How to wear a suit for men:
First, some basics-
A suit is a modern form of formal wear. There are a huge amount of variations in design, level of formality, and ways to wear a suit. In its most basic form, a suit is a matching jacket and trousers made from the same material. This material can be made from many natural fibers, most often wool, however cotton and linen suits also exist.
My opinion: Everyone should own a suit. You never know when the occasion will call for it, and last second scrambling will have you looking like crap. You can dress up, dress down, and tailor a good suit to any occasion.
Modern suits come in a few basic varieties:
Two-piece: Consists of a matching jacket and trousers or slacks. Typically when one thinks of wearing a suit to work, or church, or any other semi-formal occasion, this is what springs to mind. Typically worn with a collared shirt and tie, and considered the least formal.
Three-piece: An increased step in formality, adds a matching vest to the above set.
Jackets themselves also come in two basic varieties-
Single-breasted: A single breasted jacket is again, the least formal and standard form of jacket. It uses a single row of buttons, placed low near the waistline. Modern fashion dictates 2-3 buttons are present.
Double-breasted: A jacket with two vertical rows of buttons, with only the outer buttons functional. Often seen as more formal, or worn by older gentlemen. Increasingly uncommon.
Jackets can have some variations within these types, typically in the type of sleeves, lapel, and cut in the tail, known as a vent. There are typically 4 buttons on the sleeve that are non-functional. Lapels can come in a variety of cuts, with notched being the most common. There are also peaked lapels, considered more formal (think tuxedo).
A cut in the back of a jacket is a vent, and facilitates reaching into your pockets and sitting down.
Trousers have less variation, and tend to have changed as fashion changes through the decade. Most variation is seen in whether the trousers have pleats or not. Typically most trousers will have two pleats in the front, giving a better hang off the waist and making sitting more comfortable. Non pleated is a more trendy choice, giving a smoother and slimmer appearance.
Trousers may have a cuff at the bottom, though this is an informal option.
They also are made to take either a belt or suspenders, with belts being far more common. If they're made for suspenders, the buttons to attach them will be inside the waistband.
So what color do I choose?
The basics are: Black, grey, and navy blue. There are also brown, olive and tan.
Patterns such as pinstripes are also available. Your standard suit is going to be a 3 button navy blue single breasted suit. A common thread between all of these is that they are fairly neutral colors. This is not where you make your impression, or impact. You don’t want to be this guy:
You’d much rather be this guy:
Black suits are considered more formal, but this is slowly declining. I still wouldn't recommend a solid black suit as your only one. At most, something with a slight pinstripe.
Color comes out in your accessories: A bold tie, or even a patterned shirt.
This section could be its own huge article, however I won’t get that far into it. Most dress shirts will be long sleeved, fully buttoned, and collared. They can be of any color, but most will be a light blue or white. Other pastels are seen such as soft greens. The cuffs can close with buttons (common, less formal, known as barrel cuffs) or cuff links (less common, more formal, known as French cuffs). The collar can be spread, point, or button-down. Spread is wider and lays against the chest, point stands up and is smaller. Button down pins the ends of the collar points down against the shirt with small buttons. These shirts are not traditionally worn with suits. There are shirts made with offset color collars, usually white. These are more formal however typically associated with business. Ideally a shirt should be long enough to easily tuck in. Cotton is an excellent material, synthetics tend not to breathe and rumple up easily. Linen shirts wrinkle extremely easily, though can be worn in the summer. Buying a shirt can be far from simple; your best bet is to be measured for your neck and arm length, which gives you the two numbers shirts are usually sized in, 16 34, for instance. Once you have a good idea what size to look for, you can try sizes near your measured size for fit and comfort. Shirts are also often classified as “regular” and “athletic” cuts, or variations on these. Regular is a wider, squarer cut, while athletic is tapered and rids the shirt of excess material at the sides. I prefer these.
Shirts should be ironed, and if necessary, starched.
Ties are always darker than the shirt. While the tie and shirt shouldn’t be the same exact color, the tie should contain some color in the pattern of the shirt so as to provide a match that leads into the shirt cleanly. Again, the standard is a light, very pale blue shirt, likely with pinstripes or checks, and a darker navy blue tie.
Don’t get a clip on. Don’t do it. They look like clip-ons. Learn how to tie a tie! It’s not too difficult, and while there are a lot of methods to do so, there are a few basic ones:
The Half-Windsor: Gives a smaller, slimmer knot that is more comfortable and less formal.
And the Full Windsor: Gives a very full, very triangular knot that dresses up a shirt.
Set up the length of the tie for the point to end up around your navel, or belt line. Tuck the slim end in the label on the back of the tie, or use a tie tack/bar. The slim end should not extend past the wider end once tied.
Belts are relatively simple. Wear one, even if your trousers stay up without it. I’m not going to get into suspenders as they’re not common in the US and unlikely to be used by someone reading this. Belts and shoes should match, not precisely but the same color, i.e. brown belt/shoes. They should be made of leather. The buckle should be simple and be silver or gold in color, preferably matching other jewelry such as a watch or rings.
Shoes are always of the “dress” variety, such as Oxfords, or slip-ons. In a somewhat backwards way, a simpler shoe is considered more formal, and those with more decoration less so. Most shoes are going to be black or brown. Black is worn with black or grey suits, and brown with navy and any other color of suit. The brown is typically of a darker shade. If you're not sure, a good choice is a pair of Oxfords.
Pocket watches, handkerchiefs, and watch chains can all be worn with a suit to increase it’s formality. For the watch, you need a pocket-style watch and a chain to attach it to a vest. The watch chain is threaded through a button hole and the watch is placed in the left pocket.
A handkerchief or “pocket square” can be worn in the chest pocket but aren’t very common and typically seen as a wedding or other formal occasion accessory.
Socks typically should match the trouser to minimize attention to the leg. They can also be darker or simply black. Don’t wear white socks unless you happen to be wearing a white suit.Wearing the suit:
Never button the bottom button. It just isn’t done. Make sure your shirt collar stays inside your jacket, however the sleeves may protrude slightly from the cuffs. Keep your shoes polished, and buff out any scuffs.
I don’t have a suit. Where do I start?
My suggestion is to have one suit in your inventory, for the occasional wedding, interview, funeral, or any other occasion that might pop up. It should ideally be a relatively neutral color, navy blue or gray. Have a shirt or two ready to go, white or light blue. Find a nice dark blue silk tie, and branch out from there.
Where do I go?
There are quite a few places you can go to find a premade suit. Tailor-made (known as bespoke suits) can be prohibitively expensive unless you happen to find yourself overseas where the craft is still common. These pre-made suits will still need to be tailored to fit you well. So find a place like Men’s Warehouse, and ask to be measured. The staff can assist you in making alterations once you find a suit to your liking. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a suit that you won’t be wearing every day. Higher quality suits typically have greater durability, which you probably don’t need in something you’ll wear infrequently. Look for something that fits you well, gives you a good silhouette, and puts forward the impression that you know how to dress in a day in age where this tradition is slowly becoming forgotten by the common man.