When you put on a suit, rules are sometimes made to be broken. And when it comes to suits, rules should be bent, but not broken – by most of the people. There are many ways to look at the way history treats the trendsetters, and chances are you’ll run into some pretty funny images of broken rules that never quite took off. A suit in many ways is like a highly customizable uniform, with a base set that needs to be respected. So take a look at these few simple rules and try to learn the bulk of them. Well unless you’re a trendsetter, that is.
We all know about suit colors and the foundation of Black, Charcoal Gray and Navy Blue. But what about the other colors that get swept under the rug in favor of the foundation? And can these colors be mixed and matched? Starting with the first question, the foundation should also consist of white. An incredible universal color, white goes hand and hand with black in many instances. If you’ve worn a black suit and everyone thought you were heading to a funeral, then some white may help. Add in a little white here and there, and all of a sudden you have a stylish match.
Now when trying to break from the common suit suit combinations, there are many ways to decide what is best. Since gray can be a little bit of a ‘gray’ area, consider Cambridge/Medium gray as an alternative. Of all the shades of gray, this one will offer the most support when matched with the rest of your closet. If you are feeling adventurous, then light gray is an alternative-but tread carefully. Light gray tends to mean different things depending on the fabric that is being used. That leads to uneven tones across all fabrics and leading brands.
Dark Brown & Mixing
The lone wolf when going outside of the foundation is the dark brown suit. It is a warm, comfortable and just all out impressive color when done right. But just like white, when too much of it is on at the same time it can be jarring. Personal skin tone also has to be taking into account when dealing with dark brown suits. And lastly, tan/khaki suits can be pulled off, and you don’t have to be over 70 years old to make it happen. There is a bit of push and pull when it comes to the overall outfit, yet the correct wearer can make it work.
This last paragraph will cover mixing and matching colors. At some point there will be an entire article covering this process, as it deserves its own space. So to keep it short, there is a reason good suits come in certain colors only. Mixing and matching is less about colors, and more about style. Color does factor in on many cases, and can be the deciding factor. But when it comes to priority, the style is going to determine how the rest of the outfit goes. This can mean only matching certain brands, fabrics and even pieces. It’s a very confusing process that’s worth the effort to anyone that takes the time to understand it.
For Looks Only
Now here are the phantom rules that may tick some people off. These rules are for nothing more than vanity, and hold no material substance. Trying to question them will give you a headache, and yet there are centuries of tradition behind the madness. But what about those that want to be adventurous? And just how important are the vanity rules when it comes to suits? The answers and suggestions are a bit surprising for more reasons than one.
You see that last button on your suit? Leave it unbuttoned, as it has no other purpose than aesthetic. First time wearers of suits often run into this problem when surfaces. In order to get that smooth one handed opening and closing motion down, adhering to this task is vital. And if this is the hardest rule you have to follow all day then it becomes child’s play. Leaving the last button on the suit alone follows the next rule, which is to unfasten your buttons when sitting. That one handed motion comes in handy in this instance, and has a little bit more to it than just visual pleasure. Still there are many that leave their suit buttoned up while sitting, and thus end up looking uncomfortable.
The unbuttoned shirt from the top is not a look that works when a tie is on, so tread carefully. A lot of people that leave the shirt unbuttoned at the top just need a good tailor. When the shirt is uncomfortable to the point it is chocking you, then a good tailor is in order. And if you absolutely have to have the top buttons undone, then take off your tie! Being visually stunning does not mean it should be done at the sacrifice of being comfortable.
Pocket Squares & Smartwatches
Pocket squares are an underappreciated bunch, yet hold great value to complete the look of a suit. Small and effective, they deserve to be as sharp as the suit. That means being careful with colors, fabrics and placement. Pocket squares should always be ironed, as wrinkled up shrivels of fabric hanging out of your pocket is unattractive. In fact wrinkled pocket squares look like used napkins to the untrained eye. Pocket squares should also maintain opposite colors when available, meaning that a dark suit should have a light pocket square. Switch that around depending on the suit, and you have a winner.
This last visual rule is a bit hit or miss depending on who you talk to, even in the professional world. It has to do with watches. Sports watches are a no-no when you’re wearing a suit, and it’s considered a bad pairing. That used to be the tradition and majority thinking. But with the invention of smartwatches, things have become a bit blurry in that field. To help things out, major smartwatch developers have offered styling ‘add-on’s for their hardware. That means if you have a sports watch you can change the look to a suit appropriate styling in a matter of minutes. Let’s face it, if you dropped almost half a grand on a smartwatch to pair with your phone, you’re wearing it regardless of the suit!
Accessories – Good and Bad
The accessory crazy with the suit is nowhere near the craze for iPhone accessories. Yet there still remains a lot of options for someone that may be a too ambitious for their own good. Like all things concerning the suit there is a balance, so take that into consideration. When it gets to the point where they make the wearer look like a five star general, then it has gone overboard.
The most overused accessory is one that people wouldn’t consider part of the suit-cologne. Counting cologne as an accessory of a suit is not a big stretch. But when one spritz becomes too many, then it becomes overbearing. This is a hard message to convey to someone applying the cologne, as the scent will be somewhat masked. When in doubt, one spray is enough, and the suit should arrive long before the smell.
Pins & Cufflinks
Pins are another accessory that is prone to overabundance. The beauty of a Red Rose Lapel pin is breathtaking, and almost better than the real thing. This is especially true when it comes to silvers, golds and even platinum’s. Depending on the event, pins may be required. Walking into a charity event that hands you a pin to wear simplifies things if you don’t already have 100 attached. Pins are a part of your suit only if you allow them, and only if the event requires them. So if your pin looks like it is telling a story on your chest then it’s time to scale it back. Which leads to the next accessory, and one of the serial rule breakers.
Cufflinks are the easiest accessory to match with a suit but the biggest rule breaker when it comes to diversifying. Owning 4 suits and one pair of cufflinks doesn’t mean the cufflinks go with all the suits. That is due to the metal being different from your belt, watch and other accessories. They should all match up just like any other accessory you wear, rather than being the outlier. Having a collection of cufflinks beyond a single pair is a very good way to get a feel for them. There is nothing about building a collection of cufflinks and having choices when you match up suits.
And a Final Note On Accessories
For those that wear suspenders, it’s important to note that wearing a belt with them is redundant. Both young and old wearers have dabbled in suspenders, as they offer a unique look. Once again, it is all about diversifying your look and feeling comfortable in your own skin. So if you feel the need to put on suspenders with your suit, leave the belt at home. And as a rule of etiquette, it’s always a good idea to wear a sport coat or suit jacket when you do.
Even with the worst accessories attached there is always room for improvement in the actual suit. That means spending more time making the suit perfect pre-accessory and then adding the finishing touches later. When you use accessories to enhance an already perfect suit, it becomes a beautiful combo that completes your vision. Don’t let the accessories make the suit or you’ll be working backwards from the start. And don’t be afraid to experiment with combinations and get out of your comfort zone when it comes to matching.
Bending the Rules?
All of the rules of etiquette are bent or totally destroyed at one point. They remain in effect for a reason, even when it comes to watches. That is about the most leniency you’ll see in a lot of areas, yet there still remains this incredible freedom with dressing up. Having an idea of how to dress in a suit is one thing. Having unlimited brands, time and plenty of motivation is even better. Rules or not, suits are the best way to exude confidence while still looking good.