They say suits will never go out of fashion, though there’s nothing stylish about a poorly worn suit. To wear a suit to its full potential, it’s crucial to know the essential suit-wearing rules and get the smaller details on point.
Is the jacket sitting on your shoulders properly? Does your necktie match your ensemble? Where does the break of your pants finish?
All of this may seem overwhelming, but don’t start pulling your hair out just yet - we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re wearing a suit for work or a special occasion, here are 19 essential suit-wearing rules that every man should know.
Let’s start this list of suit-wearing rules with one of the most important elements of your suit - the jacket.
- A well-fitted jacket is an essential element of wearing a suit well. The length of the jacket should be long enough to just cover your zipper, while the seams of the shoulder should finish at the end of your shoulders while laying flat. As for the sleeves, the cuffs of your shirt should be visible by about half an inch.
- If you want your jacket to last, you have to take care of it. For example, don’t put heavier items in the pockets - as this can cause them to stretch. Card-holders or tickets are fine but leave heavier items like your phone or wallet for your breast pocket.
- When it comes to your jacket’s buttons, you should remember the ‘sometimes, always, never rule’. This rule directly refers to the three buttons on your jacket and when they should be buttoned-up.
The rule states that the top button should sometimes be buttoned (whether it’s for a formal event or a style choice), while the middle should always be buttoned-up. And because it ruins your suits' tailoring, you should never button your bottom jacket button - especially when sitting.
Here's Buzz Tang of tailoring house The Anthology in a great tweed example of wearing a well fitting jacket.
- When you’re buying suit-pants off the rack, you’ll notice that they won't usually fit properly (the pants legs are typically too long). This is because they are cut in a way that intends for later tailoring.
- For a seamless appearance, opt for a straight cut. Flat, uncuffed suit pants are a simple and versatile choice.
- The exact spot where the fold of your pants bunch up around your shoe is called the break - and it’s an important element of your suit to consider if you really want to nail your look.
Shorter breaks can often look very fashionable if worn well, though it’s hard to do so successfully. Medium breaks on the other hand stop half-way down the shoe and are a much safer option. Full breaks make you look like you’re wearing your dad’s old pants, and no one wants that.
A green suit probably shouldn't be the first you buy, but a medium break like this one will always be a safe bet.
Your neck-tie is the focus-point of your entire suit and is one of the first things people will typically notice, so it needs to be worn right. There’s plenty of different opinions when it comes to the shape and colour of your tie against your suit - though hopefully a few of these rules clear things up.
- The first thing to consider is your necktie’s color, especially since it needs to pair-well with the rest of the ensemble. In general, your tie should be darker than your shirt by at least one shade. To be prepared for any occasion, start by creating a roster of ties with universal colours such as navy, burgundy, or grey.
This Navy Solid Tie is perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a wedding, business meeting, or anything in between.
- Though the colour of your tie is very important, so is the length. As a guide, your tie should reach the tip of your belt buckle. Anything longer or shorter is a big no-no.
- If you intend on accessorising your suit with a tie-bar, be sure it’s not wider than your tie. The accessory should be roughly three-quarters of your tie’s width.
This Brushed Steel Tie Clip is an ideal length - with a short enough length to complement your tie, but long enough to stand out.
- The width of your lapels should be similar to the width of your tie. Traditionally, ties are around 3.25 to 3.6 inches wide, though there are modern-styles that are much slimmer. If you’re eager to go with a fresh-styled tie, aim for around 2.75 to 3 inches wide. Otherwise, anything slimmer can often be too casual for most outings.
Pocket squares can be another powerful accessory that you can use to add some flair and personality to your ensemble..if done correctly. Here are a few tips to remember.
- First and foremost, don’t match the pattern of your tie with your pocket square. After all, a pocket square should complement the rest of your look rather than blend in. When you’re choosing a pocket square, pick a secondary colour from your shirt or tie to be the feature colour.
- Now that you’ve nailed the colour, it’s time to focus your attention on the fold - which will largely depend on the occasion. If you’re wearing your pocket square to a formal event, you can’t go wrong with a flat fold. Though if the outing is much more casual, try playing with a puffier fold.
- If you’re working with silk material, you’ll notice these pocket squares will seamlessly slide down into your shirt. To avoid this, select a silk pocket square that’s a least 40cm (about 15.5 inches).
Now for the dress shirt - on the surface, this aspect of your suit may seem relatively straightforward, though there are a few things to remember to sharpen your look.
- The white button-up dress shirt is a classic for a reason. It’s not only the most formal, but it’s also extremely versatile - making it a staple of your closet. Though if you're eager to add a splash of colour to your wardrobe, the next best choices are lighter shades of blue, pink, or grey. Darker or stronger coloured shirts should be avoided as they don’t typically work with suits.
Should you go for a patterned or solid-coloured dress shirt? Well, it largely depends on the occasion. Solid colours are a great starting point for suits and are a much more formal option for those special occasions. Though if you are dressing for a much more casual outing - patterns or ginghamshirts can be a great way to dress-down your suit.
Here are a few examples of great solid and patterned options that will go well with your suit.
Last, but certainly not least - your dress shoes can elevate your suit-game to a whole other level. After all, the devil is in the details…
- Just like with most aspects of your suit, considering the colour of your dress shoes is the best starting point. For versatility, black and brown shoes are an easy win. They’ll go with most of the suits you have and can easily be dressed down for casual events.
- Once you’ve locked down the colour of your shoes, match it with your belt. Avoid matching black leather with brown leather - it just doesn’t work.
- Rounded tips are a much more modern and fashionable option for your dress shoes. Leave the square-toed shoes in the 90s where they belong.
- For suits, Oxfords or Monk Straps are best (Monk Straps for their versatility and Oxfords for their classic look). Though for casual wear, Derbies or Chukka Boots are perfect. Want to bridge the gap between the two? A Chelsea Boot worked for The Beatles and it’ll work for you.
With these simple suit-wearing rules by your side, you'll be able to take your look to the next level in no time. Though if you're on the hunt for a few more tips, be sure to check out this article covering everything you need to know before buying a suit.