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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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!
[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
[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.