4 Steps to Suit Up for Any Occasion (with an Actual Suit)

If you’re anything like me, style doesn’t come naturally to you.

I say that as someone who owns two pairs of jeans at any given time and chooses to pretty much only wear one.

I also say that as someone whose fullest extent of casual fashion goes all the way up to solid color sweaters before careening off a cliff into what I assume to be a poisonous smog of confusion and poor style choices.

But none of that matters when you get into the really fun part of male fashion.

Suits.

Suits are the best.

A good-fitting suit can make anyone look like an executive at the top of their game. It’s almost like a transformation from mild-mannered tractor trailer into Optimus Prime.

Suits show how far you’re willing to go for your appearance. They showcase a degree of self-care and confidence.

It’s easy to go overboard, of course — you’ve probably seen or met at least one person wearing a suit who’s a total dick.

But don’t let that discourage you — suits are the best.

The only problem is figuring out what accessories go with what suit, especially when you don’t formally dress that often.

If you find yourself in that exact predicament, here are four questions you can ask yourself to figure out how you (and your suit) can look your best!

#1. What Kind of Suit Are You Wearing?

Generally speaking, suits break down into one of three categories:

  1. Two piece
  2. Three piece
  3. Tuxedo

We’re going to talk about two piece and three piece suits.

If you’re here looking for advice for a tuxedo, we can sum it up in one sentence:

Wear the whole thing and get a nice watch.

So with tuxedos done, let’s consider two piece suits.

Two Piece Suits

Two piece suits are exactly what they say on the tin — a suit made of pants and a jacket.

The rest of the ensemble is your shirt and a tie. Even then, the tie is optional in most cases, so your suit is going to do most of the visual talking for you.

Two piece suits work best for semi-formal social occasions or formal business occasions. They’re the uniform of the up-and-comers, and every executive has a walk-in closet packed with fitted fabrics that would cost more money than most of us earn in our lives.

Still, because of the lack of extra visual stimuli on a two piece suit, they’re the perfect outfits for accessorizing.

In terms of picking accessories, we recommend looking into:

  • Shoes (obviously)
  • Socks
  • Tie (neck or bow)
  • Tie clip
  • Watch (wrist or pocket)
  • Hat or cap

With these extra accessories, you’ll be well-equipped to make any statement you want at any occasion with your two piece suit.

Three Piece Suits

Three piece suits are the formal, dressed-up alternative to their two piece counterparts.

Three piece suits include jackets, pants, and vests. Vests get thrown into the mix to add an extra visual element to the suit, which also adds some elegance and sophistication to you overall.

Depending some other elements of your suit (which we’ll cover soon), you may want to pick one or two accessories that’ll help you make a statement.

  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Tie (neck or bow)
  • Tie clip
  • Pocket watch
  • Hat or cap

Otherwise, it’s possible to make a three piece suit look “busy,” especially when it has a print.

Speaking of your suit’s print…

#2. What’s Your Suit Color and Print?

Your suit’s color and print are paramount to nailing the perfect suit-accessory combo.

The color of your suit can actually determine where and when you wear it. Lighter colored suits are considered less formal, and darker colored suits are considered more formal.

Likewise, suits with a print are often considered more formal — especially pinstripes — unless they’re intentionally gaudy or over-the-top.

But before we get too far into prints, let’s circle back to color.

Suit Color

Again, lighter suits are considered less formal and darker suits are considered more formal.

That means lighter-colored suits can appear out of place at formal occasions, especially if the suit is white or ivory, which are typically reserved for the groom of a wedding.

So while you may love the suit that’s reminiscent of 1980s Don Johnson from Miami Vice (that’s the right show, right?), it’s not the smartest choice to wear to a young professionals meetup if you want to be taken seriously.

Pictured: The joke of the mixer.

That’s where black, gray, navy, and charcoal suits really shine.

These dark colors are the perfect hue for almost any occasion from a formal get-together to an actual event.

They look good on just about everyone, and when you have it tailored, darker colors create a thinning appearance on the wearer.

In other words, you look fit — even if you’re not working out at the time.

Is that a vain thing to point out? Of course

But we’re talking about suits, which are pretty expensive, so the whole tone of this blog post might as well be “vanity.”

Suit Print

Suit prints are a little more difficult to explain than color.

So, thanks to the gents at Real Men Real Style, you can see the most common suit prints in one place here:

We’re partial to herringbone and pinstripe because they’re timeless.

Other prints, like birdseye or nailshead, can come across a little dated.

If you’re looking for a solid color-print combo, we recommend going with a navy pinstripe suit.

It’s timeless, it’s perfect for every occasion, and it straight-up looks great.

Also, if you’ve been reading this whole blog, you’ve probably noticed we mentioned “occasion” a few times.

So let’s talk about occasions!

#3. What’s the Occasion?

Occasion impacts the suit you can wear because some occasions are more formal and socially stringent than others.

There are two kinds of occasions you’ll attend wearing a suit: semi-formal and formal.

Semi-Formal Occasions

Semi-formal occasions are social soirees where everyone wants to look their best but also doesn’t want to be caught trying too hard to stand out.

Semi-formal occasions usually include:

  • Professional gatherings
  • Landmark birthdays (40, 50, 60, etc.)
  • Holiday parties
  • Fine restaurants
  • Proms
  • Some weddings

Pulling off a semi-formal appearance in a suit is fairly easy. It usually means wearing a two piece suit that’s a solid color or shows a simple print.

Ties are optional, but watches and nice shoes are expected.

You can also work out a pocket square if you want a sharp accent piece without calling too much attention to yourself.

Formal occasions, however, are different.

Formal Events

Formal events are typically evenings of recognition or celebration in someone’s honor.

Formal events can include:

  • Awards ceremonies
  • Christenings
  • Funerals
  • Religious holidays
  • Balls
  • Galas
  • Other weddings

Formal events are most often attended by those who earn lots of money because they’re the ones who can afford the sizable financial barrier to entry that formal occasions demand.

But, hey, if you keep at it, maybe you’ll one day have thousands of dollars to spend on a suit that you’ll wear for a few hours at an award ceremony for your boss.

(Although you should always shoot to be the boss, but I digress.)

So you have your suit. You have your color. You have your occasion.

Now what statement do you want to make?

#4. What Statement Do You Want to Make?

Fashion statements are funny because they’re rarely interpreted as the wearer intends.

Clashing colors can come across obnoxious or busy.

Flashy patterns on awkward prints can create optical illusions.

Wearing black and brown just doesn’t work.

Statements are always risky, but they’re also fun if the occasion is right.

We recommend not making statements at weddings, funerals, or other occasions that come with a serious overtone and your best friend’s fiance warning you not to say what you were going to say in your best man’s speech.

However, statements are fun in social occasions where others may already know you, your sense of humor, and how you think.

They’re also fun ways to enter parties where you don’t know anyone at all because what are they going to do other than remember you anyway?

You can create a fashion statement in a number of ways.

Suit Cut

Most suits have a cut that works for your body, like regular or slim.

You can make a statement by choosing the ideal cut for yourself, which will make you look nicer and more kempt, or you can choose the wrong cut for yourself and look like a goofball.

Color

You can pretty much do anything with color — even embarrass strangers!

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys causing residual humiliation (think the “Scott’s Tots” episode of The Office), you have the perfect occasion to mash loud, bright colors together in an overly-stylized display of flagrant disregard for social convention.

You can also take the approach of dressing in more standard, accepted color combinations like navy and cognac.

Either way, you’re making a statement. You just have to choose what you want your colors to say.

Anachronistic

“Anachronistic” is a far-too-long word that means “this thing doesn’t belong in this decade.”

Common anachronisms are wearing bell bottom pants in 2019. Others are tying a flannel shirt around your waist like it’s 1996.

(Although that one’s changing now, to be honest.)

Suit anachronisms can be anything from wearing a zootsuit to popping the lapel on your collar like you’re a coke dealer from 1980s Brooklyn.

You can also wear out-of-style prints, like brightly-colored plaid.

It all works, and it all makes a strong visual statement to whoever has the (mis)fortune of looking at you.

Suit Up!

And just like that, voila!

You’re all set for the ball, Mr. or Mrs. or Mz. Suit!

Or the ’80s party.

Or the professionals’ mixer.

Or your next promotion.

… Y’know, we’re just going to stop guessing at what you’re doing and hope you pull it off the way you want to pull it off.

Hell yeah.

Want to Hear More about Suiting Up?

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