You want to buy a suit?! What are you, a glutton for punishment? It's not like suits are extra-comfortable or make some great individualistic fashion statement. They make statements like, "Hello, I'm willing to conform," "I belong to the status quo," or even "I want to make a lot of money, and I'm willing to wear this suit." We're talking about a garment that has remained essentially unchanged since the mid 19th century, when the lounge suit was popular with the working man, and the more formal frock coat with trousers would suit your dandy, idle rich, or "man about town." Take our advice: stick to jeans and T-shirts. Leave suits to lawyers (get it? "law suits"?... we'll wait...).

But now that we have returned from our La-la Land rant (and our bad puns), we can tell you that every man should own at least one nice suit. Whether you need one just for weddings and funerals or are working in an industry which still requires business attire, suits make people take you seriously. So read on, friend, and we will help you navigate this sartorial minefield with confidence and ease. One note: this SYW is both for people buying their first suit without Mommy's help and for those who already own a complete wardrobe, but we'll be focusing on the needs of the first-time purchaser.


When suit-makers make a suit, the first thing they start with is the fabric, so we'll do the same. It may seem to you when you walk into a men's wear store that all fabrics look alike, but you'd be wrong. Each fabric is different in terms of quality, durability, feel, and price. The main message we want to impart to you is this: you must buy wool. Only wool. 100% wool. But for the sake of greater knowledge, here is a full list of potential choices:
  1. The non-wools
  2. The wools

The non-wools

Linen – Okay, Panama Jack, you look at the linen, you think it's nice, it's lightweight, it'll be a bit different from everyone else… but don't be fooled. The style will be the same, because that's what suits are all about. But as a fabric goes, linen wrinkles quickly, stains like a bitch, does not travel well, and is not a classic look. Be warned that your dry cleaning bills will be quintupled. (That means five times more expensive.) It is not acceptable for a first suit. It is acceptable for a first tablecloth.

Polyester – The 70's are over, bub. Polyester had its time, and that time is over. It doesn't wrinkle, but it also doesn't breathe. And it's just not natural. It's made from chemicals and urthelene and polythene and whatnot. Polyester's okay in a blend with wool if you're trying to keep your costs down, but more on that later.

Microfiber – Just another word for polyester. It's not for you.

Teflon – Just another word for microfiber. Let's leave teflon to the frying pans, okay?

The wools

Now you're talking. Wool is the fabric of choice for a good suit. It's natural, it breathes well, it's durable, and it's also stylish as hell. There are four main kinds of wool out there, as follows:

Tweed – Tweed is a very heavy wool fabric, popular in places like Scotland, where it's cold as a witch's tit (no offense to the wicca religion or its ectothermic following). The average wearer of tweed is in his 50's, gray-bearded, and favors pipe-smoking by the hearth. He is most likely a professor, or a literary critic (possibly both). Stay away from tweed, especially if you're losing the battle of the bulge. Tweed is not the larger man's friend.

Flannel – The heaviest of the non-tweed, flannel is made corded wools. It's durable, very hard-wearing, and especially nice in a charcoal gray with classic pinstripes. However, most people wear flannel as pajamas or long underwear. For a suit, it might be a bit too hot in most office environments. While nice, it's not an ideal fabric for a first suit.

Tropical – This is usually a kind of wool crepe, which is a lightweight (usually light-colored) fabric. It's more of a summer weight, the sort favored by Don Johnson on Miami Vice. Being lighter, it is also more susceptible to wrinkles, and therefore more frequent dry-cleaning (see above re: bill quintupling). Also not an ideal fabric for a first suit.

WorstedThe worsted wools are your best bet for a first suit. These will be your gabardines or mid-weight corded wools. They are durable, hard-wearing, and usually fine for year-round wear. They can be a little lighter or heavier, depending on the weave, but consider them the mid-weights. Ask for them by name.

You might come across a suit that is advertised as a "high-twist," 100, or Super 110. These are not car races. This just means that the suit is made of a worsted wool yarn that has been twisted more often than the usual 60-80 twist fabrics. This makes it a finer cloth of a somewhat lighter weight. Such suits would be perfectly fine, therefore, for spring, summer, and fall, but might not carry you through the winter. In this case, we urge you to consider the local climate when making purchasing decisions.

The mid-weights are best overall, especially with the usual "air-conditioned-car-ride-into-the-air-conditioned-office" venture that most people have in summer. And if you will be visiting a lot of clients or doing hefty traveling, you will need this kind of durable fabric which will stand up to the extra wear, but not be too hot.