10 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy a Suit
Guys are trained to think of suits as big-ticket purchases they can only afford one of, like a car, or a pet albino python. But the suiting game has changed; quality and affordability are no longer mortal enemies. Armed with the right info, there’s no reason you can’t own a different suit for every day of the week. We talked to Eric Cano, Senior Stylist at our brother site JackThreads, about exactly why you can snag something sharp for far less than you’d think -- and why you should.
More money doesn’t mean better fit
Obviously if you go fully bespoke and have dozens of measurements taken over the course of 2-3 trips (and several thousand dollars), you’re going to get a suit more tailored to your unique physique. But if you’re buying off the rack -- and make no mistake, you can get a damn fine product off the rack -- you’re not going to notice an appreciably better fit between a $150 suit and a $600 suit. It’s that single after-purchase trip to the tailor that’s going to make all the difference. Cano’s advice? “Save $450, and make your tailor your best friend.”
It doesn’t guarantee better construction either
There are two basic types of suit construction: canvassing, and fusing. Canvassing is the top-tier method -- canvassed suits can last for decades vs. years -- but to get it you have to pay significantly more. Why? Because many designer labels offer suits that cost $200-$400 more than what you might feel like spending, yet are still made with the fusion method. You could pay all that extra money, and your suit’s manufacture still wouldn’t be drastically different.
In fusion’s favor: one of the method’s biggest issues used to be bubbling in the interlining, but technology’s largely erased that problem, so your suit’ll still be smooth and slick.
You might not want your suit to last forever
Style doesn’t stand still. You might not want to invest a ton of money in a suit that, a decade from now, will retain all of its shape and none of its cool. This isn’t a knock against fine suits -- fine suits are just fine -- it’s just a matter of where your priorities lie.
Synthetics are no longer sub-par
Fabricologists (or whatever fabric scientists are called) have made tremendous advances with synthetics like polyester and nylon, making them less shiny and more stylish. These fabrics have always been less expensive than cotton, whose market can fluctuate wildly. Now they’re just as good-looking, and just as capable of making women’s (and office enemies’) hearts fluctuate wildly.
You won’t feel the difference
Nobody except the douchiest of bags is going to know what material your suit’s made of on sight. More importantly to a man who doesn’t care what other people think, you’re not going to be any less comfortable either, because synthetics are also more breathable than they used to be. Oh and by the way, 100% wool GETS INSANELY HOT.
Even the little details can be yours for less
At one point, working buttonholes were the sign of an expensive suit. Now that telling detail can be found on well-made suits at far lower price points. It might seem like a small thing, but some people charge a lot for small things. The important thing to know is that not everyone does.
Spending less means expressing yourself more...
“If all you have is a black suit, you’re good for weddings, funerals, and nightclubs,” cautions Cano. And suits aren’t just for work anymore either (these days most people don’t wear them to work, period), they can be more an expression of style. Point being, if you spend smartly, you can use a variety of suits to express your many… moods. Here’s Cano’s ascending levels of unconventionality:
Basic Colors: workplace grays/blues/tans, for looking sharp without making too many waves
Pinstripes: well, you’re making a few waves now, aren’t you?
Checks & Plaids: you’re pushing boundaries, but you’re not blowing boundaries up
Tartan: you’re wearing a kilt as a suit, and it’s awesome
Colorblocking: you’re a male runway model; also, you’re wearing sneakers
Not all of these will work for everybody, but if you’re not senselessly blowing tons of money on one suit, you can buy many suits -- and if it turns out you can’t pull one of them off as well as you thought you might, you’ll still be able to put your future children through four years of college and one year of screwing around in Colorado.
... and more
Affordable suits also come with all the lapel options of their more expensive brethren. If you want a classic notch lapel, you’re golden, or you could subtly distinguish yourself with a thinner notch style. If you’re after a more rakish, peak lapel, you’re good there too. If you’re extremely style-forward you can even find no-lapel suits at solid prices. “You’ll look like a priest, or like you’re from the future,” says Cano. “It’s not something every guy aspires to, but it’s good to know that if you want to give it a shot, you don’t have to risk your entire bank account.”
You won’t miss brick and mortar
Buying online is less expensive, but what about that great service experience? If you hit a super-high-end store, odds are your salesman will know everything -- and he damn well should, because his commission’ll be higher than you actually need to spend on a suit. But at a mid-level store where suits still cost more than they should, you might get great service, or you might get some kid working a summer job who knows less about suits than you do. These days you can learn all you need to know from trusted blogs, and you won’t pay extra for it.
Presentation’s more important than price
“If you carry yourself well and have a nice haircut and nice shoes, people are going to think your suit is expensive,” says Cano, who does have a pretty sweet haircut, but is currently wearing a sweater. Still, this seems like excellent advice. Take it to heart, and go suit up.