Your Definitive Guide to Men's Suits

Your Definitive Guide to Men's Suits
Check out this definitive guide to men's suits. This will be your go-to when you're wondering what the world of suits actually means, from lapels to buttoning, we've got it covered.  Check out more Men's Style Guide features. The world of suits can be a difficult and sometimes confusing task. When you walk into a shop, looking to buy a suit, you can be a little overwhelmed by the amount of choice that's available to you. I can remember buying my first suit, it wasn't a particularly nice one, but my mother justified that I was going to grow out of it anyway, so it didn't really matter, but still, the experience of it wasn't the best. Over here at Idle HQ we think that every man should have, at least, one suit in their wardrobe arsenal that they can always fall back on if an occasion ever arises. So, we thought we'd give you a few tips and tricks to help you along the way; from the way it should fit, all the way to how many buttons you should have on your suit jacket, we've got you covered.

How A Suit Jacket Should Fit

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, but the fit of your clothes is the most important thing. As long as they fit correctly, you're already on your way to a stylish outfit. Suits, however, can be a little tricky as the styles differ so much, it can easily get confusing on what is the correct measurement for a suit to fit perfectly. The trick with suits is that there should be clean lines all around. You don't to see any bunching up of the material or tightness, as this indicates an ill-fitting suit, and that's something none of us want. So, as long you achieve those clean lines, you'll be alright.

Chest

Before you start trying on suits, you need to measure yourself. We'll start off with the chest, and this means you want to take a tape measure and measure the thickest part of your chest. Like most clothes, suits are measured in inches, so, if you measure 40 inches around your chest, you'll want to look at suit jackets that are a size 40 or 42.
mens suit jacket size guide
Men's Suit Jacket Size Guide
If you don't trust your own measuring skills (I don't trust mine) then you can always go to a tailor and they can measure you properly. Clean lines are key, so if you see the dreaded 'X' shape when you button up your jacket then it's too small for you, so go for the next size up.
how a suit jacket should fit in the chest
How a Suit Jacket Should Fit In The Chest - PHOTO CREDIT: The Proper Gentlemen

Arms

When you're trying on suit jackets, you need to take into account the length in your arm. Now, this may be tricky, as we all know, everyone of us differs in body shape and size, so you may find a suit jacket that fits you perfectly everywhere else, but the arms are too long. If this is the case, then you can take it to a tailor, or, maybe even a dry cleaners, and they can take them up for you. However, the length of your sleeve should hit you right on the wrist bone, no lower or higher. You should be able to see a little bit of your shirt underneath, so it's probably best you wear a shirt underneath when you're trying on suits, just so you know the right length you need.
how a suit jacket should fit in the arms
How A Suit Jacket Should Fit In The Arms - PHOTO CREDIT: The Proper Gentlemen

Shoulders

Your shoulders are another element to your suit jacket that you need to get right. If you buy a suit jacket and the shoulders are too wide, then this can make you look bigger; too narrow, then you can look like you've out-grown your suit, and that's not a look we condone. Much like your shirt, the seam attaching the sleeve to the main body of the jacket should sit directly on your shoulder. If the seam is too high, then you jacket is too small, too low and the jacket is far too big for your body.
how a suit jacket should fit in the shoulders
How A Suit Jacket Should Fit In The Shoulders - PHOTO CREDIT: The Proper Gentlemen

Length

The length of your suit jacket is very important. Get it wrong and you can look like you've either out-grown your suit, or, you've been a bit ambitious with your summer growing plans. The length of your jacket should sit just below your hip bone, so if it's above or below, it doesn't fit I'm afraid.
how a suit should fit in the length
How A Suit Should Fit In The Length - PHOTO CREDIT: Edit Suits

How Suit Trousers Should Fit

You're probably thinking 'what about the trousers' well, your suit trousers are measured by your inside leg and your waist. Much like jeans, you'll see a waist measurement number i.e. 34R, this means you'll be 34 inches around the waist and a regular leg length. Leg Length is categorised into three sizes short (S), regular (R) and long (L), and you'll fit into one of these three lengths. Like most men, we all differ, so if you're an inbetween size, then always go for the longer length and have them taken up.
mens trouser size guide
Men's Trouser Size Guide
How your trousers sit on your shoe is a key element to your trousers. Too short and you can look like you can't dress yourself, too long, and you can look like you're turning up to a court date. So, to avoid that, you'll want to have your trousers sit slightly on your shoe, and this is called the 'break'. You're going to want to have what's called a quarter break, meaning that the back of your trousers sit slightly down the back of your shoe, with the front of your trousers hovering over your laces.
the right length of mens trousers
Men's Trouser Length - PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

Different Styles Of Suits

The world of suits is a vast and interesting place. You've probably seen that there's a different suit for every occasion you can think of. so, when you're buying a suit, you need to start thinking of what you want the suit itself for. Whether you're going to be wearing it to work, or you want something for a more formal occasion, you can be rest assured they'll be a suit out there for you.

Formal Suits

There are a few different versions of the formal suit, but we're going to focus on the two main ones that you might come across when you're after a formal suit. They are black tie and white tie, and they're not just simple tie change, they're completely different, and I'm going to show you how to dress for such events.

Black Tie

Black tie is the less formal of the two. It consists of a, usually, black tuxedo jacket, white tuxedo shirt, black tuxedo trousers, a, usually, black dickie bow tie and a pair of patent leather oxford shoes. This is the suitable attire for any black tie event, depending on the occasion, you may be required to wear a cummerbund, which is worn around the waist. A cummerbund isn't a necessity, but some events require one.
bafta-awards-best-dressed-men-eddie-redmayne-idris-elba-john-boyega-leonardo-dicaprio
BAFTA's Best Dressed Men 2016

Tuxedo Lapels

Now, you may be wondering what the differences are between an average black suit and a tuxedo, well, a tuxedo, usually, has a satin lapel, which a shinier, smoother material giving it a different and more formal look. However, there are three different styles of lapel that you can have in your tuxedo, all of which give you a smart and different approach to the tuxedo.
  • Notch Lapel
    • Based off of the traditional American style tuxedo.
    • Lapels point downwards.
    • Satin finishes that differentiate it from a normal suit jacket.
  • Peak Lapel
    • A more classic style of lapel.
    • Lapels point upwards.
    • Accentuates the shoulders and slims the torso.
  • Shawl Lapel
    • A more traditional style of lapel.
    • A rounded lapel, it offers a more sophisticated look.
mens tuxedo lapels
Men's Tuxedo Lapels - PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest
You can experiment with your tuxedo, you don't have to stick with the traditional colours or materials, so why not mix it up a little bit. What you'll most commonly see when you're looking into livening up your tuxedo is the change in material of the jacket. You can go for a velvet is either black, dark blue, dark green, or sometimes red; this just adds something a little different to your look without breaking convention.
mens velvet tuxedo jackets
Men's Velvet Tuxedo Jackets - PHOTO CREDIT: Telegraph

White Tie

Now, white tie is a little different, it's a lot more formal, but still has the same basis as a black tie tuxedo. When you look at a white tie suit, you'll notice some differences, one being that the tie is actually white, but the jacket differs, and, you have the addition of a waistcoat. The jacket is one of the main differences that you'll find with white tie dress code. More commonly known as a fish tail coat, it's significantly shorter in the body than a normal suit jacket, and the back is a lot lower with it separating and becoming a fish tail shape. White tie is normally reserved for the most formal occasions going, so you may not find an occasion where you have to wear one, but it's good to know, just in case.
mens white tie dress code
Men's White Tie Dress Code - PHOTO CREDIT: Jabong

Casual Suits

A casual suit probably isn't what you first think it is. When I'm talking about casual suits, I'm talking about the less formal, more everyday suits that you'll see when you're out and about. This could be anything from a work suit, to a summer suit when you're off on your travels.

Work Suits

If you work in an office environment you'll know exactly what I'm talking about when it comes to work suits. Every office differs on their dress code, some a very casual, whereas others are very formal, however, if you're in that inbetween dress code, then it can get a bit tricky. It's always best to stick with the classics, so go with a black suit. Simple and stylish, it gives you a great base layer to work with to add a bit of colour and detail to your everyday office look. Teamed with a classic white button down Oxford shirt and a pair of black formal shoes, such as penny loafers or brogues, and you've got a cracking suit that's office appropriate, comfortable and stylish.
mens black suit outfit grid white shirt black suit jacket black trousers penny loafers black tie
SHOP: Suits | Trousers | Shirts | Shoes | Accessories

Summer Suits

Wearing a suit in the summer may seem like a bit of a task, with the thick, heavy material and the constricting tie, it already sounds like a horror movie waiting to happen, and don't get me started on getting on public transport with one on. But, a suit during the summer is a great way to introduce that sartorial edge to your look that you've been looking for. The trick with a summer suit is getting the material right; because of the warmer weather you're going to want a lighter material to work with, so opt for a linen or a lighter cotton in beige or navy to keep yourself airy and sweat stain free.
mens summer suits street style
Men's Summer Suits Street Style

Short Suits

There's been some debate whether a short suit is stylish or not, but, for the summer months when it simply gets too hot, a short suit is the perfect option. You probably thought a short suit meant a suit that was to short for you, but no, it's swapping your trousers for a pair of shorts to keep those pins cool during the summer's heat. Some of you may feel that this is a step too far when it comes to suiting, but why not give it a go. Wearing a short suit is a great way of introducing a bit of detail to your look, and it's always nice to try something different from time-to-time. Now, I'd probably avoid the office with a short suit, keep it for those casual summer events that requires a smarter dress code.
mens short suits street style
Men's Short Suits Street Style - PHOTO CREDIT: Macleans

What Material Suit Should I Buy?

As we know, suits can come in a variety of forms, so another element to add into the mix is the material you want to go for. This can be a tricky element of the suit you'd have to tackle, as some materials aren't appropriate for different situations and time of year. For instance, you'll probably wouldn't want to wear a wool suit in the height of summer, because you'll cook from the inside, whereas a breathable linen suit would be perfect for those summer suiting events.

Cotton

Cotton is most common material that you'll find when it comes to suiting. Its breathable, soft and durable qualities are what make it a great material to use when you're choosing a suit.

Key Elements:

  • Natural material.
  • Breathable.
  • Durable.
  • Cheaper to use.
  • Quite heavy.
  • Better material for the colder months.
grey cotton material for suits
Cotton Material For Suits - PHOTO CREDIT: Best Fabrics

Wool

A wool suit may not sound like the most appealing material to use, but you'd be wrong. Wool is a great natural material to use when the weather isn't at its warmest. It offers a detailed and textured element to your outfit without going too overboard.

Key Elements:

  • Natural material.
  • Thicker material.
  • Warmer.
  • Less breathable than cotton, but still allows room for breathability.
  • Better suited for the colder months.
  • Adds detail and texture to your suit.
  • Can be more expensive to buy.
wool material for suits
Wool Material For Suits - PHOTO CREDIT: 123 RF

Flannel

When you think of flannel, you probably think of that checkered print that graces various shirts, but flannel, as a material, has been around for well over 100 years. It grew in popularity during the 30's and 40's when business men in America would wear a grey flannel suit to work, and it became a sort of uniform for the white collar worker.

Key Elements:

  • Natural material.
  • Warm.
  • Made from cotton.
  • Breathable.
  • Soft.
  • Can be more expensive to use.
flannel material for suits
Flannel Material For Suits - PHOTO CREDIT: Beverlys

Tweed

Tweed is a style of material that many men would associate with farmers or royalty, and you wouldn't be wrong. Tweed, however, has had a little bit of a remodel over the last few years, and, for many, it's become a classic staple mainstay in their wardrobe arsenals. Many think that tweed is a rough material that's quite scratchy and course. But, depending on how much you're willing to pay, it can be the softest material you can choose, but of course, this depends on your budget.

Key Elements:

  • Thick, heavy material.
  • Made from wool and cotton.
  • Can be very expensive.
  • Depending on your price point, it can either be quite a rough texture to a soft, more supple texture.
tweed material for mens suits
Tweed Material For Suits - PHOTO CREDIT: The Mill Shop

Linen

A linen suit may bring back memories of your dad on holiday when you have to dress up for dinner. However, the linen suit has had a little bit of a remodel over the past few years to shake off that stigma of old men with socks and sandals, to stylish men sporting them during the warmer months whilst out and about.

Key Elements:

  • Natural material.
  • Very breathable.
  • Lightweight.
  • Can be expensive to use.
  • Creases easily.
  • A little more difficult to wash.
linen material for suits
Linen Material For Suits - PHOTO CREDIT: 123 RF

Polyester

When you hear the word polyester, you think of cheap and pretty nasty clothes that have been made to simply be worn once and thrown away. However, buying a suit in polyester will be a cheaper alternative to many of you as natural materials and fibres can get very expensive.

Key Elements:

  • Cheap to use.
  • Readily available.
  • Can be soft, yet still quite heavy.
  • Durable.
polyester material for suits
Polyester Material For Suits - PHOTO CREDIT: Leso UK

Polyester Blend

A polyester blend suit is something a little bit different to polyester. A polyester blend material is a combination of polyester with another material, usually cotton. This allows the wear to have the softness of the cotton in fabric, yet it's still a cheaper alternative to a full cotton fabric.

Key Elements:

  • Cheaper to use.
  • Has elements of another material in the fabric.
  • Softer than polyester.
  • Durable.
cotton polyester blend suit material
Cotton Polyester Blend Suit Material - PHOTO CREDIT: Leso UK

What Colour Suit Should I Buy?

The colour of your suit is all down to personal preference. Of course, you may not want to wear a neon green suit to the office, but go for it if you feel your boss will approve. When it comes to suiting, you want to stick to the classic colours such as black, grey and navy. These colours are timeless and seasonless as you can wear them to any occasion at any time of the year and all will be well in the style stakes. Of course, you can go wild with colour and pattern if you feel the occasion and time of year is right, but, for now, we're sticking with the classic colours that you'll see over and over again in the world of suits. We've added in pinstripe to show a different and patterned classic look you can aways go for.

Black

Black is definitely the most common and classic suit colour you can buy. You only have to walk down the street or get the tube in the morning to see the plethora of men sporting a black suit. Black is a great colour in general to have in your wardrobe; its neutrality and ease of wear make it a great base colour to work around, and it's a slimming colour, so it doesn't get much better than that.

How To Wear A Black Suit

Wearing a black suit can be a simple task, as long as you've got the basics covered, you'll never have to struggle with what to wear in the morning again. Take your black suit jacket and trousers and pair them with a classic white button down shirt. This instantly gives you a simple and classic look that's work appropriate and timeless. With the added detail of a black tie and a pair of black shoes, you've got a simple and basic outfit covered for the office or formal functions.
how to wear a black suit white shirt black tie black suit jacket black trousers black chelsea boots
SHOP: Suits | Shirts | Shoes | Accessories

Grey

We've gone a shade up form black now with a grey suit thrown into the mix. Grey is another great base colour to work around as a multitude of colours and patterns work with this neutral tone. Another great thing about grey is that the shades vary, so you can go from an almost black shade of grey, to an almost white shade (50 shades of grey if you will).

How To Wear A Grey Suit

We've gone for a little bit of a different look with this outfit. One of this season's biggest trends is mixing formal and casual together, which I couldn't be happier about. This means teaming normally casual pieces, such as a T-shirt with a suit, and that's exactly what we've done here. Take your grey suit jacket and trousers and team them with a plain white T-shirt. This keeps the look smart, yet you still have that element of casualness about it. Your footwear can go either way, we've gone with a simple brown loafer, but you can always sport a pair of fresh white trainers, just to keep that trend going, and, keeping it super comfortable.
how to wear a grey suit white t shirt grey suit jacket grey trousers brown loafers
SHOP:
The latest news from style, life, arts, and culture and everything in between. Whether it's a new brand arriving into our style, our latest drops and editorials. You will never miss a beat with us.

The Manual

  • Style
  • Life
  • Collective
  • Grooming
  • News
            Summer Wedding Guide

            Summer Wedding Guide

            Feature image credit: He Spoke Style Deciding what to wear to a wedding can be tricky but don't fear as we have pulled together a few looks that'll...

            read more
            Summer Style Guide

            Summer Style Guide

            Are you in need of a little style inspiration? We have handpicked our favourite summer pieces to have you looking your very best on every occasion.

            read more