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A Gentleman’s Guide to Suits: The 5 Essential Rules

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No gentleman’s wardrobe is complete without a suit.

From three-piece suits and summer linen suits to ready-to-wear suits and bespoke suits made by Columbus’s leading clothier, suits can elevate any wardrobe, transforming you into a smart, refined, and confident man. Every man should own at least one great suit, if not a couple.

Indeed, suits are the trademark of any suave and sophisticated gentleman. One need not to look further from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Don Draper, or James Bond.

But donning a tie and tailoring will not immediately transform you into a man of class and refinement. There are certain rules to the sartorial game that one must abide by. Failing to follow these rules will make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.

For those looking to suit up, this article is here to help. Whether you’re a suit virgin or just need a refresher, let Columbus’s leading clothier guide you through the essential rules to suit etiquette.

  • Select the right cut for your body type

The first and most important rule of wearing a suit is fit.

While suits are an essential staple for any modern gentleman, there is no one-suit-fits-all solution. Certain suit cuts/style will cater to specific physiques. The right suit for your body type will enhance certain elements to give you a sense of added physical presence.

The Italian or European suit, for example, is better suited for those with an extra-slim frame. Guys with a more traditional fit can opt for the English cut. Lastly, those with broad shoulders or some weight in the middle should choose the American style as it is more forgiving.

  • Buy a tailored suit

Unless you’ve been blessed with an Adonis body type by the Greek gods or your full-time job is being a runway model, chances are, off-the-rack suits will be ill-fitting.

Do yourself a favor and buy yourself a tailored suit, such as a made-to-measure suit or a custom made suit. Sure, a tailored suit costs more money than the off-the-rack alternative, but consider the benefits you get.

Not only are tailored suits better-fitting, but they are also made of quality materials and can be personalized to match your own style. All of the quality and work put into creating a tailored suit means it’ll last longer. This results in less wasted money in the long run.

  • Stick with the classics

A gentleman’s suit is not immune to the latest fashion trends. Suits are also subject to flash-in-the-pan fashion moments. The leisure suit of the ‘70s and the oversized silhouettes in the ‘90s are just two examples of a serious suit fashion faux pas.

Unless you’re David Bowie, or John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever,” these types of comical suits should not be imitated today.

Instead, when it comes to dressing to impress, stick with the classics. A navy or grey suit made from quality lightweight wool is a great all-occasion, all-season type of suit. Its versatility means it can be worn in the office, at a wedding, or even for that all-important first date.

  • Button down

One rule that has withstood the test of time since the inception of the modern suit is the “Sometimes, Always, Never” button rule.

This button rule pertains to the three buttons a suit jacket has down the front. The top button should sometimes be buttoned, the middle button should always be buttoned, and the bottom button should never be buttoned.

The two-buttoned suit forgoes the “Sometimes” rule, meaning you should always button the top button and never the bottom button.

  • Let’s talk accessories

Sometimes, accessories can transform a look from normal and everyday to something that stands out. But when it comes to suits, over-accessorizing can have the completely opposite effect. Your suit should be the star of the show, not your accessories.

With that said, here are some great, quick ways to accessorize your suit the right way:

    • Your tie should end at or just before your trousers’ waistband
    • Inject personal style to your suit with colorful socks
    • The pattern or fabric of your pocket square shouldn’t match your tie
    • Your shoes should complement the color of your suit
    • Invest in a sturdy tie clip and classic cufflinks
    • The wristwatch you wear with your suit should match the occasion
  • Add extra flair to your suit style with a lapel pin

It’s important to experiment with these final touches to find the ones that really suit your personal style.

Breaking the rules the right way

Of course, we’re big believers that certain rules are meant to be broken (with the emphasis, of course, on certain). Matching your belt with your shoes, for example, is a great place for the boldest among us to break the rules.

The most important thing to remember about suit etiquette is how you wear it. Wear it with pride and confidence, and you can start dictating your own rules.

Just no white cotton socks with black dress shoes, please.


AlphaSuit is the brainchild of Master Haberdasher, Sean McKee. Over a span of more than two decades, Sean has provided custom suits to some of the most successful leaders in America. With AlphaSuit, he now brings this same premium service to you, but at 60-70% less than the traditional price.