How To Buy A Man’s Business Suit

How To Buy A Man’s Business Suit

A suit is made to command attention. But you definitely don’t want the attention to be on the poor fit or quality of your choice.
Angelea Busby
By

Gentlemen: have you ever gone shopping for a suit and, thanks to the endless racks of options that are seemingly all the same, you find yourself at the end of the day frustrated and suitless? Searching for a suit can be overwhelming. Not knowing exactly what you’re after can easily cause frustration.

Before determining the style, color, designer, and so forth, it is best to start with the basics—the fit. Being armed with this basic, yet critical knowledge about a suit’s true fit will hopefully arm you for suit shopping success.

Start With the Suit Jacket

Let’s start from top to bottom, beginning with the suit jacket. The jacket’s shoulder seam should stop directly at the top of your rotator cuff. In fact, it should hit just before the curve of your shoulder to your arm. Any length that moves that seam over the shoulder is too long, and any length that rises above that point is too short.

Also, take into account the fit around your bicep. As much as you may want to show off your hard work in the gym, your suit is not the place. Be careful that the jacket arm doesn’t fit too snugly around your bicep. The suit jacket is supposed to lightly enclose the arm. Keep in mind that once you add a shirt you still want enough space to move. Conversely, the arm shouldn’t be too roomy or saggy.

The suit jacket should fit your torso. One of the easiest ways to determine a proper fit is by the jacket buttons. Jackets can have several styles and number of buttons. But the most important button is the one that fastens immediately at your waist. This button should fit comfortably, where the button doesn’t pull from its seam.

Also, take into account the overall fit. Do the seams align with your torso’s definition? This question is important, for if the blazer is too loose, it will look like you’re wearing a potato sack. No matter your weight, an oversized jacket gives your body no appeal. You don’t want the jacket too tight, as a jacket that fits properly gives your body that classic appeal the right suit is supposed to enhance.

The jacket length is key. Ladies have an advantage, as they have options when choosing a jacket’s length and style. For men, however, one length is best, and to be blunt, the length should just be long enough to cover your rear end. Anything longer and it will look like a dress, and if shorter it is going to look as if you have outgrown it.

The length of your jacket is not the only thing that needs measurement. Your jacket sleeves do, too. The sleeves can be a bit trickier. The jacket sleeve length should fall just below your wrist, allowing your shirt cuffs to show slightly below the suit’s sleeve.

Now for the Suit Trousers

The other crucial piece to the perfect suit is the trousers. There are three main components to the fit of a trouser, so let’s begin with length. This is probably the simplest aspect to get right. The hem of the leg should hit directly at the bridge of your foot. With anything longer the leg will drag and you’ll step on the back. This not only takes from the professionalism of the style, but also ruins the material at the back heel.

The pant leg is too short if you can see your socks. Yes, suit socks are definitely a style option men like to embrace, but part of that appeal is to surprise people when they can get a quick glimpse, when your legs are crossed or you pull up your pant leg to show your sock swag. If someone can immediately see your sock choice when you are simply standing, your pants are too short.


There are two main style options for the trouser waist. Options include pleated or flat front. Knowing the difference and equally knowing what style looks best on you will save you a world of trouble in your various shopping escapades. Pleated trousers often come with one or two pleats. (Guys, in case this is a new term, a pleat is the gathering of material at one point, allowing a little more room at your waistline.)

Pleats are good if you want a suit that is a tad more forgiving. It will give you the flexibility of indulging in that extra lunch helping or hide any pounds you’ve been meaning to lose. Pleats also are more flattering to stocky body types, as they give balance to your shape and shoulders. For narrower, slender body frames, a flat-front style would be more flattering. This is a pant where, aside from the zipper, the material lays straight across your waist.

Lastly, pay attention to the fit around your leg. The classic trouser should fit along the natural lines of your body. To establish this line, it should fit around your waist, and carefully taper down to your ankle. Although trouser styles have many leg lines from straight-legged to classic, just remember the main style you want to avoid is anything too baggy.

Gentlemen, a suit is made to command attention. But you definitely don’t want the attention to be on the poor fit or quality of your suit choice. The basics outlined above will hopefully arm you with confidence and get you the fit you’re looking for.

Angelea Busby is a Washington DC-based working professional, philanthropist, health advocate, and personal stylist. She holds a degree in journalism and a master's in business administration.

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