Whether you’re in your early 20s or creeping closer to 50, buying a suit can be a daunting experience. With our society’s preference for casual clothing, it shouldn’t surprise that so many men have a hard time figuring out what looks good when it comes to putting on something beyond a tee shirt and jeans, let alone figuring out what’s appropriate. And with so many options–from fit to color to fabric–the experience of having to get dressed up can leave your head spinning. But if you’re ready to pony up some cash for a professional get-up, one that can be worn out on the town, to a wedding, or to that all-too-important job interview, then you’ve come to the right place.
But first, let’s talk wrist-wear. Now, we all have our preferences when it comes to watches, but when you’re suiting up, leave that G-shock and beefy diver behind. Instead, opt for a no-frills timepiece–a classically sized three-hander that won’t draw unnecessary attention to the wrist. But if you’re like me and you don’t want to fork over money on something you’ll wear sporadically, then go for something that can be dressed up or down; something like the Seiko Sarb033.
The Seiko Sarb033 is a rare chameleon that can be adapted to almost any situation and is, in my opinion, one of the best-valued all-around watches on the market. It’s modestly sized, coming in at just 38mm wide and 11mm thick, so you can be sure that it will slip comfortably under a shirt cuff. Aesthetically, the Sarb033 borrows heavily from the Grand Seiko line, and the glossy black dial, clean layout, and satinized finish really emphasize the dressier aspects of the piece. Strap on the beautiful metal bracelet or a NATO strap and you have yourself an attractive sport watch. Swap in a calfskin or alligator strap, and you’re left with an elegant piece that’ll look perfect paired with a suit. The best part is that this watch can be had for less than $400 new, and for less than $300 on the secondary market (a good thing since you’ll be investing a chunk of change in some new threads).
Now that we’ve got the wrist covered, let’s get to the clothes.
2. THE SUIT: J.CREW LUDLOW
For an all-around suit, it’s best to stick to worsted wool in either navy or dark grey. Make sure the suit fits well; it shouldn’t be too big or too snug in the chest and shoulders. To figure out what cut works for you, head over to a store and try on as many different suits as possible.
For my money, I’d go to J.Crew and play with their selection, specifically the Ludlow line. This Ludlow suit in navy is ideal for both work and play, and J. Crew allows for some customization (jacket length, double or single vent, and slim or classic-cut pants). Their staff is also incredibly helpful, so if the Ludlow cut proves to be to slim, they’ll steer you in the right direction and find something that works for your body.
As long as you have the correct jacket length, the proper fit in the chest and shoulders, and the correct waist size for the pants, the rest of the suit can be adjusted. A tailor can easily shorten sleeves to the proper length, take in the waist of the jacket if it’s a bit loose, and most pants come with an unfinished hem so that they can be done up to the correct length. I’d suggest a quarter break for the pants, which means that the legs will rest ever so slightly on top of your shoes. It’s conservative enough for a job interview, but playful enough that you won’t feel too stuffy on a night out.
3. THE SHIRT: KAMAKURA SHIRTS
When it comes to shirts, the most important thing to consider is the collar size. The easiest way to check for proper collar fit is to stick two fingers against your neck with your collar done up. If you can do that comfortably, then the collar fits. You’re then left with finding a cut that works for your body type (many makers offer shirts in fuller cuts, regular cuts, and slimmer cuts). And remember, you can bring the shirt to a tailor if the fit isn’t ideal. They can do wonders.
For a high quality button-down, head over to one of my favorite e-shops, Kamakura Shirts. Kamakura Shirts is a Japanese import that is the epitome of the ethos: adopt, adapt, adept. They’ve taken the button down and re-engineered it to near perfection. With several collar styles (I’d go with the semi-spread or the button-down) and cloth choices at one affordable price, you’ll get your money’s worth. Color-wise, stick to something conservative like white, blue, and pink; you’ll have an easier time mixing and matching if you do.
If you’re in New York City, head over to their quaint mid-town location. Their customer service is top-notch, and their sales assistants are sure to help you walk away with a couple of shirts that will be your go-to staples.
4. THE SHOES: ANDREW LOCK
It’s important not to skimp out on footwear. A well-made pair of shoes will be far more comfortable than any cheap alternative, and will likely outlive anything in your closet if properly cared for. The key is to stick to more classic styles, like these black or brown oxfords from Andrew Lock. Benchmade in Spain, these shoes are made from high quality French boxcalf leather and are Goodyear welted (which means that they can be easily resoled and worn for years). The styling is also incredibly attractive, and few shoes in this price range can boast similar looks and level of construction. (Check out this piece to learn more about proper shoe care and how to develop that desired patina.)
5. THE TIE: THE TIE BAR
Strapping on an ugly, over-designed tie is one of the quickest ways a person can ruin an otherwise attractive outfit. Less is more is a good rule of thumb when it comes to neckwear, so opt for something classic in wool or silk. Head over to The Tie Bar for a number of attractive and affordable options, like this one in wool pinstripe, or this one featuring regimental stripes. Generally speaking, the width of your tie should match the width of your lapels. For most moderns cuts and styles, I find that a width of 2½ inches is the sweet spot.
6. THE ACCESSORIES: THE TIE BAR and UNIQLO
For most situations, it’s probably a good idea to keep accessories to a minimum. There are, however, a few small things you can do to add a little personality to your get-up. A tie bar, like this one with a subtle matte finish, can add a level of sophistication to your look without putting a dent in your wallet. Likewise, a white cotton pocket square folded flat is an inconspicuous way to elevate your look without getting too flashy.
When it comes to socks, you can try something with a little bit of color, though if you do it’s best to stick to darker hues. Just make sure they’re long enough to cover your legs when you’re sitting; you don’t want any skin showing. Head over to Uniqlo for a number of options in luxurious Supima cotton.
Tie bar: $15
Pocket Square: $8
Socks: 3 for $12.90
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below in our comments section. I’m here to help.
by Ilya Ryvin
Follow Ilya @RYVINI on Instagram.