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OK, Guys – Suit Up!

Photo courtesy of Enzo Custom Clothiers.

I thought I would address men’s fashion for a change, and talk about suits.  And yes, these guidelines will apply to women’s suits as well.

In my humble opinion, all men of a certain age should have at least one well-fit suit. I get that most men don’t wear suits to work any more, although there are quite a few who do. But all of us have special occasions that come up every so often that require wearing something more than Dockers and polo shirts. Or shorts and t-shirts (brother Tim).

Let’s start with color. A black suit is the male equivalent to a woman’s little black dress, and is always appropriate. It can seem a bit formal, and stark black doesn’t necessarily look good on everyone. Try a more muted shade of black, say charcoal or dark gray. I especially like a gray suit on a man with gray hair; it can make that hair really pop. But it has to be the right shade of gray. Gray comes in many hues. A bluish gray works for most everyone. Steer clear of grays that have a yellow or green cast.

There are so many great suit fabrics these days. Just a slight pin stripe can add a little texture to a plain suit and mute the main color. Don’t be afraid to try fabrics with texture, stripes or prints. They can be very subtle in most of the conservative suits.

You young guys can play around with all the wild colors and prints that are on trend these days, but for an investment suit, I would steer clear of anything too wild. The general rule of thumb for investing in a suit is that it should last you about five years. Remember that when you look at the price, too. If you pay, for instance $500 for a good suit and only wear it once a year, that’s $100 per year that you will not have to pay to rent one. If you want a color pop, do it with shirt and tie, a much less expensive investment.

Most suits are made of wool. Men in hot climates are rolling their eyes about that. But the fact is wool breathes and if it’s lightweight enough, it will be perfectly comfortable in an air conditioned room in the summer. You will want to remove the jacket in the car (something you should do anyway) but for the most part, wool is not a bad fabric for a warm climate.

Some people like wool blends, and they do have their strong points. A little polyester in the blend will keep the suit from wrinkling, but too much polyester and it won’t breathe as well as wool, and it can look cheap.

As for style, if you are not sure what will work for you, I suggest you go to a place like Men’s Wearhouse or Joseph A. Banks or one of the better department stores that have actual salesmen. They are trained to help you find not only the right style but the right size, too.

And speaking of size, do have your suit tailored properly. The right fit will make or break your look. Getting the pant length just right with dress shoes, making sure the sleeve isn’t too long or too short, and that bunching around the back of the collar can all be addressed by a tailor.

Finally, a suit is always appropriate for weddings, funerals, job interviews and other special occasions.

Hey, you may find you like the suit and will want to wear it even more often!

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or bstonedesigns@sbcglobal.net.