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What should I look for in a nice suit?
February 24, 2005 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Weddings and formal affairs oh boy! This next year will be chock full and since my regular job attire does not include a suit I am clueless when it comes to what is necessary and/or nice to have. I do not need anything different or special, but well-fitted is a must. What type of suits are best all year round, easy to alter (by a tailor, not myself), and just look good?
posted by purephase to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
How much can you spend? What's your body type? My favorite suits are Prada stretch 100's, which look fantastic and are as comfortable as pyjamas - but they cost a couple of grand and are really cut for tall guys who like me have broad shoulders and no pecs. If you don't know what kind of suit looks good on your shape, find a good tailor and ask him.
posted by nicwolff at 7:57 PM on February 24, 2005


I think you're going about this backwards. What you want to find is a reliable place near you to buy a suit. The salesman there will help you find the specific suit that suits you. Suit salesmen in reliable establishments can be trusted because they want you to keep coming back for the rest of your career. Sure, they'll try to upsell, but they'd rather you leave with something you really like and then come back and send your friends in as well. Ask people who you know that dress well for recommendations, or even strangers on the street or at happy hour. Guys asking guys about suits is like girls asking girls about haircuts.

But specifics, for the sake of completeness: Your first suit ought to be a two- or three-button single-breasted, in medium-weight gray or navy worsted wool. Avoid pinstripes and black, which are your third or fourth suits at a minimum. Looking good is a case of finding the right suit for you, which means going to places people recommend and trying them on. No need to plan ahead for alterations; off-the-rack suits are designed to be altered. Don't worry too much about designer labels. Stay conservative in styling and you'll get more wear out of it if trends change a bit. Remember to leave the bottom button undone.

Knowing if a suit fits well can be a bit tricky. This is a good description of how a suit should fit.

A good timeless single-breasted wool suit will last you years given how much you wear it, so spend enough to get something you like.

As to where, I'm out of the loop for Toronto (the family business is in Belleville and I've been in Ottawa and Montreal for the last ten years) but depending on how much you want to spend, the shops in Hazelton Lanes are a pretty safe bet, or the nicer areas of Bloor in Yorkville; Harry Rosen is a safe bet too but not cheap. The middle-price stores are the ones you'll have to find out about from locals. Avoid Tip Top, Moore's, and so forth, which excel at high school graduations and funerals. If you do end up at Moore's or Tip Top because of budget, at least take the suit to a good independent tailor instead of letting them do it in-house.
posted by mendel at 8:01 PM on February 24, 2005 [2 favorites]


You can never go wrong with a Brooks Brothers suit. Not the snazziest, nor the most expensive look out there, but a really solid choice. A good tailor will be one of your best friends forever.
posted by crythecry at 8:02 PM on February 24, 2005


Body type:
5'8", trim (145lbs), so I do not expect a lot of problems around fitting (maybe height wise).

Price is not really an issue, but in excess of $1000-1500 may be pushing it a little bit. I have already assumed that if I wanted to find something really nice, I would have to spend that much.

Thanks for the helpful advice so far. I should have included body-type etc. in the original question.
posted by purephase at 8:10 PM on February 24, 2005


Single-breasted (double if you're fat or wide-shouldered), dark grey, wool, 3-buttons (4 if you've got a really long torso). No metal buttons, ever, anywhere. That's it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:12 PM on February 24, 2005


Two button single-breasted are for sports jackets.

Oh, and if you feel like you have to wear a vest, for the love of all things Tasteful, don't button the bottom button.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:14 PM on February 24, 2005


I have already assumed that if I wanted to find something really nice, I would have to spend that much.

I'd say that's about twice what you want to spend (in Canadian dollars no less). A $600 suit will be a nice suit. A $1000 off-the-rack suit will be a nice suit with an impressive name on the tag. I don't think you need to bother with made-to-measure, and for your One Suit you probably want to look for an American (think "business") fit rather than European (think "fashion labels") fit, even if you're trim.

Spend $200 of the rest of your budget on a good pair of shoes.

Incidentally, Just White Shirts on Leslie is a great place to pick up a shirt and tie, and they're not just white shirts.
posted by mendel at 8:17 PM on February 24, 2005


Oh, one more thing.

You can buy bespoke (hand-made, custom-to-you) suits for peanuts in Asia. If you're ever in Thailand, Hong Kong, or India you can get (just an example from personal experience):

1 x Wool suit (Prada design rip-off)
1 x Silk suit (Versace design rip-off)
1 x Overcoat (Cashmere)
5 x Shirts (different colors)

... all custom-made to your body's measurements, for (drumroll) $300. Seriously. The plane-fare will cost you about a little more than a grand, but if you want a closet full of handmade suits, it would be worth it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:31 PM on February 24, 2005


I second all of mendel's recommendations. Depending on climate, you may wish to go for light or even superlight wool over medium wool. For a first suit, I suggest navy in preference to gray: Navy can pass for black in a pinch.

Always air your suit for 24 hours after wearing it, and it should last longer and require less drycleaning. Lastly, don't forget to set aside some money for decent black dress shoes (or boots if you prefer), and a plain white shirt. Doubled, or 'french', cuffs on the shirt make for a classy touch, but don't forget you'll need to buy or borrow cufflinks which match the metal of the belt.


Speaking of belts; unornamented black leather will keep costs down.

Don't bother spending a lot of money on ties. If you don't intend to buy a lot of suits, it's just easier to borrow a tie when you need it rather than buying a new tie. Also the open-collar look is widely accepted.

Speaking of cut: For a first suit, you are probably better of with a British cut (stiff outline, very formal) or American cut (softer outline, less formal). An Italian cut will, however, accentuate your body shape so if you're in good shape, you may want to try a few on.
posted by Ritchie at 9:10 PM on February 24, 2005


Civil Disobedient: You can 'do' Hong Kong for about US$800 from most major American cities and I highly suggest flying Cathay Pacific. Hotels in Hong Kong would set you back more, but still if you're looking to load up on tailored knock-offs, HK cannot be beat.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:24 PM on February 24, 2005


Civil_Disobedient is right. I live in India and my first suit (custom-tailored) cost me Rs. 7500, which is about $165. To get a top quality fabric and suit, it would cost you about $250 per suit.

Yeah, come on over. We'll take good care of you. :)

First two you should get: Navy and Charcoal Grey. Only then look to other colours.
posted by madman at 10:45 PM on February 24, 2005


Good advice from everyone, but I have to disagree about the color choice. If the suit is for "weddings and formal affairs" then go with black. Black works great in any occasion, and is the only appropriate choice when the invitation says "black tie". You can probably get by with one white shirt (how many formal events in one week are you going to go to), and two ties - a subtle one with a pattern or color and a black one for those events that require it.

Marshall Fields is always running sales on suits - I think I paid $700 for my black Hugo Boss three-button suit. I can't tell the difference between a $700 and a $1500 suit without looking at the price tag (on the other hand, a $5000 suit *is* noticible, which suprises me. It's still just some wool fabric, but there's no mistaking when someone has dropped major money on a suit.)

I'm with mendel - concentrate on the shoes.
posted by bonecrusher at 12:37 AM on February 25, 2005


A black suit is not appropriate if the invitation says black tie. A black tie dinner jacket is a totally different kind of jacket, and the trousers look different too. In fact it doesn't really need to be black, but almost always is.

Now if it says "black tie preferred," then who the hell knows what that means? I figure that means you can get away with any kind of business suit.
posted by grouse at 2:46 AM on February 25, 2005


grouse -

That's what I thought as well, but I was assured by both the suit salesman and my buyer friend that a black suit with a plain black tie is appropriate. And I've never felt underdressed at black tie occasions dressed like that.
posted by bonecrusher at 2:56 AM on February 25, 2005


I'm with grouse. "Black tie" means tuxedo in the evening, maybe even morning jacket in the morning. Sure, you can pretend a black suit is a tux, but you end up looking like the guy pretending a black suit is a tux. A dinner jacket fits differently, has satin lapels and a satin stripe down the leg, and has different accessories.

But I doubt that "formal" in the question means "formal" in that sense -- the reason people started calling things "black tie" is that "formal" (tails!) relaxed so much.

I couldn't imagine wearing black to a wedding at which I was a guest and not a member of the groom's party, unless I was planning on indicating disapproval.
posted by mendel at 3:50 AM on February 25, 2005


All three weddings have me pegged as part of the groom's party, so black is probably the best bet (although, I would prefer navy or grey).

The other occasions have not been labelled "black tie" affairs, but have a suitable solemnity to them that will most likely require formal wear (some of which is work related) so I'd imagine that black would be appropriate.
posted by purephase at 5:05 AM on February 25, 2005


If you're just a guest and not standing up with the bride and groom, do not, (wait, lemme put that in bold)... do NOT wear a tuxedo. The groom should be the best-dressed man at his own wedding. Unless you're James Bond.

You can 'do' Hong Kong for about US$800 from most major American cities and I highly suggest flying Cathay Pacific.

Thanks for the pricing update. I actually flew Cathay before, but got a kind of "Eurail Pass" deal where I could fly between any city in SE Asia for 3 months for the all-inclusive price of something like $1200. Don't know if they still offer the deal, but I wouldn't be surprised.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:46 AM on February 25, 2005


Sorry, just to clarify -- if you're standing with the bride and groom, you've likely already talked with them about what you should be wearing (as they normally coordinate these sorts of things... i.e., having all the maids of honor in the same color). But I honestly doubt they expect to have all their male guests wearing tuxes -- it would make for a hilarious photograph, though.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:49 AM on February 25, 2005


All three weddings have me pegged as part of the groom's party

You might be buying a few suits, or renting a few tuxes, or something in between, then!

Don't go out and buy something hoping to wear it as part of a wedding party unless the groom has told you to do that. Otherwise, ask the groom what you are supposed to wear and do exactly that. The wedding party is traditionally coordinated so that the best man and all of the ushers are dressed alike and complementary to the groom. It's not uncommon for you all to go out and get your suits and tuxes together.
posted by mendel at 7:16 AM on February 25, 2005


If you're standing with the bride and groom, you've likely already talked with them about what you should be wearing (as they normally coordinate these sorts of things... i.e., having all the maids of honor in the same color). But I honestly doubt they expect to have all their male guests wearing tuxes -- it would make for a hilarious photograph, though.

All of the weddings I've participated in have featured all of the groomsmen in slightly shittier tuxes than the groom. As a result I've still never purchased a suit...
posted by togdon at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2005


To reiterate what a couple of people said above -- you can cut a few corners on suits ( the right $500 suit can look as good as a $1500 suit) but you cannot cut corners on shoes. You may be tempted by the $65 dress shoes that you see, but do not buy them. first, men's shoes, unlike women's, get more comfortable as they get more expensive. A $350 pair of dress shoes can be as comfortable as any pair of sneakers. Second, they are more economical in the long run. A good dress shoe will last forever, with just an occasional re-heeling.

I recommend Allen Edmund. Any of the good department stores will carry them.
posted by rtimmel at 8:36 AM on February 25, 2005


I've participated in have featured all of the groomsmen in slightly shittier tuxes than the groom

Actually, what I said was that all the male guests wearing tuxes would be hilarious. But yes, the "tux crappiness factor" increases exponentially as the distance from the groom approaches infinity. :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:12 AM on February 25, 2005


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