Suits

Every man should have at least one. (I’ve spoken on this topic before, but it bears repeating.)

I can already hear the moans: “I never need to wear one! Why should I own a suit?” and “I hate them?!They’re uncomfortable!” and “I won’t work for a company which insists on men wearing a suit!” and so on, ad nauseam.

Don’t care. There’s something about wearing a decent suit which not only makes a man look good, but feel good — provided, of course, that you feel comfortable wearing one in the first place. (And if you don’t feel comfortable wearing a suit, you should become so, by wearing a decent suit until you do.)

“I never go anywhere that requires me to wear a suit!” Then it’s time you upgraded your choice of places to visit.

Here’s the thing: men look good in a well-tailored, stylish suit. It almost doesn’t matter if your body shape is not like a movie star’s, because if the suit is designed properly, it will hide your shortcomings better than any other type of clothing. (And if you don’t care what you look like, or subscribe to the idiot notion that looks shouldn’t matter, then you need to grow the fuck up — because appearance matters, and always has.)

Here’s another thing: women like a man in a suit. You only have to see the female reaction to Mad Men‘s Don Draper and Roger Sterling for proof. Another manifestation is when a women says, “Man! You sure clean up good!”, because believe me, that’s a statement of admiration despite the ungrammatical choice of words. (What it means, by the way, is that she’s looking at you with new eyes — and likes what she sees.) For better or worse, people will always take you more seriously when you’re well-dressed, and a good suit will always leave a favorable impression.

I won’t even go into the topic of the importance of wearing a suit when applying for a job, because that’s self-evident.

As for color, it’s simple: dark and muted, grey or blue (charcoal or navy-blue, for the uninitiated). And it should be fashionable. Men are blessed with the fact that suits’ fashions don’t change from year to year, but they do change from decade to decade, which is at least as often as you should buy a new one.

And lastly, there’s a very good reason to have at least one suit handy: there will come a time when you absolutely have to have one. It might be a funeral, a restaurant with a dress code (and spare me the gripe that you’ll never go to a place that has a dress code — once again, grow the fuck up), or maybe there’ll just be a time when you have to impress somebody.

Here’s a little scenario for you all to chew on. Imagine that you achieve something of importance: you saved someone’s life, you donated a large sum of money to a charity, you won a sporting competition, whatever. Let’s say that a consequence of this achievement is that you’re invited to the state capitol so that the Governor can shake your hand.

Let’s be clear about this: you can’t go in jeans and a fucking t-shirt, because that shows immense disrespect to the person who wants to honor you. You’ll need to wear a decent suit.

A suit is like a gun: you hardly ever need one, but when you do, you’ll need it really badly. So have that suit handy, and every so often, wear it out to dinner or some social event. You’ll be amazed at the reaction. The old truism still applies when it comes to going out:  men wear suits; boys wear casual clothes. (In an old Cary Grant movie, a flashback made the 40-year-old Grant look like a teenager just by dressing him in casual clothes; when coming back to the present day, he wore suits — and matured instantly.)

Oh, and one last thing: colored shirts, no matter what the fashion magazines say, are for pimps and parvenu yuppies. The proper shirt color is white, with maybe a tiny pinstripe if you’re adventurous. (I have a number of identical “dress” shirts, all with a red pinstripe, because I once saw a good deal at Marshall Field and snagged a dozen. Good, discreetly-tailored shirts never go out of fashion.) And have half a dozen decent ties — not from WalMart or Target — at your disposal; once again, discreet “rep” ties with diagonal stripes never go out of fashion, ditto monocolored silk ones. And FFS: get a decent pair of black lace-up shoes to go with your suit, and keep them polished.

Take a look at the pics below: there’s barely a woman alive who wouldn’t respond positively to a man dressed like that — and if she doesn’t, she probably isn’t worth bothering with.

And the Governor would be equally impressed.

39 comments

  1. The complaint of “They’re uncomfortable!” only means the guy bought a cheap suit or bought one from a lousy tailor.

    In my forties I went through a chubby period but my tailor always managed to produce very comfortable suits.

  2. I own several good suits, and God willing, semi-retirement will allow me to dispense with them from this point forward.

    Don Draper was a dishonest, over-dressed fop that went around bedding train wrecks and women that were batshit crazy. You can see the same stuff on any episode of the Trailer Park boys and get a laugh out of it too. I can also pass on snooty restaurants and pretty much all the other fake trappings of wealth and privilege. I do just fine in my boots, carhartts and sweat shirts. Beers at Pizza Slut beat the hell out of the boring formality of high end establishments with boring people that aren’t fit to shine shoes in a cat house.

    I’ve spent too much of my life with the power suit crowd to be impressed with them and refuse to spend any more of my precious time among them. If you are dressing up for fun or yourself that’s fine. If you’re doing it to intimidate or compete – that’s vanity, is all it is.

  3. I’ve never had an uncomfortable suit. Even the crap ones I bought when I was young and trying to appear considerably less so for employment reasons (which worked exceptionally well).

    1. The problem I kept running into was with the upper arms, which the suit coat tended to pinion to my body.

  4. I might also mention the white shirt should not be too tight in the neck with proper sleeve length and not wash & wear. A crisp proper sized, starched shirt with a good tie can make a reasonable suit look nice. Advice given to me by my older brother in the early 1960’s.

    Also hang the suit on good hangers, keep it clean and let the wrinkles hand out, send to a good cleaners when needed. That way you don’t look like a bail bondsman lawyer who wears the same suit every day months on end.

    The shoes need to be good enough, well polished and well heeled and socks that don’t show boney white legs when you sit down.

    1. Socks: I have a pair of Darn Tough, over the calf dress socks that are the best things ever. I sadly do not see them on their website now.

      1. Mr. Bix,
        Consider Marks & Spencer dress socks. I’ve worn nothing else since the mid 1990s. I think you can get them online these days, too.
        Whenever I go Over There, I ditch all my old socks and undies and hit M&S on Day One to replace them.

  5. The biggest problem I have in buying a suit these days is that I got spoiled when I was stationed in Korea.

    “What do you mean I can’t get a fully custom tailored suit for under $100.00 in time for the last minute trip the General’s party at the Embassy club tonight?” Ah well. (this was in the 80’s, and the the Embassy Club was associated with the US Embassy. A junior officer did not show up improperly dressed to that establishment)

    While I do not frequent places that require (or even encourage) court and tie, I fully agree that when I do (usually as a guest) wearing a suit is a sign of respect. Unfortunately in recent years I’ve worn suits primarily to funerals. Again, showing respect to my friend and their family.

    I’m not as attuned to etiquette as Kim, but I find the rule of thumb of “If I was on active duty, I would be wearing my Service Dress (Class A for your grunt types), so a suit is appropriate” works for me.

    Thinking tactically, a suit is great for concealed carry and being in a suit at such a place means I don’t stick out like a sore thumb (or easy target) if things go sideways.

    Camouflage isn’t just looking a like a walking bush.

  6. Only one problem in all you said, the Governor of NJ is Phil Murphy, I wouldn’t shake his hand unless I could arrange to wipe my own ass, barehanded, with my right hand first.

    Although I do think there’s a place for LIGHT colored dress shirts, light blue or grey. Then again I grew up in Staten Island, NYC in the 70s and 80s where a white suit with black shirt was the height of fashion. Preferably with the shirt open enough to display gold chains and chest hair. Think Saturday Night Fever.

    1. LOL Mark.
      I originally wrote the scenario for an invitation to the White House… but then there’s the Obama/Clinton situation.
      Serves you right, though, for continuing to live in Joizee.

    2. The advantage of white shirts, and very lightly shaded ones, is that on the off chance you have to remove your suit-coat on a warm day, any sweat marks at the arm pits will be less, or non, visible.

  7. Now you see, here’s the thing – suits are all fine and dandy (pun intended) and can look very smart at that. Indeed, a young Sean Connery is offered up in evidence, and every man deserves one handmade suit in his lifetime. Yet somehow, it’s an everyday experience, at least it is for us Brits working in more formal organisations.

    Let me tell you that the REAL turn on for the ladies is………black tie.

    Yes yes, don’t give me that ‘if a suit is uncomfortable then black tie is REALLY uncomfortable’. But then, so are stockings and heels and we all know how they look, don’t we gentlemen?

    Dress shirt, with pleats AND button covers if you please, slim lapel and likewise trousers. Cummerbund if you must, but there’s something about a crisply tailored shirt hugging the torso that negates the need IMHO. Discrete satin side stripe and a hand tied black tie completes it.

    Oooooh baby. Excuse me whilst I pop off for a drool.

  8. The big problem with being a Gentleman of Substance is finding a decent tailor. Especially outside a major city.

  9. A good suit can be pretty spendy, so it’s not unreasonable to fly to a nearby city with a decent Tailoring establishment. I live near Seattle, and have found Brooks brothers to be perfect for me, I can get in and out with a nice suite for under $1500, or start adding $$$ if needed.

    That said, I don’t wear a suit often, but my wife likes it when I do 🙂

  10. call me “a dash of cold water”
    My wife will have me dressed in a tachrichim when they lay me out (I won’t have much say in the matter at that point), but I think most men would prefer a well-fitting suit to greet St. Peter.

  11. Kim, you post three pics of Hollywood heartthrobs in suits to illustrate “it’s the suit that makes the man”? I’d be willing to risk a five-spot that those guys could get lucky in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. 🙂

    1. Fair point, gwal, but try to find a pic of an ordinary guy wearing a suit on the Intarwebz… the models look like girls. Little girls.

  12. Any opinions on the three piece suit/waistcoat/vest?
    Any opinions about a double breasted suit?
    What about a blazer and slacks instead of a suit?

    1. Blazer and slacks during the day at informal occasions, fine. But nothing beats a suit for a universal application.
      Ditto the double-breasted suit — they’re lovely, and I’ve owned several, but while you can unbutton a regular suit coat and leave it so (e.g. if it’s hot), you can NEVER unbutton a double-breasted unless you’re taking it off.
      Three-piece suits are fantastic — they’re my all-time favorite — but again, they’re TOO formal (like a tux/DJ) for most occasions.

  13. Heh. Just ordered a new one last week from “world famous tailor” in the city I live. I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

  14. Young men in the city can dress well in modern slim cut suits, but they ruin the effect by;
    a. not wearing socks (!)
    b. wear brown shoes with a blue suit,
    c. no tie, or tie hanging loose, and
    d. three days beard growth.

    Modern fashions apparently insist that young men dress like unshaven hobos who bought their clothes from the Salvation Army Op-shop.

  15. Cultural differences. 🙂

    “An “Op-shop” (short for opportunity shop) in Australia is a “Thrift Store” in the USA.

  16. A white shirt is never wrong, and should be the shirt of choice for interviews, but if you want to ring the changes a light blue or very pale yellow shirt is just fine.

    Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man is a good resource.

  17. FFS this shit should be simple. Kim, I think you’ll agree that this is LIFE 101 stuff. Every MAN should have at least one decent-quality, properly-fitting suit. I have two, on the off chance there’s an issue with one, I have a backup. One never knows when a wedding, bar/bat mitzvah, funeral, lunch with the executive Big-Boss, etc., might crop up. I’m not one for braces (suspenders for the uninitiated) but have no issue with them at all. One other thing . . . and I’m surprised it didn’t come up.
    Suit or no suit, whenever a tie is worn, it must be tied with a Windsor Knot. Anything less than a Windsor is simply unacceptable.
    https://www.ties.com/how-to-tie-a-tie/windsor

    There. I’ve spoken my peace.

  18. Correct, a Windsor Knot and don’t half-ass it, a full Windsor carefully tied is the way to wear a tie.

  19. Everything else being equal, If I’m wearing a nice suit and some other schlub isn’t, Im getting the girl and he’s not.

    Works like a charm. Especially in these business casual dress down days. Women still like a man in a suit.

    Of course I wear a suit pretty much everyday.

    Kim’s right about suites not going in and out of style as quickly as other clothes. But they indeed do. Biggest change is usually in the width of the lapel (I will ignore the tight fitting too-skinny too short “suits” I see testical removed millennials wearing all over the place) and it’s important that you have a tie that corresponds appropriately.

    Wide tie on a narrow lapel and you look terrible. Beyond that, you should generally be fine.

    Someone else mentioned Brooks Brothers. They make fine suits, but their quality pales in comparison to both their reputation and what they once produced. Plus they are a bit pricey.

    You should be able to find a Joseph Banks in almost any decent sized town. Just go there if you only own one suit. Just make sure, wherever you go, that even if it’s an off the rack suit, you bring it to a tailor and have it fitted properly to you.

    Another hint: get suspenders. Especially as your girth increases, they will hold your suit trousers up better than a belt, are essential to hiding your imperfections, and will maintain a sharp, crisp, look (ie: pants sagging down, crumpled shirt tails coming out of the waist).

    White shirts are the easiest option. I also wear the occasional pink or baby blue shirt. But that takes more work to pull off. Avoid it without experience.

    One final bit of advice: take your shirts (and suit) to the cleaners. For $1.99 you won’t be able to starch and press your shirt nearly as well as they will.

    1. +1 on the suspenders. I’ll add that it’s probably a good idea to get the suit tailored around the sidearm.

  20. This article set me to thinking about men’s fashion: not the poseurs displayed in various “men’s” magazines, but the man who was called a gentleman by friends and family, whether or not he did manual labor, first changing into his work clothes in the lockers.
    This was the man who didn’t change into “dinner attire” every day, however he did not venture beyond his front door properly attired for the day. And that attire, in my youth, always included a suit with tie, “good shoes” and a proper head covering: a good quality hat.
    Just as his wife would consider it de rigeur to appear in public with gloves, veil, and a proper ladies’ hat.

  21. Wow. Just wow.

    Kim, while I agree that every man should own at least one suit, having “your tailor” as though he was a lawyer on retainer? Fly to another city for tailoring services? Good grief, how rich do you folks think we all are?

    Yeah, I own several “suits”. Some are more expensive than others but *none* of them cost $1000. I don’t wear a suit to work because I am a tradesman, not a high power attorney or bank executive. (If I tried to wear a suit to work I would ruin it post haste.) And if I had a job that required me to wear one every day, I am sure I would be a lot richer. (…but not necessarily happier.) The suits I have, I might wear each one, once, or maybe twice in a given year. Yeah, I’m going to spend gobs of cash for that! – NOT!

    And ties… I inherited my fathers tie collection – several hundred, some dating back into the 1940’s. I have a tie that is in style no matter what. (Some are too short for a full Windsor, so a half Windsor has to do. Oh well.)

    And as for “getting the girl”? I’ve been married to my sweetheart for 33 years. Except for her, my “getting the girl” days are over. (And yes, sometimes I DO dress up to please my sweetheart, but that does NOT require a $1000 tailored suit.)

    An anecdote… I remember about 1976 or thereabouts, I watched as David Frost did a televised interview with Richard Nixon – the first one after Watergate and his 1974 resignation. The subject of Nixon’s historic trip to China came up. One of the questions he asked Nixon was (paraphrasing) “What did you think of Chinese society in general?

    Nixon’s answer was: “Any society that can eliminate the neck tie can’t be all bad.”

    I voted for Nixon twice, but I’ll never forget that, and he rose even higher in my esteem that day.

    1. Nixon wore black ankle socks and dress shoes TO THE BEACH. I’m not going to take fashion tips from such a man.

  22. The only time I wear a suit is at weddings and funerals. That said, I do have two suits I bought off the rack at Men’s Warehouse and had fitted by the local Eyetalian tailor (who is still a wizard w. needle and thread at the age of 82).

    I do have several sport coats/blazers I wear w. slacks, khakis or (heaven forfend) a nice pair of jeans when I take the better half (who is a much better dresser than me) out to decent dinners. No jeans at the finer establishments. Many of the shirts I wear under the sport coats would give the owner of this blog and other traditionalists a heart attack! Google Robert Graham and Thomas Dean at your own risk 🙂

  23. One of the joys of living in the tropics is that long pants and a shirt with buttons are pretty much formal wear. Then again, fashion trends here are set by the Australians.

  24. Yes, A man (gentleman!) should have several suits and sport coats/blazers, slacks and dress shirts and dress shoes and should know how to wear them. This last part is the most important and Kim did not address it because suits are like a military uniform. You do not just put it on, you wear it. Tuck the shirt in correctly, tie the tie correctly (do not wear brown shoes with a grey or black suit and probably not with a Navy one either, in fact, just do not wear brown shoes with a suit, save them for more casual times.) I recommend a tie bar, but that is a preference.

    Do not confuse this with fashion or foppery. I am more comfortable in ratty shorts and a T-shirt sure, but that is not the point, the point is that a man should be properly dressed for an occasion and sometimes the occasion requires a suit. This is not a blue collar / white collar employment thing. The thing is, if your ego is so delicate that you cannot bear being in a suit for a few hours, you are not a man – sorry.

    It is not a money thing either. You can go to a good department store and buy a decent suit for a few hundred bucks (and get it altered to fit as required for no extra charge). Will it be as good as a custom tailored one? Probably not, but the difference will be slight and a good suit will last 10 years if you are only wearing it occasionally.

    To paraphrase my fellow boat schooler Heinlein; A man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly and dress properly for a given social occasion. Specialization is for insects.

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