You should clearly know your preferences.
These cover many areas:
Firstly, the most important consideration is the fabric. This, above anything else, will dictate the feel of the suit (and potentially the look/cut also). This is the not the variable to skimp on.
Let me be really clear here: wool is the best fabric for suits, unless you live in the Sahara, and perhaps even then:
Woolen suits are the top of the class and are the fabric of choice for high end, expensive suits. Wool can be processed either as ‘worsted’ or a ‘woolen’ yarn. The difference between the two is in the degree of ‘tightness’ that the wool is spun into. Generally, worsted implies a tightly spun yarn that is a little heavier, while feeling smooth on wear. Woolen yarns on other hand, are spun loose, and while lighter, feels baggier around your body. Other variations in woolen suits, especially in cold weather regions, include flannel and tweed. Tweed, for example, is to this day used in sports jackets.
Cotton is a barely acceptable substitute, but it creases like hell.
If you even contemplate synthetics, get the hell off my answer. Now.
Then come subordinate considerations (in no particular order):
- Broadly speaking, does it fasten in front with a single vertical row of buttons or two? In 2014, single breasted is in fashion.
Single breasted on the left, double on the right.
- Single- , versus double-vented. Think of it as “single/double breasted” for your ass.
Single, double and no-ass vented jackets. Image source:
Mandarin collar hand-holders. Image source:. What?!!?
. You have your notched, peak and shawls (see link). And of course: no lapel at all, i.e. the and . I like Mandarin myself, I own a couple….
- Next come the , which basically means the extra fabric at the end of a tube (be it your shirt sleeve, jacket sleeve or trouser leg) to protect it from the wear and tear of being at the ‘business end’ of a garment.
You’ll want . Why? [EDIT: schooled me on a life-long misunderstanding – see the comments – and I’ve amended accordingly]. Because the alternatives are purely decorative buttons, and I can’t be having that – I’m not a barbarian. Styles of cuffs include: “non-kissing” = acceptable; “kissing non-stacked” = mmmph or “kissing-stacked” = go back and tell the people who dressed you this morning that they did a terrible job. A hurtful job. What did you ever do to them?
- Then would probably come pattern and colour.
Obviously there are only two colours for a suit: navy and black. And no patterns are acceptable, whatsoever.
I acknowledge there are other colours of fabric available, and that some of these may or may not be patterned.
So what? I acknowledge that “gastric distress” exists also, doesn’t mean I want to dwell on it….
Ok, whatever. So navy and black are the classically conservative suit colour choices. Navy is actually easier to match to vari-coloured shirts and ties. The danger with black is that with the wrong shirt/shoe/tie combination you can be at risk of looking like an undertaker or a waiter. Navy tends to favour patterned – e.g. checked – shirts way better than black. It can also handle a strongly coloured tie (e.g. bright red, yellow, blue) although black shows these off better.
I do own an off-white suit. But I don’t like to talk about it any more.
Pinstripes. Here is what I have to say about pinstripes: Are you actually in the Corsican mafia? No? Then forget about the pinstripes.
- Now you are down to detailing, meaning basically pockets.
A personal revelation: I hate decorative pockets, meaning pockets you can’t actually put anything in. Breast/hankie pocket especially but applies generally to all pockets, everywhere, I don’t give a damn. Why, in God’s name, would you buy a bespoke suit and have non-functioning pockets? No reason. So don’t.
You will want pockets, get pockets.
These, these are the considerations a man of culture must bear in mind when buying a suit. Of course, if you don’t wish to proclaim your taste and selectivity, then by all means ignore my advice and I shall very much miss your presence at the best parties of the season.
TL/DR: the above are the common decision points that arise when buying a made to measure suit. Just jot down the bullet points and ask about them at your fitting and you should be right. =)