Every so often, I’ll get a fervent email from a guy friend, telling me how they need a suit for a job interview or a wedding and have no idea where to begin.
If it is time to shed your jeans (at least Monday-Friday) and you are ready to go to the next level, buying a suit is a big crossroads. It’s also an intimidating, expensive one — made easier if you go armed and prepared.
It takes planning.
First, before you do anything, determine how you want the suit to fit and how you want to look in it.
Do you have the physique, that you can wear a modern, slim or trim fit suit? Do you need something very formal, or more business casual? (Yes, believe it or not, there are casual suits!) Do you want pockets? Thick lapels?
Once you determine the style and fit that are best for you, next you need to find a suit that is made of a year-round high performance natural stretch wool. “Don’t buy the cheapest or most expensive and certainly don’t buy because of a name or label. You don’t want to pay $500 for something that may only be worth $200. Buy for quality and value,” says Dick Lerner, author of the book and workshops Dress Like The Big Fish.
Even the color choice is something that requires some thought. Generally, people see gray as the universal ideal – sort of to suits as O-Positive blood is to blood donation. Blue is considered more sporty, while black is more formal.
You can’t take the spots off a leopard; the same is with a cheaply made suit.
If it is cheap, it will look it!
A good suit is made from a 2-ply, year-round superfine or merino wool — tightly woven. You will know you have a good suit when you put it on: It feels like you are wearing nothing at all. It drapes and flows with your body and doesn’t feel like a stiff board. The fabric also doesn’t look like you slept in it, five minutes after you put it on.
“You don’t have to go broke buying a suit. Plan on spending between $300 to $500 to get a good variety of options. There should be no charge for standard alterations. There are stores, specialty stores that provide this free service. Specialty stores are special. You will experience knowledgeable people who are there to help you plan your wardrobe and make the best selection for you. You will find pricing is very competitive, great value and outstanding quality — often better than the big stores and chains,” says Lerner.
This is not about shopping; this is planning your wardrobe. Done right, it will pay you dividends back many times over.
When purchasing a suit, it is not about how much you spend, it is about quality. If you buy a well-made suit that fits well, you will have a wardrobe that will not only last longer, but you will be able to dress up or down and always dress right.
Find a great tailor.
What the budget-conscious suit shopper has going for him is that you can take a “nothing special” quality suit and make it look like a million bucks with the right tailoring.
No suit fits a guy perfectly off the rack.
There is always at least one adjustment (like hemming the pants), but most suits require additional tailoring to fit perfectly.
“In-store tailors can be fine for hemming; however if the jacket or seat of the pants need alteration it’s best to take it to a skilled independent tailor,” says Emmi Sorokin, a men’s wardrobe stylist with hundreds of makeovers under her belt and author of the recently published book, The Business Casual Survival Guide: 30 Looks for
Finding a tailor before you buy a suit can do two very valuable things:
- Give you an idea of what additional costs above the suit price to plan for.
- Provide insider knowledge about where to get this great deal.
Tailors spend all day long opening up various makers’ suits. They know which brands do a good job of construction for the money and which are a waste.
Shop at the right places.
Mid-range department stores like Lord & Taylor work for a wide range of guys because they carry a large selection of nicer brands and usually have great sales.
“For guys in their twenties who might want something on-trend or more of the moment, Zara has options for under $300,” says Sorokin.
Even though price counts, don’t let that be your only guide.
The most important thing is to feel like a rock star when you’re wearing your suit. Secondary is that it fits within your budget range. That’s the magic formula to getting the bang for your clothing buck.