What guys need to know about picking a suit

What guys need to know about picking a suit

April 23rd, 2010 by Holly Leber in Life Entertainment

It's the frequent admonition of sharply dressed Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) to his friends on CBS's "How I Met Your Mother."

A suit is an investment, so it needs to, well, suit the wearer.

"You want people thinking long term," said Melvin Odom Jr., a suit specialist at Belk at Hamilton Place. Mr. Odom took Jake Redish, 22, through the process of picking out a suit.

"I've shopped for a suit before," Mr. Redish said, "I've just never paid attention."

1. "The last time I went suit shopping was when there was a bar mitzvah coming up," said Mr. Redish, as Mr. Odom took his measurements. A specialist will measure the legs, shoulders and arms, and chest and neck circumference. Suits are sold in short, regular and long sizes. Some men, Mr. Odom said, may fare better purchasing coats and slacks separately, especially those who are between sizes. "I wish I weren't so gangly," joked Mr. Redish. "It'd be easier to find a suit."

2. When choosing a suit jacket, any padding at the shoulders should lead to a straight drop down the arm. The bottom of the jacket should not flare out from the backside. Close the buttons to make sure there isn't pull across the front. A three button suit is best for tall, slim gentlemen, Mr. Odom said. A jacket must fit smoothly across the back and shoulders with minimal wrinkles.

3. A suit should look like it was made for the man, so alterations are often called for. Mr. Redish's slacks were long in the crotch, so Belk seamstress Mary Watts solved the problem by pinning up excess fabric at the rear. She also marked the legs for hemming. Flat-front pants, as Mr. Redish is wearing, typically call for a standard hem, while pleated slacks are usually cuffed.

Suits vs. separates

Suits are sold with jackets and pants together, with standard matched sizes. Suit separates allow the customer to choose their best size for each piece. The pants on complete suits are sold unhemmed and are altered to the customer's needs.

4. Shirts are sized by neck circumference and arm length. Measure sleeve length from the middle of the back to just past the wrist. The shirt should fit the body, with minimal wrinkles but no straining at the buttons or seams. Some gentleman can choose a slim fit to avoid a blousing effect,

though Mr. Odom warned: "If you get a slim fit, you've got to be on your game." Men also have the option of choosing a spread or button down collar. "More mature gentlemen like a button down," Mr. Odom said, noting that button down shirts are also best suited for vests. And when it comes to color, go for basics first This rule applies to both shirts and suits. Mr. Odom advises starting with a standard solid black or navy suit for maximum versatility. There's no going wrong with a crisp, white shirt.

5. "A tie is really what makes the shirt and suit all work together," said Mr. Odom, here schooling Mr. Redish on the fine art of the full Windsor knot. The bottom of the tie should fall almost at the belt. Ties are also how a standard suit can be worn multiple times and never look quite the same. Select a tie to suit the occasion. Try standard blues or blacks in a stripe for job interviews, reds and golds in muted patterns for work and solid colors for formal wear. For a date or night out, Mr. Redish said, "I go paisley."

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