Those of you in the financial or business sector have got this covered, but for those who don't wear one to work everyday, it doesn't make sense to have a closet full of suits if you only wear one five or six times a year. So, here are some quick tips for the rest of us - the recent college grad, the artist, the programmers - on buying one suit and dressing it up and down to wear it multiple ways.
Fit first. The most important aspect to any suit is the way it fits your body. Rather than spending bunches of money and time finding the one that fits perfectly, find one that gets you most of the way there, and spend another $100 or so on a tailor to customize it to your features. Or, look at some made-to-fit options like those from Indochino.
Versatility comes from color. If you're only going to buy one suit, buy it in medium or charcoal gray. It works all year round, and will never go out of style. Dark blue might work if it particular suits your coloring, but gray can be dress with both black and brown accessories - like your shoes and belt - making it work with more shirt and tie combos. [Suit: Nanotech Gray Microdot - Indochino (at top)]
Now that you're set in gray, here are five ways to wear it for any sort of occasion.
The Interview. This is the classic business office look. While lapels, cuts, and tie width might change, the standard uniform does not. Wear a classic shirt - white or light blue, or some barely there jewel tones - and pair it with a striped tie. Nothing ambitious...let your work and personality speak for you. Unless, of course, you have some insider info on the office culture; then you can explore one of the options below. [Suit: Tailored Charcoal Italian Wool Two Button - Banana Republic]
The Date Night. Wanna make any random Friday night dinner out feel more special? Wear a suit. Your gray suit, of course, with a checked shirt and a solid tie. And throw in a pocket square or a tie bar. Even if your dinner reservation doesn't demand it, do it anyway. You bought the suit, so use it. [Suit: Ludlow with Double Vent - J. Crew]
The Wedding (and the Funeral). These formal occasions are the time to look sharp, but not stand out. If you're attending a wedding with a date, then just appear clean - well-fitting gray suit, black tie, white shirt: the Don Draper-look. Same works for a funeral, especially if you're a pallbearer or participating in some way. (Of course, if you own a black suit, it's more appropriate here.) If you're attending a wedding with the potential for getting a date, it's okay to flash it up just a bit (as above), but don't try to outshine the couple. Not cool. [Photo: AMC]
The Special Event. For specific occasions - that extra special date night like an anniversary, or when attending a show or gallery event - go for classic, yet exciting. Leave the patterns behind, but opt for some bolder colors, like a deeper blue shirt, or even a lavender or pink if you can pull it off. Keep your tie in a thin, New England-like stripe, or go for the tone on tone look as in the image above. It's fun, yet not flashy. And if you can pull off a bow tie (I cannot), now's the time to bust it out. [Suit: Ludlow Double Vent in Italian Cotton Pique - J. Crew]
The Traveler. Often, when traveling for work or vacation, you'll need a suit upon your arrival. And while first-classers in business blue are a common sight at the airport, there's no way I'ma get up at 3:00 in the morning and put on a suit to fly across the country. Most men's style blogs will tell you not to wear a suit jacket with jeans, as that should be reserved for a sportcoat or blazer. But, while it might not be ideal, you can get away with a suit jacket and jeans on certain occasions, and an airplane is definitely one of them. Just make sure your jeans or pants and shoes are as as close to dressy as and have a similar fit to your jacket - dark, slim jeans, leather shoes, dark socks, etc.
And, for goodness sake, tuck in your shirt. [Jacket: Tailored charcoal herringbone two-button blazer]