In Style + Design

Back To Suit School: Styling Rules Every Man Needs To Know

It’s a fashion statement that will never go out of style. Guaranteed to make you instantly look and feel better, a well-cut suit really does maketh the man.

But how do you choose the right one? And how do you wear it well?

From the right fit and colour, to trends and accessories, we’ve consulted the experts to compile a guide to suit-wearing 101. Be a dapper dude and read on.

True blue

First up, colour. Your best bet is to opt for one in a solid true navy blue or charcoal grey. Both colours are suit go-to neutrals. Avoid black unless it’s a tux, a funeral, or you work as a restaurant waiter.

Image: Andrea Natali / Unsplash

“Blue is best when it comes to suiting this season,” says THE ICONIC head of menswear Tom Simpson. “If you’re after an investment purchase to seamlessly go from the boardroom, to a day out at the races, or a wedding, then opt for a classic, rich navy hue. This shade offers a stylish update from the traditional blacks or greys, while still being wearable for your more conservative styled man.”

A winner on practically every skin tone, it’s also a great choice for older gents who want a more youthful look. Plus, they can be worn with almost anything. For maximum impact pair with a contrasting crisp white or light pink shirt, which allows the blue suit to ‘pop’.

Co-founder and director of made-to-measure tailors, Oscar Hunt, Chris Edwards agrees: “A navy suit is a must-have. It’s easily the most versatile suit to have in your wardrobe. You can dress it down with little effort – such as wearing a basic tee under a two-piece – or dress it up through an artillery of accessories.”

Make the cut

Fit is everything. No matter how much it costs, a suit is only as good as its tailoring – get it wrong and it can be entirely unflattering. You don’t need to spend big bucks; a good tailor can easily make an off the rack suit appear bespoke.

These days jackets are shorter than they used to be, but you don’t want to go too short. A good litmus test is to hang your arms at your sides and your fingers should be able to brush the jacket hem. Also, be aware that if you err on the shorter side height-wise wearing a too-long jacket will make you look even shorter.

Image: THE ICONIC / supplied

The jacket should fit closely around your waist but not so tight that it causes the buttons to gape. That’s not a good look. Whatever your height or body type, make sure to leave a good half-inch of cuff exposed – long sleeves look dated and school boy-like.

“When it comes to cut it’s important to remember there’s not a ‘one style fits all’,” says Simpson. “The right suit should fit like a glove, making you feel instantly sharper and accentuate all the right places. An ill-fitting suit will do exactly the opposite.”

The decision between slim-fit and straight-fit trousers is also down to your body type. While the former is very much on-trend it’s not great for heavier builds.

Single or double?

Two main styles to consider are single-breasted or double-breasted. Single-breasted blazers have a lot of versatility and look good on almost everyone (the majority of your jackets should be single-breasted) whereas double-breasted might add emphasis to any weight you may be carrying.


Image: Hunters Race / Unsplash

However, if you want to fly your fashion flag, then go for it. Thankfully nowadays double-breasted blazers have long since shed the negative associations of 80s yuppiedom and stuffy politicians, in fact, today’s versions offer the chance to cut loose and show off your fashion flair.

“As a general rule single-breasted suits tend to have a slimming effect, while a double-breasted cut is better for a leaner and taller build,” says Simpson.

Be aware of buttons

Buttons may not have been a consideration in your sartorial decision-making process, but they should be. The number of buttons on a jacket can affect the overall look dramatically. Today’s standard is two buttons, while one button is great if you’re wearing a slim-fit suit (skinny guys can get away with everything!). Avoid three buttoned jackets as they look outdated and stuffy.

“For the guy looking invest in a suit that will provide endless wear a two-button jacket is the way to go,” says Simpson. “When it comes to rules with buttoning, remember that a one button jacket should always be fastened, while the bottom button on a two-button blazer can be left undone.”

Waistcoat wisdom

When talking waistcoats, the mantra ‘fit is king’ is even more important. The whole point of a waistcoat is to help you look more streamlined and tidy, so any excess material just adds bulk. 

Likewise, it’s important to make sure it remains buttoned at all times and to avoid waistcoats with any tacky – and unnecessary – detailing, such as garish lining or antiquated pocket watch pockets.


Image: Oscar Hunt / supplied

“The three-piece suit is a statement look for the man who demands to be noticed,” says Edwards. “If looking to adopt a modern take on it, consider a wider notch or peak lapel, which works well with wool, cotton and linen. A simple four-button waistcoat creates a classic stylish look, whereas a double-breasted waistcoat adds that extra touch of flair.”

Break it up

The art of a ‘broken’ suit is something the Italians have perfected over the years. Called ’spezzato’ in Italian it turns out that breaking up isn’t actually that hard to do. It all comes down to styling your separates. A broken suit allows for creativity to combine colours and patterns and, best of all, it allows for maximum wardrobe mileage, which is great for those on a budget.

Mixing and matching not only breathes new life into your existing outfits, but also allows for a wealth of new smart-casual or formal looks for a variety of occasions.

“Breaking up a suit comes back to styling,” says Joel Anthony, owner of Mr Fierze, Australia’s first men’s designer suit rental boutique. “You don’t always have to wear a full suit as is marketed. You can break up pieces and wear a navy tuxedo pants paired with a plum jacket or a beige linen jacket to achieve that ‘Spring races’ look.”

Be summer-savvy

As we head into the summer months, it’s important to adjust your suit in accordance to the rise in temperature.


Image: Oscar Hunt / supplied

“An Aussie summer in particular demands lightweight and breathable materials,” says Edwards. “Opt for linen, cotton or (one of my favourites) fresco. Fresco fabric is generally made up of multiple strands of yarn, with high twisted wool, making the fabric very airy so you can easily enjoy the passing breeze.

“Whether you’re going to a summer wedding or dressing for an outdoor event, this look is sure to turn heads. It also doesn’t require a tie. Wear with an open neck shirt and some brown loafers to finish. Or, if you’re looking to go for a more casual look, stick with a pair of light cotton trousers and a basic white or dark tee.”

Smarten up Casual Fridays

Casual Fridays don’t always have to mean jeans and a t-shirt. A jacket, paired with trousers and a sweater, can keep you looking casual and professional at the same time. Blazers instantly formalise an outfit, detracting attention from a creased shirt or unpressed pair of trousers and making an outfit work-friendly.

“The best way to seamlessly transition your formal suit into a casual outfit is by breaking it up and paring it back with your wardrobe essentials,” says Simpson. “Tailored pants worn with a crisp white t-shirt and a pair of sneakers are ideal for taking into more casual events. Or work a blazer with your favourite jeans.”

Add accessories

If you’re keen to experiment with a trend or want to add some playfulness to your outfit, then accessories are the ideal way to inject some personality – or a dose of fashion-forward – in a minimal way. Accessorising can really show your individual style, but less is always more.


Image: Rene Asmussen / Pexels

“Make strong accessory statements,” advises Anthony. “Make your accessories pop as much as your suit.”

A surefire way to jazz up any office look is with a pocket square. Whether you’re adding a pop of colour or a pattern go for a clean, straight fold by simply folding the fabric in thirds so it fits in the pocket.

“If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, pair your suit with braces and cufflinks,” says Edwards. “Add a pocket square for some extra expression of style.”

(Lead image: Pixabay & Jeremy Beadle / Unsplash)

Published 16 October, 2019