How to Buy a Men's Suit

Men's suits are, by far, one of the most complicated garments to purchase. While most men prefer to simply buy their clothing straight from the rack and go about their day, buying a suit is rarely that simple. To end up with a high-quality suit that will last for years to come, it is important to understand that you will most likely need to budget in a visit to the tailor in order to get the best fit possible.

Aside from the fit, it is also important to consider style, color, pattern and fabric when choosing a suit. This buying guide will take you through the entire process of selecting a suit that will make you look and feel your best.


Choose the Fabric

The fabric choice depends largely on the occasion. For almost every occasion, wool is the preferred choice. It is the most breathable and comfortable fabric, and it also holds its shape better than other materials. Designer suits are almost always constructed from wool.

A less expensive option is polyester. Polyester does not breathe as well and tends to be more constrictive than wool, but it is available for those with a more restricted budget.

Finally, linen suits are also available. They are lightweight and casual, which means they are really only appropriate for specific occasions and climates. While they are extremely comfortable and breathable, they also wrinkle very easily.


Choose the Color

For most men, a solid or lightly pinstriped navy suit is ideal. If this is your first suit, start with navy because it is the most versatile color. Black suits are more formal, while beige or earth-toned suits are more casual.

Unless you are specifically asked to wear a patterned suit, it is best to stick with solids or very light pinstripes. These looks are timeless and appropriate for any occasion.


Find the Right Jacket

Once you have decided on fabric, move on to finding a jacket with the best fit possible. Chances are that you will still need a few alterations to create the perfect fit, but it is best to take your time and try on several brands and styles of jacket to minimize the cost of alterations.

Remember that suit jackets should not be uncomfortable.

First, choose your style. Single-breasted suits are the most common and have only a single row of buttons down the jacket. These are best for all but the most formal of occasions, in which case you would be better off choosing a double-breasted suit jacket.

Choosing the number of buttons is important as well. You have three options:

  • One-button - This is an edgier, less formal style.
  • Two-button - This is the most classic style and typically the most comfortable.
  • Three-button - This is a more contemporary take on the two-button. It is dressier than a one-button, yet still makes a statement.

Once you have decided on style, it is time to advance to fit.

Fit is the most critical aspect of buying a suit. Tailors are limited in the alterations they can make, so it is vital that you purchase an off-the-rack jacket with the best fit available.

First, check the length of the shoulder seams on each jacket you try on. An appropriate shoulder seam is one that is the same length as your shoulder bone. A seam that is too short will cause wrinkling and restrict your range of motion, while a seam that is too long will make the jacket look baggy and bunched up. Shoulder adjustments are difficult for tailors to make, so be sure to get this measurement as close as you can.

Next, check for sleeve length and hem length. The sleeves should stop near the large bone in your wrist, which will typically leave just a bit of your shirt sleeve exposed. If this cannot be found without alteration, it is best to purchase a jacket with extra sleeve length. The hem of your jacket should cover most of your rear without puckering.

Finally, check the closure by buttoning the top button. There should not be any tugging or rippling along the front of the jacket, and the collar should lay flat and close to your shirt collar.


Select Your Trousers

The fit of your trousers is just as important as your jacket.

First, remember that suit pants are intended to be worn at your natural waist rather than below it like most other styles of pants.

Suit pants should always have a cuff to give you a more polished look. If you find a great pair of trousers without a cuff, a tailor can easily add them. When shopping for suit pants, keep these terms in mind:

  • Slight break – The "break" is the crease made when the pant leg meets the top of your shoe. A slight break works best for short men, as this length stops slightly above the traditional mid-heel length.
  • Medium break – This is the traditional length that the majority of men prefer. A medium break stops the trouser cuff midway down the heel of your shoe.
  • Full break – A full break should only be worn by tall men, as it can causing too much bunching otherwise.

To allow for the best trouser leg fit, pants should be tried on while wearing the dress shoes you'll be wearing with the suit.

Another aspect to consider is the seat of your pants. Comfortable, well-fitted suit pants should drape smoothly over your rear without any wrinkling or sagging. A tailor can take in the seat of your trousers fairly easily, so it is better to err on the side of too loose rather than too tight if you are having trouble finding a good fit.

Once you have the right jacket and trousers, all that's left is to add personal touches like a belt, tie and handkerchief. With this suit guide in hand, you will be sure to leave the store with the sharpest, most comfortable suit you've ever owned.