The best high-street shops for suits are Esclot, Suit Supply – where alterations are undertaken in store – and TM Lewin.
If you only buy one suit, go navy. It can be worn on nearly every occasion from business events and weddings to funerals. Avoid a linen suit for the winter or suits made of silk – they’re expensive and won’t last.
Don’t be afraid of colour, especially if you have a darker skin tone. Grey looks great in the city; blue looks great in the sun; and green, teal and steel are becoming more popular suit shades these days. Chalk stripes are common with those in the insurance industry, double-breasted suits are making a comeback and I am seeing people wearing patterned dinner suits more often. With the right shirt, tie and shoe combination, a pinstripe suit can still look great.
Look out for fabrics sourced from the north of England or the north of Italy as the water to produce the material is extremely soft there. There are all sorts of fabrics on the market and they are usually divided up by weight and wool content. Heavier suits are made to be more durable, so they can be worn in winter, whereas lighter-weight suits will be more appropriate for warmer climates.
Three-piece suits are increasingly popular and are best worn with a double-breasted waistcoat. Waistcoats can add an element of practicality to the suit, holding a tie in, while also exuding warmth and sophistication.
Tie selection and knot style must be accurate to the rest of your outfit. A large Windsor knot can often be ungainly and stand out in an interview. If the occasion calls for it, a bow tie can be worn with a suit, but choose a more traditional cut or double-breasted style of suit.
Pocket squares and ties look best when matched as closely as possible. If the tie is particularly loud, contrasting it with another loud colour is risky. If you’re wearing a plain tie, use a brighter – perhaps patterned – pocket square to add style.
Wearing no socks with a suit is never ok. Socks should only be visible when colour paired correctly. Choose light blue socks with a navy suit and green socks with a grey suit. Black works well with every colour. Patterns are an alternative if you want to mix things up. As a general rule, underwear and socks are about the only thing you can really personalise when trying to dress smartly. Needless to say, this should be done within reason: a grey business suit with orange sock is questionable. Pantherella provides a wonderful selection of British-manufactured socks for particularly smart occasions as well as for more relaxed attire.
When matching a suit and shoes, your options include loafers, brogues, oxfords, derbies, and double and single-strap monks. The one rule is: no brown in town. Most brown shoes look terrible with a navy suit, so choose black to be safe. Black shoes also look great with grey. Suede shoes can be an effective contrast against a sleeker suit and single-piece leather oxfords work well when paired with one made from heavyweight flannel. For any discerning gentleman, oxfords, brogues and loafers can be worn to nearly all occasions.
The giveaways of a cheap suit are a large gap between shirt collar and suit collar – this is a sign of ill-fitting; when the line of the shoulders is either too long or too short; the button hole is not in the correct place due to cheap manufacturing; and creases occurring in the back and at the top of the bicep because the jacket is the wrong size.
Made-to-measure is not the same as bespoke. Made-to-measure suits are created from block patterns, with some measurements adjusted for the customer. With bespoke, an individual garment is created from scratch. Hackett provides a good made-to-measure service.