Suits come in many different styles. This stinks, because it means that you have to make… (*shudder*)… decisions. Generally, your first suit should:
  • be single-breasted (the jacket simply buttons instead of folding over itself in the front)
  • be navy or dark blue
  • be a solid (no pinstripes or wacky plaids)
  • have two or three buttons on the jacket

Your pants, you can wear however you like them (preferably on your legs). This is the classic, conservative style, and is your ideal first suit. It will work in any situation. But for more in depth advice, here are some notes each of the various parts of a suit.

  1. The cut
  2. The jacket
  3. The pants
  4. The shirt & tie

The cut

The "cut" of a suit refers to how the suit generally hangs off your body. There are three general cuts: (1) The American cut- the industry standard, middle of the road suit cut. This is basically the normal type of suit you see people wearing., and should be your choice of cut for your first suit. (2) The full cut- this kind of suit is not tapered at the waist, so it tends to hang straight down and allow more room at the waist. This cut is often preferred by fuller-figured men, complete with the two vents mentioned below (see jackets below). This is more the classic look which would be acceptable for a first suit. (3) The European cut- this one tapers at the waist, for a trim, fit look. Before buying a suit with a European cut, make sure you are trim and fit and not planning to gain weight.

The jacket

When buying a jacket, the tailor will pinch and poke you all over the place. The tailor generally will know what he's doing, but he will often ask you what different looks you prefer. In such a situation, use the information below:

Collar – should hug the back of the neck without buckling or pulling; a _ inch of your shirt collar should show at the back.

Shoulder Pads – they help the suit to hang properly, make you look more muscular than you probably are, and make for a more slender look overall.

Lapels – you need them, because Don Johnson you ain't and the 80's are over; high or low notch is okay as long as they lay flat on your chest, aren't too big, and don't buckle. Look for lots of stitches around the outside which are as close to invisible as possible.

Arms and sleeves – should end at the point where your hands meet your wrists and show a quarter inch of your shirt sleeve; make sure that you don't feel like you're wearing a straight jacket and that you have free movement of your arms. As a test, bring your arms out straight in front of you, and try sitting in a chair and pretending you're writing or eating. You should always be comfortable.

Buttons – two or three are okay, but always leave the bottom one undone. If you have an athletic build, a low button stance (lower down the suit front, below the lapels) is best, and if you're more of a portly fellow, the high button stance (above the beer belly, below the lapels) is best.

Vests – don't bother with one of these unless you're a CEO or really cold all the time. These are for advanced suit-wearers only.

Vents – these are in the flap of cloth below the waist at the back and should cover your ass; one, two, or none (slits or vents) are okay, but remember that the larger-assed among us should take two vents, and the flat or skinny-assed should choose no vents; either way, the jacket should still fit properly and not stretch out over this part of our anatomy — be honest with yourself about sizing.

The pants

Waist – a common fallacy is that if you make the waist as tight as possible, it'll squish your stomach in and make you look skinny. Wrong. It'll give you gas, keep you in constant pain, and make you look stupid when you unbutton your jacket. Just make sure that the waistline is comfortable and that you can always stick two fingers into the waist while you're wearing them. Also, don't hike your pants up too high. You're not Urkel.

Pleats – okay with or without. They are recommended, again, for those of a fuller abdomen, while discouraged for those who are extremely thin.

Cuffs – these help the pants to hang properly by providing a little weight at the bottom. They look better on someone with long legs, so the shorter man should definitely avoid them. Everyone else should stick to a maximum 1" cuff for best effect.

Accessories – Your belt must match your shoes, and leather is the preferred material. Your shoes should also be leather. As for color, you usually can't go wrong with black. Your socks should match your pants, and they must be dress socks. No thick black tube socks.

The shirt & tie

A shirt and tie? Yeah, they're part of a suit, Einstein. The bare chest thing is not a good look. We don't care what kind of hunk you think you are, only the wrong kind of employer would be interested in seeing that. So you're going to need a shirt and tie, and preferably several of each. But what kinds to buy?

You will want to have a selection of plain white and blue shirts. A button-down collar dresses you down, so you have to decide how formal your office is and buy accordingly. After you have a few plain shirts, you could mix it up with some shirts of the same colors, but now with some thin stripes or small, conservative checks. Beware the "striped shirt, striped tie, and pinstripes" look, however.

Ties should match, and that's all we can tell you. If you're not sure, this will be a place where a knowledgeable salesperson will be indispensable. Remember that many men are colorblind, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. You should have a selection of ties for rotation, some of which match more than one suit or jacket. This will help provide an assortment of different looks, and avoid messy gossip about where you're sleeping when you come in wearing the same exact outfit two days in a row.

The latest style in suits seems to be leaning towards a more slender pant leg with no cuffs, moving away from pleats, and having three buttons on the jacket. This is all fine, as long as the overall look of the suit is conservative, not trendy. Three button jackets, although recently "rediscovered" thanks to Frasier and his ilk, are a classic look, and will not necessarily be out of style in a year's time. They will endure.