How to Build a Smart Suit Wardrobe
September 3rd, 2014
Building a smart wardrobe is one of the most important investments a man can make. The compound benefits over time are truly immeasurable. Like any smart investment, it should involve research, planning, and efficient execution.
I went through the Articles of Style archives and put together a brief guide to building a tailored wardrobe. The keys to success are understanding proper fit, having a great relationship with your tailor, buying quality over quantity, and making sure everything works together.
Here’s the order I would recommend building a life-long suit wardrobe.
1st Suit: Navy Blue
This is your hero. Your workhorse. Your go-to. Your three days a week, but nobody really notices. It’s also your weekend blazer and your most versatile trousers. Look for something in a 7-9 oz fabric that you can wear across seasons. I prefer a fabric with a little texture – like a a birdseye or a hopsack – since the texture makes the pieces easier to break-up and wear casually.
Shop: Essential Navy Suit.
2nd Suit: Medium Grey
This is your #2. Your back-up. Your Robin. Your Scottie Pippen. You already hit ’em with the navy this week, next comes the grey. Look for something in a light-to-medium shade, which can be worn in all four seasons. Keep in mind that both the jacket and trouser should work seamlessly with those from the navy suit.
Shop: Essential Grey Suit.
3rd Suit: Classic Pinstripe
This is your power suit. Your deal closer. Your money maker. Your Gordon Gekko. This is the suit you wear to that big meeting that you’ve been prepping for. It takes confidence to wear (especially if the stripes are this pronounced) but it projects the same emotion in equal parts. Look for a neutral pinstripe on navy or grey.
4th Suit: Subtle Windowpane
This is your European flair. Your suave side. Your lady killer. Your proof that you’re not a rookie in the sartorial department. You can rock a windowpane suit to the office and introduce some pattern-mixing to your co-workers, but it’s also a smooth look with an open collar and/or a nice knit for an evening out. Look for a neutral check on navy or grey.
Shop: Windowpane Hopsack Suit
5th Suit: Black
This is your going-out suit. Your wingman. Your partner in crime. Your late night confidant. It’s also your tuxedo rental alternative. Now that you have a solid rotation of traditional business suits, think about one for evening events and nights out. A slim black suit (preferably in wool/mohair) has you covered for formal occasions, semi-formal occasions, night clubs, and funerals.
Shop: Essential Black Suit
6th Suit: Double-Breasted
This is your sixth man. Your back-up point guard. Your workhorse’s cousin. Just when your solid navy suit was feeling over-worked, the DB comes in to give it a break. You already have five foundational single-breasted suits, time to introduce a new silhouette. The DB gives you an option to dress slightly more “business formal”. Go dark, solid, and go navy or grey.
Of course, you can wear the double-breasted jacket as a blazer, too. It should work well with the grey solid trousers from suit #2, or the grey windowpane trousers from suit #4.
The most important thing to remember when building a wardrobe is keeping synergy between all the pieces!
7th Suit: A Lighter Blue
This is your spinmove. Your left hook. Your energy boost. Your keep-them-on-their-toes. A lighter shade of blue is not only refreshing in the business world, it’s also the perfect backdrop to introduce more color and pattern with your shirt & tie wardrobe.
8th Suit: Khaki Linen or Cotton
This is your happy place. Your tropical getaway. Your vegetarian platter. Your coolest suit, literally. This one if reserved for those hot and sticky days, because a true gentleman is never caught sweaty and flustered in an out-of-season fabric.
Shop: Khaki Cotton Suit
9th Suit: Grey Flannel
This is your response to winter. Your cozy blanket. Your protection from the elements. When temperatures drop, there isn’t another suit that you’ll want to reach for. Your first flannel suit will probably change the way you look at tailoring and fabrics.
Shop: Mid Grey Flannel Suit
10th Suit: Brown
This is your wild card. Your secret weapon. Your Ace on the river. Nobody expects you to pull-off a brown suit, but when you do, they’ll never forget it. It also opens-up plenty of opportunities for different shirt and tie combinations. At first I had the brown suit in the top 5 – that’s how much of an impact I think it can have on your wardrobe.
Shop: Cherrywood Flannel Suit
Once you have these ten foundational suits in your rotation, you can start to get a little more creative and experience the true joys of custom tailoring. You can experiment with stronger colors, bolder patters, statement pieces, etc. But we’ll get into brainstorming ideas for your “next 10 suits” in a later post…
Thanks for reading.
Yours in style,
Articles of Style
Photography by Alex Crawford.