Suitably Dressed: The Executive’s Guide to the Perfect Suit

two-button-suit3“It is both delusional and stupid to think that clothes don’t really matter and we should all wear whatever we want. Most people don’t take clothing seriously enough, but whether we should or not, clothes do talk to us and we make decisions based on people’s appearances.” – G. Bruce Boyer

As both men and women climb up the corporate ladder, the more they are expected to look the part of the competent, decision maker and leader. They are also expected to look the part in terms of representing the brand that they work for and  enhancing the image that  stakeholders can trust. One of the most perplexing pieces of clothing that executive men are required to wear is the suit.
Perplexing because the wrong type, colour and style of suit can have very negative effects on a man’s appearance and image and because a large number of executives out there, while extremely familiar with a corporate balance sheet,  are clueless  and simply don’t know how to select the right type of suit for themselves.

In selecting the right suit, the absolutely first thing that you have to do is to get measured. If you walk into a store and ask the salesperson to measure you and he can’t because he does not know how to, you need to leave that store immediately. Correct measurements will enable you and him to select the correct style and fit for your body type. Once you have your measurements, it is also wise to know the different types of suits you can select from. This again is important because  different styles have different fit and therefore different effects on your appearance depending on whether you are tall, short, lean, pot- bellied and so on.

The first of the five suit styles is the Italian or European suit, a double breasted suit which is usually a good choice for tall men. The traditional look on the jacket is double  breasted with large lapels and slit pockets.  The classic model  will be completely  vent less while the shoulders are usually gently padded  to add bulk  without making the suit  unnatural.  The pants are usually  pleated and cuffed with button down and slit  pockets.

Tall, men with  lean build look  both trendy  and stylish  in these models. However short men and stocky men can also successfully wear this suit  as a double breasted suit will  hide  a large belly. The key to making this suit work for bulkier men is to have higher gorges in the front to elongate the torso.

The English suit  is cut with classic British  style , elegance and formality. This  type of  suit is great for formal occasions , the office and when you need to make a positive assertive appearance. The Traditional  single  breasted British suit will have  three buttons.  British suits also  have three pockets  and strongly tapered  sides, providing  a more formal aura. It will have two side vents and minimally  padded  shoulders. The  pants will be  pleated with a quarter inch cuff at the bottom. Cuffs should always have a  slight break  at the dress shoes.

A major advantage of the English suit  is its forgiving nature. Three button suits do a much better job of hiding a protruding gut or weak chest. The pleated pants  also play a part in hiding unshapely legs.

“To attain style in dress, you must look perfectly happy and relaxed in your clothes which must appear part of you rather than a wardrobe you have just donned.” – Hardy Amies

The American suit  has been around as long as the United States itself. It is called the Sac suit. The traditional Sac suit jacket has two buttons  and three outside pockets, two of these which are flap pockets located towards the bottom of the jacket. Jackets are single vented  with natural shoulders. Avoid stuffing this suit with shoulder pads as this rarely makes it look better. This style is  great for men with large chests while the two button style forms a V shape around the pectorals and accentuates them.

The Mandarin  suit is a  unique style  associated with eastern cultures. The unique  features include a short  and erect collar with jackets that are also noticeably different and buttons all the way down the jacket.

“I can go all over the world with just three outfits: a blue blazer and grey flannel pants, a grey flannel suit, and black tie.” – Pierre Cardin

Suit designs  come in all  shapes, sizes patterns , colours and fabric. Executive men have a huge  selection to choose from when purchasing a new suit to wear. However, the button, or more precisely  the number of buttons on your suit can enhance or ruin your appearance.

The one button suit is one of the least popular suit styles for a number of reasons. It makes short men look shorter and it look ridiculous on pot -bellied men as it will make the stomach the focal point  of your body and that will not be flattering. Short and stocky men may however get away with wearing the one button suit as the single button centres  nicely on their stocky frame. If you are very tall and very lean, this suit will however be very  flattering.

The standard two button suit is the standard executive suit worn by business men everywhere.  Shorter men tend to look  better  in a two button  suit because  the three button version can overwhelm  a person with a shorter torso. On the other hand tall and lean  men can look over grown in the wrong two button suit. If you are tall and have a thicker torso, you will have an easier time  pulling off the two button suit. Remember that you must never button the bottom button on any suit unless it’s a double breasted suit.

The three button suit is the standard in British style design. It gives off a more regal  and formal look and is more  forgiving  to those  with less flattering  body types. This suit has enough buttons to look good on a tall man and not too many to overwhelm the torso of a shorter man. Again, as an aside, leave the bottom button undone always.

The four button suit is not a very popular suit, although if you are tall , lean and athletically built,  you can pull this suit off. The rule for this suit is to never button all four buttons as the suit will look more like a trench coat. If you are to take your chance with a four button suit, make sure that you are well built enough to  leave room for your shirt and tie to show through at the front. Short men simply are not going to have enough torso to fit four buttons.

The five button suit  is more suited to Hollywood movies  than the boardroom. This suit has so many buttons that even  tall men will not have enough room for normal necklines and lapel styles. Likewise the six button suit  should only  be used in fashion shows and parties as this suit is certainly  not  a style  that would be suitable in a normal  business environment. Executives looking to wear the six button suit should be well advised to leave all the buttons undone.

The three piece suit is a classic made up of a jacket, waistcoat and trousers. This suit  can up your fashion points instantaneously. A warning though about this suit. While proper styled  shoulder pads   can assist you to look well built, bulky shoulder pads  are a no no if you are short  and lean  or very short and stocky. If you are trying to blend in, do not wear the three piece suit because it will get you noticed.

“Do the clothes suit you? Do the clothes suit the occasion? Do the clothes suit each other?” – Richard Plourde

The pattern of your suit  is just  as important as the suit style, fit and colour. There are four main suit styles  to consider including  the solid colour, pin striped, window pane and check patterns. The solid suit must differentiate itself  with pockets, buttons, lapel,  and vent styles.  The plain solid navy blue,  and solid grey or charcoal is a must for every executives.

The pin stripe has vertical lines  of colour evenly spaced  throughout  the suit. Pinstripes  give  the wearer a more authoritative demeanour and is a favourite of many presidents, business leaders and from the movies, mafia godfathers and gangsters. The pattern command attention.

The windowpane  has  square  or rectangular  patterns  throughout  the suit.  Avoid wearing this suit to work, business and boardroom meetings. You will not be taken seriously.  Instead it is more suitable for casual Friday, to church and on social occasions.

The plaid suit which is more pricy  than most other suits because of the fabric used  to make it is considered  to be ugly by some men, while some fashionistas  feel that a wardrobe is not complete without it.

“Putting on a beautifully designed suit elevates my spirit, extols my sense of self, and helps define me as a man to whom details matter.” – Gay Talese

Finally, choosing a suit colour  can be difficult  if you don’t know what  you want. It is also important not to leave this important detail to other people such as your partner or personal assistant. Unless you are there in person, it is difficult for someone else to pick the best colour for your skin colour and hue.

Firstly consider the occasion to which you want to wear the suit. For example, while black is ok for funerals , white and yellow  are not.  Grey and navy blue make good business suit colours  and can be worn to other events as well. Essential  colours to have in your wardrobe  include  blue , grey and charcoal, whiles safe colours include black, brown, khaki, tan and beige. Bold colours which should not be worn for everyday business situations include baby blue, burgundy, olive , white and maroon.

Happy shopping


About chipomaps

A brand reputation, marketing and new media trainer and consultant. Constantly curious, constantly learning.
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