Men’s Suits – 10 Crucial Buying Tips to Look Stylin’ Like James Bond

February 11, 2010

I thought it would be fun to create a men’s suit buying guide for guys who want hip, tailored suits (like the type James Bond wears). I feel that I have expertise in this area, because I managed a men’s suit store for over 6 years. I’ve literally trained 100+ suit salesmen and have sold thousands if not tens of thousands of men’s suits. There are a few buying guides on the Internet, but I wanted to focus specifically on the fitted Hollywood look. I wanted to talk about the specific features to look for, without having to drop $4,000 for a high-end designer label.

James Bond Suit

[I think Daniel Craig is the best Bond...even better than Sean Connery. Here is a pic where it shows an example of a nice fitted shirt. I'll give you a big shirt buying tip that will make a huge difference in the way you look in a suit.]

Tip #1: Don’t Assume A Suit Salesperson Has Good Taste

Out of the 100+ suit sales people that I hired, I would estimate less than 10% of them had great taste when it came to dress clothes. It is easy to train someone how to measure properly, it is tough to train someone to have good taste in clothing. Just because someone is an expert in getting proper measurements doesn’t mean they are an expert in creating the look you are after.

Tip #2: No Pleated Pants

I have a no pleats rule. Seriously…pleated pants are very unflattering and can create a curvy feminine look to your lower body. Even worse than that is that pleated pants are typically cut really baggy towards the top of the pant and have a strong taper effect. Also, pleated pants were made to be worn high on the waist…right up to just below your belly button. If you do decide to wear them a bit lower, they will poof out and make a bad look even worse. Pleats just add extra fabric near your waist and hips making those areas appear bigger than they are. I probably should have made this rule #1, because I see no reason for wearing pleated pants.

Pleated Pants vs Flat Front Pants

[As you can see, the left image shows pleated pants. These create an unnecessary sweep to the leg and also creates a strong tapering effect.]

Tip #3: Get Pants With a Lower Than Average “Rise”

The “rise” of a pant is the measurement from the crotch to the top of the waist. The average rise of a pant is between 11-12 inches. The problem with getting pants with an average rise is that this means they must be worn almost up to the belly button. I prefer to wear my pants lower and closer to my hips, just like good jeans. If you do this with a pant with a large rise, the crotch of the pant will sag low and create a sloppy look (from the front and back). A better approach is to get a suit with pants that have a lower than average rise. This will make a huge difference, especially for the younger guys who hate wearing pants up high on the waist.

Tip #4: Don’t Cuff Your Pants

When a tailor is measuring your pants to be hemmed, make sure that you tell them you want “plain bottom” hemming. My rule is that cuffs only go on pleated pants. Since you aren’t going to get pleated pants (right?), you are not going to want to cuff your pants.

Tip #5: A Proper Fitting Coat Will Feel Slightly Constricting

Let me rant a bit about a pet peeve of almost every suit salesperson…when someone tries on a coat and lift their arms above their head or does hugging motions to see if the coat “fits properly”. A well fitted coat will feel slightly constricting. It isn’t meant to play sports in. When you do need to do physical labor, simply take the coat off. If you can easily move around a bunch in your suit coat, it will have a sloppy baggy look to a certain extent. When trying on a coat, just keep your arms at their side. Try it both button and unbuttoned. Tell the tailor you want fitted, without being too tight.

Fitted Tuxedo Coat

[I realize this is a tuxedo coat, but this is an example of the ideal fit for a suit coat. What you want to pay attention to is that the coat should "curve in" a bit on the sides. If it hangs straight from the armpit to the bottom of the coat, then the coat is too big or poorly tailored.]

Tip #6: Buy Fitted Dress Shirts or Have Them Tailored

I know the title of this post is about suits, but dress shirts are an extension of a suit, so I felt the need to address them as well. The James Bond Picture above is the perfect example of a nice fitted shirt. If you don’t get fitted you will get a terrible effect of the shirt billowing out on the sides and back when you tuck in your shirt. In the United States all of the regular dress shirts are cut with way too much fabric in the mid-section. I would recommend buying shirts that are fitted (and even then they may need to be tailored further). The tailor at the store I managed would take any shirt and make it fitted for $15 per shirt. Make sure the tailor takes in fabric starting at the cuff of the sleeve, down the arm to the armpit, and then all the way down the side of the shirt to the bottom.

Baggy Shirt (left)  Fitted Shirt (right)

[More often than not, I see guys with shirts that fit like the picture on the left (or worse). Get rid of all that extra fabric that is making you look dumpy...gather all of your dress shirts and get them taken in for around $15 per shirt. I would recommend testing out different tailors to see who does the exact job that you like...and then get all of your shirts taken in.]

Tip #7: Dry Clean All of Your Tailored Dress Shirts

I used to wash and then iron all of my dress shirts for the first few years I managed the suit store. I figured that dry cleaning was just a waste of money. Then I found out that dry cleaning was actually cheap ($2) for dress shirts and that they extended the life of the shirt by 3-4 times. You can wear a dress shirt two times before it needs to be dry cleaned again. So, if you work 5 days per week and have 5 dress shirts…you would only need to take these 5 dress shirts to the cleaners twice per month. Find a place that does them for $2 a piece and it only comes out to $20 per month! Your dress shirts will look much more crisp, last longer, and you won’t have to iron your shirts.


[A good brand name that has the elements of the James Bond suit without the $4,000+ price tag is Hugo Boss. If you look hard you can find these suits in the $500-$800 range. You can go cheaper, but just make sure you get the features I talk about in this post.]

Tip #8: 2 Button Suits Are Best and Never More Than 3

A 2 button suit is the way to go. I would avoid anything more than 3 buttons. When you wear a 2 button suit, keep the bottom button unbuttoned. When you wear a 3 button suit, button the middle button. A 3 button suit isn’t a “deal breaker” like pleated pants…but get 2 button when possible for the hip James Bond look. The nice thing about 2 button coats is that they work with jeans as well.

Tip #9: No Long “Zoot Suit” Style Suits

Too long is just as bad as too baggy. You never want your suit to reach down to your knees…it should come to just below your butt or slightly higher. Suits that are too long, also have lots of buttons. The only thing that could make this look worse is when it is paired with a banded collar dress shirt. People used to come in my store all of the time to get these shirts. They would say, “I have been looking everywhere but I can’t find those cool shirts that don’t have collars”. They are extremely hard to find for a reason!

banded collar shirts...NOOOO!

[Please I beg you not to wear banded collar dress shirts. Trust me on this. They are brutal! Also, suits should have lapels...those mandarin collar suits that don't have a lapel are a disaster as well.]

Tip #10: Buy a Suit That Doesn’t Need Too Much Tailoring

A poor fitting suit can’t be tailored to look like a suit that was made for your body type. Almost everyone who reads this blog will need the waist taken in a few inches, even on athletic cut suits. Don’t buy a suit if the waist in the pants needs to get taken in more than 3 inches. If that is the case then you will need to buy suit separates. That way you can get a pant with the exact waist size and coat that is of the right size. The only issue is that many brands don’t sell suit separates.

Special Tips For Different Body Types

The Long Arm – Long Leg – Short Torso Guy: If you buy a coat based on sleeve length being long enough, then the coat will look too long on you. My suggestion is to buy a coat that fits you in the body and then have the sleeves extended (the sleeves can typically be taken out 1.5 to 2 inches).

The Big Belly Guy: You will need to get a lower rise flat front pant for sure since you will be forced to wear your pants low on the hips. Don’t let the suit sales person talk you into pleated pants that you wear high up on your stomach. This will just highlight the problem area…plus your pants will constantly slip down to your hips anyway. Also, you are going to have to buy a bigger coat size to fit your belly. The shoulders of the suit will probably look a bit too big and loose. So lets work on reducing that belly…dig in to my site and start working.

It’s All in the Details of the Suit

Jude Law

[If you like to dress well, pay attention to what well dressed people wear. There are several examples in Hollywood and Jude Law is definitely one of them. No need to buy the same brands as these guys, just get the same features and you will be good.]

The Bodybuilder Guy: Everyone who is in good shape will need to buy athletic fit suits, but this still might not work for you. Almost all pants need to get taken in, but you don’t want to go over 3 inches. You will probably be forced to buy suit separates. As far as big legs go, you are going to have a tough time fitting nicely into a pair of flat front dress pants. My advice is to reduce that leg mass, to look better in dress clothes (and jeans).

The Super Skinny Guy: Suits will be a breeze, but dress shirts will need to be drastically taken in. Look for fitted or slim cut shirts and have them taken in. If you try and wear a regular dress shirt it will billow out from the waist of your pants and look extremely sloppy. The good thing is that you will look great in suits.

Note: I know this post is mainly aimed at guys, but it isn’t bad info for a woman to know as well…especially if she has a man in her life that needs to look sharp. Buying a suit can be intimidating, but hopefully I have armed you with enough info to come out looking sharp. Also: Don’t let the suit salesperson talk you into a bad suit…shop around.

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Rusty Moore

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{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

Ferdinand September 24, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Connery’s dinner jacket at the casino in Dr. No is double-vented. Short vents common in the late ’50s and the 1960s.

Elias October 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm

i found this to be very helpful, thank you very much! but i have a question though… in the picture in tip #5, what brand is the tuxedo jacket??? because i really like it and i want to get the same one for an upcoming event.

Vicky October 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm

The most useful points to be dressed well, I’ll go to buy a dress for a marriage party and will with considering these points firstly.

Thanks for the share/post

zzz October 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm

“Lose weight” is pretty unhelpful advice for someone with a belly that needs a suit in the short term. Is your advice to wear a suit with too-big shoulders, or is there an actual solution? Can shoulders be tailored, and can waists? If yes, which is easier/cheaper to tailor?

Michael Sanders October 18, 2011 at 4:49 am

While many of Rusty’s style- tips are still useful, his advice discounts suit-makers trend toward popular styles, thus limiting our choices to what sells instead of what we want to buy. Many online articles point to a sagging economy as the culprit behind this Wal-Mart effect. Cheaper cloth with machine-cut stitching being passed-off as hand-stitched by commission-hungry sales reps. who have no problem lying to unsavvy consumers. Sadly, this practice is more commonplace than it is rare. Most men look nothing like James Bond. Try fitting that suit on a 5’9″, 200Lb. frame with an even slightly-visible belly. Even WITH suspenders, the look is ridiculous. The better tips have come from the replies following Rusty’s article. Thanks, Guys & Gals. You’ll notice that Rusty hasn’t replied to your posts in a long time. No need to wonder why. it’s obvious to any readers paying attention.

Scott November 24, 2011 at 10:47 am

So i just bought some shirts from Express(new store here) man what a mistake. I’m about to return everything after reading terrible reviews; Except for the fit,which is awesome. I got a laugh in your above example of a proper fitted shirt and it’s the Express 1MX and why i went to the store. So i’m off to go find a hugo boss shirt now ;)
Lots of online snob’s, that are against colour it seems, said to try Charles Tyrwhitt, TM Lewin or modern tailor but it’s seems like they must have been an old boys club member because everything is so bland looking. Pockets, or just pastel type blues etc or hideous coloured stripes, pretty much nothing you could wear without covering it up with a suit and having a nice tie distract from it.

I work for an engineering company with multi billion dollar projects and 99% of the people don’t wear suits, so I’m not sure why people are trying to push places like brooks brothers on people, they have some of the most ugly shirts, Sears has better looking shirts. So thank you for the confirmation that I’m not insane for thinking BB is old mans.

What are the rules for colours in a business professional environment sans jacket? Should it be broken up with a pattern? Stick to blues/lighter colours if solid etc.

Thanks!

xunaira sheikh December 11, 2011 at 6:45 am

Hey,
i found it to be very helpful .. though i had a question is what kinda stuff would yew prefer with combination for suit with sweat shirt underneath.. I’ve designed a suit n searched various things in eastern , western etc but it wasn’t acceptable so what would you suggest??!! From your stuff or any other?! Um planning to go for broken up market pattern for upcoming event.. and definitely i will prefer your suggestion for mine choice .. !! as your choice is pretty cool..!!

Thanks!!

Simon December 29, 2011 at 11:33 am

To people that want intelligent advice on how to buy a suit, you can follow pretty much what the author said but we need to revise some parts of it.

If you want to look “passable”, you can but a suit anywhere for any price. If you want to look “good”, you can get a Boss suit (not too bad). You need to find a suit that fits you well when you try it on you (without too much alterations).

Try to find a suit that is at least “half-canvassed” and made in wool (thread 100). For the dress shirts, to find fitted ones is a nice thing but be intelligent and choose accordingly to your size. 100% cotton is a must.

For a real “James Bond” effect, you will need to go shop at expensive stores and to get a high quality suit. In all honesty, we all need to understand something: the bullshit that if a suit fits you well will make you shine like a hero is a half-false statement.

A suit that fits you well will help (of course) but is the fabric is cheap, you will still look cheap. You wanna look like James Bond, go for at least an Ermenegildo Zegna suit, Armani suit or Tom Ford suit.

Under that, you will not be James Bond “like”. Dress shirts are the same thing, $100 for a dress shirt is a basic good one. $200 are better.

Example, Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace, Tom Ford suit ($5,000), dress shirt ($300), tie ($200), shoes ($1,500), wool overcoat ($4,000). I’m not saying you need this precise stuff but still, you need to spend to look good.

Simon December 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I just red 90 % of the comments on the page. I will say that for everyone that wants to hear it: never go cheap on a suit. It is something we have 1 or 2 and it should last around 6 to 8 years (depending how much we wear them).

If you want a real suit, you go to companies that are expert in the subject, no crappy stores for $200… I suggest to anyone to go see expensive suits, feel them, try them. The day I’ve tried a Tom Ford wool jacket, I told myself “wow, this is quality”. The day I have tried a Ermenegildo Zegna suit, I was amazed.

Shoes, go for at least Allen-Edmonds, A. Testoni. Forget the Gucci and Ferragamo, they still make crappy shoes in their lines.

John Lobb is arguably the best shoe maker in the world. You pay but you get quality.

TheJackal February 29, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Okay, you have some good comments here, particularly the fitted dress shirts – if you can afford em. Expensive!

But some of your advice is way off base, in my opinion. Suitcoats that are too tight look RETARDED. I was watching a TV sportscaster the other day (a gentleman who clearly spends a good deal of time in the gym) and his overly tight suit looked plain stupid. A suit coat should never be baggy, this is true, but a coat that pulls and looks stretched on is just as stupid. A truly properly fitted suit should be hard to get on and easy to wear. It should drape beautifully and accentuate the male form, not look like it’s straining to stay buttoned.

Secondly, you need to broaden your horizons; pleated and cuffed trousers, high waistlines, etc. are not for everyone, but certain forms are flattered by such styles. For others, a flat front with no cuff is just the ticket. Wide, thick bodied, short men should never wear pleated pants with cuffs; it makes them look like fat dwarves.

On the other hand, tall slender gentlemen can rock the pleats and cuffs and look impeccable. Take a look at some photos of Mr. Carey Grant sometime, and you’ll see just what I mean.

The rule of thumb for men’s stylish attire can be summed up in this: a gentleman’s attire should always be moderate, aesthetically pleasing and harmonious. Don’t wear what someone else tells you is “the in thing” just because they say so. You would be surprised what looks awesome on certain people.

Fashion is fleeting; style is forever.

Scott May 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

I overall like the post, and agree with most of the comments. I sold custom made suits for nearly 20 years, so I know a thing or two about clothing. My only negative comments would be the following:

The picture of the tux is not a well fitting suit. First, the lapels are buging slightly (although this may be the way the person is standing, and the button pulls at the front indicating it is a little tight (and in this case the button stance is a bit too high. You could come up with a better “ideal fit” that shows off a tapered waist that doesn’t pull.

You tell people to dry clean their shirts, when you actually mean launder. Dry cleaning is entirely unecessary and far more costly. Laundering is definitely worth the effort for an all cotton shirt, although I would seriously question the increased longevity. The water temperatures used at commersial launderies is twice as hot as you could do your shirts at home, which over time wears a shirt out. That being said, ironing ones own cotton shirts is a pain, and I can’t imagine many people doing this either.

Overall, from a current day stype perspective I think your comments are good. Unless you have huge thighs, flat-front pants are the way to go. Three button is pretty out of style, although I still wear a few as I’m not discarding perfectly good suits. If you get flat fronts, then no cuffs is the norm, so agree with you there as well.

Scott May 7, 2012 at 10:55 am

zzz,

yes, shoulders can be tailored, but only by a good tailor, and it is expensive. Waists are typically easier to a point, but there is only a finite amount of fabric at the seams, and far less if the suit has side vents. Often a better alternaitive is to find a store that sells “portly” suits, which are made for people with a 3″ drop from chest to waist, rather than the standard 6″ drop (7-8 for more athletic cuts). Brooks Brothers may still carry portly model suits, but not a lot of stores do.

mark June 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm

You just said Hugo Boss are high quality…For 500-800 you can get so much better. Hugo Boss is the TJ Maxx of designers. In other words, don’t bother buying it.

James Hopkins July 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

great articles. we carry many styles and colors here at our site. feel free to look. thank you

Henry July 28, 2012 at 8:39 pm

How large can i buy a suit and still expect a tailor to take it in?

I am a size 40, what is the recommended, or largest, size i can buy and still get a good fit after tailoring?

okiemon August 14, 2012 at 7:31 am

Oh, and by the way, when you send your dress shirts to the dry cleaner, he doesn’t dry clean them. He launders them (that’s right, in a washing machine), then presses them on a special machine. If you specifically ask him to dry clean it, you won’t get it for $2; it will be closer to $5 – $8. I think you meant to say it should be “professionally cleaned”, not “dry cleaned.”

Men's Clothing August 16, 2012 at 3:41 am

Actually, pleats are added to dress pants for a certain purpose. That is to hide the extra weight the wearer has in the lower part of his body. If you have a slim body, dress pants with flat fronts is the best for you to wear. Perhaps, you have a number of pleated old pants you want to use. You can just ask a tailor to remove them.

Terry August 20, 2012 at 7:52 am

I just purchased a suit and when I was being fitted to shorten the sleeves and to do the hem I asked to have the seams in the pant leg taken in to be more on the slim side. Is it OK to do this? Will it alter the look of the pant?

yves September 18, 2012 at 3:37 am

Firstly most of the remarks re clothing i rate right up there with bullshit………your not giving ideas re styles, hell your selling a clothing line.

All of the men here know crap about style or bieng trendy, you have to ask what to wear because you dont know how anything about color coordination.

Talk about sheep hell your all robots………..james bond look? face it your not james bond with the babes, your usually with the wife who you havent taken out in years as for girlfreinds, they can dress you like a clown and you would not know the difference………..i can probably out dress all of jerks for under a hundred bux, try the salvation army thrift store

london massage September 26, 2012 at 2:54 am

Awesome website you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any forums that cover the same topics talked about here?
I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get advice from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

The Transporter December 11, 2012 at 12:54 am

For about $150-$200 you can get a tailor made cashmere wool suit with half lined trousers and a silk shirt…in Bangkok. Get a local tailor or dressmaker to measure you up, find a photo of the suit you want, and submit it online to one of the hundreds of Bangkok tailors selling online. I have always been well pleased with the results, and I’ve never had to have a suit altered – they have always fit perfectly.

monavie March 11, 2013 at 8:18 am

I like the helpful info you provide in your articles.
I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite certain I will learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

Philip June 19, 2013 at 11:14 am

yeah Not a really big fan of the pleats myself. we have tons of suits that fit your exact description on our site, esuit.com, feel free to try them out peeps!

Gabe November 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hey Rusty! I just came from Bangkok where they make custom suits in 24 hours for a reasonable price, but I was wondering what I could do about wide hips (I’m a guy). I’ve got a small ribcage and somewhat narrow shoulders (yeah my genetics weren’t very kind), and I noticed that the suit which was tailored to make me look good, still highlighted the difference with my upper and lower body.

Any tips for workouts or clothes that can slim my legs/hips and increase my upper body width? I’ve got a bad ankle so I can’t really do sprints too often to work my legs.

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