The Sartorial Lawyer

We as lawyers are expected to wear suits. Maybe not everyday, and for some of us, maybe not even every other day. But when the partner or client comes beckoning, we are expected to show up in full armor.

Suits are not work uniforms. They shouldn’t be. Suits portray who you are and can cloak you in more awesomeness than you could ever imagine. Compared to New York, Washington, DC isn’t really a fashion mecca. In the bustling Metro or crowded sidewalks, spotting really ugly suits is a commonality. Colors are boring and mismatched, and the fit is terrible. I have seen some younger professionals sport fine suits, but those are a rarity.

Recently, folks have been asking me some basic suiting questions, from brands to colors and patterns to fit. The following is a short summary of the basics of what every man should know before buying a suit.

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1. Colors and Patterns: The basic color is black. This is where it all begins. Every man should have a crisp black suit. Nothing is more classic (in a good way) than a perfectly fitted black suit with a white oxford shirt. Black is great for all occasions – meetings, interviews, weddings, parties and in-laws. Once you have a black suit, then comes navy. There are different shades of navy. I would start with a more conservative darker shade, which would be easier to match with different shirts and ties. Then I would move on to lighter shades. After black and navy, move on to gray. You should only think about pinstripes and other colors after you conquer black, navy and gray.

2. Slim Fit: Cut is everything! The jacket should slightly tug at your sides without feeling like the seams will pop every time you twist your torso. The pant legs should not be flapping in the wind like flags. While you don’t want to look like a gothic punk high school kid, your pant width should be reasonably slim. Show a little cuff; your jacket sleeves should allow you to show anywhere between 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of your shirt cuff. Your pants shouldn’t be too long; they should fall nicely on the top of your shoes without folding. You don’t want your pants too short, so that you can see your socks while you’re standing up. But being on the shorter side is always better than the bottom of your pants fold up like grandma’s pancakes. Invest in a tailor. I cannot emphasize this enough. Most of us aren’t loaded enough to by custom-made suits, so we buy them off the rack. Visiting a tailor to customize your off-the-rack suit to your body will make $300 suit look like a thousand-dollar Armani.

3. “Two-button” is the jacket of choice: Three-buttons are of the past, and they’ll make you look like you’re wearing your dad’s jacket. One-buttons are stylish in certain settings, but if the primary purpose of your suit purchase is work-related, one-buttons may not be professional enough (but for tuxedos, one-buttons are the classic model and the way to go).

4. Think of the Shoes: Your suit and shoes should go together like PB&J. Black suits need brown shoes. Navy suits go with black shoes. Gray suits match well with brown shoes. Obviously, these rules are not engraved in stone. But remember, your shoes can make or break your suit.

5. Brands: This can be several posts in itself. In short, this totally depends on your budget. For me, I like Club Monaco for quality suits for reasonable prices. J-Crew has great suits with great fit, but I think they are overpriced. I don’t like the fit for Banana Republic suits (but that could just be me). Don’t underestimate outlet stores like the Barney’s New York outlet in Leesburg, VA. I was able to find a great Hugo Boss suit at a fraction of its original price. Never know what treasure you’ll find if you look hard enough.

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This is a simple summary of my thoughts on suits. I will break the criteria down in greater detail in future posts.

Stay tuned!

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