A suit is not just a suit. There are so many factors that go into finding the right suit and making sure it’s tailored to fit your body shape perfectly. This menswear staple is the most complicated clothing purchase you will make, but also the most rewarding: A perfectly fitted suit (in every aspect — fabric, color, and style) can do wonders for your confidence both in and out of the office, and believe it or not, looking good can help earn you more respect from your co-workers. Looking well-put together (not just donning professional attire) is underrated in the workplace, so it’s time to up the ante and begin to think about your suits on a deeper level. It all starts with knowing the different suit fabrics and when the appropriate time to wear them is; for instance, it’s harder to wear a heavy wool suit in a heatwave during the middle of summer.
Just remember when considering what suit to buy, the fabric you choose plays a pivotal role in the way you wear your suit, so it’s important to consider getting a suit made of high-quality fabric, as it can make or break the way it looks on you. Before walking into a store to purchase a suit, here is your Cheat Sheet guide to choosing the suit fabric that is right for you.
Before you choose a suit, consider the weight of the fabric
FashionBeans summarizes typical fabric weights and when the ideal time to wear them is.
- 7 ounces to 9 ounces: This is the lightest fabric weight you can find and is ideal to look for during the warmer months of the year.
- 9.5 ounces to 11 ounces: This, of course, would be the second lightest fabric weight, and is best for transitional seasons when it’s not too hot and not too cold (late summer-early fall, and spring-early summer).
- 11 ounces to 12 ounces: Middle weight. This is the “just right” fabric weight that is perfect to wear for the majority of the year. This is the ideal fabric weight to start with if you’re building a formal suit wardrobe from scratch.
- 12 ounces to 13 ounces: This is the second heaviest fabric weight. It’s a great option for most of the year, but for summer it’s completely out of the question.
- 14 ounces to 19 ounces: This is the heaviest suit fabric you can find. This weight fabric is not the most popular, but is easy to tailor and is ideal to wear on a cold fall and/or winter day.
Different suit fabrics
This is the most popular suit fabric choice due to its versatility and refined aesthetic. Wool is a fantastic choice as it breathes well, and can be worn in both slightly hot and cooler temperatures. It is a softer fabric and tends to be wrinkle free. The two main wool yarns produce worsted (which is a fine smooth yarn spun from combed long-staple wool) in which the fibers are combined before spinning, and woolen (plain wool) where they are not. These two yarns can be woven in a number of ways to produce flannel, tweed, cashmere, and merino — to name a few.
In reference to cashmere or cashmere blend suits, not only is it considered a luxury item, but it can sometimes give off an unwanted sheen to a suit. You’re probably going to want to purchase a suit with more of a matte finish. If you do desire a cashmere suit, buy one for a special occasion, or plan to wear it somewhere other than work. It may look like a little too much.
Suit fabrics are sometimes classified as Super 100s, 140s, 160s and so on. The numbers refer to the number of times that the worsted wool has been twisted as it was being made. As a general rule, the higher the number, the finer and lighter the cloth will be, as well as the more expensive it’s likely to be. The more lightweight it is (the higher the number), the better the suit is for the warmer months of the year. The only drawback to super wools is that they don’t keep their shape very well and require extra care, and they won’t last very long if worn regularly. FashionBeans suggests that you purchase a lighter suit for a special occasion rather than use it as a daily option for businesswear.
D’Marge says that cotton is the second most popular suit fabric, as it breathes very well and is soft. However, it tends to crease very easily. Cotton suits are a cheaper option, best to wear during the transitional and warmer months of the year, and are great for all body types. Look for heavy cotton or wool/cotton blend as it allows the suit to retain its silhouette better. It’s best to wear a cotton suit if you’re going to a semi-formal event as it’s just a bit more on the casual side.
Polyester is made of synthetic materials that are of lower quality fabric. Polyester suits usually come blended with another fiber, such as wool, in order to keep the price of it low.
On the plus size, AskMen says that if you’re strapped for cash, a polyester wool blend suit still makes for an acceptable choice. It doesn’t tend to wrinkle, but unfortunately the fabric doesn’t breathe very well. On the negative side, polyester blended suits tend to shine a little more and can make garments look cheap.
If you do opt for a polyester suit, make sure that it’s only worn during the spring and fall to avoid subjecting it to extreme temperatures. Try and opt for wool blends for increased quality and wearability for more formal atmospheres and office wear. This fabric suits most bodies types.
Linen suits are super lightweight and help you to remain cool as the temperatures rise. The fabric is extremely breathable and tends to be far more porous, in comparison to conventional wool. Unfortunately, linen tends to wrinkle easily, stain easily, and needs to be frequently dry cleaned in order to maintain the fresh, crisp look of the fabric and the overall suit. It also tends to lose its shape very quickly. Linen suits should only be worn in the summer and are best suited for casual events. They can, however, be worn to work, but just be aware of color choice and style. If your office is very formal, it’s best to leave the linen suit for off-hours.
And, as always, make sure your suits are expertly tailored.