What to Know When You’re Buying a Suit
The great thing about men’s fashion is that there’s a suit for every body type and every occasion. When it comes to actually buying a suit, though, figuring out which one is right for you can be tricky—especially if you’re shopping online and only just beginning to develop a sartorial sensibility. This walkthrough will guide you through your options for suit styles—including cut, color, material, and details—while also taking your own tastes and lifestyle into account. By the end, you’ll be ready to order a suit that fits you to a notch-lapeled T.
Online shopping puts an incredible range of fabrics, style choices, cuts, and custom-tailored options at your fingertips. The only thing it can’t provide is a tailor. If you’re shopping for a suit, the first step is to determine your measurements. Follow Groupon’s step-by-step guide for taking your own measurements at home.
Beyond the granular measurements, you’ll also need to understand your overall suit size. Suit and jacket sizes take the form of a number followed by the letters S, R, L, or XL. The number refers to your chest measurement—the circumference at about nipple height, taken under the arms and rounded to the nearest inch. It’s also important to bear in mind a suit’s “drop”—the difference between the chest measurement and the waist measurement, which in the Americas is usually 6 inches. That means the pants of a 40R suit will have a 34-inch waist.
The letters, in turn, refer to the height of the wearer. Those numbers roughly translate as follows:
- S: 5’ 4” to 5’ 7½” tall
- R: 5’ 8” to 6’ 2” tall
- L: 6’ 2½” to 6’ 5” tall
- XL: 6’ 5½” and taller
But it’s not quite that simple. The last thing to take into consideration is your overarm measurements. Measure the circumference of your chest again, but this time don’t go under your arms. If your overarm measurement is more than 7” larger than your chest measurement, use the next size up.
Some suits are perfect for work, but look stodgy when you’re at the club. Others will shine (sometimes literally) on the dance floor at a wedding, yet earn you an uncomfortable meeting with your boss. When deciding on a suit style, take the following three factors into consideration:
There are three main cuts available, each suited for different body types and settings.
|CUT||WHO'S IT FOR||WHEN YOU WANT TO SAY|
|Slim Fit||This fashionable cut contours to the body and exudes style, working best for men with a slender build.||“I don’t just know how to dress—I also know who your favorite band will be in three months.”|
|Classic Fit||Boxier than slim-fit suits, this cut has a generous chest that works well for men with larger frames.||“I know my business, and my business is looking good. That, and being your boss. Get back to work.”|
|Modern Fit||Somewhere between the two, a modern-fit suit works for almost everyone in almost any situation.||“In a shirt and tie, I’m ready for the office. Lose the tie, and I’m headed to the bar. Lose the shirt, and I’m commuting home on my yacht.”|
Although there are too many suit colors to cover, a few broad guidelines can help clarify what will work best for your situation:
|SUIT COLOR||HOW TO WEAR IT|
|Black||A black suit is very formal—worn often to fancy or somber events—and classically pairs with a white shirt and a bold tie. Blue or pastel shirts can work as well, and a black shirt makes a dramatic statement.|
|Dark Gray||Dark gray is a great choice for everyday wear and is versatile enough for almost any color combination. Go with your gut for your tie, and don’t forget about patterns.|
|Light Gray||Another solid choice for an everyday suit, light-gray fabric can make the colors of your shirt and accessories pop. That means even pastel colors can stand out.|
|Beige||Choose beige for a party, especially an outdoor party in spring or summer. Steer clear of warm-colored shirts—blue is probably best.|
|Blue||Navy blue works well for the office while brighter blues are a little more playful. But the best part of a blue suit is that it’s both eye-catching and versatile. For a shirt, try white, light pink, or a colorful pattern.|
The little details are what make your suit your own. When customizing, take these factors into consideration:
|DETAILS||WHAT TO CONSIDER|
|Breast Options||Double-breasted is an instant eyecatcher that makes a statement on its own. Single-breasted is more understated and leaves room for expression in other ways.|
|Lapels||Notched lapels look the most professional. Shawl loves the nightlife. Peaked lapels split the difference.|
|Pleats||Pleated pants are classic, whether single or double, and work well for larger men. Unpleated pants lend themselves to a younger, more fashion-oriented look.|
|Buttons||A jacket with fewer buttons can be flattering for shorter men. When wearing it, remember the “sometimes, always, never” rule: sometimes button the top button, always button the middle button, and never button the bottom button. If you only have two, always button the top, never the bottom. Unbutton everything when you’re sitting down.|
|Vents||Vents are less about fashion and more about fit. Trim forms work well with side vents, and men with larger frames should opt for a center vent.|
Along with the suit material itself, take the weight of the cloth into consideration. Referring to the weight in ounces of one square yard of the fabric, this number indicates how warm the suit is, and how it will hang. Here are a few basic guidelines for choosing a suit based on fabric:
|Spring||cotton or polyester||9.5–12 oz.|
|Summer||cotton or linen||7–11 oz.|
|Fall||wool or polyester||11–13 oz.|
|Winter||wool or tweed||12–19 oz.|
There are very few scenarios in which you can get away with wearing a suit and nothing else. You’ll need socks, shoes, and a shirt at the bare minimum, and most likely a tie as well (what you wear under your pants is your own business). For an extra gloss of fanciness, there’s a whole suite of suit accessories such as pocket squares and embossed wallets that will help you step your game up.
We break down taking your essential suit measurements into simple steps so that you can quickly order shirts, suits, and pants online whenever you like.