Learn to suit up properly and everything else follows.
Whether you're an office guy who needs to look sharp for the competition, or a creative type who dresses up because he likes to, the suit is the basic building block of looking good. It's a timeless, ever adaptable, sometimes maligned, but never improved uniform.
Consider the roots of that word: uni, as in a universally good idea to save your ass from the danger of too much choice; form, as in the opposite of formless, sloppy, or unfocused. We'll get to the specifics of lapel widths and armholes and vents and how to do it right, but let's first agree that this is where dressing like a man begins.
Get the basics down and then you can lose yourself in perfecting the details—what the ever dapper Tom Wolfe once approvingly called the sartorial "mania for marginal differences." And that's when things get interesting.
1. What the Twenty-first- Century Suited Man Looks Like
What's the secret? The trimness of the suit? Sure. The elegance of the details? Totally. But look a little closer and you'll notice what's not here: no aggressive plaids, no I'm-the-man pinstripes, no four-button jacket. Instead, the message is smart, confident, thoroughly put together.
He makes a statement by not making one—or at least looking as if he's not trying so hard to make one. Like the best in modern design, his suit is simple and streamlined, perfectly crafted. That's the look you want.
2. More Than Ever, It's About Fit
We've seen plenty of guys who've bought the right suit and let it hang off them like an NBA rookie on draft night. And we've seen men in cheap but well-tailored suits who look like a million bucks. The thing's got to fit right, or else there's no point in wearing it.
Question is, what's the right fit, and how do you get it?
A. Take It from the Top
3. Wanna Step It Up? Nail the Finer Points
You now know how a suit should fit. But what about all the details that define the style of a suit? You've got countless options. Here are the ones that matter most, the ones that make for an infallible suit.
4. How to Suit Your Shape
Anyone who's short or a bit heavyset should take notes.
• Be honest with yourself. Admit you're short and buy short-length suits.
5. Get Thee to a Good Tailor: It's the Wisest Money You'll Ever Spend
The right tailor can make a $100 suit look like $1,000, and he can make that $1,000 suit worth every penny. There's not a GQ shoot where we don't enlist our tailor, Joseph, to nip, tuck, and alter a suit. For your purposes, the trick is knowing what needs to be done and then knowing how to manage your tailor. Don't let him tell you how much of a break you want in your trousers: You tell him. You're the boss.
6. Go Short—Shorter Than You Think
Your suit is (probably) too long
You might have noticed, on the runways and in our pages, that guys are wearing much shorter suit jackets these days. And it's a look we like. Partly because it goes with the slimmer, trimmer suit style, and also because most guys wear their suits too long.
Here's the deal: You should be able to easily cup your hands beneath your suit jackets. Going full-on Thom Browne short isn't for everyone, but there's no denying the impact of this wave. The average suit at J.Crew or Club Monaco is cut considerably shorter than it was five years ago. The days of the average guy wearing a three-to-five-button suit are thankfully behind us.
7. That Year-Round Suit Ain't Cutting It Anymore
We like to think that you should dress like you eat—seasonally. Not only is it a way to bring some variety to your wardrobe; it's also sensible. When the temperature drops, reach for heavier, warmer fabrics. When it's hot and humid, keep your suiting lightweight and pretty much cotton exclusively.
8. Freezing Your Ass Off? Conquer Winter in Style
9. ...And When It's Muggy and Miserable, Keep Your Cool
When the temperature surges past seventy or so, it's time to shelve your wool suits and go lightweight. Yes, khaki is probably the best-known of the summer suits, but don't limit yourself: Designers are doing a range of cotton options, including navy, black, and even plaid.
Whether you have the confidence to pull off a white one is your call. Other go-to cotton options include seersucker (go with gray or pale blue stripes) and whipcord (which has ridges like corduroy—without the fuzziness).
Finally, there's linen, the lightest material of them all. Just make sure yours is cut sharp and slim, unlike the stuff you see flopping in the sea breeze in the Florida Keys.
10. It Might Get Loud...So Mute It
We dig a patterned suit, but when we show one in the magazine, or wear one ourselves, we like to keep it subtle. Our aim is to inject a bit of personality without making the guy look like a buffoon.
Go for a Thinner Pin
11. Don't Get Taken to the Cleaners
• Do it infrequently. Dry cleaning can be brutal on suiting fabric. A suit is an investment; you want to preserve its integrity.
• If it's looking creased and wrinkled, take it in to have it steam-pressed. This is especially good for cotton suits, which wrinkle more easily.
• And if you're in a bind—or just in some funny hotel in a foreign city—hang it up in the bathroom, blast a hot shower, and close the door for ten minutes. It'll look—almost—like new.
Three Styles That Help You Stand Out
No. 1: The New Slim, Trim Double-Breasted
• If you want a double-breasted suit to look modern—and not like something from a gangster flick—keep it short and trim. And avoid Dick Tracy-grade shoulder pads, too.
• Keep the jacket buttoned (including the interior button). It doesn't hang well when undone.
• And unlike with single-breasted suits, unless you want to look like a singer in the '80s R&B band, go for a higher-cut six-button suit instead of a low-slung four-button model.
• A three-piece suit announces itself loudly and clearly—which means you sould opt for a relatively subdued shirt-and-tie combo to provide balance.
• Fitwise, think about the vest. It should hit at the belt buckle (not dip past it), and it should wrap snugly around your torso.
• For the best-fitting peak-lapel suits, stick with two-button models. They create a more fluid shape. Three-button ones tend to be too boxy.
• These are elegant business-to-evening suits. Leave the sneaks and tee in the closet.
• Want to one-up the dude in the office next to yours? This is the power suit that'll do it.
The Cheat Sheet
• A suit's gotta fit right or it isn't worth wearing.
•In order to make sure that it does fit right, find yourself a good tailor.
• You'll never go wrong wearing at two-button suit with a fairly narrow lapel. It's both classic and completely modern.
• Flat-front, relatively trim pants; very little break at the ankle.
• You should be able to easily cup your hands beneath the hem of the jacket; if you can't, it's too long.
• Show some cuff. It's the mark of a (well-dressed) gentleman.
• Dress with the season—cotton suits in summer; tweeds, flannels, and corduroys in winter.
• If you're going to wear a patterned suit, keep the patterns subtle. You want a smart suit, not a kooky one.
• If you ever can afford to get a bespoke suit, get one made. It's worth every penny.
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