How to Dress for Men – MBA Level Interview

Intro to Business School Interviews – Dressing the MBA

A business school level interview is very different from your run-of-the-mill job screening.

Business school interviews are drawn out events that can involve three or more interviews & meetings in multiple cities with up to a six of your peers and interviewers.

Companies at this level are paying well into six figures, and they want to make sure you have the skills they want and are a great fit for their company culture.

Strangely, very little is covered at top business schools as to how to dress for business school interviews.

As a former student I was always surprised to see people spending 100K on their education yet wearing cheap suits and scuffed shoes to an interview.

People make a judgment about you within 3 seconds; they then spend the rest of the time rationalizing this quick assessment.

In other words it is very difficult to overcome a bad first impression. So why shoot yourself in the foot when with a little bit of planning and investment you can turn your appearance into an asset.

Failing to prepare for an Interview is tantamount to preparing to fail

13126161343_430e126646_oBehind every successful business school interview is time spent in preparation. Study the company you are going to interview with and pay attention to their unstated dress code.

Most likely you have met a few of their employees; how did they present themselves? Were they conservative or relaxed in the appearance?

Interviewing with Citibank is different than interviewing with Google’s marketing department; both will require a suit, but with Google it’s safe to say you can wear a less conservative color and maybe throw in a white pocket square.

The MBA Interview Suit

The good news for the business school student is that the classical men’s suit style has remained the same for a hundred years.

The bad news is that there are a lot of fashion suits out there that become dated faster than you can purchase them. The key here is to ignore fleeting fashion and rather seek understand what your timeless style is.

This may sound complicated but it’s not. Just remember three things when choosing a men’s suit – Fabric, Style, and Fit.

Interview Suit Fabric

When selecting a fabric for an business school interview suit, take into consideration the fabric’s weave and overall construction.

Try to go with a natural suit fabric such as worsted wool. A blend is acceptable, but make sure it’s of high quality and there isn’t a reflective quality to the fabric – although blends keep the price down they usually do not last as long and have a tendency to breathe less.

As to color choice, the most common and therefore safest selections are navy blue, charcoal, and black. Although you can move outside these three if this is not a first or second suit with a pattern (navy blue pin stripes, bird’s eye, or a medium gray fabric are all excellent selections), make sure you understand your attire will stick out.

Interview Suit Style

13126123355_39051d8e78_zWhen it comes to men’s suit style, go with a classical cut.

In the United States this is a single breasted, notched lapel, 2 or 3 button jacket with a single or double back vent and regular flap pockets.

Ensure you have at least as many cuff buttons as you have front jacket buttons (4 buttons on the sleeve is normal) and ensure you have a left breast pocket.

Take a close look at the lapels: a trend right now is thin lapels; avoid this fashion fad as that you want to wear this suit in a year (and 5 years from now for that matter).

With your trousers, depending on your build you want either flat or pleated fronts.

If you are taller than six feet, consider going with a cuffed bottom.

Finally, inspect the jacket and trousers for quality construction by tugging on the buttons, inspect the sewing, pulling on the seams.

Interview Suit Fit

Most men’s suits are too large in one area or another. Try to find a brand whose factory cut matches your build and then find a tailor who can ensure your attire fits properly.

For a perfect fit you want your suit jacket’s sleeves (when standing) to show 1 inch of cuff, its lapels should lay flat, an “X” from tightness doesn’t appear when buttoned, make sure the jacket’s shoulders do not extend past yours, that jacket covers your backside but isn’t so long you can’t grab it with your hands when standing straight, and finally make sure that no bunches form in the back near your neck collar (which should lay flat and show ¾ inch of shirt collar).

Interview Dress Shirt

16435980265_d9f53c683e_bDress shirts come in a wide variety of colors and weaves, and their effect on an outfit should not be underestimated.

A pink striped herringbone dress shirt can turn an ordinary charcoal men’s suit into an outfit that demands attention while a conservative white broadcloth dress shirt can tone down a striped suit’s allure.

Choosing a unique fabric weave (such as a twill or herringbone) in a conservative color is a great way to retain your individuality while not making to much noise with your clothing ensemble.

Conservatively colored patterned shirts are another way to break the mold without offending. Although they lower the formability of the outfit, a patterned shirt with a conservative tie is a safe bet on a second or third interview.

Two parts of your shirt will be showing when you wear a jacket; the collar and cuffs. The collar should be chosen based off of your facial structure.

Men with long, thin faces should go with a spread while round faced men should look to even out their face with point collars.

Normal barrel cuffs with one or two buttons are fine for all interviews; you may be tempted to wear cufflinks to your interview with an investment bank, but be careful.

Some interviewers view this display of cuff jewelry as obnoxious; however, if you normally wear this type of cuffs by all mean be yourself.

As to fit, you should be able to put two fingers in-between your neck and a buttoned collar. Your sleeves and cuffs should extend to the top of your hands, and you want to show approximately 1 inch of shirt cuff from under your jacket sleeve.

The Interview Tie

A conservative selection here is the best bet for the business school interview necktie. Red, gold, blue….the color is less important that the fact that it should just complement the outfit.

You can stand out of the crowd by choosing a tie with a simple repeating pattern, but again try to keep it subtle. Striped ties are a good choice, but be aware as to whether it is a regimental tie or not.

In countries such as England, memberships to certain military clubs are symbolized by striped tie design; you do not want to find yourself in a situation having to explain why you are wearing another man’s regimental colors.

Unless you are going to be eating (where it serves to hold the tie in place), there is no reason to use a tie clip or tie pin in an business school interview. And it should go without saying that anything with hula girls, Santa Claus, or reflective colors that can be seen at night should be avoided.

Business Interview Dress Shoes

12892921625_7d2acd3d8d_zFor business school interviews we recommend a plain black Oxford.

They feature round toes, sometimes with a cap and either closed or open lacing.

Plain cap-toe Oxfords are the most formal option for business wear, and can do double-duty as formal shoes.

Oxfords with broguing along the cap’s edge, or trimming the uppers, are still formal enough for a business school interview in the United States.

Avoid slip-ons, whether they are loafers, boots, or monkstraps.

Although these are perfectly fine for a business casual luncheon (and are great for travel!), in a formal interview you are best advised to wear a timeless pair of classic Oxfords.

Men’s Accessories – How to Wear Suspenders – Braces

It’s rare to see a well-dressed man without a belt these days.

However, the leather belt as a practical garment is a fairly recent invention.

Prior to the First World War, belts were largely decorative outside of military uniforms (and even then were often more decorative than practical among officers and aristocrats).

The traditional device for holding up a man’s trousers was a pair of suspenders.

To this day, suspenders remain the preferred method to hold up a pair of trousers by many fine dressers.

Suspenders (which are called braces in the United Kingdom, where suspender refers to a garter belt) are straps of cloth that go over a man’s shoulder and down to the front of his trousers, where they either clip or button to the waistband.

Most suspenders join in the back in either an X-shape or a Y-shape, to keep pairs from being separated, but they can be bought as two individual straps as well.

Construction can vary depending on brand, with suspenders being made in materials ranging from pure silk to synthetic rayon; woolen boxcloth is a traditional and durable staple.

Suspenders tend to be elasticized, either at the ends or all the way around the strap. They usually end in a leather flap which affixes to buttons within the trouser waistband, or in clips which grip the top of the waistband.

The Advantages of wearing Suspenders

Black Tie Suspenders

Click on the image to view the whole infographic

A belt cinches a waistband tighter to the body; suspenders on the other hand give either three (Y-shaped) or four (X-shaped or separate) fixed points for the trousers to hang from.

Well-fitted suspenders essentially provide a waist-shaped hanger that the trousers rest on.

This eliminates the bunching of fabric that occurs when anything but a very tightly-fitted waistband is cinched with a belt, and allows the fabric around the hips and knees to fall in a smooth plane rather than ballooning out from under the belt.

The neat appearance of trousers held up by suspenders is also widely recognized as a more comfortable arrangement for most men.

The suspenders can be adjusted to raise or lower the pants so that the point where the legs join is comfortably situated.

Trousers can also be worn higher with braces, allowing larger men in particular to drape their trousers down from their narrower natural waist rather than having to belt them uncomfortably beneath their stomach.

In cramped quarters, suspenders can add comfort simply by eliminating a band of leather or cloth that will be pressed against the wearer’s waist, though the buckles or buttons will still be felt.

Suspenders are extremely useful in any outfit where neat arrangement is essential: since the trousers will hang straight down from wherever the waistband is affixed, the pleats or crease of the trouser can be precisely aligned with a vertical element on the upper half of the body.

Suspenders also help keep the front button and fly of the trousers in place, making it easier to align the shirt buttons with the fly and keep the plumb-line straight.

How to Wear Suspenders

Business Dress Button Suspenders

Click on the image to view the complete infographic

Most men will fasten their suspenders in the back, put their trousers on, and then fasten the suspenders in the front.

Some designs use a metal or plastic attachment that grips or pinches the fabric of the trousers, while others have small buttons at each end of the suspender.

The latter are ideal in that they do not compress and eventually damage the trouser fabric, but they can only be worn with trousers that feature button-flaps for suspenders (situated to either side of the central button and fly, usually on the inside of the waistband).

Trousers that do not feature button-flaps for suspenders will need clamp-style suspenders.

They will also almost always feature belt-loops.It is important to keep in mind that, while there is nothing improper about wearing suspenders and trousers with belt-loops, it is always a faux pas to wear both suspenders and a belt.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was actually considered improper for suspenders to be visible at all (they were considered underwear), but standards have moved on, and you may now show your suspenders without fear.

Black suspenders are popular because of their flexible neutrality.

Other colors and even patterned suspenders are widely available, though the latter can become a novelty adornment rather than a functional detail if taken to an extreme.

To this day, suspenders remain the preferred method to hold up a pair of trousers by many fine dressers.”

Punk and skinhead cultures have both made a great deal of suspenders, attaching significance to color, pattern, and how the suspenders are worn, so men are cautioned against wearing anything too outlandish — there is a real risk of giving the very wrong impression.

Suspender Attachments

Click on the image to view the whole infographic

Suspenders are also a requisite part of black tie outfits; there is no such thing as a formal belt. They tend to be black or white, and are not meant to be seen beneath the jacket.

Quality formal suspenders end in braided silk ends rather than leather tabs. Tabs are, however, perfectly acceptable — but clips are not.

Disadvantages of Suspenders

While they are usually the more comfortable method of supporting trousers, suspenders are not always as sturdy or as useful as a belt. The main reasons for this are:

  • They have an added chance of snagging, and are more likely to rip free if they do catch on something, potentially damaging both the suspender and the trousers.
  • Older suspenders that have lost their fit or elasticity are downright useless, and will cause trousers to sag embarrassingly.
  • Lack of practicality. Meaning, suspenders cannot hold items such as smartphones such as some belts can (not that we recommend wearing these items on the belt!) Of course, most men rarely need this utility, but it remains that suspenders are limited in their utility beyond their intended purpose.
  • Suspenders are also usually hidden, making them less expressive than belts — men who like a “busy” appearance and who are comfortable spending time and effort on choosing their details will get more decorative mileage out of belts (of course, this makes suspenders an ideal choice for men who hate worrying about details, and removes the perennial worry that your belt doesn’t quite match your shoes).

Overall we recommend suspenders for most men, so long as they are well-fitted to hold the trousers in place and at the natural waist, without too much sag in the crotch.

Either option remains accepted by fashion and likely will for many years to come, making it ultimately a matter of personal taste.

Men’s Neckties – How to Select a Tie in 3 Steps

How to Match a Tie – 3 Tips on Selecting your Necktie

13126333274_3696df42ab_o (1)When dressing in suit and tie, it is the necktie that will often add the dash of flavor to the overall outfit.

While suits are typically gray, navy, or black and dress shirts either blue or white, it is a man’s neckwear that adds a strong accent with its color and pattern.

With so many necktie options, finding the perfect tie that matches can be overwhelming. This article seeks to alleviate that pain.

When a man matches a tie to a dress shirt and suit the three most important factors to weigh are

1) Necktie Pattern

2) Necktie Color

3) Necktie Proportion

1st Tie Matching Factor – Necktie Pattern

12844792935_cf7d7782d4_oTies come in many patterns ranging from stripes to paisleys to tartan-check.

So how would you go about matching a patterned tie to a pin-striped suit and a checkered pattern dress shirt?  What are the rules to matching necktie patterns?

The rule for matching patterns is that no two pieces of clothing should utilize the same pattern size and to a lesser degree pattern type.

By pattern size I mean the distance between the stripes on your shirt should not be close to the width of the stripes on your tie; by doing this you can create an optical illusion of movement which the human eye finds unattractive.

Hence matching a subtle pin-striped suit with a larger check patterned dress shirt and intricate paisley pattern tie is acceptable;

However wearing that same pin-striped suit and large check patterned dress shirt with striped tie that too closely mimics the suit’s stripe separation will create a questionable look.

This rule applies when matching 3 or 5 patterns and of all three factors is the most important; a man will not wear a tie whose color he doesn’t like, but will often try to wear one whose color is pleasing but pattern is wrong.

Please note that for the purposes of tie matching we do not classify solid colored ties as having any pattern. Therefore the rules of pattern matching do not apply to true solid colored neckwear.  As a result you could match multiple solids…..the combination would be boring, but acceptable.  However, because pattern is not a factor the next two variables are even more important when considering a solid necktie.

2nd Tie Matching Factor – Necktie Color

When matching color the first thing you should do is look at all garments together to make sure that the colors are in harmony; if you have doubts trust your first impressions and try something different.

“Convincing yourself” something matches may enable you to wear it, but you’ll not wear the combination with confidence.  Trust first impressions – others you meet will.

13143591624_964f34eebb_bBut what does it mean to match, and what has precedent in terms of priority?

  • Start with the suit -it is the largest clothing item and will be the foundation of the outfit.
  • Next, pull out a few dress shirts of various colors and patterns and ensure you have two that match the suit.
  • After that pull out a few of your favorite ties; giving the suit and shirt priority, select a tie that compliments your clothing.

Most of us can see when there is a conflict between colors – something just looks wrong.

If you feel your tie does not match, do not try to force it; instead simply substitute it for a more subtle necktie.

If uncertain, the safest bet is to stick with the traditional (but somewhat boring) tie colors of business.  Non-bright red and to a lesser extent gold and blue will go with most dark suits and  white or light to medium-blue shirt combinations.

Finally always remember that you want the necktie to accent your suit and shirt, not dominate them.  If your tie overpowers your suit, you can bet it will draw attention from your face as well.

3rd Tie Matching Factor – Necktie Proportion

Although often not as important as either pattern or color, proportion can play a role in matching when a necktie varies from the standard 3.5 inch width and is either a skinny tie (less than 3 inches wide) or excessively wide tie (more than 3.75 inches). 

For skinny or wide ties you need to take in factors such as the height and weight of the individual and the width of his suit’s lapels.  A thin petite man will look sharp with thin lapels and a thin tie, while a large man with wider build lapels wearing the same skinny tie will look ridiculous.

Men’s Sports Jacket – When to Wear a Sport Jacket

The Sports Jacket – When to Wear It

12858213434_742389c422_bAnytime you find yourself wondering what to wear–to a party, a meeting, or a date–a sport coat will likely be the answer.

You will know when you need to wear a suit, and you likewise know when a tee-shirt and shorts are okay.

Stylish and relaxed, the sport coat covers much of the vast gulf between.

For most situations in an American man’s life, the sport coat is a superb choice for composing a look that’s both attractive and appropriate.

Today’s sport coat carries a mixed ancestry from the days when men didn’t go outside their homes without a jacket and tie.

In the late nineteenth century, the English gentleman wore a brown tweed jacket in the country to hunt foxes on horseback or shoot birds; it was back vented and bore large, slanted pockets.

In the cricket and rowing clubs closer to town, batsmen and crew members sported uniforms of single-breasted blazers in their clubs’ colors.

The double-breasted navy-blue blazer was first worn on a British frigate in 1837, by sailors dressing to impress the visiting queen.

In Europe and America between the world wars, the various sport coats that these nineteenth century jackets begat took hold of leisure fashion and haven’t let go since.

A man in the market for a sport coat today has a wealth of options for customizing it.

  • The jacket may retain some of the original sporting details, such as a back vent and slanted pockets, or may be made with side or no vents, and flap, patch, or besom (slit) pockets.
  • They come in many colors and patterns, of tweed, corduroy, flannel, silk, linen, seersucker, and other fabrics.
  • A coat’s image varies somewhat depending on these details, but the basic idea is the same: The sport jacket is a handsome, respectable garment that can go anywhere.
  • Many men who work in offices today wear don’t wear jackets regularly. If this is you, there will undoubtedly be times when you want to do a little better, whether for a meeting or presentation or a lunchtime or happy hour date.
  • Whether your version of business casual is khakis and a polo shirt or dress slacks, button-down shirt, necktie and sweater, throwing a jacket on will give you a significantly sharper look.

As has been said elsewhere, the classic blue blazer goes with anything, and a sport coat in some gray or brown pattern is nearly as versatile. Many men keep such a jacket in the office to act as a dress up/dress down switch.

12892533494_d2eeb14665_z

And then there is leisure. Today’s lack of established standards of dress for different social occasions leaves many fretting about what to wear to a dinner party, concert, or afternoon reception.

The worry is compounded if you don’t know your host well, and even more so if you’re hoping to make a good impression with someone there. Once again, the sport coat comes to the rescue. It originated as a leisure garment, remember, and today does the job as well as ever.

If someone has invited you to their home, church, club, or anywhere really, it is a sign of respect to take care in your appearance upon arriving.

Even if nobody else is wearing a jacket when you get there, people will appreciate that you made the effort. If you feel too out of place, you can always take it off, but the truly stylish man knows that he can achieve casualness with his words and manners while maintaining dignity in his dress.

Nor can a man be too young to look good in a jacket. At a night club or a party, a sport coat in charcoal or off-white with slacks or designer jeans is a tough look to beat. For the young man who is not yet concerned with dressing up for work, one or two decent sport coats will make it easy to look sharp for any occasion.

They will be a better investment than anything the trend-hawkers have to offer, since proper tailoring and classic patterns will never go out of style.

I could go on, but I believe I have made my point. The sport coat, especially a custom tailored one, is rarely out of place and always looks good. It’s what you wear when you’re not sure what to wear, or when you want to dress better but don’t know where to start.

Men’s Sports Jacket – Why Wear a Sport Jacket

The Sport Jacket – Why Wear It

12892202993_3e462d71cc_kIt seems that fewer and fewer men wear suits to work, but everyone still judges you by your appearance.

In a business casual office, the sport coat will give you a dignified, trustworthy look without appearing out of place.

You can even hang it on your chair for most of the day, donning it to attend a meeting or go out to lunch.

Self-employed men know especially how important it is to make a good first impression, and the sport coat is a sure way to do that.

Whether you are an accountant, IT technician, or piano tuner, this brilliantly versatile jacket will elevate you in your clients’ eyes whatever you wear it with (well, almost).

If you’re not going to wear a suit, there’s simply no better way to dress respectably.

Thanks to both its stylish and practical versatility, the sportcoat is the uniform of choice for men whose jobs take them from office to construction site, loading dock, or factory floor.

While the hallowed suit-and-tie look can appear out of place outside the business district these days, the sport coat can go anywhere.

Teachers, independent retailers, and professional counselors find it a boon to the friendly, while distinguished presentation their vocations invite.

For play clothes, the rules are a little different but the basic idea is the same: you want to look good without standing out.

The omnipresence of the jacket with collar and lapels across all sorts of men’s clothing is no accident: this configuration is aesthetically pleasing whether in a tailcoat or a safari jacket.

The sport coat brings the concept to a garment that’s comfortable and easy going, perfect for the weekend.

12844006733_776b2a2fea_zIn the United States, comfort reigns tyrannically over leisure clothing, and some men worry about looking sufficiently relaxed wearing a jacket when off duty.

Social concerns aside, a man is simply more attractive in a sport coat than in a sweatshirt, and this fact should encourage those who fear drawing accusations of looking “uptight” if they wear anything they can’t play basketball in.

The sheer beauty of tailored clothing transcends this country’s present obsession with being laid back.

There are many who take pride in their appearance at all times, and these will have a closet full of carefully chosen jackets in a variety of fabrics and colors.

Wearing sport coats, however, does not necessarily mean owning a large wardrobe. With a blue blazer alone, you can create a huge variety of outfits for all manner of occasions.

Add jackets of Harris tweed and herringbone, and you could be ready for just about anything.

If you’re on the go a lot, your jacket can be a virtual bat-belt, holding papers, pens, phone, PDA, keys, cigarettes, wallet, and loose cash all secure and readily accessible. Almost all sport coats have the standard two inside pockets; many have additional ones for pens or cash.

A custom made coat can have whatever pocket configuration its wearer desires, such as special pockets for a security badge, pocket watch, or cigar.

Men have even had their jackets made with an iPod pocket, complete with a port for the headphone wire. While some claim that putting anything in a jacket’s outside pockets throws its drape askew and should be avoided, this can usually be remedied by load-balancing: keys on the right, phone on the left, etc.

The inside pockets can hold significant weight without affecting how the fabric hangs, but whatever you put in them will be right against your chest with the jacket closed, so it’s not the best place for a bulky key-chain.

The sport coat is a remarkably versatile garment. It is the working man’s suit and the thinking man’s pullover. In this twenty-first century, it guarantees its wearer a sharp, handsome look wherever he goes.

Men’s Suit Color – Black Suits

The Black Suit – Introduction to the Solid Black Men’s Jacket and Trouser

The black wool suit is an imposing piece of menswear:  somber, formal, and dignified.  Its austere severity makes it an intimidating purchase, but an invaluable addition to the right man’s wardrobe.

Many men keep a black suit as their “wedding and funeral” suit, always appropriate for any serious occasion.

Handling the stark color requires more attention to detail than other styles, but the striking effect of a black suit worn well is more than worth the extra effort.

A Man’s Black Suit and Formality

An un-patterned black suit is the most formal piece of business wear available to a man.  Anything more formal moves into the realm of the black tie dress code, with a tuxedo replacing the suit.

Patterning will reduce the formality of the suit somewhat, though it’s rare to see black wool with anything beyond a very modest striping. A patterned black suit will usually still serve as formal business dress, appropriate for anything but somber occasions such as funerals.

Construction of the Black Suit

16217107430_734066b6d1_kPlain black suits are almost always made from wool.  The visual weight of unbroken black is too overpowering to pair with a light, billowing fabric or a high-sheen textile.

Even wool suits may seem too slickly smooth if the wool is very fine, giving the wearer a slightly artificial appearance.

Small amounts of synthetic fibers can add strength and durability to a wool suit, but more than a minor addition to the blend will give black a faintly reflective quality that looks garish in most lighting.

Black suits are often made from the undyed wool of black sheep.  Woven thickly, it gives a very clean drape that helps with the imposing effect of the dominant color.

Fitting a Black Wool Suit

Black garments are naturally eye-catching, making a good fit extremely important.  A badly-fitted black suit draws the viewer’s attention to its unattractiveness.  Larger men want to avoid looking looming and overstuffed in black, while smaller men need to be cautious of seeming overpowered by their clothing.

The fall of a black suit coat from the shoulder to the hip is particularly important:  to flatter the wearer, a black jacket should always taper gently at the waist, keeping the man from looking like a solid wall.   The suit should never be tight enough to pinch or wrinkle when it moves, nor loose enough to fold or billow on its own.

Since a black suit is already inherently formal, it makes an excellent color for a vested or a double-breasted suit.  Either option will usually be executed in patterned black rather than sheer; the visual effect of monochrome black wool over the entire front of the body tends to be too overpowering.

The added elegance of a three-piece or double-breasted suit more than compensates for the informality of patterning, keeping the suit appropriate for all business-dress occasions.  Upward-sweeping peak-style lapels on the jacket is another excellent option that adds a bit of motion to the visual impression, keeping it lively despite the “weight” of the color.

Matching a Black Men’s Suit with Colors

13294986264_cf249831ee_bAt their most formal, black suits are worn with plain white shirts and a black tie.

In practical terms the full formality is rarely called for — a man might want to observe it at a funeral, or when the suit is being worn in place of a tuxedo at a “black tie optional” event, but otherwise the options for dress shirts and ties have some flexibility to them.

Patterns with a white base keep the formality high while breaking up the stark visual impression, making them common in shirts for business wear; un-patterned shirts in brighter colors contrast with the black to make a vibrant look suitable for evening entertainment and social events.

Black in large quantities can be overwhelming on men with pale complexions, particularly “low contrast” men who have lighter skin and lighter hair and eye colors.

A fair-skinned man with dark hair can manage the contrast of a light shirt and black suit without difficulty, but a blonde with the same skin is going to appear somewhat washed-out, particularly under any kind of fluorescent lighting (which has an unfortunate tendency to turn lighter colors slightly purple or greenish).

Low-contrast men will look best if they pair black with dark solids, or simply opt for an extremely deep charcoal instead.

Black pairs equally well with gold or silver metallics, but will look gaudy with both at the same time.  Be sure that the watch, belt buckle, tie clip, and any other metal adornments match when wearing black.

Men with glasses should keep the tint of their frames in mind; most eyeglasses will register as either golden or silvery enough to be a mis-match with the other color.

The Debate – Should Men buy a Black Suit?

13131869465_179e6e1cec_zThere is quite a bit of discussion as to whether or not a black suit is a smart color choice for a man’s suit.

The arguments are that black should be reserved for formalwear and is not a traditional suit color, that black is difficult to match, limits accessories, and that black is too stark of a color to work with most men’s features.  Some of these are solid points – others, less so.

As you can guess, my stance is that a black suit has a place in a man’s wardrobe; however as previously pointed out it is not the best suit color for men whose complexion and needs call for lighter shades.

A tan skinned, dark haired man can pull of the contrast a black suit and white shirt combination requires;  his red-headed and pale completed friend on the other hand is going to look better in clothing that doesn’t compete with his face for attention.

As for the other arguments – not traditional and hard to accessorize – I answer times have changed and if you can’t accessorize than you lack imagination and haven’t put enough thought into it.  The fact is the black suit is one of the three most popular fabric choices for men looking to purchase a first suit – to simply sign it off as poor judgment ignores the reality that men freely choose this option.  Thus men everywhere have spoken with their actions.

Conclusion:  The Importance of Owning a Black Suit

Because of its intense visual impression and the occasional challenges of matching it, a black suit is not the best choice for a man who needs one suit for rare special occasions.  A charcoal gray or a navy blue offers more versatility for nearly the same level of formality.

That said, black makes an excellent suit for anyone who expects to regularly attend serious or formal events, or who simply needs a little extra visual weight and authority in his wardrobe.  If you already have a suit in your wardrobe and it’s looking like a second would be a worthwhile investment, a black suit may be your next step.

Men’s Suit Color – Navy Blue Suits

Navy Blue Suit Introduction

Business offices that still require suits are invariably dominated by two basic colors: charcoal gray and navy blue.

Charcoal gray is the more popular of the two thanks to its offering the same high dress standard with somewhat less color-matching challenges; however both remain enduring classics of men’s style and if a man only own two suits he should have one at least be navy blue.

Navy blue offers unique advantages that earn it a place in most discerning suit-wearers’ closets.

Most strikingly, navy is a “young” color, lending an impression of youthfulness to the wearer that older men may find very flattering (though extremely young or baby-faced men may find the effect too youthful for their tastes).

First-time suit buyers and veteran dressers alike will want to keep the benefits of the navy color in mind as they build their wardrobes.

Formality of a Navy Blue Suit

It’s important to distinguish navy from other blues: a true navy blue suit is a deep, almost midnight color, not just any dark blue. The latter can make striking suits for more casual occasions, but lack the universal acceptance of navy.

13270950695_c772dc90f5_zNavy blue, on the other hand, can go anywhere. It serves up to “black tie optional” levels of formality when worn with a white shirt and conservative tie.

Worn more casually, particularly if the jacket is worn separately with lighter slacks, a navy suit becomes a piece of social wear suitable for any relaxed occasion.

Note the color midnight navy is its own shade of navy blue, and is best reserved for a unique and classic take on black tie formalwear.

A patterned suit is always less formal than a plain one; thus a navy pinstripe is an option for a businessman who is going to own more than few suits and want to signal he is ready to make a deal.

Pinstripes are the most common modification in navy suits, and they are acceptable business wear when done modestly.

An unbroken solid navy however will be more versatile, so if you’re going to own one suit and it will be navy blue select a solid that can be used for solemn occasions or the most formal of business dealings.

 

Navy Blue Suit Fabric and Fiber Type

Navy is a deep, rich color, that looks best in 100% virgin wool fabric. It does well in thick weaves without excess sheen. Too much smoothness to a weave can create a glossy, slick appearance that looks unnatural to the eye.

Thick wool fabrics make excellent navy suits with a matte finish that shows the color off to its advantage.

13339938295_6e6a890800_oA lighter wool can keep the garment comfortable in warmer weather and still lends the natural drape of wool, which keeps the fabric even and close to the wearer’s body.

Exotic blends to include cashmere and mohair are desireable if one seeks extra softness and perhaps a lighter weight with similiar properties to wool.

Small percentages of artificial fiber in the weave are acceptable (US law allows a 3% variance – so what is declared 100% wool may actually be 97%), and even desirable in small quantities for strength and stretch resistance.

More than trace however points to cost-saving rather than well-thought construction and fabrics with more than 30% synthetic fiber should be avoided if you can afford it. Too much synthetic fiber in the weave creates a flat, plastic-like sheen that makes a suit look cheap and will cut its life significantly.

Fitting the Navy Blue Men’s Suit

Fit matters in every suit, and most of all in a dark suit. A dark suit emphasizes the shape and presence of the wearer more than a lighter color would.

Excess fabric can make a man look slumped and saggy, while fabric that clings or pinches too tightly makes him look awkwardly oversized and straining at the seams. A fit that stays close to the body without pinching while moving is ideal for a dark suit like navy blue.

The shoulders and sides of the jacket and the “rise” of the trousers — the distance between the waistband and the crotch — are the key areas to check in suitfit.

Excess fabric in any of them will look obviously saggy to viewers, and tightness will be exceedingly uncomfortable as well as unattractive.

13143436373_96186e4abe_oMen buying off-the-rack should also pay attention to collar size, which tends to be unnecessarily loose on many mass-produced jackets and will most likely need to be adjusted.

Navy Suit Styles

The cut and details of a man’s suit depends largely on its intended purpose.

A man who wears suits infrequently and needs a single, multipurpose garment for all dress occasions will want to err on the side of the universally acceptable: a single-breasted, two- or three-button jacket in plain navy is the ideal arrangement.

Businessmen who wear suits daily may want a touch more variety in their wardrobes.

Peaked lapels add an unusual flair to an otherwise traditional jacket, and venting — short slits up the back of the jacket — can help it drape more neatly as the wearer moves. A double-breasted jacket or accompanying waistcoat offer more extreme variation, and give an extremely elegant and formal look to a navy suit.

Dark trousers should ideally sit high on the waist and drape over the front of man’s stomach rather than hugging his hips below it. Suspenders may help with this, providing fixed points for the pants to fall cleanly from rather than a tight belt pinching loose fabric into place. Pleated fronts offer additional room for men with a broader midsection, while slimmer gentlemen can wear a plain-fronted trouser for a more streamlined visual appeal.

Color and Pattern with a Navy Suit

13126502873_1ef828ebe2_oPart of a charcoal gray suit‘s enduring popularity stems from the ease of matching other clothing; navy blue requires a touch more thought for a balanced look.

Blue does best contrasted with “warmer” colors — its natural opposites on the color wheel — than it does with close neighbors like purple and green.

Very light shades of these similar colors can still stand out against the darkness of navy green, and patterns will help moderate the effect further, but men will want to be cautious of mixing their blue suit with anything too closely related.

Plain white is, of course, always an option, and the most formal one available.

If a navy suit is worn unpatterned it can serve admirably well with suits and ties of most patterns. A pinstriped suit is more limited, and should only be worn with clothing in patterns of a different scale.

Wide pinstripes will probably look fine with a very closely-gridded dress shirt, for example, but would look awkward over another set of broad stripes.

The Navy Blue Suit in Conclusion: Timeless Elegance and Everyday Function

Navy blue’s position in menswear is well-assured. It shares the highest dress standard outside of formalwear with charcoal gray. Many men prefer gray for its ease of matching, but navy offers a slightly more eye-catching touch of color and a distinctly youthful flavor that flatters older men.

A navy suit can serve as a regular piece of clothing for a frequent suit-wearer or as the single go-to option for a man who rarely needs a full suit. We recommend a navy suit — or several — for any man’s wardrobe.

Men’s Suits – Double Breasted Suit Jackets

 

15265952795_c36f755a29_oEvery coat that has a collar and lapels, whether sport coat, suit jacket, or overcoat, is either single-breasted or double-breasted.

The single-breasted construction is much more common, and consists of buttons on one edge and button holes on the other, meeting in a vertical line over the navel.

The double-breasted coat bears symmetrical sets of buttons on each side, with the left side folding over the right to be secured by one or two of them.

Single-breasted jackets are easy to find and look good on just about everyone.

Whether blazer or suit jacket, it can be made with two or three buttons, wide or narrow lapels, and high or low gorge, according to the particular needs of one’s body. For every man, there is a single-breasted configuration that is guaranteed to look handsome.

For this reason, the model as it has evolved over two-hundred years today holds the center-place of men’s style.

While the double-breasted coat demands a greater investment of time and effort to acquire and wear successfully, for many men the payoff is fantastic.

Since every man will own some single-breasted jackets and suits, the question of single or double-breasted is really a question of double-breasted or not. First, I shall consider its drawbacks; for those who remain undeterred I shall then recount its glories.

Reasons to Pass on a Double Breasted Jacket

13126333714_e2f772fa7a_zWith an extra layer of fabric across the front and two rows of buttons, the double-breasted jacket is enough to drown a smaller man’s frame.

Those of narrow torso and shoulders will find it covers almost their entire chest, barely allowing the shirt and tie a glimpse of daylight.

Neither is it friendly to short men, as its bulk can diminish height.

The double-breasted suit is also more formal than the single-breasted, and is therefore less versatile. It is anachronistic over anything other than a conservative dress shirt and neck tie.

It looks ridiculous unbuttoned, and must therefore always stay closed, and this combined with its double-ply front can make it uncomfortable in the heat.

Finally, double-breasted suits have waned in popularity over the past half-century, and it is therefore quite difficult to find one that fits correctly.

Reasons to Choose a Double Breasted Jacket

12842469263_fc70e2c4d6_oNevertheless, for the man who can wear it, the double-breasted suit provides a rare opportunity to don a more stylish garment without attracting undue attention.

To the casual observer a double-breasted suit differs little from a single-breasted one, but on closer examination it yields an older, more elegant look.

While it is indeed hard for most men to find one that looks really superb, when custom made its length, gorge height, button stance and lapel roll may each be selected to amplify a body’s virtues and distract from any shortcomings.

The double-breasted coat always sports peak lapels, and these contribute to its superior refinement. The original style has six buttons, with two to close.

While this suits tall men well, shorter men do better with a four- or six-button configuration in which only the bottom one closes (the four-button double-breasted jacket is sometimes called the “Kent,” after it’s supposed inventor the Duke of Kent).

The long, diagonal lines of lapels rolling to below the waist give the impression of height and downplay width. Indeed, a well-cut double-breasted jacket minimizes girth on all portly men, especially if it has broad shoulders to drape from.

The Double Breasted Suit and Accessories

The accessory rules when wearing a double-breasted suit are very similar to single-breasted suits. When it comes to neckwear, either a bow tie or neck tie can be worn.

However, the presence of no neckwear whatsoever is a definite style blunder, as that the double-breasted jacket’s formality by default demands something to adorn the neck.

13126162313_3bcee785b8_zA necktie’s width has always been determined by the jacket’s lapel, although with the double breasted jacket this can be difficult when they are wider than four and a half inches.

Average lapel widths range from 3.375 inches to 4.25 inches, with most double-breasted coat lapels leaning towards the later.

A necktie within the width range of 4 inches is always a safe bet.

More important than the width of the necktie however is the tie’s knot; with 70% of the tie hidden under a buttoned jacket, the knot takes center stage.

Be sure to pay attention when you compress the knot to form a strong inverted “V”.

With the tie knot’s proximity so close to your face, a blunder here will surely not go unnoticed.

Finally, carefully choose a pocket handkerchief that conveys the message you wish to send. With little shirt and tie showing, the breast pocket handkerchief will have a stronger effect than when it is worn with a single-breasted jacket.

While every man will own and wear single-breasted jackets, going double-breasted provides a special opportunity to broaden one’s sartorial horizons without straying from tradition.

Men’s Style Basics – How to Choose a Men’s Tailor

TailorChoosing a tailor used to be easy.

You either went with the tailor who had been servicing your father or you headed to the knowledgeable suit salesman who would make the proper introduction.

Today unfortunately, the task is harder.

Good tailors are hard to come by, and the average menswear salesman does not have the knowledge to point you in the right direction.

In this article, I equip you with the tools to find a reputable men’s tailor whose services can transform you and your clothing.

The below steps are in order of action to be taken, and are meant to be used in conjunction with one another to select a competent tailor.

The first point is very important, and should not be skipped.

Educate Yourself before looking for a Tailor

Before you talk with a tailor or seamstress, you need to have a foundation in the basics of men’s style.

The hardest thing for most men to do is to find a few hours to sit down and read about suits, shirts, and other menswear; however most men find once they start reading the material they become enthralled.

Reading about the intricacies of quality menswear you start noticing men’s clothing details you never saw before.

You begin to pay attention to the fit of suit jackets, working sleeve buttonholes, and the break on a pair of trousers.

how to choose tailorStepping into the world of menswear, you’ll realize just how important your clothing is in sending messages about who you are.

Most people you pass by everyday know you only by the clothing you wear

Your appearance is the only way they can make any sense of who you are and what you do in this world.

The suit, shirt, and tie combination you put on in the morning covers 90% of your body.

Before you open your mouth, this garment combination and the way it fits on your body announces who you are and signals to others whether or not you deserve attention.

To build a solid foundation in the basics of men’s style, I recommend reading any book by Alan Flusser, Nicholas Antongiavanni’s “The Suit”, or Bernhard Roetzel’s “Gentleman” and spending time in A Tailored Suit’s Style Guide.

Once you have a foundation, you should then seek clarification and interact with knowledgeable people at places like Style Forum, an online community of men’s clothing enthusiasts.

When you find you can speak the tongue of custom menswear, you are ready to start interviewing tailors.

Tailor Recommendations

Be careful here – most men are not selective in choosing their tailor, and stay with their current tailor only because they are unaware of a better option.

Combined with the fact most men do not understand what proper fit is, it is very possible that a tailor who receives high praise only does so because of the cluelessness of his patrons.

Do not assume because someone calls themselves a tailor or seamstress that they know anything about men’s style or can assess proper fit.

Take a critical look at your friends – who among them are smart dressers?

These are the people you want to ask for tailor recommendations. You can broaden your search by asking women as well, but be careful.

The way clothes fit on a man versus the way they should fit on a woman is very different.

A skilled woman’s tailor does not necessarily have the right skills to tailor men’s clothing.

A Tailor’s Communication Skills

You now have a list of tailors – next you need to start talking with them.

You can do this over the phone or even email, but your goal is to see if this is a person you can work with. Do they have good communication skills?

Do they actually listen to you, or are they trying to push in a direction you know you don’t want to go down?

Do they have time to talk, or are they in a rush?

Good tailors are hard to come by, and the average menswear salesman does not have the knowledge to point you in the right direction.”

To be fair, you shouldn’t hold the last one against them if you call their office out of the blue – but any professional should be willing to put aside 20 minutes to speak with a potential client at a set time within a few days of calling.

You want to work with a tailor whom you feel confident in.

This decision is very personal and should be based off the tailor’s knowledge and communication skills – ideally you find a tailor with strong skills in both areas. Unfortunately, a combination of the two is rare except in larger cities.

You can have a very skilled tailor, but if he does not understand you or feels he should ignore your wishes and do what he thinks is right, both parties are going to be disappointed. Communication is vital, and making certain that both sides clearly understand and respect each other is key to a long term partnership.

tweed jacket front

When is the Tailor satisfied?

There is one answer here; the tailor should not be satisfied until you are satisfied.

This doesn’t mean that a skilled tailor or seamstress always gives you what you want or doesn’t make mistakes – no, a tailor really worth keeping is one who learns what your idea of the perfect fit is and constantly works to achieve this.

Does the Tailor Understand Style and Timeless Fashion?

I mentioned this earlier, but do not assume a tailor or seamstress understands classic men’s style.

Although many skilled tailors are experts at building anything you can imagine, their eye for what color fabric or style of jacket suits a man is often at odds with reality.

Culture differences can also play a factor here, as that many of the most skilled tailors today are native Chinese, Thai, or Indian – what worked in Mumbai in 1970 may not be applicable today.

With your foundation in classic men’s style you should be able to figure out quickly if the tailor possess an eye for timeless fashion.

Samples of the Tailor’s work – Custom Suits and Tailored Shirts.

Pictures, example pieces, alteration miracles – you are looking for samples of their work that validate the tailor’s claims of greatness.

If the overall garment looks good, spend a few minutes studying the details

Does the stitching look secure and clean, is the build and silhouette something you want in your clothing. Be wary of a tailor who doesn’t have anything to show or happy customers to refer you to.

Tailoring Turnaround Times? Is the Tailor Available?

The best tailors out there are very busy people.

They have more work than they can handle, and unfortunately wait times of more than a month are not unheard of.

Ideally you want a tailor who can attend to your needs quickly, especially when you need a quick fix before an important appointment. Be upfront about your needs here, as that most tailors will accommodate emergencies knowing it creates loyalty and goodwill.

Notice I didn’t mention Price – this is the least important factor and should be a minor consideration even for those tight on money. You want to find a skilled tailor who can help you realize your vision of the perfect custom fit. Saving twenty dollars and not getting what you want is a waste of money – spend a little more and getting exactly what you pictured is always worth it.