Psychologically speaking, a tailored suit has the potential to dramatically alter your persona and people’s perceptions of you. Tailored to your physique, it flatters your form, bequeathing you sartorial camouflage for your flaws or simply enhancing your natural physical attributes thus, increasing your confidence. We show you what to look out for.
Fabric and Colour
While it is tempting to take a leaf out of the street photography looks from the latest edition of Pitti Uomo, fancy patterns and strong colours are best left to the purview of experienced dandies. Instead, invest in something more conservative with your first.
Steer clear of black, which is reserved for the most formal of occasions. Go with charcoal, slate greys and olive green instead, they are great for office wear, dinners and even the weekends as a suit separate with denim. And when it comes to fabric, avoid the super-wools above 120s. Most suits lay on a spectrum between 100 and 120. While lighter fabric weights and fine-spun fabrics look and feel better, they require delicate care and attention, and aren’t exactly hard wearing nor long lasting. The higher the number, the smoother they run, and the only reason you should go above that is when you have enough suits for every day of a month.
While most suits tend to be fully lined given their heritage from Europe, those in South East Asia should elect to go with half or even quarter-lined jackets to enhance breathability in more humid climates. That said, less than full lining doesn’t mean cost reductions, as the suit usually requires greater skill and time to construct. Fact is, having lining allows a tailor to get away with loose threads and roughly finished seams, and without that essential layer, he is forced to finish each stitch to perfection.
Sizing and Fit
Not all tailors are equal. Some will run the gamut of conservatism, pitching blocky cuts and more relaxed fits while the sartorially experienced will encourage the adoption of slimmer fits and more tailored cuts.
Typically, a tailor should understand fundamental concept of a ‘button stance’, where the button points of your jacket meet. A jacket with a sharply cut waist while retaining some drape will accentuate your shoulders and the ‘V’ of your chest, giving you a more masculine look.
During your first fitting, note where the shoulder points of your jacket end and how comfortable you are with the location of blazer’s armholes. High armholes — openings to your jacket sleeves closer to your armpit — project a fitted James Bond silhouette, while lower armhole positions provide a more relaxed fit. The latter fit has a tendency to put you on a spectrum closer to Roger Moore’s ‘plump’ Bond than Daniel Craig’s ‘alpha male’ Bond.
To see how well it fits, start by buttoning your jacket at the waist. This central position will reveal how the jacket has been designed and anchored, pulling the garment in at the shoulders and revealing its structure. Stretch lines that radiate from the fastener are a sure sign that your jacket has been cut too small.
Next, observe the neck and shoulders — these are the key to fit. Shoulder seams should rest at the tips of your shoulders while the neck should rest, and not float, along the natural curvature of your shoulder line. For a more traditional look, the jacket skirt should end where your knuckles of your thumb are with your arm at your sides. Anything shorter is a more modern cut.
Conservative tailors are likely to give you a three-button jacket. Since sartorial rules dictate that only the centre button (or waist button) be fastened, it is likely that this sort of short lapel will create a rather awkward angle at the top of the jacket’s front, in that event, you are advised to button the top two. Alternatively, you can avoid that faux pas by simply insisting on a two-button roll. We’d also avoid the one-button look, which is emminently more appropriate for a tuxedo.
Thankfully, there’s a good compromise: the natural “three-rolls-two". That is, a three button jacket with lapels which naturally roll to two button, giving you the flexibility of a blazer capable to transforming to either a three or two-button style jacket depending on prevailing trends (all with a simple steam and iron at an experienced tailor).
Notch or Peak lapel
Peak lapels are a nod to the heritage of standard Victorian morning coats and thus considered more formal. We’ll go for the peak simply because Tom Ford demonstrates that such lapels project aggression and general machismo. In the hands of a sartorially oblivious tailor, the notch lapel simply leaves too much room for error. Cut low and your jacket looks dated, cut too high and you look like you’re wearing a bad facsimile of The Beetles’ costume.
The USA network’s legal drama Suits offers the best visual demonstration on the thorny issue of lapel widths. Younger, slimmer gentlemen can follow the Mike Ross slim Burberry style suiting with thin lapels. On an older gentleman, thin lapels might feel a tad inappropriate, and it’d be better to opt for a more traditional width whilst avoiding the gregarious wide lapels of the ’70s.
Stick to a more contemporary fit where the waist band stops slightly above the hip and for the taper of the pant legs follow the natural musculature of your legs. It isn’t rocket science to avoid skinny cuts either, unless it is your intent to mimic the mod-squad look of the ’60s and ’70s.