Suits 101

When it comes to men’s suiting, I’m no expert. Shirts and ties are no problem (check out our June story), but I don’t have much experience in putting together an entire look. Why would I?

My father has worn a suit to the office nearly every day of his working life. He has his look down: Hart Shaffner Marks two-piece for board meetings, cashmere sport coat on casual Fridays. My husband, on the other hand, has one suit. It’s black and he pulls it out on two occasions: weddings and interviews. Sufficed it to say, when he recently needed to replace it, I got a crash-course in suit buying. Whether you’re the shopper or, in my case, the moral supporter, consider the following:

Find a salesperson that is trained and knowledgeable on suits–not just selling them. I can’t say enough about the boys at Nordstrom, where most men I know shop for suits. My best friend’s father has shopped with Ace at Hubert White for years, and he’s the most dapper guy I know.

Don’t be cheap. A suit is an investment in your career, and yourself. Nordstrom puts on two great sales each year (the Half Yearly is going on now). Plan ahead and stock up. Also, Saks Off 5th carries designer labels at 40-70 percent off retail. The selection is more limited, but worth checking out if you have time to comparison shop.

Try a two-button. No matter what your height, weight, or shape, this jacket style is the safest bet. Plus, unlike the more modern three-button or traditional double-breasted, it’s timeless.

Brand matters. If you prefer a certain brand of dress shirt or pant, you will probably like their suit, too. Hugo Boss shirts fit my husband perfectly, and he likes their understated look, so it was no surprise that he ultimately decided on a Boss suit.

Go with your gut. Period. If you don’t feel like a million bucks, don’t buy it. No matter what the salesperson tells you. The same goes for alterations. My husband fought the tailor to take in a quarter inch on each side of his jacket, and it made all the difference.

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