How Formal Is My Suit: The Fabric

How Formal Is My Suit: The Fabric

dragon inside suit review
Tan with blue pinstripe

In the first part in this series I opined on the how the various details of a suit can help dictate said suits formality.  But the details (such as different types of pockets and lapels) are by no means the end of the story in determining how formal any given suit is.  Another, and perhaps more important factor is the fabric of the suit.  “But a suit is a suit not matter what fabric it is made of” you may say.  But no.  Far from correct that view is.  Even with the continual blurring of the lines between business and casual dress it is still important to know the role fabric plays and how that can make a suit more or less appropriate for any given situation.

Much like jacket details, some fabrics are considered to be more country or casual fabrics and others more fit for city or formal (in other words business suits).  I will note certain elements that are almost exclusively for business or casual (social) wear.  Although it is hard to truly class each type of fabric and each characteristic a fabric may have there are some general guidelines we can abide to.  There are three primary drivers in a fabrics formality; color, pattern and weave/material.  Below you will find a general guide as to what is more formal than what for each of these three, as denoted by ‘>’ (solid is more formal than striped).  Generally speaking, the color has the greatest weight on the formality of the fabric.  It is very possible that a navy blue linen suit would be more formal than a tan worsted wool suit.  That said, this guide is to act more as general guideline for you to interpret as you will.

Color: Navy = Charcoal = Black > Mid gray > Mid blue > Brown > Light gray > Olive > Burgundy (casual) > Tan/beige (casual)

Pattern (the larger the scale of the pattern the less formal): Solid > Stripe (business) > Windowpane > Check/plaid

Weave/Material: Solid (worsted wool) > Velvet > Nailhead/birdseye/pinhead (business) > Fresco > Wool twill > Plain blended (wool, cotton, mohair, cashmere) > Herringbone > Flannel > Linen = Tweed (casual) > Cotton (casual) > Seersucker (casual)

In the photo above you will see a tan linen with a blue pinstripe fabric.  It is certainly more of a casual or country suit (I’ve found it ideal for social events) because of the light color and linen.  Although the pinstripe makes it seem to have an air of business to it, it is still very much a social suit and as such, an exception to the rule.

tweed prince of wales 3 piece suit
This is strictly a casual fabric, it is the least formal of the four fabrics pictured.  It is a Prince of Wales tweed in brown and blue.
dragon inside suit review
This mid gray flannel is a pretty formal fabric, relatively speaking.  Its solid and moderately dark color help it stay formal and appropriate for most ‘business.’
Horizontal Striped shirt
Of the four fabrics this is the most formal.  It is a worsted wool in navy blue with silver pinstripes.


  1. I just poked around your site… you err on the side of embarrassing when it comes to writing skills. So much so that it’s almost painful to read your “blog” posts. That said, too many of your blogs are about suits… suits are worn way too infrequently to center an entire “fashion” blog around.

    Personally, I think you should quit while you’re ahead. Go back to your day job and blog on the side, assuming you didn’t quit to pursue this whole fashion thing, because that would be a terrifying thought. Living with your parents as a 30 year old and taking pictures of yourself playing dress-up all day is no way to go about life.

    Apologies for the blunt opinion, but this comment comes out of pity and think this is more of a helpful response than negative.


      • Sorry, but I also agree with the comment that your blog contains very poor grammar. Writing skills really shouldn’t vary by the day. The quality of a persons writing sets a tone. If someone has poor grammar, and if they could care less about it, then why bother considering the advice in his or her blog?

        • I enjoy the irony of someone commenting about grammar while using the term “could care less.”

          It is “couldn’t care less.” Saying you “could care less” implies you do care.

    • John needs to re-think his criticism of Justin, which would be more clear if he differs form and content. John feels Justin overestimates the role of suits for the whole. Furthermore, John finds Justin’s approach to life is not autonomous and superficial, thus requires a new orientation. One gets the impression John secretly admires Justin’s form, in fact, John needs courage. John does not love what he does because he doesn’t know what he loves. Truth will provide John the courage to do what he loves. The language improvement John wishes Justin is a mirror for the metamorphosis of thinking John needs to find himself. John can practice this by constructing the evertible cube offered in cardboard do-it-yourself kit form by Paul Schatz Foundation.

    • John, you should ask yourself which is truly more pathetic. The guy who writes a blog on the side about a subject he is knowledgeable for fun… or the one who tries to “go for the gut” with a bunch of half-assed assumptions of said blogger and misses the mark completely?

      Justin, and myself, have seen people like you too frequently to actually be hurt by such a “helpful response”.”Out of pity” indeed! 🙂

    • Justin gives a dignified response, which is more than you did in your original post ‘John’.

      If you don’t like the style, content or skills Justin employs then simply go elsewhere.

      Alternatively, how about offering a reasoned critique or differing viewpoint in a mature, constructive manner?

      You post says more about your own personal frustrations and limited imagination – please go and spoil someone else’s day.

    • ‘suits are worn way too infrequently to center an entire “fashion” blog around.’

      Writing skills? Ow! While ending a sentence with a preposition may be just about acceptable, if rather ugly, can you not see that ‘centre (or center, if you must) around’ is a logical absurdity? ‘Centre/center on’ is the correct usage.

  2. Don’t make my mistake of asking the Fox Brothers flannel expert Rose how to care for a jacket. I was told Fox lightweight flannel was awarded a prize by the Queen, but neither Rose nor her boss Doug took responsibility for not warning me any perspiration damages the flannel surface. Gentlemen don’t sweat, and nobody at Fox has danced for ages, certainly not in a disco. They all wanted to put the blame on me. I caused the cellulitis and piling by rolling up my jacket sleeves (a hint I don’t work as hard as they do?), and before vanishing into thin air Rose did say the photographs of my jacket I sent reminded her of her wash machine experiments.