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Quick Guide to Buying a Suit

Updated on November 8, 2012
With so many options, how do buy a suit with confidence?
With so many options, how do buy a suit with confidence? | Source

No man should be without a nice fitting suit. Men's suits are one of the most essential pieces to the male wardrobe. Even if you do not plan on wearing a suit on a regular basis, you never know when you may need to dress for a formal occasion, and one well-made suit can last for a lifetime.

But in today’s “business-casual” environment, few men actually know how to buy a suit. With a little help from this quick reference guide to buying a suit, you will be “dressed to the nines” in no time.

Keep it simple

If you are purchasing your first suite, or have no idea why you purchased the suit you do have in your closet, keep everything simple.

Search online for clips of “Mad Men” episodes. Their costume designers have been praised for their timeless fashion styles for men’s suits. If you follow their style, you will defiantly choose an appropriate suit.

As long as you remember to keep your suits simple and plain, you will always be portrayed as a classic and sharp dresser. There are plenty of other ways to add your own personality to your suit.


One of the biggest determinates in the price of a suit is the cloth material. As a general rule of thumb, natural fabrics like wool will be more expensive than synthetic materials.

Thoughts of purchasing an extremely cheap synthetic material suit should be reconsidered. These suits can wrinkle easily and may not withstand the test of time.

Worsted wool is the ideal suit material for someone who plans on wearing one or two suits the rest of his life. Worsted wool is durable and is breathable so it can be worn year round.

To cut costs with worsted wool suits, look for a material made from 60-80 “twists” instead of the very expensive 100+ “twists.” The twist number represents how many times the yarn in the suit is twisted.

Polyester and wool blends will offer a buyer high performance at less cost.

Stay away from linens and heavy wools. You will not be able to wear them year-round and they could become a wrinkled mess in seconds.

Colors and patterns

There are a variety of colors and shades of colors for men’s suits. For your first, or primary suit, choose a black or charcoal color.

Blacks and charcoals are acceptable at any type of function and can be paired with a variety of colors and patterns.

Navy blues, light grays and browns are all excellent suit choices, but don’t make the mistake of buying one of the colors for your first. Because they cannot be worn in all seasons and occasions, a secondary suit may need purchased not too far down the road.

Start with a classic black or charcoal and work your way up to different colors once your taste and desires for different suits increase.

The two most popular patterns are plain and pinstripe. To have more options when dressing, pick a pattern that is opposite most of your dress shirts. If your closet has a bunch of stripes, the pick a plain suit pattern.

Suit Poll

What is your favorite suit color?

See results

Suit details

There are many different details in the cut and style of a suit. Many of them are considered formal, while others may be on the cutting edge of men’s fashion. Sticking with these selections will be a safe bet:

  • Cut: Stay with a single-breasted suit. Double-breasted suits wrap over to the other side of your body and are generally considered more formal. Most suits you see on men are single-breasted.
  • Collar, arms and sleeves: All three of these fits should show part of the shirt underneath a suit. The color should not pull on the neck and should sit about a quarter-inch below the dress shirt. Sleeves should break at the wrists and reveal about a half-inch of the dress shirtsleeve.
  • Lapel: Suit lapels come in different notches. Keep it simple here. High and low notch lapels are fine, just make sure they fit snugly on your chest and do not bunch or pull.
  • Buttons: Choose a two-button jacket. A two-button looks good on all shapes and sizes and common on today’s suits. Never go with three-button; it is an outdated look.
  • Pant pleats: Flat-front pants are now the most acceptable style among men. Stick with no pleats and pray they don’t fall out of style in the next decade.

Where to buy

Now that you know how to determine the right suit for you, where should you purchase your suit?

If you ask someone who wears a suit daily, they will tell you that a local boutique or tailor is the best choice. Make no mistake about it, having a preferred boutique is amazing. They will know the right size, right colors and probably even remember your name every time you enter the store. But they will be expensive.

Your best bet for one of your first suits is to buy from a big box store like Men’s Warehouse or other retailer.

Also, look for discounts and deals from these stores. Joseph A. Banks sometimes offers buy-one-get-two-free deals on suits.

Designer suit brands

Guicci - $$$
Ralph Lauren - $$
J. Crew - $
Prada - $$$
Brooks Brothers - $$
Banana Republic - $
Yves Saint-Laurent - $$$
Joseph A. Banks - $$
Marc Anthony - $

GQ shows how to buy a suit


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