green dot tie with navy suitThere comes a time in every man’s life in which he must emerge from the cocoon of boys’ clothes and start dressing like an adult. In the Western world, this is often commemorated with buying your first “good” suit. Typically this happens towards the tail end of college, when you realize that you have to look good for those graduation photos and job interviews.

It’s common for men to experience a bit of cognitive dissonance at this point in their lives. We are taught from the cradle that the world is a meritocracy and that we will be judged on the quality of our work and the content of our character, not our appearance. Once we’re in the interview seat, however, we’re told that we have ten seconds to make a strong impression and that your attire is instrumental in effecting that. This leaves many young men nervously asking, “What the hell do I do now?”

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

What Should My First Suit Be?

Man adjusting sleeve of power suitWhen buying their first suit, most men are on a tighter budget. This is fine, but it also means that you have to make the smartest decision possible as there’s less room for error. You need something versatile to make your dollars stretch as far as they can go, and something of high enough quality to last you a few years while you’re wearing that one suit to every important occasion that arises. Thankfully, there are really only two options when it comes to buying your first suit:

  • Solid navy blue, or
  • Solid charcoal grey

The beauty of both of these suits is the fact that they function as a tabula rasa in terms of outfit building. Either will form the backbone of your capsule wardrobe (link to capsule wardrobe article) and thusly will pair perfectly with other basics you should acquire: white and blue shirts, red, blue, and yellow ties, and so on. As you progress in building your wardrobe, you will find that these suits also offer a blank canvas against which to pair boldly-patterned shirts and ties, fun socks, braces (“suspenders” in American English), and the like.

Medium brown shoes will be a smash hit with either color. Black will pair wonderfully with charcoal, but doesn’t look as smart with navy. Sartorially conservative industries (e.g. law, government, finance) will have no issue seeing black shoes with navy suits, so you should never rule them out as an option.

How Much Should My First Suit Cost and Where Should I Buy It?

man getting measured for bespoke suitWe recognize that budget is a legitimate factor to consider and don’t recommend emptying your entire savings account to buy a suit. We do, however, insist that you buy the highest quality that you can afford. With the way the suiting market is today, you should be able to budget about $500 (give or take $100 or so) and get yourself a good-quality suit in a reasonable time frame. This amount of money will allow you to either get an entry-level made-to-measure suit or a low-to-mid-range ready-to-wear suit. Alterations will be an additional charge in the latter scenario, but $500 or so should have you covered in that regard.

For MTM, companies like My.Suit NY and Indochino offer options for as little as $449. There will be upcharges for specialty linings or higher-end fabrics, but for your first suit, none of that is necessary. Because part of what you’re paying for is fabric, these companies will charge extra for creating “Big & Tall” suits. Be sure to check what chest/waist size this is before swiping your credit card, if for no other reason that to be an informed consumer.

For RTW, Suitsupply offers very good-looking suits for as low as $399. There will be additional charges for alterations, so again, keep this in mind as you budget. Believe it or not, Men’s Wearhouse has become more modern in recent years and can actually get you looking quite good at a reasonable price. Both of these companies do tailoring in-house so you don’t have to worry about finding one on your own.

You can always go to a department store like Macy’s, where they will generally have suiting basics at lower prices, but it’s advisable to have your own tailor if that’s they route you take. Many locations don’t offer tailoring, and if they do, it’s generally not up to snuff.

Where Do I Wear My First Suit?

Man in blue suit with no tieVersatility is key with your first suit, so no matter whether you pick navy blue or charcoal, you can wear it to literally any occasion that requires a jacket and tie. These could be:

  • Graduations
  • Job interviews
  • Meetings with the boss
  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • Networking events
  • Nights on the town
  • Fancy dinners with family
  • Random days at work when you want to kill it at the office
  • Mad Men-themed parties

The list could go on forever if you really wanted it to.

Be sure to accessorize your suit in a way that fits the occasion. For most job interviews, we’d advise against, say, bright red socks to match the tie you’re wearing. For a wedding, though? Why not pair a pink checked shirt with a royal blue tie with pink polka dots? The point here is to exercise good taste and common sense at all times.

Down The Road

If you end up buying something you like that makes you look like a million bucks, you’ll want to find more occasions to wear the suit than just “special” ones. With that said, the hope is that your suit will help you to look better, work better, and get promoted more quickly as a result. This yields you more income, and with that you can purchase more suits and repeat the process.

Do your research, shop, and make a great investment in yourself and your future.