May 02, 2014 by Courtney Denton
The suit is undoubtedly the building block of men’s style. It is timeless yet ever-evolving and constantly adapting to contemporary notions of what a suit is meant to be. In order to stay on top of his style game, every guy must master the most basic elements of suiting up.
The 21st-century suit can be identified by its inherently trim nature. It is most impactful in its simple and streamlined form. The most important place to note is the shoulders. When you pull on a jacket, it should mold to your shoulders, not hang off. While sleeves can be trimmed (and they should be), and the sides can be tapered (and they should be), altering the structure of a jacket’s shoulders is one of the most costly and time-consuming processes. That means you better get it right the first time. If you are unable to easily slide your hands into your pants pockets, your jacket is too long, so you may want to consider short styles as well.
Every jacket needs its mate, which in this case is a pair of slim pants. Avoid pleats, which result in extra fabric, and aim for flat-front pants that keep the lines clean. In the same way you would shorten your jacket sleeves to show a sliver of shirt cuff, your pants should be hemmed to hit above the shoes. However, how far above your shoes is a matter of preference. For a trendier look, pants can be shortened far enough to reveal a pair of whimsical socks, or even bare ankles if the weather is right. If you prefer to keep your ankles concealed, there should be very little break at the hem of your pants. Aim to have them just graze the top of your shoes. Cuffs should serve a purpose, so save those cuffed hems for heavier fabrics like tweeds.
The fabric of a modern suit is most likely without a pinstripe or plaid design, but if it does employ a print, it does so in an exceptionally subtle manner. Look for shadow plaids and thin pinstripes. Rather than black, consider the two-button gray suit — the man’s version of a woman’s little black dress. It can take you from day to night, and a slight change of fabric will tide you over between seasons. Cotton will carry you through the sunniest days of spring, while gray flannel should be your staple for winter.
Once you have a handle on the basics, you can move on to the finer points of suiting. Remember that two is the magic number. Look for lapels that are about two inches at their widest point. This is your best bet, as anything skinnier or wider can look too modern or too dated. While a three-button suit is OK, a two-button suit with low button stances will have an elongating and slimming effect. A center vent in the back of your jacket will keep your lines clean, but side vents can be considered by those looking for more interest. For an elegant twist, consider a peak lapel, best done in a two-button silhouette.
A well-fitting suit is more than a matter of taste or preference. Just think about it: this garment will be with you for all of your most important occasions. Any guy willing to shell out for an expensive two-piece should also take the time to make sure its fit is nothing less than precise. Take the time and effort to invest in an impeccable suit, and you are bound to reap the benefits tenfold.