A navy suit is one of the most key, foundation pieces in any man’s wardrobe. Not just the wardrobes of guys who care about style. All guys. Everybody looks good in a navy suit. Sure, a charcoal suit might be a bit more versatile (you can wear a dark charcoal suit to a funeral, whereas navy won’t look quite appropriate)… but navy? A well tailored navy suit is a fella’s secret weapon when he wants to look not just good, but great.
But there are a lot of suits out there. And not all are worth your attention. Here’s what we were looking for when assembling this year’s list, before we get on with the show:
- Made from wool, or at least mostly wool.
- Soft shoulders. No hard shouldered, 1990s linebacker suits allowed.
- Relatively tailored off the rack. Not tight/undersized, but not a potato sack either.
- Half-canvas construction and/or breathable lining = a plus, but not an absolute requirement.
- Has to be a solid value for construction/quality of materials
There’s a method to this countdown. But it’s not a hard top 9 start to finish (starting with #9, & ending at #1.) Everyone’s priorities (price, construction, fabric, lining) will be different. And depending on what’s on sale when, rankings could change. As always, these aren’t rules. They’re more guidelines. So with that in mind, let’s start with the good, and head towards the great.
Not a deep dark navy, but not a marine blue either. Shell is 52% wool / 48% poly, and frankly feels pretty darn decent. Lining is all poly, but that’s not unexpected at this price. Fit should feel somewhere between an athletic and a true slim fit. My local JCP didn’t have a 40R in stock, which is what I normally wear. But a 42R felt a size too big on my frame. Side vents in the rear. No accent stitching around the non-functioning sleeve buttons. That makes for easy tailoring. You could do a LOT worse for $150. Note that many would point towards JC Penney’s all wool, Stafford wool suit separates. Just know that the shoulders on Stafford jackets can be a bit stiffer/more pronounced than their other suit separates.
NOTE: If you’re a card member, the price on these separates drops to $340.80, total, with the code BRCARD. Sale runs through 9/15.
These should probably beat out the J Crew Factory Thompson line for the best fused suit award. The problem? They’re rarely on sale to the general public. Almost always excluded. And at that steep full price, you’re better off sourcing a half-canvassed suit (which we’ll get to in a second). The fabric is quite nice. Super 120s Italian wool shell that’s 99% wool and 1% elastane. Lining is a mix of poly and rayon. Buttons are non functioning. A really nice suit. And the fact that they make both slim and “standard” fits is a big plus. It’s just the full price that’s a big ask. Shown above is a Standard Fit 40R w/ a 33/30 pant on 5’10” / 185lbs.
First? The good news. These suits have a half-canvas construction, are easy to get your hands on, and wear quite comfortably with their soft shoulders and lower slung button stance (some guys feel less restricted/buttoned up with a lower button stance). The bad news? They’re hardly ever on sale. Especially the Ludlow fit. Every so often the Crosby fit will be up for a discount, but the basic, wheelhouse, Ludlow fit? Can’t even begin to remember the last time that went on sale in a navy Italian worsted wool. And that’s a big drawback, because many will find that there are a couple of other, less expensive half-canvas options that you can get year-round for less. Full review of the Crosby Fit template can be found here.
Yes they’re fused, but boy do they move well. They’re not some cardboard stiff, cheap department store suit. Shoulders are soft. Button stance is slung on the lower side (so you show plenty of shirt). And the wool is pretty decent. Usually lined in acetate too, which is better than crunchy polyester. Non-functioning sleeve buttons make for easy tailoring. Stick with either the worsted or Voyager wool options. The Voyager isn’t as silky smooth as some would like (a few might even like the texture), but it really does resist wrinkles pretty well. Know that the lapels are on the slim side (2.5″) since these are basically a step-down, fused version of the Ludlow from J. Crew. Usually excluded from codes, but every once in a while, you can get one of these for the mid $200s.
Still awfully expensive even with the current 15% off sale that they’re running through 9/14. BUT… it is a full canvas construction. That’s right. The thing will eventually mold to your frame, over time, and it’ll become your own personal suit of business/dressed-up-pleasure… armor. Built to provide extra ventilation, which is great if you tend to perspire. Part wool, part engineered fibers. Just a half-lining in the back. Much more affordable compared to their all wool suits, even if you don’t get quite the luxurious hand feel. But they look good and wear quite well. Keep an eye on the sale section and you could potentially get one for a lot less.
A big time splurge, but know that they did just get a hefty discount during the Anniversary Sale (was priced at just under $400 no less). And to some, this’ll be the best fabric on the list. It’s the stretch. It really does stretch. The 98% wool / 2% lycra blend is super smooth, and provides undeniable stretch, spring, and snap-back. Sleeve buttons are non functioning, and they don’t even bother with faux accent stitching (which makes tailoring even easier). 3″ lapels are slim, but won’t be seen as overly skinny by most. Pants are slim, but not skinny, and that extra stretch helps. Union made in Canada by one of America’s premier designers. Size shown above is an untailored 40R.
Full disclosure: I have yet to personally order from Black Lapel. But I have seen the end results of an order, and they’re impressive. Had an acquaintance getting married a summer or so back, and his proportions (6 foot tall, 37″ sleeve length) meant he had no idea where to turn to buy a suit. He’s a slimmer dude, so to find sleeves that hit him right was almost impossible. I pointed him towards Black Lapel. He and his soon to be husband took the measurements, sent em’ in, and once the suit came in, only a minor tweak at the waist had to be made by a local tailor. He looked sharp as hell. Suit fit him perfectly. So while the online custom suit business can often end in disaster (either due to mix ups on the creation end, or, user error when submitting measurements)… Black Lapel seems to be one of the safer choices.
From start to finish, nobody does it better than Suitsupply. Their blue line starts at $399 and offers Half-Canvas construction, Italian wools, and a variety of colors plus a couple different fits. Sometimes it can be tough to get your size though. Depends on how fast they’re selling. Pictured above is a solid navy Suitsupply Napoli fit. Button stance is a touch higher than the lower slung J. Crew suits, but it’s well balanced with their wider (yet not wide) notch lapels. Shipping and returns are always free. One thing to note: If you don’t skip leg day at the gym, and thus have some beef to your lower body, you might have trouble with their pants. They have a tendency to run slim, especially in the thigh and seat area.
Spier & Mackay Contemporary or Slim Fit – $343.70 ($448 CAD)
If you don’t like functioning sleeve cuff buttons, yet want a half-canvas suit, then Spier & Mackay is probably your best bet. Their shipping and returns policy isn’t as kind as Suitsupply (you can send your first, but only first, suit or sportcoat back for free) but they make half-canvas suits from Australian merino wool in two different, well appreciated fits (Slim and Contemporary.) Lapel width and button stance are both timeless. Curved boat-style pocket is a plus. Linings are bemberg. shoulders are on the soft side, and drape is terrific. Shown above is a 40R in their tailored but not tight “contemporary” fit on 5’10” / 185. Only tailoring done was to bring the sleeve cuffs up a little bit, and hem the pants. And speaking of the pants, their contemporary fit is much more accommodating in the seat, thigh, and calf, compared to a Suitsupply Napoli. Armholes and chest are also opened up for the weight lifting set on the contemporary fit. Full, in depth review of Spier & Mackay’s suiting can be found here.
Got a tip on an affordable navy suit that should have made the list? Send it in to email@example.com