Men's Suits Buying Guide
by Stephanie Petersen
Published April 28, 2010 | Updated June 15, 2015
Every man should own at least one great suit, and this buying guide will help you know what to look for so you can determine which suits are right for you. The key is to look at all of the elements which make up a suit and decide which ones are right for your body, your age, your lifestyle, and your personal style.
What to Look for in a Suit Jacket:
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- Double-Breasted or Single-Breasted
Double-breasted suits will always be stylish, and they can look very distinguished. The only people who may want to avoid double-breasted suits are young men, who will be overpowered by the width, and men who want to avoid looking wider. Single-breasted suits are a look that can be worn by any man.
- Number of Jacket Buttons
If you opt for a single-breasted suit, you'll need to decide how many buttons you want.
One button: One-button suits are not very common and can make you look like a member of the Rat Pack. If you are going for a retro look, then a one-button suit will look very cool. If you only plan to have a few men's suits in your wardrobe, this may not be the choice for you since it is not very versatile.
Two buttons: Double-buttoned suits are a classic and look good on nearly everyone. You can't go wrong with a two-button suit as long as you wear it with the top button buttoned only.
Three buttons: Three-button suits have become popular in the last few years and are now widely available. Wear these men's suits with either the middle button buttoned or the top two buttons buttoned.
Four buttons or more: Single-breasted suits with four or more buttons are also available, and this is a very fashion-forward look. If you feel like this describes you, go ahead and wear one of these designer suits, but be sure you have some more conservative business suits to wear as well.
- Lapel Shapes and Sizes
Lapel widths change with the current fashion. Thin lapels that were popular in the 1960s can add a retro edge to a modern suit; but for a timeless suit, look for lapels that are between three and four inches. Peaked lapels (which look like an upside-down "V" at the tops of the lapels) are more common on double-breasted suits, but you may see some on single-breasted suits. Notches (which have a cut-out "V" on the sides of the lapels) are common on single-breasted suits.
The opening at the back of the jacket is called a "vent," and you have a few styles to choose from.
Double vent: Double vents, also known as side vents, are the most functional because they allow you to sit and stand up with the least amount of restriction. This style is also very flattering.
Single vent: The single center-back vent is a typical American suit style that allows for moderate movement.
No vent: Classic Hollywood actors often wore suits without vents because they look good on film. However, unless you are very slim, it can be restrictive while sitting in a car or at a desk.
- Jacket Waists
The fit at the waist can affect how the jacket looks when buttoned.
Suppressed waist: This European style fits closely around the waist. A suppressed waist suit looks more tailored and may be more flattering for thin men who like their clothing fitted.
American fit: The suit jacket falls straight from the underarm to the hem. This fit is better for larger men, whether because of muscles or weight.
Shoulders are the one thing that can't really be altered by a tailor, so you'll need to pay attention to how these fit.
Pads: All dress suits have a bit of a shoulder padding to give them shape. The shoulder pads are something that a tailor can't change, so make sure you like the thickness and the shape of the pads.
Slope: If your shoulders slope a lot, a thicker shoulder pad will help your shoulders look even. If you have broad shoulders, then avoid adding very much padding to them.
Suits have what is called a "drop," which is the difference between the number given in the size and your pant size. American suits typically have a 6-inch drop. For example, an American suit in size 38R would have pants that are size 32. Slim-fit suits or European suits typically have a 7-inch drop. So, you will need to subtract 7 from the over-arm measurement to see what the pants size is. Most pants can be let out one inch and taken in up to two inches, so your body doesn't need to have the exact measurements as the suit, but you'll want to choose one that is as close as possible.
The break in a pair of pants is the spot where the hems fall on your shoes.
Full break: Pants are hemmed to reach down to the top of the shoes' heels, with the front of the hem "breaking" naturally over the shoes. This look is considered very fashionable.
Half break or medium break: Pants are hemmed to reach about halfway down the back of the shoes. This classic break is a very popular choice. It offers a traditional look.
No break: Hems end right before shoes, and a bit of sock is showing. This look is more casual.
Cotton suits are excellent for men who live in warm climates. If you want cotton business suits for hot weather, choose cotton suits in dark colors. A casual linen suit in a light color is appropriate if you need a suit for a destination wedding in a tropical location or you work at an office with a relaxed dress code.
Wool suits are beautiful and durable, which makes them very versatile. Wool is made in several weights, including worsted wool, so it can be worn anytime of the year.
Polyester, rayon, or a blend of the two are also used for suits. These suits are very affordable, but may not have the long life of a wool suit. You may also see wool blended with silk, which will give your suit a luxurious feel. A suit's lining may be made of polyester, acetate, or some other man-made fiber; this is not unusual and these are still high-quality suits.
- Suit sizes have a number with a letter or word, such as 40L or 40 Long.
The number is your chest measurement or your over-arm measurement minus 7 inches. If these two numbers are about the same, use your chest measurement as your suit size. However, if the measurement over your arms is larger than your chest, use your over-arm measurement (minus 7) as your size. The suit jacket length is described as short, regular, or long, but this may be designated with just the first letter: S, R, or L. The letter or word given in the size refers to your overall height. These measurements are not perfect for everyone, though, so be aware of your body proportions. Choose the suit jacket length that covers your rear end without going any farther. For example, if you're 5'10" but have a long torso, then you may want to shop for a long.
- Measurements and tailoring are an essential part of buying men's suits.
An ill-fitting suit can make a poor impression and be uncomfortable, so make sure you take accurate measurements and take your suit to a tailor for the finishing touches. Read our men's measurement guide to see how to measure yourself for a suit.
- Slim-fit suits are popular among stylish men.
However, finding the right size can be tricky if you are used to a more relaxed fit. We have provided tips on buying a men's slim-fit suit to help you figure out the differences.
- Do you need more help getting the measurements for your new suit?
Read our guide on how to measure yourself for a men's suit and you'll find out the tricks for getting it just right.
What to Look for in Suit Pants:
Get the Right Size Suit:
|Suit Jacket Size||Recommended Height|
|Short||5'5" to 5'7"|
|Regular||5'8" to 5'10"|
|Long||5'11" to 6'2"|