“Get a suit!”
“You really need a suit.”
“You call that a suit? You need a real suit. Go buy a suit!”

For a lot of us, a suit is one of those items that we only need to wear once in a while, and we tend to not worry about how well they fit, what shape they’re in, or what shape WE’RE in until the day we actually need to put it on.

So, you need a suit… but not just any suit. You need a good-looking, well-fitting, classic suit that says, “Hey World, I’ve arrived,” or at the very least, “Hey ladies, I look great in my suit, check me out.”

Or maybe even just, “Heyyyy, ladies.”

You won’t do it with these

Not all suits are equal.

If this is going to be your only properly-fitting suit in the foreseeable future, you don’t want a suit with 4, 5, or 6 buttons (actually, you NEVER want this, unless it’s double-breasted, but that’s a different story).

You don’t want one with bold stripes or recognizable prints. You don’t want something too casual, and even though you may want to be like Bond, you don’t want a tuxedo.

Just tell me what I need

Here’s what I recommend: A two-button, single-breasted, double-vented, wool suit in navy. That’s it! Simple, right? The one above is from SuitSupply (so is the image and diagram).

Side note: You already have the perfect navy suit? Your next one should be gray.

The most common style of single-breasted suit is two- or three-button. Two-button works well on every dude. Three-button works best on taller guys with longer torsos.

For the majority of you, I’d suggest a two-button single-breasted suit. It’s tough to go wrong there. Depending on the button stance, a three button almost always looks too closed. You know the V that your lapels form when your jacket is buttoned? You want that to be more deep than shallow.

Take a look at the above suits from JoS. A Bank. A three-button suit jacket creates a shallow V, while a two-button’s is much deeper, elongating your torso and keeping everything in proportion while broadening your chest and making you look taller.

One style of three-button suiting I do like is the 3/2 (read: three-roll-two). What this means is that the lapel rolls over the top button hole, so functionally and aesthetically, you have a two-button suit when you fasten the middle button.

So technically, I’m still telling you to get a two-button suit. Here’s a bit more about the 3/2 jackets. The image to the right is from J.Crew, and is a perfect example of the 3/2.

There you go. So the next time you’re in the market for a suit, stick with a two-button (or 3/2, if you can find it), single-breasted, double-vented wool suit in navy.

When you’re in the middle of curating the lean wardrobe, this is the only suit you’ll need.

Any questions?

Let’s hear em in the comments below.

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PUBLISHED September 14, 2012

Barron is a Lean Wardrobe Advocate and Founding Editor of Effortless Gent. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Tumblr.

  • apm

    Highly recommend suitsupply – from a guy who wears a suit five days a week.

    • Suitsupply is very nice! Good quality and the prices are not too high for the suit you get! Don’t worry about wearing a suit 5 days a week… I wear a suit six days a week….

  • Jason

    Have you compared Black Lapel to Indochino? I’m curious the difference in quality and fit.

    • I haven’t, but I should do that once I get suits from both.

    • There is a comparison on Primer Grey: http://primergreyblog.com/shirts/black-lapel-vs-indochino/

      Summary: Black Lapel is better in just about every category.

      • Bo

        I agree with that, not only from what I’ve heard but from the actual quality of my Black Lapel suit. It fits like a glove, the quality is impeccable, and it just looks great!

      • I haven’t tried / don’t own a Black Lapel suit (yet), but Warren (co-founder) is a good guy and we chat a lot. I’ll get my hands on one soon and will be sure to do some sort of comparison.

        To be honest though, any custom option will be better than your basic off-the-rack suit from some big box store, especially in terms of fit. Fit is paramount!

  • This was a great read! Every guy should print this out and keep it in his pocket the next time he goes suit shopping.

    • Do what Megan says, gents!

  • Barron, two quick questions:

    1) You mention double vent. I have read along my style journeys that single vented is better for bigger guys. Can you comment on that?

    2) I was looking at Black Lapel’s charcoal herringbone (http://www.blacklapel.com/suits/charcoal-herringbone.html) I know you’ve said navy and that the SECOND suit you buy should be grey/charcoal, but I really REALLY prefer the look of the charcoal suit. Is it an “either is fine, this is just a guide for guys who aren’t sure of what they want”, or is it a “no, you really should be buying navy”?

    • 1. I think double vents are more universally flattering, just from how they lay. Antonio goes into more detail here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2Fi-Cl0ESo

      2. Either is fine, they’re both equally useful. It’s just a matter of preference but ideally (eventually) a guy would have both.

  • Chris Wilkinson

    I am also curious about the vent recommendations. Growing up in the English countryside, a double vent was for a hacking jacket, to allow sitting on the saddle. I would always pick a single vent for a suit. Thoughts?

    • Like I mentioned to Chris J below, I think double vents are just more universally flattering, and though it may be a personal preference, they look better. You can check out what Antonio (from realmenrealstyle.com) has to say: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2Fi-Cl0ESo

  • David Xiaoxi Li

    Barron, the “I’m doing a giveaway with Indochino” and “Tuesday’s post” links appear to be broken.

    • Weird, I just tested that earlier today. Fixed, thanks for the heads-up.

  • CWB

    Random question that wasn’t addressed in the article . . . pants with cuffs or without?

    • Depends. Generally cuffs are paired w/ pleated pants. I think now it’s largely a matter of preference. Some of my pants have cuffs, some don’t. If you’re on the shorter side, any horizontal line visually cuts you off (makes you appear shorter), so I advise against it. If you really like the look, then shit, go for it.

  • Elijah

    Why navy? I’ve heard charcoal gray is better for most people to start with?

    • It’s up to you. I always recommend navy or gray to start out with. My personal preference is navy, so I suggested it here. But sure, if you’re diggin charcoal, go for it.

  • GFB

    What is your opinion on one button suits? Are they equivalent to a two button suit, or should they be treated differently?

  • The first picture (with the three suites) reminds me of myself around the year 2000-2002. I had a few suites with 4 or 5 buttons. I bought them because it was quite fashionable around here (Belgium). Nowadays I won’t buy them ever again. Now i prefer the stylish two or three button suit. It just has more class and style.

  • Robert

    Mostly most of the people like my love to have a two button or a single button suit, particularly i used to prefer a single button suit, which has the easy and trouble free rule of unbutton the jacket and button it when stand up. The single button jacket also assist your collar to complete its round shape which give the elegant touch to any person. I recently own my two suits and both are single button. They are stressed free ! LOL

    Button Suit

  • Whartonite

    I had a double vented suit when I was ten years old and didn’t know better; I would never purchase a double vented suit. Only a classic Three-Roll-Two suit, Grow up boys.