Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the bare minimum pieces for a classic suit without spending a fortune. This message will self-destruct in 3, 2, 1…
The modern Mission: Impossible for the everyday businessman is here: creating the perfect go-to suit out of the bare essentials. In a world where gentlemen are bombarded with fabric choices and print combinations, it can be difficult to construct a reliable, timeless suit. If you were stranded on a business-inspired island with only the bare minimums, would you have what it takes?
The Devil in the Details: Your first important decision is to choose a color and fabric type that is going to be versatile. Charcoal and gray are the two most versatile colors that will also pair well with most shoes and tie patterns without being too dark for the sunny seasons. Cotton is the most versatile fabric, although it is typically a little too light for winter months.
The Shirt: A good button- down shirt will fit snugly without being too tight. You may leave the top button un-done if you elect not to wear a tie; otherwise, be entirely buttoned. Choose a pattern or print that will add a pop of style and color to your neutral suit, without being too distracting.If you tend to sweat, you’ll want to add an undershirt to your ensemble.
The Tie: One of these things cannot be like the other: your tie and shirt must be complimentary without exactly matching. If your shirt is a print, choose a solid-color tie. In addition, try adding a texture by selecting a darker color or different fabric from your suit and shirt--a strong tie can end up doing the work for you. If your tie dips below your belt line, it’s too long; if it wanders too close to your navel, it may be too short. Finally, stick with the classic Windsor knot, but add a dimple—the hollow beneath your knot.
The Jacket: A proper- fitting suit jacket should fit just below the zipper and seat of your dress pants, while the arm- seams line up with your shoulders. There shouldn’t be any collar gap between your jacket lapels and the collar of your dress shirt. Swap the casual single-button front for a business-ready double- button (the top button should be at your navel). To check the fit, make sure you can slide your hand between your jacket and dress shirt easily without unbuttoning. Finally, the suit sleeves should show roughly a half-inch of your shirt cuff.
Do not mix and match style: either stick with a modern theme or be mistaken as a Mad Men extra. Modern suits feature thinner lapels and double vents in the suit jacket, whereas vintage pieces are wider and more blocked.
The Pants: Create a long, clean-cut look with flat-iron pants in a slim cut. The hemline should just clip the top of your shoes without bunching up. Cuffs work better with heavier material, such as corduroys or flannel. If you do choose to cuff your pant legs, they should be at least an inch and a quarter deep.To ensure a perfect fit, take your shoes with you to the tailor when having them hemmed.
Shoes & Belt: These pieces should always match in color to bring together your suit. Otherwise, you’ll be cut off at the waist and feet. For charcoal and gray suits, stick with a thin black belt and shoes. Your shoes should not be scuffed or look like they’ve been worn for years—even if they have. Bonus points if the color of your belt buckle matches your watch and cufflinks.
The Final Touches: For an added flair, you can add a pocket square that is neither the same color nor material as your tie. When you sit down, be sure your socks are long enough to prevent any skin from showing. And at the end of the day, be wary of the dry cleaners—steam your suit instead. It will thank you.
To Vest or Not to Vest? The three-piece suit brings a fresh, functional vibe to the classic business attire, but is it right for you? If you elect to add the vest, be sure it doesn’t dip below the belt buckle but hugs your torso. Pair it with a relatively subdued shirt and tie, and feel free to work it without the suit jacket.
Take Your Tailor With You: If ever there were someone you needed to kidnap and bring to a desert island with you, it would be your tailor. Regard them to be the magical wizard that can transform an ill-fitting, haphazard suit into the stuff of legends—because that’s exactly what they can be. A good tailor is the proverbial Holy Grail of the suit world, performing work that is just short of a miracle.
With that in mind, never underestimate the power of a suit that is tailored to your body, specifically. Although off-the-rack suits may be passable, or fit “well enough,” investing in tailoring your suit pieces is priceless. Be wary of suits that are too long or have excess fabric—they can make you look shorter and heavier than what you really are.
Finally, look in the mirror, gentlemen. I present to you the man’s version of the little black dress—the well-tailored gray suit.
Ladies love a sharp-dressed man, gentlemen. Give them what they are asking for.