Trends come and go. Today’s must-have fashion accessory is tomorrow’s embarrassing fashion faux pas. While the whims of trends are as ever-changing as they are unpredictable, one clothing staple remains stoic and unmovable. We are of course discussing the men’s suit. Every wardrobe needs at least one excellent suit. And perhaps even four or five good suits.
A carefully selected suit works at a score of special occasions. From that important business meeting to that job interview to a family celebration or a religious milestone, the suit always brings an aura of style, elegance and sophistication.
As discussed, a suit isn’t subject to the shifting sands of fashion, so one suit can be an integral part of your clothing oeuvre for years. Unfortunately, this can pile on the pressure. How can you possibly pick a piece of clothing that you’ll still want to wear a decade from now? If it’s your first time selecting a suit you've probably already been accosted with foreign terms like pick stitching, lapels and button stances.
While a good suit can last for years, selecting the right suit can be a challenge in itself. Fear not, as our team of suit experts at John Taylor Men's wear have combined a lifetime of Men’s clothing knowledge to put together the golden rules of selecting a suit off the rack.
Men’s Suit Terminology
Familiarising yourself with the plethora of terms associated with suits is an education in itself. At first glance, when a suit salesman begins discussing elements like canvases and side tabs it's completely reasonable for the first-time suit buyer to feel out of their depth. However, here at John Taylor Men’s wear, we’ll argue that these terms are easy to understand once explained. Therefore before we get into our Golden Rules we encourage you to have a look over our glossary of suit terminology.
Men’s Suit Glossary
The break refers to the part of the trouser leg that sits on top of the shoe e.g. where the fabric stops at the end of the trouser leg.
Sometimes confused with made-to-measure suits, bespoke suits are distinctive in that they are made from scratch.
Right in-between a fully bespoke suit and an Off-The-Rack suit is the made-to-measure variety. A made to measure suit is cut from a template and then adjusted to the measurements of the wearer.
This is a pre-made suit that’s purchased literally off the rack. This doesn’t mean you have to compromise as there are a huge range of available suits.
The lining is the interior material that separates the wearer’s body from the jacket’s interior. Depending on the price of the suit, the lining can be made from silk, polyester or rayon. In some cases, the interior lining can be a blend of all three of these materials.
One of the most distinctive parts of any suit outside of its colour and print is its lapels. Lapels are the folded part of the jacket that runs from the collar down to the first button.
This is where the suit jacket meets the suit's lapels.
This is the material that’s tucked in between the suit's inner lining and its outer material. Most suites have either a full canvas or a half canvas.
One of the more obscure terms but one that has an impact on the suit's overall appearance. Pick stitching is the line of stitching that lines the edges of the suit jacket.
You guessed it, these are the pockets on the suit jacket. Typical pocket types include ticket pockets, flap pockets and patch pockets.
A button stance refers to the height of a button positioning on a suit jacket.
These are the little adjustable pieces of material found on either side of suit trousers. These are used to tighten or loosen the trousers’ waist.
These are the flaps found at the back of a suit jacket.
Have you noticed that most suits have non-functioning sleeve buttons? However, if you’re suit bucks the trend and has sleeve buttons that you can use, this means you've got yourself surgeon cuffs. e.g functional sleeve buttons.
Vital to the shape and fit of a suit is the shoulders. A natural shoulder appears more casual, a padded shoulder adds a bit of shape and a roped shoulder is particularly formal and dressy.
Suit Buying Preparation
Now you can talk the talk, it’s time to begin preparing for purchasing a suit. Remember when purchasing off the rack, a good suit fit is vital. Therefore you should always get your measurements before you begin to browse. There are few things more disheartening than finding the perfect suit only to find it doesn’t fit.
You need a few core measurements to get the right size. Luckily it’s relatively straightforward to take these measurements at home with a tape measure.
Before you begin measuring yourself make sure you’re wearing close-fitting clothing. This will make it easier to get accurate numbers.
To measure your chest, wrap the tape around your back and chest. The tape should be directly underneath your armpits and over the back of your shoulder blades. You want the tape to be snug against your body but not tight.
You should measure your waist at the level of your navel.
Measure from the crotch of the trousers down to the ankles.
If the above seems a bit too much or you aren’t confident you’re getting accurate measurements, call into John Taylor Men’s Wear. We offer a free measuring service to all our clients.
The Golden Rules of Buying an Off the Rack Suit
#1 Set a Budget
First and foremost let’s talk about the budget. For a good-quality off the rack suit, you should be looking at spending anywhere from €450 to €1200. Cost is usually determined by the suit's designer and the type of material used. Typically natural materials like wool will cost more than synthetic materials like polyester. Therefore it’s important to set a realistic budget that you can afford before you begin suit shopping. Remember a suit is very much an investment and not a one-time purchase. Unlike some other clothing, you’ll likely continue to wear your suits for years to come so really consider putting a decent sum into your suit budget.
#2 Select a Fabric
As alluded to in the budget rule, the fabric type will inevitably push up the price of the suit. That’s no bad thing because better fabric usually means better quality. If you’re willing to pay a premium look for a 100% wool suit. There are also wool blends that use less wool. For example, the label will usually indicate that this suit is made from 70%, 60%, 30% wool, etc. A blend isn't intrinsically a bad thing, however, it can be a sign of a lower quality suit so be sure to inspect it thoroughly before considering a purchase.
To summarise, if you’ve got the money go with 100% wool, if not look for woollen blends but check the suit in detail to make sure the manufacturer isn’t cutting corners elsewhere.
#3 Suit Colour
This is easy. For a general suit that you could wear to a wedding or a job interview go for charcoal, navy or dark grey. Avoid brighter colours like blue or light grey. Coloured suits are too casual. Brighter colours also go in and out of fashion relatively quickly. Remember your buying a suit for the long haul.
#4 Follow Function not Fashion
Following on from selecting a colour is shopping for function. Although a good suit is timeless, suit manufacturers certainly aren’t immune to trends. Therefore you’ll likely encounter trends like ostentatious lapels, attention-grabbing patterns and of course over-the-top colours. For a suit, you intend to use for years to come it's best to avoid them all. Look for a classic cut that will stand the test of time.
#5 It's all about fit
A cheap suit that fits well will look better than an expensive suit that doesn’t. Therefore you should always be willing to pay more for a better fit.
To make sure you’ve found the perfect fit just follow a few simple rules:
#6 Check the Shoulder
If you can see drag creases on the shoulder of the suit the jacket is too short for you. If it feels tight, and the shoulder is lumping, the jacket is too small. The shoulder of the jacket should always fit comfortably.
#7 Sleeve Length
The jacket sleeve should come to your wrist leaving enough room to show a bit of the shirt sleeve. Too much shirt sleeve and your jacket’s too small. No shirt sleeve usually means the jacket sleeves are too big.
#8 Trouser Length
Suit trousers should brush against your shoes. If the end of the trouser leg is bunched up then the trouser leg is too long. Conversely, if you’re showing off your socks the trouser leg is likely too short.
The above should give you a better sense of what to look for in a functional off-the-rack suit. But of course, the best way to make sure you get the right suit is to call into our Suit shop in Dublin. Our suit experts help make sure you always get a quality suit. When you need a men’s suit in Dublin, call into our store today, or browse through our online shop.