Buying a suit: a tough question?
Buying a good, well-tailored and well-fitted suit should not be like writing the JAMB examination. It might however be tough if you do not know what to look for. This article provides some useful guides on what to look for based on personal experience.
What are the important things to consider when buying a suit? I asked myself this question sometime in the past and after some research and investigations, I came to some interesting conclusions which I want to share with you in this post.
My first suit
I got my first suit as a birthday gift after my youth service as I prepared to plunge myself into the labour market. It was really my first suit so I cherished it. This suit was “carved” (I mean sewn) by a Nigeria tailor (or should I say fashion designer) and looking back now with more experienced eyes, some things were just out of place.
After getting a job, I had to get extra suits because my job required that I wore a suit every day. With a small salary, I thought I could not afford the real suits so I went for another tailor. I alongside some other colleagues actually believed we discovered a Nigerian Daniel Hechter at a bargain price. Today however, some of the photographs we took years back wearing those “carved” suits are the kind that you secretly remove from your album before giving it to your visitors to go through.
Since then, a lot has changed and I can say a few things about buying the right kind of suits. Many people probably do not patronize the roadside tailors any more to help us “carve” a suit and many of these tailors have even stopped trying. There are different kinds of seemingly well tailored ready-made suits – imported and local – for people to choose and buy from. Nevertheless, you only need to spend some time of the day checking out guys in suit bustling all around any popular business district to realize that some of us still don’t get it.
I likened suits to works of arts such as artistic painting and to buy a good art painting irrespective of the cost – cheap or expensive – you will need to check out the paint type, brush lines and strokes and some other easily overlooked aspect of the art work.
Let us quickly look at 8 parts of a suit you should check out before making your next choice to buy or not to buy. We would only focus on the single-breasted suit in this post but the guideline can be applied to other types.
1. The shoulders
This is one of the most conspicuous parts of any suit you wear. Do not judge how well-tailored the suit jacket shoulders are by gazing at it on a rack or hangar but right on you. They should perfectly fit your shoulder frame. Those with minimal or no shoulder pads are often the best.
The lapel is that long part of a suit jacket similar to a shirt collar that often reaches from the neck down to the first button of your suit. There are different types of lapels. Common examples are the notch and peak lapels. For maximum result, the width of your suit lapel should correspond with the width of your tie. Wider lapels are fitting for wider ties and narrow lapels are fitting for narrow ties. So next time you want to buy a suit, factor in the widths of your ties.
3. The breast pocket/pocket square
Most suit jackets’ breast pockets today are usually angled. They often come tacked up to maintain its shape during packaging and transportation. In other to use a pocket square with it, you have to remove the tacking.
Most people think pocket square are meant to be wore only during formal dinners and social events but I beg to differ. The pocket square draws attention from your stomach to the chest and highlights your tie and shirt.
You also need to check if the lapel of the suit jacket overlaps one end of the breast pocket. For men with wider chest, it is recommended that there should be no overlap. If you have a narrow chest however, the overlap should be perfect for you.
4. The button stance
This refers to how high or low the buttons on the suit jacket are. Low buttons enable you to show off your shirt and tie. For best result with low button suits, you need to wear longer ties that would not easily slip out of the suit anytime you bend forward. Low button suits are also very good for shorter men with short upper body since it gives an appearance of a long upper body. High button suit works completely in the opposite direction.
You also need to note that since you are not expected to button the last button of your suit, a high button suit would most likely showcase the buckle of your belt.
5. Flap pockets
A well tailored suit should typically have its flap pockets along the same line with the last button of your suit – that is the button you normally leave open. This generally applies to suits with more than one button. It is also usually at this point that the narrow part of your suit begins to widen out again. If this is not the case, you might be rewriting industry standard or defining your own fashion.
For maximum variation, the suit jacket should be able to maintain its tailored appearance even when the flaps are tucked in. Suit jackets that permit this allow you transform your suit into a tuxedo and back at no cost.
6. Sleeve length
Your suit jacket’s sleeve should not be longer than the shirt your wear inside. Fashion stylists recommend between half an inch or an inch distance between the end of your suit jacket’s sleeve and the sleeve of your shirt. Any distance more than an inch means your suit jacket’s sleeve length is too short.
If your suit jacket completely covers the shirt’s cuffs however, then either the sleeve length of the suit is too long or that of the shirt is too short.
There are two types namely double/side or center vents. The center vent refers to a slit in the center bottom part of the back of the suit and is basically an American style. The double/side vent refers to suits with two slits at the bottom right and left part of the back of the suit. This style is European.
The popular opinion here is that if you have a big bum-bum (hope you get this) for a guy like some women do have, the double/side vents is for you. If you do not, then the center vent is for you.
You may however experiment to find out which is best for you. Try and see how both types will look and feel on you when you squat, bend and put one or both hands in your trouser’s pockets.
There are couples of other useful things to look out for when buying a suit but we can’t possibly cover all here. These include things like fabric, texture, material, color, etc. We would consider some of these in future posts.
What we have here should however help you professionally handle those smooth talking suits sales person the next time they attempt to bulldoze you into buying a suit that really does not suit you.
Got any question or contribution? Please feel free to add your comment below.