Sharp Suiting 101

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Sharp Suiting 101

Once again summer is upon us, and so are new jobs and summer internships. With many start dates just around the corner, it’s probably time to refresh yourself on the basics of how to wear a suit. If you want to impress your boss and be taken seriously in the office, take a few minutes to remember the essentials of tailoring and styling.


Don Draper dresses for success in a presentation

Fabric and Color

  1. Choose a fabric that is appropriate for the weather and setting. Tighter knits and thicker fabrics are most appropriate for a formal business setting.
  2. Dark colors (black and navy) work best in an office, though tan and gray are also usually appropriate if you’re in the market for another color. Take a cue from your coworkers, especially for the first week or so, to ensure you’re choosing appropriate looks for your workplace. Remember: it’s sometimes bad to be overdressed, but it’s always bad to be underdressed.
  3. Light colors are better for less formal events, such as brunches or religious events, especially in warmer months. If you’re in the mood to make a statement, remember that seersucker is the unofficial fabric of summer. If you have the right occasion, such as a daytime wedding or an outdoor party, don’t be shy and rock that puckered blue.

George Clooney takes it back to basics, sharp as always


  1. Pick lapels for the jacket and shirt that work with your body’s build. A wide lapel can look awkward on a small frame, and a skinny lapel on a big guy sometimes looks as though you’ve outgrown your suit.
  2. Let your sleeves come right to the wrist, such that your shirt sleeves are just showing, less than half an inch. If you wear a watch (which I highly recommend), tailor the cuffs to expose a portion of the watch, but not the entire face.
  3. The bottom hem of your jacket should fall about two inches above the crotch of your pants, give or take depending on your build. Wear it much longer and you’ll resemble a mafia boss. Also, keep the crotch of your pants from being too baggy. You’re not in a rap video, you’re at work.
  4. Pant hems should cover your ankles with a slight amount of fabric to spare while standing, never nearing the ground. Whether or not to wear cuffed hems are a personal choice; choose what looks best on you.
  5. Pleats. Unless you’re very attached to this style, it’s best to go with flat-fronted pants to keep a slimmer, more modern appearance. Pleats can easily give the appearance of bagginess or lend themselves to fitting improperly.

Ryan Gosling's funky but simple tie pulls together his look


  1. Skinny, wide, in-between, long, short. Like lapels, choose a width that works with your body type. Keep the width of your lapel in mind, as well — wide with wide, skinny with skinny tends to be a good rule of thumb.
  2. Traditional neckties vs. bowties. While I’m personally a major advocate of the bowtie, save it for a more casual occasion than a meeting with your boss. Opt for a full Windsor knot for a powerful look, but again, personal preference for knots applies.
  3. Ascots, bolos, clip-ons. Usually we say there is a time and place for everything, but I’m failing to come up for an occasion in which any of these are appropriate.
  4. No matter how inexpensive your suit is, your tie is a direct indicator of your personality. Don’t be afraid of incorporating a variety of colors and patterns into your wardrobe. But remember, if you want others to take you seriously, be serious when selecting your tie. Silk is the standard fabric to choose for almost every occasion.

Ed Westwick amps up his swagger with a pocket square and bright tie

Buttons and Accessories

  1. Pins, cufflinks, socks, pocket squares, tie clips. Metals should match other metals, keeping your buttons and watch in mind. Colors and patterns should go together, not clash. If you think you’re wearing too many accessories, you probably are.
  2. Belts vs. suspenders. Use your best judgment and go with what matches your personality. But just pick one — these are used for function before style.
  3. The bottom button is ALWAYS to remain undone. Nearly all suits have at least two buttons, so keep the bottom open. If you happen to have a jacket with a single button, keep it closed when standing.
  4. Unbutton the entire placket when seated. You’ll be more comfortable and the suit will look its best this way.


**If you decide to go rogue and ignore all of these suggestions, do just one thing for yourself: take your suits to a tailor. S/he will help you get the customized look you need to be sharp and successful.

– MK Kleva

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