The Handbook

How to Buy a Suit

Wearing a great suit can be extremely empowering. You feel like the best version of yourself—taller, dashing and in charge of your life. But to get that serious suit swagger, you've got to find the right suit for you and that's not always an easy task.

Know What You Need

Before you go shopping, consider your reasons for buying a suit. Are you in need of a workhorse suit that you'll wear to the office multiple times a week? (If so, go for the best quality you can afford and keep it dark and classic.) Or something you'll pull on a few times a year for more formal occasions? (If this is the case, navy is a safe bet that works for everything from weddings to job interviews.)

Choose the fabric according to how often you'll wear the suit. The fineness of a suit is measured in what's typically called the "super number." The higher the number, the thinner the fabric and the smoother and silkier the cloth. The most versatile option is a soft but durable wool like "super 120" (any higher is too delicate for daily use).

A Bargain Is Okay, But a Cheap Suit Isn't

These days, you can find quality suits at great prices thanks to brands like J.Crew and Suitsupply. But beware of deals that are too good to be true. Even on the hanger, you can test a suit to see if it's worth your money. Squeeze the fabric—if it bounces back with little to no wrinkling, that means it's good, sturdy material. Tug at the buttons. If they feel loose or wobbly now, then they'll likely come off sooner rather than later. Look at the stitching. Is it nice and even or a bit wonky and puckered?

Ignore the Sales Person

Many men have been talked into a bad suit from a salesman looking to make a commission. Or been sold an ill-fitting suit with bad advice like, "you'll want a little extra room for comfort." Let a salesperson answer questions about the brand or about the store's return policy, but don't depend on them to make you look great. If you know how your suit should fit, you'll do fine on your own.

Spend Time Trying It On

The perfect off-the-rack suit is pretty much a myth, like Big Foot or casual dating. But the key to making a perfect suit is knowing what needs to work in the fitting-room and what your tailor can fix up. Plus, every brand fits a bit different, so you've got to devote the time, try on a few different brands and styles and see what works for you. One piece you want to work right off the bat is the suit's shoulders. The jacket's shoulders (and any padding) should sit right above yours but not protrude any—if you lean against a wall and the shoulder pad touches the wall before your arm does, go down a size in the jacket.

Wool suit, $1,500 by The Armoury

Brush It Off

A clothing brush will gently remove dirt and lint, extending the life of your suit and removing some of that dreaded shine that appears on well-worn areas.

$35, by Kent