Suits are the cornerstones of a well dressed man’s wardrobe.
There are two basic types of suits: Single breasted and double breasted.
Single breasted suits come in two flavors: Two Piece Suits and Three Piece Suits. In the three piece version, the third piece is the waistcoat (or vest). Three piece suits are not so popular these days because most offices and cars have air-conditioning and therefore do not require the protection of the third piece (waist coat). For the same reason, the Bangladesh climate is particularly unsuitable for three-piece suits as they tend to be warmer. It is, however, not a bad idea to retain a three piece suit in the wardrobe for those particularly chilly winter days. I, however, don’t have any three piece suits.
The natural fabrics for suiting are wool, cotton, linen, rayon, or silk. These materials are also available as blends with each other (for example, wool/silk, cotton/linen, etc.).
There are also man-made fabrics from which suits are made. More expensive suits are normally made of wool or wool/silk blend.
For Bangladesh climate, viscose (rayon) is a suitable suiting material.
There are basically three distinct suit flavors: the English, American, and Italian. Today, however, the traditional distinctions are often blurred as various designers incorporate different elements from these styles.
The traditional English Suit
The English suit is characterized by strongly tapered sides, two side vents, and minimal shoulder pads.
The traditional American Suit
Also known as Sac suit is less tapered compared to the English suit, one vent, and natural (unpadded or slightly padded) shoulders.
The traditional Italian Suit
Also sometimes known as the European Suit, have highly padded shoulders, and without any vent.
In contemporary suits these traditions are often transgressed.
|Figure 1: One Button||Figure 2: Two Buttons||Figure 3: Three Buttons||Figure 4: Four Buttons|
Two-button and three-button suits should be the staple of your wardrobe. One button suit is a fashion forward suit while the four button version is only viable if you are more than six feet six inches tall.
|Figure 5: Four Buttons||Figure 6: Six Buttons|
There are two basic types of double breasted suit: four buttons and six buttons.
Single breasted suits can have three lapel types, as shown below:
|Figure 7: Notch Lapel||Figure 8: Peaked Lapel||Figure 9: Shawl Lapel|
Single breasted suits with shawl lapels are very rare. Most common single breasted suits are of notch lapel.
Double Breasted suits are available only in Peaked Lapels.
Vents are perforations on the back of the suit. There are three choices for both single and double breasted suits.
|Figure 10: No Vent||Figure 11: Single Vent||Figure 12: Double vent|
All three styles are popular. I prefer double vents because it allows easy access to the trousers pockets.
The suit jackets normally have one breast pocket and two other pockets at the front. Sometimes, another pocket known as a ticket pocket is also added. Pockets can be straight or slanted. The picture below shows two straight pockets with flaps.
The two lower pockets may be straight or slanted. Similarly, the ticket pocked can also be straight or slanted. It’s also not uncommon to see the two lower pockets without the flaps. Jackets with jetted (flapless) pockets normally do not have a ticket pocket.
Each sleeve may contain from one to four buttons as shown above. Three and four buttons are normally the standard for suits. Blazers and sports coats sometimes are made with one or two sleeve buttons.
The most important thing about a suit is its fitting—how well it sits on the shoulders and around the body. A badly fitted suit looks ugly.
The first thing about fitting is the shoulder. Fullness over the blades allows the jacket to drape comfortably and releases the arms to move freely.
To determine correct fitting, make a fist and insert it inside a buttoned jacket. If you can insert your fist easily inside the buttoned jacket then the fit is proper.
About ½ inch of the shirt’s cuff must be visible after you put on the suit’s jacket. In the diagram above, the first picture shows the correct sleeve length. In the second diagram, the sleeve length is too long. Please note that one never wears a short-sleeve shirt with a suit.
Proper Jacket Length
Jacket length in relation to the arm, jacket’s bottom should line up with thumb knuckle as shown below:
|Figure 13: Correct jacket length||Figure 14: Jacket length too long|
The middle diagram below shows the correct fitting of the collars. In the first one, the collar is too high. In the last one, its too low.
Both the pictures above show poorly fitted collars. In the first instance, there is a gap between the jacket and shirt collars; this is an example of poor fitting.
In the second picture, some fabric is stooping under the collar indicating a misfit.
A properly fitted jacket should sit squarely on the shoulders without any bunching or gap from the shirt’s collar.
A suit is made of a jacket (coat) and trousers made of the same fabric. The trousers style can be single pleat, double pleat, or no pleat. Sometimes, reverse pleats and box pleats are also used.
Two types of side pockets are possible. Straight and slanted as shown in the accompanying picture:
For the bottom, two options are available. Plain or folded; both are popular.
Many purists believe that pleated trousers should have folded bottoms. Many people also disagree. Therefore, feel free to choose either as per your preference. I use both.
The man with a prominent middle needs trousers that hang quite straight from the waist as shown in the accompanying picture.
Summary of suit fitting
Suit buttoning rules
People will judge you if you know how to wear a suit or not depending you how you button your suit. Therefore remember the rules properly.
Single breasted single button suit
Single breasted two button suit
Single breasted three button suits
There are two options:
Single breasted four of more button suits
Not a good choice for a single breasted suit unless you are at least six feet six inches tall. If you must have one, leave the last unbuttoned.
Double breasted suits (four or six buttons)
All the working buttons must be fastened when standing. You must unbutton when seated.
Please note that whenever you sit, you must unbutton the jacket. One never sits with the buttons fastened (for both single and double breasted suits).
Waistcoat buttoning rules
If you wear a waistcoat (or vest), you must leave the last button unfastened.
The custom of leaving the bottom button on a waistcoat undone comes from the early 20th century. King Edward VII was too fat to fasten his bottom button and the custom came from his imitators.
Buying your first suit
If you are buying your first suit, buy a charcoal gray suit. A charcoal gray suit is the most versatile suit followed by solid navy color. These two basic colors should be followed by charcoal, dark charcoal, etc. Don’t buy a black suit; instead buy a dark charcoal suit which will appear almost black at night. Black suits are normally associated with funerals and a sign of mourning.
For your first suit stick with a wool suit (or a blend with wool) because it can be worn year-round. Dark colored suits are more formal than light colored suits. Cotton suits should only be worn in the spring, summer, and fall. There are even more choices out there like linen suits which are best for summer days or flannel to keep you warm during harsh winter chills.
Next, you need to decide whether it should be two or three button. If you are below five feet four inches, I would recommend that your first few suits be two button versions and later you may experiment with three button versions. Even for moderately tall persons I would tend have similar recommendations. I would try to explain the reasons in some later post.
I believe it’s also helpful to that traditionally what distinguished one suit from another was mainly its color. Though this tradition is not strictly adhered to these days.
Black: for funerals and the clergy.
Dark gray: suitable for all occasions.
Light gray: normal business and social wear.
Navy blue: suitable for most occasions; not as dressy as dark gray.
Olive green: for the stylish brave; for the warrior of the creative department and the rootless traveling salesman.