So many times I have been asked ‘what is the first suit I should buy?’. My answer is almost universally the same thing: a solid navy or grey suit. But the answer does not stop there, there really is much more to it. To best help you guys get the best suit you can, I’d like to share some advice on how to buy your first suit. In an effort to be somewhat concise (and keep the video under 20 minutes), I’ve boiled the list of tips down to seven. However, many of these tips are equally applicable to your eleventh suit, not just your first.
First things first, yes, you do need a suit. Even if you are only going to have to wear one once a year (or even less), you need a suit. You never know when you will have a dinner, wedding, funeral, court date or other event to attend that will require you to wear a suit. It’s best to be prepared.
As many of you know, I prefer to go custom/made to measure when it comes to suits. Although I realize that for some guys off the rack may be preferable for any number of reasons. Speaking of, each of the three suits featured in this post are made to measure from Oliver Wicks (link).
I remember when I went to buy my first suit by myself. Like so many misguided college students (and men in general), I found myself at Jos A. Bank. At the time, I was getting ready to interview with each of the Big Four accounting firms it would have been inappropriate to show up in anything less than a suit for the occasion. Looking back on those times, I can say with strong confidence that I looked terrible in the suits and that I feel bad for the interviewers who had to look at me in those suits from the other side of the table.
Now, at the time of that fateful visit to Jos A. Bank, I arrived armed with very little knowledge about how to shop for a suit, how a suit should fit and what I should be looking for in my first suit. Foolishly, I took the advice of the salesman and in-house tailor. Lesson learned. That was the last time I ever let something like that happen. To make sure you guys don’t make the same mistakes I did; let’s talk about some of the do’s and don’ts of buying your first suit. Again, many of these tips can be applied to any suit you buy.
- Fit is king. If the suit doesn’t fit well, your whole look will be ruined. Fit around the shoulders is key, it is a area that cannot be altered. A $5,000 suit made in the nicest fabric that money can buy that does not fit well will always look worse than a $500 suit made in a cheap fabric that does fit well. If you have to spend a few extra dollars on a tailor for alterations, do it. Those extra dollars may take the suit from mediocre to great.
- Buy the best that you can afford but don’t spend more just to spend more. In other words, spend more but do it wisely. For instance, if it costs an extra $75 to have a suit half or full canvassed as opposed to fused, that would be a wisely spent $75.
- Stick with the basic colors. Yes, solid navy and dark grey can get boring. But they also provide an ideal template to build off of. They go with most complexions and can be matched with almost any color of shoe, shirt and tie. Not to mention, they are almost never out of place. If you want something a little more adventurous but still relatively conservative and flexible, I have found that a slightly lighter than navy suit, such as the one featured in this post, can be an excellent option for a first suit.
- Keep the details simple. Some suit formations that have stood the test of time; a notch or peak lapel with two buttons (notch would be best for most guys) or maybe a 3 roll 2 notch lapel jacket. But stay away from the more rare or odd combinations like peak lapel with three buttons, a one button jacket and patch pockets. The general idea is that the more classic the combination, the easier it will be to wear the suit through changing tastes in style and the easier it will be to pair the suit with a wider variety of shirts, shoes and ties. This is about maximizing the utility of a single suit.
- Beware of the trends of the time. Primarily the extremes in proportions like super skinny or super wide lapels or super short jackets that designers and brands play with in order to create something ‘new’ or ‘fashionable’. When the proportions are played with, too much focus can be drawn away from the wearer’s face and toward the oddities of the suit. When done tastefully, a little of this can be a good thing. But too much of it ruins a look. For instance, my shoulders are 18″ wide. Any lapel less than 3″ looks too thin on the jacket and it does not correctly frame my torso and face.
- Keep the fabric simple. Generally speaking, a worsted wool is the offend nobody fabric. It can be worn year round and in almost all settings. If you live is a climate that is warm year round like Florida or much of the southwest, perhaps some type of wool/silk or wool/cotton blend may work well for you; but it would be less formal than an all wool fabric. If you really want a pattern, a nailhead fabric could be a good option, it is still formal but has a subtle pattern. I would recommend avoiding more noticeable patterns like windowpanes, checks and pinstripes for a first, or even second, suit.
- No black. Unless your job requires you to have a black suit (ie you are a waiter or in some realm of the hospitality industry), it is best to steer clear of black suits; especially solid black suits. They flatter far less men then a grey or navy suit and in many settings, can be deemed inappropriate. I could go on about this one, but I will save it for another day.
So we’ve covered a few best practices on how to buy your first suit, now let’s put them into action. When first talking with Oliver Wicks about doing this post, we discussed doing a post along the lines of ‘3 Suits a Man Should Own’, but I think it is more useful to talk about how to buy your first suit. So each of the three suits featured could function as a first suit. Each of the three suits is pretty simple, maybe a fun detail or two on each suit, but they are mostly simple suits. They are also quite practical and flexible, by that I mean they can be dressed up or dressed down and worn across any season. They also do not have stand out details like aggressive patterns or fabric types. So you can easily wear the same suit a number of different ways, which I think is important for a first suit, or if you only plan to have one suit.
First, let’s talk about the slightly lighter than navy suit (Oliver Wicks doesn’t have that same fabric anymore, but this royal blue (link) is something similar in color). All else equal, it is less formal than a navy or dark grey suit. To dress it down, an oxford cloth button down without a tie is a possible option. Or as shown here, dress it up with a solid blue shirt and solid tie.
For an in between look, go for a striped shirt, silk knit tie and loafers.
For something a little more formal, opt for a solid dark grey suit (link). The first look is about as formal as it gets; a bengal striped shirt and a solid burgundy tie with black shoes. This look could be great for a formal workplace or formal cocktail party, although for what its worth, I’ve always thought grey to be more at home at the office rather than at a social event.
But fear not, the dark grey suit can still be dressed down. One option would be to pair it with turtleneck sweater, this look would look particularly at home in a social setting. Or for a formal ensemble with a little more personality you could pair the suit with a blue shirt and polka dot tie, as seen below.
Lastly, we have the solid navy suit (link), which is a pick and pick weave. I think solid navy is the best option for the greatest number of guys. It works in almost every setting and it complements blues and browns better than grey does. On a personal note, I have three solid navy suits in different fabrics and together they are easily the most worn suits in my wardrobe. For a more dressed up look go with a solid white shirt and solid navy tie with monk straps or oxfords. The simplicity of the ensemble may seem boring, but when everything fits and you look superb, there will be no time for boredom. In fact, if I could have only one suited look for the rest of my life it would be the navy suit with navy tie and white shirt. Sometimes, less is more.
But the navy suit is easy to dress down. For example, take this look with a pink gingham shirt and navy polka dot knit tie.
You will never be wrong to have a suit in your closet. In fact, you should always have a suit in your closet. You never know when you will need one and this is one of those situations where it is best to be prepared. Whether you are buying your first suit or your only suit, it is best to buy the best you can afford and to buy the best suit for your body and complexion. I am of the opinion that for the largest number of guys, a solid navy suit will be the best option. But for others, a slightly lighter than navy or dark grey suit may be the ideal. Whatever color and fabric you choose, keep in mind the aforementioned tips, as they are a great starting point for most guys. If any of you want to share your own experience with your first suit; or have questions, advice or comments, please hit the comments section below. Thank you for reading and supporting The Fine Young Gentleman.
Note: FYGblog received material compensation in the form of product and/or monies during the production of this post. Thank you to Oliver Wicks for supporting The Fine Young Gentleman.