The pictures and video for this article were taken from GQ.com. I do not own any of the media in this article.
The game has changed. Gone are the days of roomy jackets and baggy slacks. Today slim in is. Years of research and study on how to wear the quintessential piece of menswear are now at your disposal.
I would classify myself as particular in several different areas in my life; some examples are food, entertainment, and especially fashion. Notice I use the word particular in lieu of picky, it's important to distinguish the difference between the two. In my eyes being particular involves giving thought to finding a satisfied state of things, and then not settling for anything less. Is that being picky? I don't think so.
Why the big stink about picky vs. particular? Well let's just say that I've been on a mission to find and purchase the perfectly fitted suit. There is something about finding that ideal suit that fits my style. The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers once said that wearing the ideal suit made him feel like he was putting on a suit of armor, it's empowering. It's for this reason that I have undertaken the difficult task of finding the ideal suit, with mixed results. I've resorted to asking strangers I see on the street where they purchased their suit, something I wouldn't recommend doing often, it just puts off an air of desperation.
During my exhaustive search for the perfectly fitted suit, I've learned a few things, namely areas that I will always look for when shopping for a suit. Now I should preface this article by stating that I don't own a plethora of suits, and I wouldn't consider myself a fashion expert, so feel free to take my words with a grain of salt. The way I see it, style is very much subjective, to each is his/her own preference.
Up until recently my efforts to find my ideal suit have been frustrated by annoying sells people, undelivered promises, miscommunication, and an overall dearth of options. Despite all of my setbacks there's hope for me yet. I'm happy to say that as a society, we're making progress (yes I recognize the absurdity of this statement in the context that I'm using it). More and more designers and suiting stores are offering a more contemporary style option, shoppers will recognize this trend when they see words like "Slim" or "European" fit. It used to be that these more trim fitting options were only available through high-end designers like Dior, D&G, and Armani. Consumers now have more affordable yet no less fashionable alternatives like H&M, Zara, Express, and not least of all, J. Crew's Ludlow line.
Now without further ado, allow me to outline the ideal elements of the suit from my perspective. Before I jump into giving fashion advice just let me say that the most important aspect in purchasing a new suit is the fit. The finest of fabrics or most pristine materials don't amount to anything if the wearer is swimming in the fabric. At least 85% of all men who wear suits suffer from baggy suit syndrome. For real life examples, refer to politicians, business executives, or normally anyone over the age of 45. The suit needs to hug the wearer, it doesn't need to be painted on, but a snug fit is ideal.
Time to set the foundations of the all-around look. Yes the shirt is mostly covered up when the wearer is wearing the jacket, however the shirt still plays an integral role in the suit. Like all the rest of the areas of the suit, the fit of the shirt needs to avoid the baggy look. The shirt should hug the torso. Concerning how much of the sleeve should show, GQ gives good advice by saying the cuffs should hit the hinges of your wrists so they poke out about half an inch past the sleeves of your jacket. This should also give you an idea of how long the sleeves should be without wearing a jacket. Don't show too much cuff or you'll end up looking like John Calipari. Around the neck be sure to follow the one finger rule. This is where you can comfortably put one finger in between the neck and collar. Two fingers is to big, less than one is too small. I prefer my shirts to be without a chest pocket, it makes a more trim fit and I never use the pocket anyway.
The jacket is the area of the suit where the wearer has the most freedom to mix things up. Will it be one button or two? Going for the notch or peak lapel? The world is your oyster. Every man should probably own a two button suit, they're safe, reliable, and pretty standard. If you feel like getting cute than go all in with a double breasted look, if you can pull it off then more power to you. Every now and again you'll see the three button suit, I would avoid that look unless you're Steve Harvey or Count Dracula. Personally my favorite element of the suit jacket is the vent. Most American suits out there will at least have the center vent. I happen to prefer the double vent, it's a little more European. It also looks rad to see the vents flap when you run at full speed, not that this happens to men wearing suits often, but it's nice to know that you have that card to play. Whatever the vent situation is with the suit, just make sure to avoid the no-vent look, unless you are going for the old Hollywood style look. I prefer the suit jacket not to be too long, it probably needs to touch where the top of the back pockets on jeans are placed. Beware super long suits, again unless you want to be mistaken for Dracula. Something that seems to be en vogue nowadays is the ticket pocket. It's an additional suit pocket on top of the normal pocket slit. I really like the look and it's just another way to mix things up. The jacket needs to fit comfortably but snuggly around the chest by hugging the torso. Similar to shirt shirt you can test the fit by seeing if you can place you fist between the shirt and interior of suit when it's buttoned up. If you can fit more than one fist than it's probably time to visit you're friend the tailor. Don't worry about not being able to extend your arms completely into the air, remember that you're wearing a suit, not doing plyometrics.
As far as the slacks go, go no pleats or go home. The flat front pants compliment the slim fitting jacket for an ideal look. Don't leave too much length at the ankles, mountains of slack is not a good look unless you're walking around in a flood. The fit of the pants should almost feel like a slim pair of jeans. I know I'm beating a dead horse here but the snug fit is key, an appropriately fitted pair of suit pants shouldn't necessarily need to worn with a belt, in fact it probably looks more stylish to wear it without one (see Daniel Craig).
Skinny ties seem to be all the rage currently. They certainly compliment the slim fitting suit look. However keep in mind that the width of the tie needs to be consistent with the dimensions of both the collar and lapels; for example, If you want to rock the skinny tie, be sure that the suit lapels are narrow, and the shirt collar isn't oversized. Making sure that the tie ends right at the belt are is the optimal length, anything too long or short looks off. I happen to be a fan of solid ties but feel free to mix up the color.
Shoes, Socks, & DIVERSE ACCESSORIES
There has long existed a fashion rule that the suit wearer's socks must match the color of his pants and not his shoes. The tradition no longer is par for the course. More and more men are matching the shoes with the socks. Colored socks are quite popular also nowadays, they are a way to add some variation and personality the a suit.
Throwing in accessories is a great way to add some personal flair to the overall look. My accessory du jour is the tie bar. It's simple yet stylish. General rule of thumb for the tie bar is that it needs to sit between the 3rd and 4th button, and MUST NOT exceed the width of the tie itself. Other suggested compliments on the suit can be a pocket square, lapel pin, cufflinks, and monocle...okay maybe not that last one.
What Have We Learned?
The predominate theme of all the features of the suit is the fit. If you are looking for some real life examples of guys who follow all of the aforementioned rules, please look at certain suits worn by Justin Timberlake, David Beckham, Ryan Seacrest, and Shia Labeouf. As I wrote earlier, all the fancy bells and whistles on a suit don't mean anything if the fit is off. You'll look like you're wearing dad's suit when you were in the 5th grade. If I can have only one thing right about the suit, it would be the slim fitting cut, everything else is secondary.