Ed. note: This is the fourth installment in a new series of monthly posts, brought to you by Corporette’s Kat Griffin, which will deal with topical business and lifestyle issues that present themselves in the world of Biglaw. Send your ideas for columns to us here.
Above the Law readers are sending in questions, and I love it! Reader C, the mother of a recent law grad, wonders “what brand/type suit is best for men.” Great question, and I’m excited to see what the readers have to say. Details just came out with the complete guide to suits, and Esquire also recently came out with the “new rules of suits.” (Over at Corporette, we of course have a complete guide to women’s suits, including whether you can wear tights when interviewing, which are the best inexpensive suit brands, and our regular Suit of the Week feature.)
A few tips for the boys, though….
How many? Three suits is a good number — keep one at the office in case of an emergency court date or meeting with a VIP, and have two at the ready.
What brand? The brand does not matter so much as the fit — find a good tailor (hint: it’s probably not your local dry cleaner), make friends with him, and tip him well. When buying a suit off the rack, gauge how well the suit fits you by the blazer shoulders — it’s the hardest thing for the tailor to change, so these should fit as well as possible. A few more fit and style tips: Only consider shoulder pads if your build is slight (all you former football players, go for natural shoulders). Be honest with yourself about your waist size — no one will know except you if you have to go up a size. Some details to look for in better suits: horn buttons, working buttons on the sleeve, felt under the collar, canvas interlining (not glued in place), and, of course, a nice, soft fabric. Suits are designed to last for years (and they aren’t really prone to “trend”), so buy the best suits you can afford. Upgrade when you can. (And if you have to buy an inexpensive suit, be sure to keep it dry — cheaper fabrics and details can get warped in the rain.)
Maintenance. Similar to fit, maintenance is the key to looking good in a suit — if you walk around rumpled, stained, or with other obvious imperfections (hanging threads, missing buttons, etc.), it doesn’t matter how much money you spent on your suit. Always unfasten your jacket buttons when you sit so the fabric doesn’t pull. Similarly, make sure to always hang your jacket up if you take it off (and don’t leave it, say, on the back of your chair) — bonus points if you can get a nice, curved wooden hanger. In fact, most men wear their suit jackets to the office at the beginning of the season, then store them (on a hanger) in their office until the end of the season. If you do wear your jacket home every night, though, hang it up the second you get in the door — and if possible, let it air out for an hour or two before you put it with your other clothes. Frequent dry cleaning is not the answer. (N.B.: Pressing is different than dry cleaning!)
What color and pattern? My top three choices for starter suits would be: navy, gray bird’s eye, and perhaps a pinstriped suit in another dark color — if you have to have only one suit, though, make it navy blue.
Buttons. As one of my favorite books on men’s style (affiliate link) notes, a two- or three-button suit is preferable (I would say a two button is the most modern), and, “with two you fasten only the top button; with three it’s either the middle or the middle and the top. Should you find yourself in a four-button suit coat: Unfasten all buttons. Remove. Discard.” As noted above, always fasten your buttons when standing.
Readers, which are your favorite three suits in your closet (please list your body type, the brand names, and the general color and pattern info)? Which are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen men make with suits? Do you have any favorite stores for suits?