10 things you never want to hear yourself say when buying a suit

Verbalized warnings that this isn't going well.

1. “Fabric is great, color is perfect, price is unbelievable… I’m sure a tailor can do something about these shoulders.”

NOOOOOoooooooooooo!! Don’t do it! First, we’ve all been there. We’ve all found a suit that’s a major steal, except the shoulders stick out just a little too much, sit a little too high, or make it look like the suit is wearing us instead of the opposite. Bad shoulders are a dealbreaker. Do the wall trick. If it fits there, fine, but if your eyeballs tell you it looks like you’ve got a deck of cards stacked on top of each shoulder? Put it back on the rack.

2. “I’m not sure. What do you think Mr. Salesperson?”

Yes, there are some terrific, knowledgeable, friendly people selling men’s suits out there whose opinions you should take seriously. But they’re a rare breed. To complicate things further, if you’re reading this website, you’re not the average suit-shopping customer. These salespeople are used to dealing with guys who want to wear jackets a size too big. Many habitually sell to this demo. Often the salesperson will get aggressive in pushing you in that familiar, ill-fitting direction. Kindly ask if you could take a few minutes with a couple of different sizes by yourself. And if they’re just a pain, leave.

3. “Looks great, as long as I don’t move my arms. Then it’s all over the place”

If shaking someone’s hand would cause your suit jacket to do the dougie, then you should try another brand. That dancing of the jacket usually means the armholes are low. Don’t just stand still when you’re checking it out in the mirror. Move around a bit.

suits gotta move

Move around when trying on a suit. Maybe not run around, but don’t stand still.

4. “Poly-viscose-rayon-what? Who cares. IT’S A STEAL!”

No, it’s not. That’s the combo that makes up most synthetic-cloth suits. Even if you’re on a mega budget, aim for all-natural fabrics like wool, cotton, and linen. Synthetic suits are a bit like synthetic… breasts. They don’t look quite right, they don’t move the same, and they don’t feel like the real thing. On their own, viscose and rayon are a step above all poly when it comes to the lining of the jacket (Bemberg + Cupro are rayon based) since they breathe a bit and are spun from naturally occurring fibers. But when bound up with polyester for the pants and jacket, it’s a no-go.

5. “I can’t wait to find a place/reason to wear this.”

Also a scenario that many a bargain shopper has fallen victim to. That bold plaid 3-piece suit might be the only one left in your size and 75% off, but can you picture yourself actually wearing it? Where?

6. “Where are your black suits? Especially the striped ones…”

The dominance of black suits in the 90s did a full reversal at the dawn of the 21st century. Most guys just look better in navy or grey, plus, you can wear brown or black shoes with those colors (yes, even navy). A black suit is certainly appropriate for a funeral, but so would a dark charcoal in most cases. Meanwhile, a striped black suit is something that most would have a hard time wearing… anywhere.

suit shopping

Stick with blues & greys. Black suits might come back, but blues & greys will never fall out of favor.

7. “I wonder how this’ll look with a pair of dress shoes and a dress shirt”

Sometimes you stumble into looking at suits while out shopping in a t-shirt and jeans. But your best bet really is to wear what you’d wear with a suit when shopping for one. That means a favorite dress shirt, dress shoes, even a tie if you want to get a good idea as to how far the lapels dip down and how far they spread across your chest.

8. “All right, got my full priced suit. Now time to pick out my ‘get two free!’ “

You’re buying suits. Not CDs from Columbia House (… too old of a reference?) Even a two-for-one deal during a big Macy’s sale is pushing it. Retail at Macy’s and similarly priced department stores are grossly inflated, and the suits will almost surely be fused. If they’re offering not one but TWO “free” suits with a full priced suit… probably not the highest quality.

9. “I’ve spent all this time looking. I’m not thrilled with it, but I can’t leave empty handed.”

Usually an internal conversation. Yes you can leave empty handed. Lots of us hate shopping, and we feel like its been a wasted afternoon if we don’t leave with a purchase. It’s not wasted. You just eliminated a lot of poor options from the pile. You’ve only truly wasted your time if you end up with a suit you don’t like because you got frustrated with the experience.

10. “Hey Mom! What about this one??”

Because… well, I mean it happens but… oh boy.


What else? Leave additions in the comments below. May you never hear any of these things spew from your mouth while suit shopping. But we’ve all been there.  Photo Credits: P. Knight & S. Chang