As you age, the occasions where you’re expected to wear a suit can pile up quickly. Weddings, funerals, business meetings, black tie events, jury duty, the list of suit-wearing events are nearly endless. If you’re not a business professional, perhaps the only time you’ve concerned yourself with a man’s suit was that $98 prom night rental. It’s ok if you’re self-conscious about a lack of suit experience–we all started the same way and had to learn from somewhere.
The seemingly endless combinations and textures of blazers, dress shirts, ties, belts, pants, and shoes can make anyone’s head spin. The truth is, most suits are pretty similar, and the main differences stem from fabric choice and minor stylistic design elements. Below is a guide to the different types of men’s suits and the reasons why each is a good choice for your next self-investment.
The business suit encompasses several different types of suits depending on the season and geographic area. We’ll take a closer look at seasonal suits in a moment. Still, the unifying factor of all business suits is that they project professionalism, are usually a three-piece ensemble and tend toward darker colours like blue or gray. These are the go-to men’s neutral colours, the ones that are a safe choice when meeting with higher-ups and making cordial first impressions.
Casual suits in lighter colours can be a refreshing choice, but you may not want to stand out from the crowd in every business situation. Taking a slightly more reserved approach, at least at first, shows that you care more about your career than making a fashion statement.
That being said, your choice of a suit does have a psychological influence on others and yourself. Being dressed a notch above your peers does wonders for your confidence, influencing every interaction you have, whether a negotiation or a simple conversation. All animals, including humans, respond to visual displays of dominance. For humans, that display comes in the form of clothing.
It’s hard to fit your windbreaker or peacoat over a linen suit, so how do you maintain a professional look without freezing? Winter suits combine unique design and construction with heavy materials. A winter suit should be made of winter-weight fabrics that can stand up to the lashing polar chill. These heavier materials have interesting textures and can bear any colour or pattern, though darker colours are more seasonally appropriate.
Here’s a breakdown of the various materials used in warm, resilient winter suits:
- Wool: An excellent insulator perfected by nature.
- Tweed: A wool-based fabric made with a combination of three differently coloured yarns that are twilled or woven to produce a distinctive pattern. Tweed is thick, warm, durable, and resists moisture.
- Corduroy: A material created by twisting cotton fibres until they lie parallel, creating a unique texture pattern—a stylish choice prominently worn by director Wes Anderson and some characters in his films.
- Moleskin cotton: A heavy cotton fabric is woven and sheared to create a short, soft pile on one side with a felt-like texture. The material retains heat well while remaining light enough to be breathable in the cooler summer.
Traditional wool suits, especially heavier suits with multiple pockets and layered details, will make you sweat like a hog the moment you step off the plane into a warmer climate or even a poorly ventilated room. Summer suits were made to ease this discomfort and make sure you look well-put-together without sacrificing a dry exterior. Manufacturers do this by choosing non-wool (very light wool in some cases) fabrics with a breathable open weave. High twist wools, fresco, cotton, or linen are ideal for a cooler, lightweight suit. Seersucker is another alternative that’s quick-drying and wrinkle-resistant.
Minimally designed suits are better for summer, with unlined and unstructured suits keeping you cooler. Going for a looser fitting suit may seem like a good idea, but it’ll only detract from your look. The main factor in the suit’s construction that keeps you cool is the fabric.
If you’re looking to pull every comfort-lever that summer suits have available, the colour is the last one with a sizeable impact. Sticking to lighter creams or bright pastel colours will help reflect the heat, keeping you cool in every sense of the word.
Most men only have the occasion to wear a full tuxedo once or twice a year for a wedding or other invite-only event. Let’s be real; getting the opportunity to dress up like 007 or George Clooney at the Oscars without anyone raising an eyebrow is cool. That means the one tuxedo in your arsenal needs to have enough bang for your buck that it’s worth trotting out and that it’ll be resilient enough to last for multiple years.
The main distinguishing factor of a tuxedo is the presence of satin in strategic places like the lapels, pant legs, buttons, or pockets. A tux can also be referred to as a dinner jacket and is an assemblage of separate pieces. The parts of a tuxedo are:
- The main coat with satin lapels
- A dress shirt, usually white
- A bowtie
- Matching pants
- Shoes, typically shiny and with thin laces.
Other than satin accents and facings, a tuxedo is identical to a regular suit. An additional consideration is the choice of a dress shirt. The modern choice is a comfortable textured white dress shirt. Still, if you want to go borderline eccentric-formal, you can opt for the traditional pleated shirt, featuring a prominent bib of pleats that’s the height of pomp and circumstance.
Your choice of bowtie should coincide with the fabric on the lapels. When in doubt, go classic black.
Whether you’re a self-made entrepreneur living out of your car or a jet-setting executive without a moment to spare, the travel suit is a long-desired solution to fine material’s tendency to wrinkle and crease. These durable business suits can be stuffed into a regular bag without worry, thanks to high-twist yarn bouncing back and dramatically reducing wrinkling. Softer and stretchier materials make travel suits as low maintenance as possible, with most being machine washable and odour resistant. Some are specially treated to repel stains, and others have seamlessly integrated travel-secure pockets to carry documents and other items.
Having to dress up in hot or humid weather is rough, and showing up to an important meeting drenched with sweat isn’t the best presentation. Thankfully travel suits are made with lightweight and breathable materials suitable to a range of climates and seasons. While these innovative performance suits aren’t brand new, they’ve shed their formerly drab and bulky look and traded it for a modern tailored cut that’s comfortable as well as stylish.
A Navy suit strikes the perfect middle chord that works in nearly any context at any time of year. If you’re looking for your first suit or one that can be your primary go-to, this is the one. Of the three primary tailored suit colours (black, blue, and gray), blue is known for the ease with which it can be formal, casual, or even eccentric, depending on the surrounding elements.
Blue suits come in various shades, and while a bright blue suit is memorable and bold, you have to admit it won’t work for just any occasion. A darker navy blue is the perfect colour to elevate your look without being a distraction. Subdued but classic additions like shiny black shoes, fresh white sneaks, and even a brown or tan hat can take your navy suit to a higher level.
Gray suits are the ultimate suit for versatility, serving as a neutral backdrop for colour-popping ties and funny novelty socks while also adaptable enough to add a touch of class to casual outfits. A gray suit is a stylish, professional choice for the office environment and pairs well with black shoes and a patterned tie. Most gray suits work great for weddings, funerals, parties, and formal dinners, depending on the shade and cut.
A charcoal gray lends a bit of wintry gravitas for these formal occasions, whereas lighter gray tends toward casual and sunny weather. If you choose a shade somewhere in the middle, it will serve well as a winter or summer suit.
Subtle Pattern Suit
It’s understandable if you’re not looking to project that avant-garde movie director vibe in court or at your next big job interview. Sometimes less is more. A subtle pattern, like a subdued blue check, or a light herringbone, adds enough visual texture to give some depth to the style without coming across as a peacock. These suit jackets lend themselves to everyday wardrobe pairings, elevating the whole look without stealing the spotlight. A light check blazer is a perpetual winner that won’t age poorly in photos or go out of style anytime soon.
Bold Pattern Suit
You may think wearing a suit with a bold pattern is ostentatious or attention-seeking. Still, the truth is that most people like some personality, as opposed to the “boring” old socially acceptable gray. The first day or two after you’ve embraced a brighter, more eye-catching fashion choice might be uncomfortable. Still, you’ll soon realize others are usually indifferent or go out of their way to show appreciation and support for your unique style. You may even be perceived as more confident, especially after you ease into the enjoyment of expressing yourself through your attire.
Here are some examples to spice up your next pub crawl or day at the horse track:
- Herringbone Pattern: A series of repeating slanted lines that form a “v” pattern that resembles the bones of a fish, this design is among the oldest traditional suit patterns. Modern takes include unique colour combinations and a smaller shinier weave.
- Plaid or Tartan: Hearkening back to the complex checkered patterns made famous by Scottish clansmen, these patterns come in a wide array of colours and textures. A plaid jacket with a neutral oxford button-down and accent pocket square is a knockout look that doesn’t require committing to the whole bit.
- Windowpane: Windowpane patterns, a widely spaced simplistic grid, are found on smart, modern-looking suits in highrise boardrooms and are a mainstream option to go with for your first foray into bold patterns.
When envisioning a pinstripe suit, the first things that come to mind are those 1920’s gangsters toting violin cases full of lead, sporting crisp fedoras, and smooth-talking their way out of trouble with the coppers. This association gives the pattern a roguish Gotham City retro flair, but pinstripes adorn the suits of world leaders, famous actors, and other well-dressed icons everywhere. The fact that pinstripes remain one of the dominant suit patterns is a testament to its timeless, sartorial qualities.
The three-piece pinstripe is best suited for more formal events, like a wedding or upscale dinner party. A lengthy vertical pattern serves to create a slimmer silhouette and also makes you look taller. This can be a problem for string beans that don’t wish to accentuate their circus-like proportions, but shorter dudes can certainly benefit from the visual effect.
There are a ton of ways to pull off a pinstripe suit. Individual pieces can be integrated into more casual attire, like pairing with a plain trouser and a dark turtle neck. A word of caution: be careful mixing patterns, as pinstripes tend to only go with a limited range of other looks. You don’t want to end up looking like you’ve assembled a hodgepodge outfit from the local tailor’s dumpster.