How to Look Good in a Suit: A Basic Guide for Men


We’re delighted to have received this instructional piece for men by Christopher Reading about how to make sure you look good in a suit. His first tip is to make sure it’s not 15 years old!   Read on!!!

Ok guys, let’s talk about suits. Over the past 24 months there’s been a fashion resurrection in well fitted men’s suits.  Everything from the three piece to the double breasted, slim fitted pant leg  popularised by the Beatles, to very flamboyant colours and patterns never seen before. For those of you who do take a genuine interest in how you show up to an event, here are some handy basics from which you can personalise your look. To know how to look good in a suit, perhaps it’s easier to start by painting a picture about how to not look good in a suit.

Let me start with an example of a dreaded familiar scenario for men.  Weddings.  Not that long ago I attended a late afternoon wedding. As you know, weddings are a great place to spot suits that have been sitting in the back of the wardrobe for 15 years that have been dusted off and worn with pride by guests on the big day. Come on guys. Fifteen year old suits look  terrible!  Generally these are double breasted, pleated front pants and cuffed at the hems. Yes, they were the height of fashion once-upon-a time but quite frankly not any more. There is nothing more ridiculous that seeing a clean shaven, well coiffured gentleman smelling like a million dollars in an over sized suit in an obscenely dated colour, like bottle green or deep plum. Said suit will also usually be a size too small around the waist and  a little too short in the leg, presenting at a wedding that people are paying for you to attend. Do yourself a favour and throw it away, give it to charity or at least, find yourself a tailor and have it altered.

Mens fashion suits

John Travolta’s famous 1980’s Saturday Night Fever Suit – time to give it away!

It’s wise to invest in a good suit and choosing a classic cut will last you for years. The knock-off Armani suit you had made in Bali won’t. You bought it cheap and it looks cheap too!  So does the $99 special. Quality speaks and if you want to look good, you need to treat buying a good quality suit as your investment in your appearance for the next few years.  I should also mention that for guys out there whose biceps and pectorals are not in proportion with their waist size, no off the rack suits for you either. Same goes for the gentlemen whose waists are far greater than their chests. Are you hearing me?  Tailor-made is the only way to go for you gents.

mens suits and big biceps

Tailor-made is a necessity for men with oversized biceps

So what’s a good all-round suit?  There’s been a massive come-back of the sixties slim fit suit and I think that’s a good place to start.  It’s a very well rounded garment.   I’m talking about the well fitted cut that suits your body shape: single breasted with flat front pants. Generally the single breasted jacket is slightly tapered in at the waist with slim lapels, a double or single flap at the back and of course a pocket for your pocket square, including a button hole for that flower you may have to sport. If fitted well, this particular style of suit will last you for quite some time, depending on  the rate of expansion of your waist.

Colour can be confusing.  Since we are not all made of money, let’s choose a colour we know will be around for the next ten years, assuming you don’t have to wear a suit every day. Daily wear and tear will kill off a suit faster than fashion changes, starting with the pants, so I always recommend buying TWO pairs of pants with a suit that’s going to be worn frequently. Back to choosing a colour that wont date: do you go for black, grey, navy, cobalt blue, brown, pinstriped, or check? I favour versatile colours such as charcoal grey. Navy and pin-stripes are also a safe bet. Colours such as the latest cobalt blue are for those with large wallets as this is only a passing trend, even though it’s a good one.  So charcoal or navy it is, with the option of a slight pin-stripe.

slim fit men's suits polta dot tie

If you’re opting for tailor-made, standing in a tailor’s shop with your new suit on can be nerve-wracking, especially if you have no idea what your looking for.  Let the professionals do their job.  All you have to do is check that they are doing their part.  They will look at the length of the sleeve, the fit across your back (smooth – neither loose nor strained), how the jacket sits at the front when buttoned up (flat), and at the shoulders (no overhang). They will look at the length of the pants and how they fit at the waist and seat. Now please allow these trained professionals to investigate these areas as they will guarantee the best fit for you. Some of us are lucky and will only need minor alterations, but others will require a few more. Have faith in the person taking care of you and for anything you’re unsure about, simply ask the question.

how to look good in a suit

Men’s slim fit suit and contrasting tie

Now to complete your new look, it’s shirt and tie time. Times have changed and a traditional classic white shirt doesn’t always have to be the way to go. Why not a pale pink, pale purple or mint? Or,  a check or even a bold stripe?

Pink shirt and tie

Please steer clear of black shirts. These are great for funerals and uniforms and that’s about it. Now, remembering that your new suit is a fitted or  fully tailored garment, choose your shirt wisely. Go for a slim fit, not so slim that the buttons practically burst every time you sit down, but something with shape. These slim fit shirts generally can be recognised by two darts stitched into the back to taper the waist in. Tuck your shirt in guys and make sure it stays there throughout the day. Another thing to think about is whether you want to wear cufflinks. If yes, then look for a shirt with specific provisions for them: a button hole next to the button on the sleeve.

shirt cuff link hole

Source: WikiHow

Tie time: choosing is often overwhelming. There are hundreds out there and if you’re feeling overwhelmed you’re not the only one. Just relax. A tie is something simply to connect your total look or correspond with your date’s outfit. Depending on the look you want to achieve, you can go simple, smart and conservative, or be bold and go with complete contrast. Whichever look you go for, Walt Disney themed, light-up, comic or ones with large logos are never classy and certainly not appropriate for a wedding. Slim simple ties are quite often the best. Pattern choices are all  about personal preferences and I quite like a check shirt with  polka-dotted tie at the moment. The choices are limitless. Just remember to be consistent with slim fit, or fitted, all the way through from your shirt to jacket to pants and tie.

how to look good in a suit

matching shirt tie and suit

 how to look good in a suit

This is all you need to get started to make sure you look good in a suit. As for belts and other accessories, we’ll have to save for another time. Meanwhile, have fun hunting for your new suit!

-Christopher Reading

photo Christopher Reading







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