If you’ve ever been called a “suit,” it probably wasn’t a compliment. It meant you were generic, faceless, and a company man to the bone.
Enough, we say. The suit deserves better.
It can be the most valuable item in your wardrobe, lifting your confidence and leaving a positive impression on everyone you meet, says Dan Trepanier, creative director at the men’s retailer Articles of Style.
Trouble is, the bulky blazers and bland trousers in many men’s closets aren’t doing them any favors.
“Tailoring is the first step,” Trepanier says. “Once you have the fit, it’s just about how you style your look.”
Read on for our finishing touches, and discover how to make yourself unforgettable.
THE DOUBLE-BREASTED SUIT
Back in the day, these suits were like muumuus for executives—boxy monstrosities designed to hide potbellies.
Modern versions, however, are nicely tailored, with slim lapels and jackets that end higher to show off your physique, says Nish de Gruiter, vice president of the clothing label Suitsupply.
But unless Gordon Gekko is your spirit animal, forgo the chunky cuff links, fat silky ties, and midlife-crisis statement watches.
THE COTTON SUMMER SUIT
When the weather is hot and humid, reach for cotton, a fabric that naturally breathes. A neutral color, such as light beige, works best in spring and also allows you the option of splitting up the jacket and trousers.
If you think khaki is too boring, try a darker shade like olive, de Gruiter suggests. It can pair nicely with navy and dark-brown accessories, and won’t seem inappropriate if you keep it in the rotation as late as balmy mid-September.
But no matter which shade you decide to go with, consider the lining, because a fully lined interior will undermine the comfort benefits of cotton, de Gruiter says.
Full linings won’t keep you cool and don’t allow the fabric any give. Instead, look for a half-lined or deconstructed jacket so it fits like a shirt. Softer, less-constructed shoulders won’t trap heat.
Yes, these alternatives can be prone to wrinkles, but summer suits are typically laid-back, so a few creases aren’t a huge deal.
THE SUBTLY PATTERNED SUIT
Spring for this after you’ve already acquired some more versatile options, like a solid wool, classic herringbone, or Donegal tweed. Otherwise you risk being that guy with the plaid suit.
You want the suit to be a welcome surprise—not something you bust out on an average Monday.
That said, a patterned suit should also be subtle enough that you can wear the jacket and pants separately, expanding your office and your weekend looks, says Trepanier.
Start understated, with colors like light blue on navy, or charcoal on light gray. That way you’ll be able to wear it for years to come.
“Anything too flashy quickly gets boring and repetitive,” says Trepanier. And if you’re set on making a statement, a plaid jacket can become a sport coat that you can wear with jeans or gray dress pants.
Bonus style points: Add the vest from a patterned three-piece suit beneath your solid suit jacket, de Gruiter suggests.
THE THREE-SEASON WOOL SUIT
Wool doesn’t necessarily mean warm.
“A lightweight wool suit is actually the most versatile type you can own—it’ll serve you well on all but the hottest summer days,” says Dwight Fenton of Bonobos.
And for the greatest versatility, seek out Super 110, 120, and 130 wools. The higher the number, the finer the yarn, says de Gruiter. You’ll want a bit of heft to maintain the suit’s shape.
A slimmer fit—one that’s proportioned to your body—will seem modern, as will a double-vented back and notch lapel. And because you’ll be wearing it for months at a time, you’d be wise to pick a classic hue like navy.
It’ll go with a dark shirt and brown shoes in fall, or white jeans and sporty shoes in spring.