way, even before you start talking. For you that means having a solid take on the true purpose of your suit.
Are you going to be using the suit for a job interview? Or perhaps you’ll be wearing it to an event hosted by your college? Maybe a lunch meeting? Whichever your need is, your aim should be to have a suit that fulfills that need. A suit that displays your seriousness, trustworthiness, and readiness to work.
The Suit Pattern and Color
Stick to a classic and more conservative business suit. That’s the least likely suit choice likely to fail for your very first suit. You’d also want it to be a solid Navy or Charcoal Grey, because these colours go with most shirts and shoes. This type of suit is perfect if you want to look presentable, but not too flashy or attention-seeking. Besides that, you’ll have no trouble adding a more brighter coloured tie or pocket square, if you want to further sharpen your style, while wearing either colour.
- Choose charcoal grey if you’re a guy who looks obviously young (so that you’ll come off as more mature)
- Choose navy if you’re an older guy who could benefit from appearing younger
A standard suit jacket has three pockets: a breast pocket on the upper left-hand side and two flap pockets at the bottom on either side of the front. That’s it. Don’t buy a suit if the jacket has any additional casual pockets like:
- A ticket pocket or extra pocket at the front bottom (left- or right-hand side)
- Patch pockets (sewn on top of the jacket; predominantly found on sports jackets)
The Suit Buttons
You’ll want to give the choice between the 3 button- and 2 button-suit jacket a good choice. Here’s how they differ from each other:
- The 3-button jacket is great if you’re in shape and you want something more formal (note that you can button the top two buttons – the first one is optional while the middle one is a must; the lowest button should never be buttoned)
- The 2-button jacket is better if you have an average build since the “V” formation goes down lower than the 3-button jacket (which can match your proportions more easily)
The choice of material for the buttons are many, but a good idea would be to avoid gold or brass buttons. Why? They simply create too much contrast to the fabric, and that might just attract too much unnecessary attention.
The Suit Lapel
We’d suggest you to opt for a notch lapel, since this is the most classic type of lapels that will work perfectly for your first suit.
The Back of the Suit Jacket
There are 3 choices when it comes to back vents; no vent, single vent or double vent. The double vent is probably the most versatile one of them all, so for a first suit, this is a good option to opt for, as it gives you the most flattering silhouette (especially when you’re walking).
Factor 3 – The Fabric
Here you may find yourself thinking; is the fabric actually that big of a deal? Compared to the two main factors fit and function, this is preferably the least important one, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to know the different types of suit fabrics there is to be had on the market. A great suit shouldn’t just have all the right features and complement your body shape. It should look and feel like it’s produced from a high-quality fabric and stitching.
It’s not necessary to choose an expensive fabric when getting your first suit. Opt for a reasonably priced one instead and you’ll have made a safe choice. That doesn’t blow people off the chairs for neither your top quality look, nor will it make you look cheap.
Here are some of the fabrics to pick from:
- Wool: this comprises the majority of fabrics for suits. It’s easy to spin and weave wool into many different cloth types – ranging from heavy and wiry tweeds to light and fine-napped tropical suits.
- Cotton: it makes for an excellent suit if the fabric is carefully selected. So if you’ve got a tight budget, consider getting a high-quality cotton suit instead of an average-quality wool suit for the same price – since the cotton suit will have more value for money.
- Silk: this material feels lighter and more comfortable than a water-absorbing cotton or heavier wool. It’s more popular with businessmen in Asia and the Middle East (regions where silk is rather abundant).
- Linen: it’s more expensive but has the ability to be woven loosely for a super light, breezy fabric. The downside is it tends to billow instead of draping close to the body.
- Artificial Fibres/Synthetics
Factor 4 – Finding a good Tailor
The fit, the function and the fabric of the suit is about 70% of the work when chasing for your first suit. What makes up for the remaining 30% is the making of the suit – time to find a good Tailor. If you’re reading this blog, good chances are that we either already are your preferred Tailor, or potentially could become. Trust a good Tailor like us with the work, and we’ll make sure that your suit fits according to the desired function, with the right fabric.
Factor 5 – The Correct Choice of Your Dress Shirt
Wearing a jacket and a pair of trousers of the same material is getting you far in the world, but you need to pair it with other garments to round off the look. To achieve that, you should also consider choosing the right dress shirt for yourself. Here some criteria to follow when shopping for a dress shirt.
The Dress Shirt: The Color and the Pattern
You’ll want to play it safe for your first suit ensemble. Let the color be either white or light blue for your first ten dress shirts. Why? Because these two are generally accepted as very formal shirt colours. They can also be paired with a wide range of ties and other accessories.
Think that’s too boring? Feel free to mix it up when it comes to the patterns of your light blue shirts. A herringbone and a set of repeating small white dots are some options. Neither of those types would steal much attention from the actual suit you’re wearing – unlike bright-coloured or floral patterns (which are better for those already working in creative industries).
The Dress Shirt: The Collar
Whether you choose a spread collar or point collar, the real task is checking that it fits you well. This is one detail that doesn’t have to be 100% correct since your jacket will cover it up. But the more spread-out the collar is, the more it’ll help to use a large necktie knot. There should also be no buttons on the collar points (which normally indicate the shirt is casual).
The Dress Shirt: The Cuffs
Your best bet is to select barrel cuffs – the kind that has a single button and folds over on itself – for the dress shirt. That’s simply because the double cuff (a.k.a. French cuffs) will be more of a hassle. You’ll need cufflinks to hold them together and cufflinks tend to be quite showy.
The Dress Shirt: The Pockets
There’s no specific rule about pocket vs. no pocket for the shirt. It’s pretty much your own call to make depending on if you actually need it for functional purposes or not. Generally, it looks better without you trying to stuff your phone or your money down there.
Factor 6 – Neckties
Compared to the rest of the clothing items, you’ll have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing your necktie. There’s so much variety available but I’d advise you to stick with darker conservative colours (burgundy, purple, dark blues) with or without repetitive small patterns.
Factor 7 – Dress Shoes & Socks
Every suit needs the right dress shoes and socks to partner with. You don’t just wear them to look complete, but to look completely sharp instead.
If your shoes and socks don’t have the same level of style as your suit, that can end up being an eyesore. Your time and efforts go to waste if the guy who’s interviewing you gets distracted by your decision to wear red basketball shoes plus white sports socks – instead of hearing your answers.
Instead limit your choices to black, dark brown, and oxblood dress shoes which are closed-laced (where the front of the shoe is fixed on top of the back part). There’s ideally no brouging or stitching except for brouging along the cap toe. That’s the formula of conservative leather footwear.
Your socks don’t require as much thinking. Just stay away from anything too bright or faded or with holes. Black, dark green or maroon socks work just fine. But if you’re interviewing for a not-so-conservative company in a not-so-strict office environment, you can afford to show a little more personality with a color like tan or red. That won’t be too risky anyway.
There you have it. All that info should suffice for any first-timer to the game of suiting up. Yes – the whole thing is sort of a game. You’ve got rules to follow, a number of tasks to accomplish…and you either win or lose.
Who’s your opponent? Anyone in the real world with some power to influence your professional life (or even your personal life). Whether it’s a job interview, a company-wide event or a blind date at a fancy restaurant, first impressions are everything. Your suit can gain people’s favour or drive them away in a span of seconds. So make them like you – and win. Good luck!