THE BLOG

How To Buy Your First Suit

23/08/2013 14:53 BST | Updated 23/10/2013 10:12 BST

Maybe you've switched professions, started your first job or simply want to dress a little smarter than your fellow man. It's time to buy your first suit.

For those uninitiated into the world of tailoring, it can seem rather intimidating. There are so many 'rules'. Everyone has an opinion; friends, colleagues, family members, even random people on the street.

Whilst there is plenty of scope to get it catastrophically wrong, it's easier than you think to get it right.

The Jacket

This is the trickiest part to get right. There are so many variables; sleeve length, jacket length, shoulder width, waist suppression, etc. When buying a suit off the rack, the chances of finding a jacket that is perfect in all of these variables is minimal.

This is where a good alternation tailor comes in. The most difficult to make alterations are shoulder width and jacket length. Therefore, it is important to find a jacket that fits well in the shoulder and is long enough to cover your seat.

The waist of the jacket and sleeve length can be altered; the amount of alteration possible depends upon how much spare fabric is available, though more extreme alterations will usually be unsuccessful and should be avoided. Think of alteration as a fine tuning, not a total overhaul. The sleeve should end at the wrist bone; many men wear a jacket with sleeves that are far too long.

For your first couple of suits, it is advisable to stick to single breasted jackets as they are more versatile.

The trousers

Much like with the jacket, alterations are the key here. Many men wear trousers that are simply too long. My simple guideline is that the trousers should be just long enough to cover your socks when you are standing straight.

Most men now wear their trousers below their natural waist, so pleats are unnecessary and will ruin an otherwise clean look.

When buying a suit, it is advisable to stick to natural fibres such as wool. Start out with basic colours such as navy or dark grey. Pinstripes, chalkstripes and checks can be introduced as your collection expands. Never buy a black suit that isn't a tuxedo, they just don't look right.

The shirts

The most important factor with shirts is sleeve length. The sleeve should end at the base of your palm. This will allow around half an inch or so of cuff to show. Shirt fit is a personal preference; some prefer very fitted shirts whilst others prefer a more relaxed cut.

There are two cuff choices; single or double. For added flair, I prefer the double cuff though this is entirely personal preference.

There are also a range of collar types and these should be selected to compliment your face shape. Button down collars, however, should be saved for casual dress.

As with suits, natural fibres are always advisable. Build a foundation of white and blue shirts. From here feel free to experiment with colours and patterns.

The Ties

Very simple to get right. Keep the patterns basic, the width moderate and the fabric silk and you're good to go. As your tie collection expands, try adding knitted ties made from silk, wool or cashmere.

The accessories

A pocket square is a vital finishing touch to your suit. Avoid matching it to your tie. A good safe option is a simply folded white Irish linen square.

Cufflinks are necessary if you have chosen double cuffed shirts. Keep these simple and conservative.

Socks are an area where I feel you should have some fun. Vivid colours, patterns and those novelty socks you got on your birthday (if you actually like them) are all perfectly acceptable.

So there we have it. Soon you'll be the best dressed man in your office.

James Wilson is the founder of JW STYLIST LTD