- Nov 18, 2008
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In an effort to avoid actually getting down to real work, and because I wanted practise writing a journalistic article before I have to write one that counts for something I have written a guide to buying a first suit based on stuff read here on the forum, from flusser and so on, the picture is mildly edited from wikipedia. Given the volume of complaints a request for help on a new suit causes, and the frequency with which people ask why not just get something permanent done? I am sure there are flaws in what I have written so if more experienced suit buyers could edit it then maybe the SF first suit guide could be made up and then you could go back to discussing the more elevated topics like drape and a 2.5 roll? It is a bit too long, anyway: Buying your first suit. A good suit treated well can last for years, so it is important to choose a classic design that is not overly influenced by any trends which are likely to change, probably several times before your suit wears out. A classic design will also be versatile and should see you through interviews, work and social functions. Whilst it can be tempting to go for a more interesting design this is best saved till after you have bought and worn a classic suit which can be made more interesting or exciting with well chosen accessories. Style: The design of classic suit has stayed fairly constant for many years, some things do change but many of the elements have remained the same since the 1920s. You should look for a single breasted suit, ie one that has only a single column of buttons on the front to do it up, with either two or three buttons. The suit should have notch lapels, and the lapels should not be too extreme, either very wide or narrow, the left lapel should have buttonhole (ideally a simple ****, not a keyhole shape, but this does not matter too much).There should be a breast pocket, plus a pocket on each side of the jacket, sometimes there will be a third smaller pocket above one of them, this is called a ticket pocket and is associated with the English suit tradition. Pockets on suits generally come in three styles, flapless which is the most formal, flap pockets which are the standard for suits and patch pockets, sometimes flap pockets are at an angle, in which case it is called a hacking pocket. A flap pocket is probably best, and patch or hacking should be left for more casual jackets. The sleeves should have three or ideally four buttons on the cuff. The back of the jacket can either be vent less, or have one or two vents. Vents are simply slits in the fabric that allow you to move with greater ease, or sit without pulling at the jacket. Vent less is the most formal of the three, and is considered the most elegant, but is best saved for black tie as it can be the sign of a cheaply made suit. A single, or centre vent is the most casual and has the disadvantage that if you put your hands in your trouser pockets the jackets vent will be pulled open rather inelegantly, it is however associated with a classic American style. In Europe single vents are often found on more fashion forward and cheaply made suits. Two vents are called dual or side vents, this style is considered between the other two styles in formality and is sometimes associated with a more English suit style, it has the advantage that it does not pull open like a single vent when you put your hands in your pocket. The trousers can be flat fronted or pleated, either is fine although the flat fronted style is generally thought to suit the slim man, and the pleated style the more well rounded. Whilst some of these features may seem silly they are part of the classic suit and also checking for them is a simple way of checking the quality of a suit, if the suit is missing some of these features the chances are other corners have been cut in its making. Fabric: You should aim for a 100% wool suit in a plain navy blue or charcoal grey, this will be more expensive than a suit made with synthetics but will last longer and be more comfortable to wear; synthetics suits tend to quickly become hot and sweaty, yet do not provide any warmth in colder weather. The reason navy blue or charcoal are preferable to other colours such as black is that they flatter a broader range of complexions and more easily match common shirt and tie colours, many more conservative dressers say that you should not wear a black suit in the day except to go to a funeral. Cheaper black fabric also tends to look cheap in strong light, whilst navy or charcoal fabric of the same cost will tend to look more expensive. Fabric is measured in "weights" and ideally you should get a mid weight suit that you will be able to wear all year round. The fabric should not feel rough or abrasive to the touch and if you lightly crumple it in one hand and then release it should not remain creased. Fit: The fit is probably the most important part of the suit, in fact it is often better to get a slightly cheaper suit that fits better than a more expensive one that dosn't. A badly fitted suit will look cheap no matter how much you spent on it, if it is too large you will look like a child playing "dress-up" and if it is too small you risk looking ridiculous. Certain things can be altered by a tailor, and often you will have to get a suit altered to get the perfect fit but it should only be simple things like shortening the sleeves a bit or taking in the body by an inch or so. The collar of the suit should fit so that the suit does not crumple or scrunch up behind your neck. The shoulders should fit so that the shoulder pads end just over your shoulder, there should not be a bump where your shoulder ends and the shoulder pad keeps going. If you are not sure you can simply reach with one arm and feel for yourself at the top of where the jacket sleeve meets the shoulder. It is very hard to adjust the shoulders of a jacket, so if they don't fit don't get the suit. You should be able to slide your hand flat under the lapels of your jacket with the middle button done up (or top on a two button) without the fabric pulling at the button much, if you can't the suit is too tight. If you try to slid your fist the fabric should pull at the button, if it does not the suit is too large. The suit can be reduced here, but not by a great deal, it almost certainly can not be made larger by a significant amount. The jacket should cover your backside, but not by more than a couple of inches. The length of the jacket can easily be changed so if it is too long or short do not get it. The sleeves should come to just below your wrist bone, shortening a sleeve is easy to get done by a tailor or even a good quality dry cleaner. You will probably have to have this done as many jackets are deliberately designed with longer sleeves than are necessary. The suits trousers should not be too baggy and should either just rest on the top of your shoe or rest with an inch or so to spare.