Advice on men’s suits

I am going to be changing jobs in May, and will be leaving my current workplace which is pretty informal (jeans most everyday) to one that is a lot more formal. At this new place they wear shirts/trousers on a regular work day, but for big meetings and international travel, proper suits are the norm. The last time I wore a suit was at my wedding 18 years ago (double-breasted grey wool with 1-inch pinstripes), and that is still the only suit I own. So clearly I need to up my game a bit and get myself a few new suits.

But considering I am basically a suit novice, I could use some practical advice. What are the current styles available? (nothing too trendy please) Are certain colors/shades/materials worn on certain occasions? Are there degrees of formality? With a tie or without? And the same goes for shirts and ties, which styles for which occasions? Any Dos or Don’ts? And how often should I change my suit? If I am at a 3-day meeting, should I have 3 different suits?


while many here may consider the suggestion…less than fashionable, I’ve always had good results shopping for suits at Men’s Warehouse. The styles seem to be current, the staff always had what seemed to me to be good to excellent suggestions for more than one shirt/tie color and style combos for every suit chosen. The selection of ties was wide and deep and tall, to me a key thing because a tie can change the entire look of a suit all by itself. The in-house tailor was always quick and efficient. They almost always had something for nearly any budget.

Some of the answers you are looking for are right there. Different shirt/tie color and style combos change the suit completely. A couple of basic black suits of different styles with various shirts and ties is a new suit. OH and SHOES! You need at least two different pairs of shoes, a pair of laced and a pair of slip on shoes. Shoes are incredibly important and sometimes overlooked parts of a suit.

Not necessarily 3 different suits, but 3 different trousers and avoid looking the same each day; always change something on the top (it may be as simple as taking three shirts). If you take three trousers and two jackets, the jacket that gets repeated goes on the first and last day. Two trousers plus one jacket combos are actually available in many stores, but I’m hitting a blank on their English name.

I should add that I am in mainland Europe, not the US or UK, but we have men’s stores as well that can probably advise me.

Already I realise one assumption I made – that a suit has to have a matching top and bottom. Are you saying it is OK to have different materials/shades for the trousers vs the jacket? Would that be less formal than a 100% matched suit?

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K. Labour Party was recently mocked by the prime minister for dressing in a contrasting jacket and trousers. It’s less formal than a suit , but might be acceptable in some work environments.

No, men’s suits aren’t made to “mix & match.” But looks like a blazer & slacks are acceptable–not quite as formal as a suit.

Do some research–how to businessmen dress where you live? Ask around to find a good men’s store.

No, that’s not a “suit”. A suit has matching jacket and pants and you always wear them and dry clean them together (otherwise one fades before the other and you get a suit that doesn’t quit match).

Different pants and jacket is a more casual look. And in that case the jacket is either a sport coat or blazer, not a suit jacket.
If you have a 3 day meeting, you should probably wear at least two suits. You could probably get away with one so long as you don’t get it wrinkled or sweaty. But 2 would be better, just in case. You would make it a different outfit by wearing different shirt and tie combos.
You want single-breasted dark gray or Navy blue in either solid or a subtle pattern. Double-breasted looks very “90s” and big bold pinstripes looks very “early 2000s Wall Street guy evoking Prohibition-era mobster”.

One thing you will notice if you haven’t bought a suit in 18 years is that suits tend to be cut a lot slimmer than ones from the late 90s. particularly in Europe.

Make sure you get everything tailored. Most decent stores will include this with the purchase of your new suit. Personally, I am a perfect 44R (US), but pants always need to be tailored. Note that tailoring can take a couple of weeks.
No cuffs on the pants.
Slight break (the “bagginess”. You want them just long enough to bunch up a tiny bit when you are standing straight)

Matching belt and dress shoes (typically black).
I don’t know your price range, but start at a high end store to get an idea of current fashion. Then make your actual purchases at a store that’s in your price range.

I agree with most everything here, except for the “no cuffs on the pants.” Cuffs are fine.

Another thing to remember is you don’t wear button down shirts with suits. They’re fine with blazers though.

Since you are in Europe, it might be completely different from the US.

That having been said - a 3 day meeting needs only one suit, but 2-3 different shirts and 3 different ties. Changing the tie and/or shirt changes the look.

If your last suit still fits, that is one. You need (IMO) two more suits - one charcoal gray and one dark blue. Do not go for fashionable - fashion goes out of style, and boringly conventional is forever.

The pants and the suitcoat need to match. Otherwise, it is not a suit.

Make sure the suit fits. Do not compromise on this.

Make sure the shirt fits. If it fits, especially in the neck and chest, it won’t be uncomfortable.

My daughter the Fashion Maven says that a white shirt goes with anything, and has laid out which of my ties goes with which of my suits. I have a black suit, a dark gray suit, and a dark blue suit. Any tie I own goes with any suit I own, as long as I wear a white shirt.

I have some patterned shirts, striped and so on. I am forbidden to wear a patterned shirt with a patterned tie. I have some plain, one-color ties that I am allowed to wear with the striped shirt.

Basically, I, who have the fashion sense of a hobo, have picked out some basic combinations, and I ring the changes on those. Gray suit, white shirt, any one of a dozen ties, I am good to go and may leave the house without disapproving looks or “daddy, you are not going out in public dressed like that”.

Congrats on the new job. I wear a suit by choice where I work - I don’t have to - and people treat you differently.


Park your car outside of where you are going to work at quitting time (5:00 pm?). Notice what most of the men are wearing as they leave - buy that.

Best to not overdress nor underdress!

For example you might stand out [in the wrong way] if you wore one of these…

To start, you need one dark charcoal gray (not black) suit. It will have some colored threads in the fabric that are visible only by looking closely; the saying is that one should not know what color a man is wearing unless standing right next to him.

A white shirt (no pattern / no white on white) is always correct. Colored shirts may or not be acceptable. You will find out at the first meeting but start with three white shirts; they will always be useful.

Choose a tie by finding an exact match in the tie with one of the colored threads in the suit fabric; don’t just see red or blue and choose the first red tie – look closely and find an exact match of the red or blue or whatever color. A good tie takes a lot of attention away from an inexpensive suit, and with three very different ties no one is likely to notice that you are wearing the same suit.

After your first meeting you will have a much easier time knowing what is acceptable in your area and business, particularly if you make it a point to pay attention to how others are dressed. Probably a dark blue for your second suit.

If you only buy one new suit, it should be a dark charcoal, which is the most versatile color. If you buy a second, it should be navy blue. Don’t wear a black suit unless you are at a wedding or a funeral. Certainly not at work.

The classic single-breasted two-button will never go out of style. A suit with two side vents in the rear versus one in the center is more European and ever-so-slightly more formal. Whatever you buy, GET IT TAILORED. Can’t stress this enough.

I prefer three button suits; because you always leave the bottom one undone, the top one tends to fray quickly on two-button jobs. Agree with everyone else that you should avoid double-breasted suits, unless you’re fat.

I endorse this post. In fact, cuffs are much less forgiving if you have big feet relative to your frame (as I do).

Eh? I’ve never heard this “black suits at weddings and funerals only” thing.

The best book I ever bought about men’s fashion had the unfortunate title, “Dress for Success” by John T. Molloy. It was such a geat book that 30 years later, I still remember the author’s name.

It explains everything you would want to know about men’s suits, shirts, ties and shoes for business.

You really need to know about all four. Maybe even accessories too.

If you don’t know about any one of those items and you make an unfortunate mistake and wind up looking like a clown, people will just stare at you in disbeliev and snicker about your appearance behind your back.

Just a couple of really extremely important things to know:

  1. Men’s fashion in the business world is nothing like it is anywhere else. If you can’t find this book, just go downtown to any big bank or stockbrokers and memorize the outfits men wear there.

  2. Don’t ever let your spouse, gf, or any woman dress you or suggest what you should wear. Women tend to have much better fashion sense than men. But they will dress you to look attractive to them. Not to look like you fit into the business world. They tend to select brightly colored ties and shirts with all kinds of diff colors and nice looking collars and cuffs. Nice looking to them. But totally out of place in the business world.

You can’t go wrong with a plain white shirt. It’s a huge mistake to think that wearing nice colors or ruffles or anything that makes you stand out is good. It’s not good.

You can’t go wrong with a plain white shirt, plain black shoes and plain black socks.

  1. Never mix two colors unless you are certain they don’t work together. Brown does not go with blue. It’s terrible to wear brown shoes with a blue suit or blue tie. Usually only one item of clothing should have some color. If you wear a blue or grey suit and a white shirt, you can wear a tie that is colored red. That is the one item. But if you wear a blue shirt and a red tie, you look like a circus clown (not always - but often).

  2. Plain wool suits are best. To begin, stick with a grey suit, a blue suit and a brown suit. Avoid pin stipes until you know what you’re doing. Get the book. It explains this all.

  3. There are only a very few kinds of patterns for ties. So many men seem to think it’s good to wear ties with fancy patterns. It’s not. There is nothing wrong with a solid colored tie.

A grey suit, white shirt, black shoes and socks and a solid red tie is perfect. A solid blue tie is also perfect.

The only acceptable patterns for ties in business are solid, striped, polka dot, IV League and Paisley. Don’t wear paisley ties till you know what you’re doing. A paisley tie should only be worn with a solid colored suit, shirt and shoes. I would only wear one with a solid white shirt, black shoes and socks and a grey or blue suit. A brown suit is also OK.

But you can easily look like a fool wearing a paisley tie. Read the book. It explains it all.

Black suits are for funerals. They should never, ever, ever be worn in the business world.

Until you understand what makes sense and why, you can just memorize a few combinations and there is nothing wrong with wearing one of these every day.

Stick with a white shirt and black shoes and socks. That will make everything else easy.

  1. grey suit with a solid tie of any color - best colors are red, blue and occasionally green.

  2. grey suit with a tie of any acceptable pattern - dots, stripes, IV League (diagonal stripes running both ways) or paisley. You can have a light grey suit and also a dark grey suit

  3. blue suit (start with a dark blue suit and then you can also get a light blue suit for the summertime). Any color tie works with a blue suit except a brown tie.

  4. brown suit - red ties go with brown suits - never blue or green ties - if you want to wear brown shoes - only wear them with a brown suit. Brown shoes don’t make sense with a blue or grey suit.

When you get a year or more experience, you can venture into pinstripe suits. Start with very thin pinstripes and only with blue or grey suits.

Good luck

Thirty years ago that was excellent advice. IMO the high level ideas in the book are still valid. But they can be summarized as A) be neat; B) look just expensive enough; and C) dress more conservative if you’re younger.

IMO 100% of the rest of the advice in the book is 30 years out of date. Some bits might still be right but that’s coincidence not skill. If the OP is a clueless as he says he’ll have no idea which specific advice is still sound and which is not.

Didn’t you tell us you barely ever left your home? Unless I’m confusing you with someone else, I’m not sure your business fashion advice is very helpful.

It’s true, though. Men shouldn’t wear completely black suits to work.