For most men, there finally comes a time to purchase a suit. And who is the person who usually does it? His wife. Often for an occasion, and often under duress, buying a flattering suit for your guy can be a challenge. However, with guidance from local professionals, here are four tips for finding a suit to make him look and feel his best.
The short and long
Once you have chosen the perfect suit, then it is time to choose a tie. Make sure the shirt fits well, has appropriate sleeve length and the shoulder seam lines up with the shoulders. In addition, the neck should be roomy enough for a finger to fit comfortably between the collar and the neck.
The width of the lapel determines the width of the tie. Back in the late 1960s and early '70s, men's fashion featured huge lapels and ties like dinner plates. Then in the 1980s tiny lapels and infamous skinny ties. Since then, lapels have stayed the same. "Tie styles phase in and out, but traditional stripes, 'neats,' pin dot and geometric patterns are always available. This season we've been seeing pinks and bubble gum colors," says Robert Counts, manager at Jackson's Classic Men's Apparel in Medford.
To help the client choose a tie, Counts lays out the suit, tucks in the shirt and then chooses a number of ties for the customer to peruse. It finally comes down to individual taste, he says.
Suits are grouped not only by number but also by sizes: short, regular and long. Men 5 feet, 8 inches and under generally wear short, guys 5 feet, 9 inches to 5 feet, 11 inches considered of average height, and those over 6 feet will probably wear long.
"There's also extra short, extra long and portly. What it all comes down to are different lengths, different drop," says tailor Rodney Rampy of Rodney's Clothing in Medford. The industry standard drop — chest to waist ratio — is 6 inches. That means a size 42-jacket matches (42 minus 6) size 36 trousers. While athletic cut suits have an 8-inch drop (size 42 coats and size 34 pants).
Alterations can modify most suits for an ideal fit, but for men who are hard to fit, save time and possibly expense by ordering suit separates or have a suit custom-made.
Majority of suits are wool
If purchasing a suit off the rack, you will primarily find two-button suits. "Two-button suits are always in style, but three-button and some four-button styles are a stylish look," says Robert Counts, manager at Jackson's Classic Men's Apparel in Medford. "There are different weights and blends"¦ cashmere blends are more expensive and wool/polyester blends are less expensive." Take care to avoid linen blends for seated activities including travel, as it wrinkles fiercely.
Start with the jacket
"The average guy will try the coat on first. A lot of them tend to buy coats too big for them," says Rampy, "There are more parameters than just the fit through the shoulder, like the fit of the neck, the size of the arm hole and how it's shaped in the middle."
In the back through the shoulders, the jacket should lie flat — not too tight and not loose so it makes a "valley," and should cover your backside.
Where should the sleeves land? Different clothiers give different answers. In the past, they covered your wrist and reached the base of the thumb, and then the jacket sleeve (with arms extended) should stop a 1/2-inch to 1 inch before the shirt cuff. Bigger men may want their sleeves a little longer since their larger, heavier coats move around more. Rampy says that buying a suit nowadays is a whole new adventure and all things are in style "¦ from the cuff to the top of the thumb, the thumb knuckle, and on down the hand."
Double-breasted jackets add width. "Most guys, I'll tell them not to do it, it leaves a lot of coat hanging, if it's unbuttoned on a big guy," says Rampy. However, a thin man can look fuller by wearing a jacket with shoulder padding, horizontal lines and heavier fabrics.
Slacks should fall about one-third the way down the shoe and you should not see the sock when you walk.
Stocky men should go with suits with small vertical lines and lightweight colors and materials and colors. Shorter men seem taller wearing a suit with clean lines — like a properly fitted jacket and pants without cuffs.
Try on an expensive suit
"An expensive suit has got a different hand to it. It's made with better materials "¦ better linings, fusibles (slang for the inside of the suit), and better padding. Better padding is important when compensating for rounded shoulders or balancing for a thick middle," says Counts.
Rampy agrees and says that it comes down to learning what nice fabrics are, what the shoulders should look like, how the chest should fit, then suit-buying becomes another adventure," says Rampy.