The Interview Suit.

Continuing with our now wildly successful theme of clothes to wear for a job interview this week let’s talk about the big one: the suit.

I could write for days on this topic. It is fraught with pitfalls, preferences and petty little details that drive a lot of guys over the deep end.

I know guys hate shopping (at least for certain things) so I will make this one easy for you. Well, as easy as possible.

If you don’t have a suit (or don’t have to wear one every day) you still need at least one in your closet. If you wear suits regularly you need at least three. If you are in a profession that demands you look business like at all times you should have 8-10 suits.

However I will approach this from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have a suit only needs one for special occasions or for those who don’t know squat about buying a suit (and trust me there are a lot those out there).

First the easy bit: If you only need one suit all you have to do is go buy a good navy suit.
Navy_suit_1The navy suit is considered a “classic” this means that it doesn’t go out of style and that as long as it is in good shape it can be worn on many different occasions and still make you look sharp.

The navy suit can be combined with a variety of shirt and tie combinations to produce looks that range from sober and businesslike to casual or debonair.

Plus every suit store will carry them.

Your biggest obstacle typically will be to decide how many buttons it will have and how much it should cost.

Lets start with cost.

How much should you pay for a suit? Well as much as you can afford (and then perhaps a little bit more). With suits as with many things in life you get what you pay for and you should strive to buy quality. When you walk by those stores that have 3 for 1 sales on suits? Just keep walking. The material is usually a mix of wool and manmade fibers like polyester, Teflon etc. You should only buy a suit that is made from wool and the cheapest suits aren’t 100% wool. Thus they will have that shiny “cheap salesman” look.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the big name brands like Armani, Canali, Boss, Versace etc. These suits are typically very well made but also you pay a premium for the brand name. In fact some of the designer label suits cost more than it would for you to go to a local tailor and have a suit custom made!

If you are only buying your suit for special occasions you don’t need to break the bank. Strive for a good mid price suit and you should be fine. What price is mid price? Well in Canadian dollars between 400-800 is a good range. However if you are a savvy shopper you should be able to pick one up on sale or at a warehouse outlet.

A final note about the high-end brands – they typically tend to be less conservative or and have more fashionable detailing. This is fine but remember these companies depend on their looks going “out of style” so that you have to buy their latest products.

The main thing to remember when buying a suit is that a classic look or “cut” will look good for years and years and years. I have some suits that are 10 years old and still look good.

Lets talk about “cut”. This refers to how the suit drapes on your body and how the material fits around your waist. European cuts tend to taper so that they hug your waist more, which is fine for slimmer men with broad shoulders. Full cuts as the name implies would suit a fuller figured man (i.e. beer gut). In between you have what is called the American cut. This is the cut that fits the majority of the population. And typically it is what you should go with.

But just because you have selected the correct “cut” doesn’t mean your suit will look good. Most people you see wearing suits that look poor on them have not necessarily bought a cheap suit (although it might look like it) most of them have just not bothered to get proper alterations done. The worst offenders in this area are college guys who wear their dad’s suits to interviews. It just looks wrong.

As a rule I don’t like to shop at a store where I can’t get alterations done on site. When I walk into a store and they tell me they don’t do alterations I am usually already out the door before they get to finish their sentence.

Why? Because with a suit the devil is in the details. Little adjustments in things like the length of the sleeve or the waist of the pants can make a cheap suit look expensive and an expensive suit look cheap. Now a lot of stores will say “don’t worry there is a place in the mall that does good alterations you can go there”. The problem with that is that usually it is a place that does far more women’s apparel than men’s and you want someone who is working with suits 24-7. In most places the tailor will be about 80 years old and about four feet tall. Don’t worry this is normal.

When you decide on a suit you like the tailor will come and make marks on it with a piece of white chalk. He will then perform alterations on the suit. This usually takes about a week or so. Then you can come to get your suit.

Now the most important thing to do is to try the suit on again and be prepared to have a second round of alterations done if it doesn’t look or feel right. I sometimes have had to argue with my tailor or the sales person about the length of the pants. I feel that the trend is to have them waaaay too long. The crease should break when it hits the shoes but it shouldn’t look like you are a kid wearing your father’s suit. I am not going to go into big detail on things like crease break here because that kind of thing is really boring.

In fact I am starting to get bored myself. But I know there are a couple of other things I forgot to mention. Hmm while I think of them here are some other pointers:

When you get your suit it typically (if you shopped in a decent store) be given to you in a nice suit bag with a good hanger. You can’t hang your suit on a cheap wire hanger. It will not support the weight of the suit and someday you will come in to your closet and you suit will be in a rumpled mess on the floor.

Also only have your suit professionally dry-cleaned DON’T try to wash it in your washer. You will ruin it. If it is a little wrinkled when you take it out of the closet run a warm iron over it.

Oh yeah now I remember what I wanted to talk about. Buttons. Suits come in a few varieties. Double breasted, Single breasted and then two or three button (shown at right).

Stick with the single breasted if it is your only suit. The look is more classic whereas double breasted tends to come in and out of fashion. And buy a two button single breasted. There are a lot of three button suits out there right now but this is a relatively new trend in the suit world (less than 10 years). The three-button suit might go out of style soon and you will look hopelessly dated.

Navy_suit_2Single button (seen here) however will always look good.

Next week: Interview underwear. Boxers? Briefs? Commando?

See Also: The Interview Shoe (endorsed by the Manolo!) and Casual Fridays

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