Once upon a time, the most noble and brave men donned a metal helmet, chestplate, and shield to challenge life’s daily battles. In 2017, the modern man has a new type of armor: the perfectly tailored suit. All the greats had one: Cary Grant, Jay Gatsby, James Bond, to name a few. And don’t be confused with your run of the mill jacket and trouser combination: That “fits like a glove” silhouette implies a level of sophistication that most stylish men strive for.
“Wearing a suit that fits well and generally looks good demonstrates to others that you’re conscious of what you’re communicating about yourself and that you’re aware of others’ expectations,” adds Chris Merchich, co-founder of menswear capsule Cladwell. “It’s respectful.”
But as all men are not created equal, finding a spectacular fit that requires zero alterations is unlikely. And when you’re looking for a quick and affordable fix, the most obvious options are problematic. Bespoke? Costs thousands. Hire a tailor? That could take days. However, with a few easy tricks, you can create a temporary illusion of fitted threads. While hiring a tailor is best for long-term results, read on for hacks to fake your way to an impeccable suit.
1. Cuff your pant hem with fabric tape
A too-long-for-comfort pant hemline is the first symptom of an ill-fitting suit. Who would take you seriously shuffling around or tripping over your pinstripes in the boardroom or at a formal party? Exactly. “It’s the most basic alteration to have done by a tailor,” says Merchich. “If that’s not an option, use fabric tape to take up the hemline.”
Available at your local convenience store, this tool is easy to pick up on your way home from the office. Now that you have the tool, how do you fake the perfect fit? According to the Effortless Gent, men should aim for a medium break, which is measured as one horizontal crease created when the pant leg touches your shoe. For a classic look, try on your pants inside out and cuff them up to your desired hemline. Before securing fabric tape along the top of your cuff, press the fold down with an iron or home steamer.
2. Binder clip your waistline
You’ve fallen in love with a pair of pants. They’re the perfect length, material and price. The only problem? You find yourself constantly hoisting them up after taking a walk around your house. It’s OK: We’ve all been there. A belt is the obvious choice; however, over-accessorizing doesn’t always yield stylish results. Or even worse, your belt isn’t tight enough to help your pants defy gravity.
If that’s the case, cinch your waist with large binder clips. Whether you have a couple lying around your desk or need to pick them up from a nearby office supply store, locating these will be a breeze. Grab a small piece of fabric from the back of your waistline and secure with a binder clip. Feel free to use a few clips if your pants so require. “Just be wary of bunching and the dreaded diaper butt,” warns Merchich.
Prevent a major fashion faux pas, and not to mention having your makeshift pins pop at one false move, by giving yourself some wiggle room. According to Complex, most men’s necks are roughly half the size of their waist measurements. Lightly wrap your waistband around your neck for a rough estimate. Too long? Your alteration isn’t complete just yet. Too tight? Loosen or discard a few clips.
3. Shorten your sleeves with bobby pins
From ballerinas to the pin-curls your grandma used to sport, bobby pins have a very feminine and wholesome reputation. Little did you know, they can be a sneaky way to fix those super long jacket sleeves. Though the Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine advocates this styling hack for women, it’s also the perfect technique for a light summer sports jacket.
First and foremost: how do you know if you even need to shorten your jacket’s sleeves? While The Huffington Post recommends hemming your suit jacket so about half inch of your dress shirt’s sleeve shows, most style authorities have one rule in common: A sleeve that goes past your wrist is too long. Need yours hemmed? Flip your suit jacket inside out and carefully cuff each sleeve to the desire length (read: you may need to whip out a tape measurer). For the final step, secure each side of your sleeve with one or two bobby pins.
There is one bobby pin lesson you should take from prima ballerinas and your grandmother: Match the pin color to the fabric. After all, a dark gray jacket adorned with glossy bronze pins is almost as bad as an ill-fitting suit.
4. “Safety pin seam” your inseams
Wish all you want, but there are some styling woes that won’t be easily remedied with a simple strip of tape or pins. Enter “The Safety Pin Steam,” a process conceived by menswear stylist and blogger Vladimir Armand that’s perfect for those hard-to-tailor problem areas. “You can use this at the shoulder seams, inner trouser legs, and the inner sleeves,” Armand comments.
Start by wearing your garment backwards and inside out. Next, mark those targets with a neatly cut piece of double sided tape. “The tape should be the size of how long you want your seam to be,” says Armand. “The longer the tape, the better the fit; however, too long can sometimes look awkward.” Rest assured, you can always fix your seam if it’s too long.
Once you take off the garment, remove the piece of tape and add small safety pins to create the illusion of the seams. Armand recommends pinching the fabric upward and pinning the safety pins down the line of the tape. While using lots of pins will ensure a tighter seam, too many will look bulky so try the garment on to evaluate the fit.
After all the pins are fastened, use a fresh piece of tape to hold the excess fabric down and secure the pins in place. For a finishing touch, press the outside of the jacket with a steam iron. And voilà: a fitted suit that costs a fraction of a tailor’s fee.
5. Know your size
Seems more like a fact of life than a must-know hack, right? Not necessarily. With more men purchasing their apparel with a simple swipe and click combination, it’s more likely that you’ll find yourself purchasing the wrong size without even realizing it. “There are a million different names for different kinds of cuts from all the different retailers,” Merchich points out.
While you may be a size 40 regular at Bonobos, perhaps the J.Crew’s Ludlow suit in a size 40 slim is an equally satisfactory fit. When searching for that perfect suit, take the time to go into a store and try on several options. “Don’t be afraid to ask someone to measure you even after a sales person tells you what size you are.”
While you may still find yourself in need of a few alterations, going through all your options may make a world of difference.