April 3, 2013

The Dapper Man: Suits, Deconstructed

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Suits are the cornerstone of high-end, men’s fashion. They are the end-all, be-all outfit that is nearly appropriate in any setting (except perhaps, the gym and other related physical efforts), and will get a healthy amount of compliments wherever you wear it. In the words of How I Met Your Mother’s suit connoisseur, Barney Stinson, “Suits are full of joy. They’re the sartorial equivalent of a baby’s smile.” This fictional suit lover is largely right on the money. After all he did choose suits over gold, women and world peace. Based on my own observations (no scientific basis whatsoever), suits have been shown to boost self-confidence, productivity and sex appeal. Here’s how to rock each suit piece like the sophisticated man you are.

Coat Jacket, Sport Jacket or Blazer

In the United States these three terms essentially mean the same for most people. They all mean a lightweight jacket with lapels, one to three buttons near the middle, a couple of small buttons near the wrist, a flap in the back and possibly a chest pocket. This is the main jacket of a suit.

These sorts of jackets absolutely must be fitted or else the outfit will falter. If the shoulders are too wide, you will look boxy. If the chest is too wide, you will look bloated. If the jacket is too long, you will look petite. If the sleeves are too wide, you will look flabby.  I would recommend you go to a tailor to custom fit this jacket if you cannot find a perfect fit at the store. Here are some before/after comparisons between a loose jacket and a fitted jacket. You can see the major difference. To add subtle flair, invest in a pocket square that you can insert in the chest pocket (although make sure the colors cohere). This impressive addition brings more focus to your chest and not your belly. If you want to really be a trendsetter, double-breasted jackets are available, with two columns of buttons, they’re sort of like a cross between a blazer and a Peacoat.


For young men, the fat ties of your fathers aren’t going to do you any favors. Slim or skinny ties are more modern and trim weight off your look by making you seem more “vertical.” Skinnier ties create the illusion that the tie is long as well which elongates your torso, framing your body well. As for material, silk is usually the best bet for formal occasions, but for more casualness, experiment with some cotton or woven ties! There is even a wood tie choice out there.


As shown by the before/after pictures mentioned above, your slacks must absolutely be fitted and slimming. Your legs anchor your outfit, and no matter how hot everything is up top, loose-fitting slacks can obliterate a suit. In my personal quest for the right slacks, I have come up with almost nothing even worth considering in stores. The Photographer suit pants from Express do come close though, as do the suit pants from Forever 21 Men. However, this is the one item that I, based on experience, would recommend a tailor for most seriously.


Vests are the third piece in three-piece suits. They are more optional, but when fitted like the rest of the suit, they can create a powerful effect. The vest should wrap snugly around your torso, and most vests have adjustable backs to achieve this result. Also, the vest should rest at the top of the slacks and not drag lower than the suit jacket. With a vest, you can take off the jacket and showcase the vest. That appearance is a welcome variation on lifting the suit.

Original Author: Eric Ding