We at Suits and Books like our suits. We put them in our name after all. Yet, even if you are not fond of them, they are an essential part of being a City Professional and even more so in the job hunting process. Whether you are applying for an internship, a graduate position or just trying to gain business experience, a proper well-fitted and tailored suit is an absolute necessity.
Your first proper suit is not, we repeat not, a hand-me-down, something you wore at your formal/prom/summer dance, or some hipster number from Shoreditch (Sorry guys). In an interview, you need a suit that displays confidence, style, competence, and yes a little conformity. Until we all adopt the mandatory unitards of Star Trek, a good suit is an unavoidable expense for any prospective City Professional.
If you are already feeling overwhelmed, fear not, we here at Suits and Books have our top 9 tips on how to buy your first suit to dress to impress, stay within budget and save time.
1. Get measured.
Suits are often measured in centimetres (or inches) based on your chest size with variations of small, regular and large to fit every body shape. An ill-fitting suit shows (Did you see our latest Instagram?), so know your size and don’t be afraid to get measured in store. We’re aware that brands will not have a universal size system (despite your inner thoughts, they all try to flatter you by suggesting you have been recently shrinking), yet having your basic measurements beforehand will save you time in the fitting room.
2. Recruit a reliable second opinion.
Buying your first proper suit is a lot easier with someone helping. We recommend a patient girlfriend/boyfriend (or even a mother) with a good dress sense and a willingness to grab more suits from the racks whilst you are in the change room. While being flattered by the store assistants that everything fits on you perfectly is a nice ego-booster, don’t forget it is their job to do so.
3. Try, try and try again.
If you decide to do some ‘first suit’ browsing at 5pm on a Friday on Oxford street, it is a given it wil be crowded, stressful and an unproductive experience. Hence, go for some of the big retailers, may that be M&S, Debenhams or House of Fraser within the quieter hours. You will often find they have plenty of spare attendants, change rooms without item limits and large ranges. These are the friends of first-timers, especially if you don’t like pressure buying.
Alternatively, if you want a more personal service or know what you want and don’t mind a bit of a sales pitch, try retailers like Moss Bros, TM Lewin or Burton and independent high street shops which often make you feel a bit more special when you are trying on suits worth several hundred pounds.
4. Shop around.
A big mistake when buying your first suit is only trying a few shops or buying the first thing that looks good. There is no perfect suit, but the more you try, the more you will find something that matches your style and your budget.
If you are not sure, put the purchase on hold and walk away. We often use our 3-day rule ‘If you can’t stop thinking about it, go back’ – to the suit, of course. Impulsive purchases, as hard as it is, can be avoided, and taking into account the persuasiveness of store assistants, treat that walk away as a character building (yours and your account balance).
5. Go for quality, not the price tag.
This is a difficult one.
It is often easy to fall back into the student’s mindset that a bargain shouldn’t be missed out. Remember a good suit should last you at least several years. That is years of interviews, weddings, funerals and court appearances. Putting the occasions for wearing a suit on the side, quality is worth it and often (but not always) shown through the price tag.
Unfortunately, cheap suits stand out and those wearing them know it too. For obvious reasons we are still not completely buying the idea of ‘Dress for the job you want, not the one you have’, yet having worked for some time in a place where part of your job is to convince your clients you can make them richer, looking cheap-ish is definitely not an option (See alsoTip 7),
6. Dress for your industry.
Getting the style right depends very much on your desired career. We wouldn’t like to be overly stereotypical, yet creative industries (e.g. media, advertising) can get away with funky outfits, with odd cuts or checks and stripes. Nevertheless, for a City Professional the real options are often narrowed down to black, grey, dark blue and an occasional brown.
Whether you would like to fit in with the insurers in grey, the bankers in navy blue or the lawyers in black, don’t underestimate which style is simply the right one for you. Suits can bring out or clash with different skin tones, physics and personalities and following the rule of (50%)x Me + (50%)x Industry = (100%) Good choice, can turn out a success.
7. Add some conformity.
If the last Hunger Games movie has encouraged your rebellious nature, put that thought far away. We previously mentioned that your sole purpose in the workplace could often be to make someone richer, as blunt as it may sound. Would you trust your clients’ money, international expansion plans or multi-billion pound court case with a sharp dresser or with a sharp and responsible dresser? Whether you are at a job interview, already bidding for a project or delivering a pitch, dress in a way that projects more ‘sensibility, security and conformity’ and less eccentricity.
8. Material matters.
We are not going to lie – we have bought an occasional cute polyester/cotton blazer. As we already talked about quality, price and making the right impression, our top tip would be that material really matters. Pure wool is always worth the price for durability, look and the extra warmth in winter. And avoiding polyester, blends (unless we’re talking wool and cashmere) and artificial fibres will definetely make the difference when it comes to style, suit life expectancy and a sharp look.
Save the lighter fabrics such as cotton for the holidays to Spain.
9. Look out for the good examples.
And if all else fails? Keep your eyes out.
We all have our suit heroes – whether that’s Harvey Specter, Don Draper or Jack from the 5th floor. If not, the tube is an excellent moving catalogue for the good, bad and downright ugly suits. If you’re yet to land that dream job, check out what senior and junior staff are wearing on career events and make a mental note.
And, if you really can’t decide, a good black suit with a white shirt and simple silk tie is a look that will never let you down.
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