Most men aren’t Don Draper. Or David Gandy. We don’t have stylists, or an endless rotation of immaculately tailored suits; we have ourselves, and one or two suits (three at a push).
All of which means we’ve got to do more with less. Make one suit look like three. Make a well-worn suit look new. Here’s how to get extra mileage out of your tailoring, from new opportunities to wear to extending its lifespan.
Choose The Right Kind Of Suit
Like not a pale pink suit. A pale pink suit will – if you’re lucky – work for some weddings, garden parties (how many of these are you actually attending though?) and holidays. (If you could actually be bothered to pack a suit for a holiday.)
A classic two-button, notch lapel navy or charcoal grey suit on the other hand, complements almost every body shape and can be worn for work, weddings and pretty much any occasion for which you need to cut a sharper figure than a tee and sweatpants combination allows.
Choose one in an all season wool – warm enough for winter’s bite, but lightweight enough to let your body breathe in summer – and you’re onto a winner.
Switch Your Shirt
No one’s going to contest the fact that a white shirt’s a perfect partner to a well-cut suit. But that’s not leave to wear one daily, unless of course you want to bore your colleagues to actual tears.
Instead, try switching your white version out for something equally fitting; like a sky blue or pink shirt if your suit’s navy; or a light shade of blue, pink or grey if it’s charcoal. Subtle patterns like stripes, gingham, micro dots and geometric styles are equally suitable for most offices. Prints will mesh too, provided it’s a social engagement – not your team’s morning all-hands – that you’re headed to.
Opting for a different style of collar works similarly. Rather than defaulting to a classic spread or point collar, try a less frequently rolled-out granddad or mandarin collar shirt instead.
Disclaimer: this won’t pass muster in every office. But if there’s some leeway in what your boss lets you wear, or you’re attending a smart-casual event outside of work, swapping a shirt for a T-shirt, polo or roll neck instantly ups the wear you’ll get from your two-piece.
Tees – made from heavier rather than finer cotton, in colours like blue, black, burgundy white, off-white and grey – are ideal for daytime, while a similarly hued fine-gauge roll neck is a suave alternative to the traditional dress shirt for evening occasions.
Alternate Your Accessories
As a wise man once said, it’s the little things that count. (And never more so than when you’re trying to get away with wearing the same suit five-plus days in a row.)
Although accessories like ties and pocket squares are just a small part of the bigger picture, they can cast your tailoring in a whole new light. Take a navy suit, for example: team it with a white shirt and ivory accessories and you’re wedding-ready; but switch that ivory for light blue and you’ve got something boardroom-appropriate.
Add A Seasonal Twist
Want your suit to go the extra mile? Get your mankles out. The perfect summertime styling trick, going ‘sockless’ – i.e. swapping regular socks for ‘invisible’ or liner socks – not only keeps your legs from overheating, it’ll give your tailoring a new spin too.
A sockless flex fares better with a slightly cropped trouser, so if your suit’s trews break slightly lower than normal, you might want to consider enlisting your tailor to take the hems up slightly to ensure your ankles get some airtime. (You can always have them lowered again come September.)
Alternatively, when it’s wintry out, add some extra insulation. A fine-gauge cashmere or merino wool knit layered over a shirt makes for a look that traps heat, and brings it too.
How To Care For Your Suit
Just as important as how you wear your suit, is how your suit wears. Failing to properly care for, clean and store your two-piece instantly shortens its life expectancy – so don’t cut corners.
Alex Field, head of menswear design at Reiss (and well-known sartorialist) offers the below tips:
- Use a proper hanger with wide, rounded shoulders. Keeping your suit on a skinny shirt hanger will only damage the fabric.
- When you get home, take your suit off and let it air before putting it back in your wardrobe. This helps creases fall out and releases any odours trapped in the suit’s fibres.
- Use a suit carrier when transporting your suit (and remember to keep it on the hanger).
- When getting your suit dry cleaned (only when absolutely necessary, by the way), always have the whole suit cleaned. Don’t just have the jacket cleaned because you don’t think the trousers are dirty enough, or vice versa. The colours will fade slightly when washed so you need both the jacket and trousers to be uniform.
- Always give your suit the once over with a lint roller before wear.
With over eight years’ experience writing on men’s style, former blogger Cillian O’Connor delves deep into men’s collections, sorting the wheat from the chaff to deliver seasonal trends and failsafe style tips.
He has written for Metro, The Business of Fashion, The Irish Times, and Canvas8, and has consulted for brands including Gillette and Dan Ward.