At Northwestern, there’s a formal nearly every weekend. But when we look around at the gentlemen here, their suits often leave something to be desired. So, based on our knowledge, we’ve composed a handy man’s suit style guide to help every man look his best. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be the James Bond of the party.
Know your size before you walk in the store. Knowing your size before you walk in will help you gauge if a suit actually fits or not. You can never be too careful when it comes to dealing with salesmen. Here are some lengths to measure before you walk in:
- Wait size and pant length. Obvious, but a must. Pants, when you try them on at the store, should fit within an inch. If they’re looser than an inch, you might have some trouble tailoring them.
- Neck size. Don’t worry about the size of the shirt. You’ll be tucking it in. Button the top button and make sure it’s comfortable. You should be able to fit one finger between the top button and your neck easily. An unbuttoned top button just isn’t classy when the party starts.
- Arm length. This size is measured from between the shoulder blades, along the elbow and down to the wrist. It usually falls in the 32 to 34 range. This number combined with your neck size gives you your shirt size.
Tailor your suit. About 95% of the time, you’ll want to bring your suit to the tailor. If you don’t, you might be left with a suit that doesn’t fit quite right. Wafa Zanayed, the owner of A-1 Tailor in Evanston, has been in the business for 45 years. “Typically, it only costs around $50 to tailor a suit, and it definitely doesn’t hurt the look.”
- Sleeve length: “It should break at the base of the hand. You should be able to feel the bottom with your finger if you curl it up. Most people are wearing their sleeves so long that it’s almost covering the fingers. I’m not sure how they eat.”
- Jacket length: “With your arms straight, you must feel the bottom with your finger. If not, you have to treat it.”
- Trouser length: “It should hit the start of the heel of the shoe. Another way is to have it cover the heel a bit. Some people want it to touch the ground. But I ask, why do you want it to drag?”
- Shoulder fit: “It should fit well on the shoulder. If you raise your arm, there shouldn’t be much pull on your muscle. Having too much fabric there makes the suit look too big for you.”
- Sizing: “Pay attention to the size of the suit. If you’re 5′7″-ish, you’re probably a short. If you’re 5′9 to 6′0, you’re probably a regular. Above that, you might be a long.” Sizing note: With the suit buttoned, you should be able to fit your fist in between the buttons with a little give. Anything more and it’s too big.
Zanayed adds that you should “get the suit as close as you can to your size in the store. While [he] can fix almost anything, why pay for a suit that doesn’t fit to begin with?”
Go bold. Nothing ruins a good looking suit more than a unmatched or boring shirt and tie combination. Stay away from run-of-the-mill solid blues and reds with an equally boring tie combination. Try a pattered shirt with a subdued tie pattern. Remember, paisley ties are not feminine. They’re in style and a sure fire way to get compliments if they come in a bold (but not overly loud) colors. Salesmen are also more than happy to match ties with shirts for you. All you have to do is ask. Just don’t let them pressure you into purchasing something you don’t like. They may come up with surprising combos.
Grab a two button, two piece suit. Three button suits have come and gone. One button suits are gaining popularity, but are harder to pull off well. Three piece suits (ones with a vest) worn at a formal will often make you look like a novelty rather than a gentlemen. And outside of the tuxedo and thrift store industries, they’re getting more expensive and harder to find. A dark, two button cut is by far the most modern and popular these days.
Dark suits are for formals. Black and navy suits are best for night events. Don’t be afraid to throw a nice pinstripe on your suit either. But don’t make them too big. You’re not buying a zoot suit. Khaki suits work best for day events, not night. Suits that are white, yellow, pink or any other loud color aren’t classy, they’re tasteless. If may have been funny with a cane and a top hat in high school, but now that’s not going to fly.
Accessories. For guys, accessories are more subdued than those the women wear. Here’s a look at the dos and don’ts.
- Grab a good pair of cuff links. Shirts with a French cuff look amazingly professional. On top of that, one pair of silver or black cuff links can go with almost any shirt, tie and suit combination.
- Stay away from pocket squares.Matching a pocket square with a tie looks tacky. And more often than not, too many men make their squares look like there’s a bouquet growing from their pocket. But if you absolutely must have one, only let it peep out of the pocket.
- Tie bars. Tie bars are coming back in style. However, they seem to work best with daytime, khaki suit or suits worn in a business environment.
- Sunglasses. If it’s not a daytime event, you’ll look like an idiot. Period.
- Top hats and cranes. Like we said, they’re just silly and stupid if you’re not Willy Wonka.
Now with this information in your hands, have your ‘rents give you a suit for the holidays instead of that Xbox. A good, fitted suit will never go out of style and it will sure come in handy as you scrounge around for a job post-college.