Suit Mistakes To Avoid: Do’s and Don’ts of Formal Menswear

A man showcasing how to wear formal menswear. He is avoiding common suit mistakes

Suits can be tricky business. Like every other type of fashion, there are commonly accepted do’s and don’ts for styling a suit. In addition, what’s on-trend is always shifting with the seasons, adding another layer of complexity to getting dressed. Here we will go over the most common do’s and don’ts of formal menswear, so you have a solid base upon which to start building any look.

Suit Mistakes: The Jacket

The aesthetic and style of a suit heavily revolve around angles and lines. For example, in the jacket you have the angles and lines of the lapel, the pockets, the shoulders, the cuffs, and the back vents. Therefore, a significant percentage of what makes a high-quality jacket revolves around the visible proportions. Additionally, a well-made and well-fitted suit drapes over the body and creates an aesthetically pleasing silhouette.

The Most Visible Suit Mistake: The Length

So what makes a good jacket, and what makes a bad one? To start, consider the length. If the overall jacket length is off, the whole silhouette will look off. Additionally, this element is dependent on the shape of your body. Gents on the shorter side are going to want to have their jacket end just below the hip-bones. If you’re on the taller side, slightly longer than that is the way to go. Going too long or too short with your jacket can drastically affect the proportions of your silhouette.

Suit Button Configuration Mistakes

Additionally, the aesthetic style of a jacket can make a huge difference in the overall look. Even the button set-up impacts your look. Wearing the wrong button configuration for your frame will make it look more than a little disproportionate. Most body shapes do fine with a two-button set-up, but if you’re quite tall, go for three. If you do find that multiple buttons work best for your shape, always remember to never button the bottom one.

Suit Vent Mistakes

Additionally, the vents are important. Suit jackets typically come in single or double vent constructions. HARTTER | MANLY co-founder David Manly says to always go for the double vent option. Double vent is best for both aesthetic reasons, and to make sitting more comfortable.

Lapel Mistakes

The focal point of most suit jackets is the lapel. The lapel is the the border around the collar and neck of the jacket that transitions into the edges where the two jacket sides meet in the middle. We have an entire article specifically on lapel types. Our guide explains levels of formality each lapel type. It also tells you how to pick the right one for your body.

Suit Mistakes: The Shirt

A lot of mistakes revolving around the shirt involve the outer edges of the shirt. That is, the places where the shirt is exposed, such as the cuff and the collar. 

Common Mistakes With Shirt Cuffs

The most common shirt mistake is when the jacket sleeve shows too much or too little of the cuff underneath. Make sure the cuff of the shirt breaks right around the wrist-bone. In order to keep the look proportionate, leave only about a quarter of an inch showing underneath the sleeve of the jacket.

Suit and Shirt Collar Mistakes

In regards to the collar, a well-fitting suit is one that has almost zero space in between the jacket lapel and the shirt collar. If there is too much space between the two, the suit will appear baggy and poorly-fitted.

Suit Mistakes: The Trousers

For the trousers, the most common mistakes revolve around both the fit and the style.

Trouser Fit Mistakes

At the top half of the pants, mistakes usually involve the fit of the waist. While a great belt is important for a well put-together suit, the trousers themselves should not actually need a belt in order to fit. If your trousers won’t stay up without a belt, you have two problems. Not only are your trousers too big, but they also probably don’t look great. Extra fabric around the waist that is bunched up by a belt widens the appearance of the hips. A well-fitting suit is sleek and fitted from top to bottom.

Trouser Style Mistakes

For the bottom half of your trousers, pay attention to the break. The break is the point at which your pants meet your shoes, and is a vital detail. The trouser length should create a slight dent where the bottom of the trouser hits the top of your shoes. In order to ensure this, you want the trousers to extend about half an inch past the point at which the fabric naturally meets your shoes. If they’re too long, they will look baggy and bunched up at the bottom. If they’re too short, you will look like you’re wearing a pair of pants you outgrew in high school. 

Trouser Break Trends

H | M co-founder Eric Hartter has found that many of his clients have started wearing the break right at the shoe line for a trendier, bolder look, and this is just as acceptable as long as it’s truly right at the shoe line.

A wide shot of a bride and groom wedding portrait showing the groom in a well fitting burgundy suit. He is avoiding suit mistakes.

Suit Mistakes: The Bottom Line

There are vast numbers of mistakes that can be made when getting dressed for a formal event, the majority of which revolve around angles and lines. When you’re putting your suit together, think of it like a puzzle – the pieces need to be proportionate and fit together, otherwise the whole thing is a mess. These tips are here to help you put together your puzzle so it fits perfectly when it’s complete.

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Ezra Lambert

Ezra Lambert is a barber and freelance writer. In addition to his work in men’s grooming and lifestyle, he has also written numerous fiction pieces: two screenplays and a YA novel. He lives in San Diego, CA, with his dog, Toni. 

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