Q For me, and I suspect many other men, wearing suits and casual clothing have switched in recent years. I'm president of a small manufacturing company supplying the government, and barely wore suits before remote working. That said, I do need a suit for non-work. I am heading to New York shortly for a reunion of co-workers from early in my career when I was a flight attendant. One night will be a high-end dinner. I need a suit that will be appropriate there and for weddings/funerals where a blazer might be a bit casual. Any thoughts on the right choice?
A You are right in thinking that at least one really good-looking suit should be part of every man's wardrobe. And you are also wise to consider where else you might wear it, so your choice is appropriate to take you to the occasions one needs to be ready for. Weddings and funerals are the usual ones that come to mind. Wearing a suit is a sign of respect. It also works for romantic events and a celebratory meal at a restaurant.
Owning the right suit allows you to be prepared for almost any occasion. Wearing a suit is all about looking and feeling great, so it's important to get the color, cut and fit details right.
Among the types of men's suits, the single-breasted suit with a two-button closure is the most versatile. It is the one that about 99% of professional men have worn to work for years.
There's a wide variety of styles, designs and variations; one look does not fit all.
You'll get the most mileage out of a handsome dark suit. Choose a single-breasted style that's not-too-fashion-forward, extreme or body-hugging, in navy blue or charcoal gray, with notched lapels and a single back vent or double vents (your preference). Cuffs on not-too-skinny trousers are traditional. Medium-weight fabric in pure wool is best, as light-weight fabrics tend to wrinkle easily. Choose a non-pattern (solid-color) suit, so as not to limit your choice of accessories.
These traditional elements can be "dressed up" with flourishes and accessories such as French cuff shirts, cuff links, pocket square, a smart tie (even, perhaps, a bow tie) or "dressed down" with an Oxford cloth button-down collar shirt (worn open-at-the-neck or not), perhaps a sweater vest, and a chunky sports watch. Above all, be sure it fits perfectly.
Important note: If you have gotten into the habit of shopping online, this is the time to change your ways. It is absolutely essential that you shop for a suit in person to see how it fits and to have it tailored to your exact measurements. Check yourself out in a three-way mirror for fit around the shoulders and chest (both when the suit jacket is buttoned and unbuttoned), as well as the length of the sleeves, the cuffs and the trousers.
You do not need a custom- or made-to-measure suit to find a great look. But you do need to invest time and effort, and to choose carefully.
If you have a few days in New York before the dinner, I suggest you shop at Paul Stuart where you'll find an excellent suit; they are among the few stores that still have an on-sight tailoring shop. If not, you should look for the finest menswear shop in your town.
When shopping for a suit, pay attention to:
• Quality -- When you shop in an upscale men's specialty shop, their merchandise and their knowledgeable sales staff are invaluable.
• Color -- Of the two correct colors, navy or charcoal, choose the one you like and is flattering to your coloring. Everyone looks good in blue; people with sallow coloring often find that gray is not ideal.
• Cut -- Again, traditional single-breasted with notched lapels, and not too fashion-forward.
• Fit -- Do not make the common mistake of ignoring small necessary tailoring alterations. They can make a huge difference. A suit that does not fit well, even if it is wildly expensive, will not look good.
• Accessories -- With the perfect suit as your background canvas, a wide variety of distinctive accessories are available to help you create your own individual look.
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