When it comes to shopping for a suit, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. Should you go with a single-breasted or double-breasted jacket? Should the suit be two pieces or three? What do these terms even mean, and how can you avoid buying a completely inappropriate suit for your specific needs? Here, we’ve put together the ultimate men’s suit buying guide to introduce you to the basic suit types, the basic fabrics, and some steps you can take to ensure you know what you’re doing as soon as you enter the store.
Two Buttons or Three?
Most commonly, people wear suits with two buttons, which provides a simple, clean look. However, three-button suits may be appropriate if you want to dress for formal occasions or show off a more ornate look.
Defining the Types of Suits
When shopping for suits, it also helps to know the major categories. Here are some of the most common suit types you’ll see as you start browsing:
- Single-breasted suits are easy to identify because they only have three buttons or less. With the increasingly minimal style of today’s suits, favoring a sleek taper and a close fit, single-breasted suits tend to be more popular and versatile.
- Double-breasted suits have more heft thanks to the double pocketing. This tends to be more of a traditional, “classic” look that may make you stand out from the rest of the pack.
- Three-piece suits include the addition of a vest underneath the jacket. You can look at classic examples like James Bond in “Goldfinger,”—one of the most iconic suits of all time—to see how this might look.
- Tuxedos are formalwear designed for black or white-tie events, which means that they’re going to be rare for most men. Yes, some of the most formal occasions of your life will be in tuxedos—say, the day of your wedding—but as an investment, tuxedos require a lot of wear if you’re going to spend a lot of money.
Know Your Suit Fabrics
Once you’ve settled on a style of suit to wear, you should get an idea of which kind of fabric works best for your needs. Your decision isn’t just about what you think feels best or looks best—it should be about fitting the fabric to the situation in which you’ll most often wear the suit. Typically, you’ll see two chief types:
- Wool is a popular suit fabric and tends to be an indicator of high quality. A 100% wool suit doesn’t have to have the heft or itchiness you might associate with a heavy wool blanket, for example. You only have to look at our wool flannel trousers to see that wool with proper construction can be lightweight and comfortable. You should also expect to see extra-high quality wools (dubbed “super” wools) like Super 100s Gabardine.
- Blends are a mixed bag. There may be some great combinations of fabric—like polyester and wool—that make an ideal pairing of comfort and durability. But beware of blends that are made with cheap fabrics, as these are some of the most common ways to build suits that won’t stand the test of time. Remember that polyester is one of the better “blending” fabrics, as is the case with our cotton/poly blend.
Know Your Suit Colors
If you know the makeup of your suit, the next most important choice is going to be color. You’d be amazed at the difference the color of your suit can make. Take a look at some common suit colors:
- Navy is your best bet if you want pure versatility. Navy suits are great for the office and formal events, and can pair with a wide range of pant colors to make sure that you can change things up occasionally. If you’re on a budget and want a suit that will pair with anything, navy is a good bet.
- Charcoal is another frequent option. This is a lighter version of black, bordering a bit with gray, although it’s certainly not a gray suit. The lightness of charcoal makes for more versatility.
- Black tends to be stark and formal, which is great for tuxedos. However, keep in mind that when it comes to versatility, it may not have much range.
- Tan or khaki suits are very common in warmer climates, as they’re lighter and won’t absorb as much heat and sunlight. These will look out of place in cooler climates and cooler seasons, so they leave a bit to be desired if you’re looking for year-round versatility in some places.
- Patterns like pinstripes (thin vertical lines) and even plaid suits are bolder choices that can look great, but also may limit you when it comes to versatility.
Step One: Pick Your Suit
If you’re shopping for your first suit, one of your initial goals should be to find an option that will give you the most mileage. Unfortunately, there’s not a single rule of thumb answer to this. You may need a business suit depending on your job, while the next man would look for suits that are more appropriate for social events like weddings.
If you want versatility, stick to simplicity. If you want to change things up or stand out from the crowd, you might go off the beaten path and choose patterns that suit your individualistic flair, such as pinstripes or plaid suiting.
Step Two: Get Measured
The fit of the suit is one of the most important elements in determining how it looks on you, so you need to make sure that you get it right. Your chest size and arm length are two of the most important factors here, as they’ll determine how the suit jacket feels when you put it on.
While you can always get yourself a tailor to ensure you have the right suit fit, it won’t hurt to know your inseam (the length from the bottom of the crotch to the bottom hem), your waist size, and your preferred rise (bottom of the crotch to the top of the waist). These are the measurements that will make it possible for you to buy a pair of tailored trousers with accuracy.
Shop Tailored Trousers from Berle
We hope this the ultimate men’s suit buying guide has assisted you! Now that you know what kind of suit to shop for, you should have no problem finding one that fits your exact needs. Whether you need a suit for work or leisure, keep these variables in mind and you’ll always be able to dress for the occasion.