As members of a modern society, we consume things via the Internet. We find romantic partners, shop for groceries, order take-out, and even “commute” to work online.
It only makes sense that we would buy our suits online too.
This article will focus on how to buy suits online from ready-to-wear companies as well as second hand marketplaces like eBay. If you’re curious about buying made-to-measure suits online, click the preceding link.
If you’re looking for other types of suit information, we have an entire section of our site that deals with:
You can also visit our Suits Homepage for more information on suits in general.
Top Four Tips For Buying Suits On The Web
As even the cheapest suits can still be the most expensive items in our wardrobes, it’s important to keep some basic guidelines in mind when you’re buying one without trying it on or even feeling the fabric:
- Know your chest, waist and inseam measurements as well as your height and weight.
- Be cognizant of return/alterations policies. Colors may not work or the fit may be way off, and you don’t want to get stuck with something you can’t return.
- Use a good computer monitor: colors can (and often will) look different in person than on-screen.
- You’ll definitely need some alterations done. Have a good tailor at the ready.
Ready-To-Wear Suits Online
Off-the-rack (a synonym for ready-to-wear) suits are sized by a number and a letter. Numbers often range anywhere from 34-60 depending on the store and brand, whereas letters are S, R, L, and sometimes XL. You might see things like 40L, 54XL, 36S, and so on.
The numbers refer to chest sizes (in inches), while the letters refer to the length of the jacket: Short, Regular, Long, and Extra Long. The difference between each length is generally about 1.25″.
Consult the brand’s size chart to see how they size things for your height and weight. Remember that each brand will have subtle differences in their block patterns.
Be aware of different “fits” like Slim, Athletic, Modern, and the like. There is no industry-wide standardization for these terms, so you have to pay attention to photos the brand provides. Many websites also have customer reviews built into each individual item, so take advantage of that. If 96 out of 100 people say that the suit fits snugly and not “true to size,” it’ll fit you just the same.
Sets Versus Separates
Some suits are sold as sets while others are sold as separates.
A set refers to a jacket and trousers that are sold as a pre-ordained pair, with specific chest and pant waist sizes paired strategically. Typically there’s a six inch difference between jacket and pant sizes (for example, a 38R jacket will often come with 32″ waist pants), and this is referred to as a “drop.”
The above example has a 38 jacket with a 31 trouser waist, making for a seven-inch drop.
Separates, on the other hand, is a way to buy suits that allows for more accurate sizing. With separates, the jackets and pants are sold as “a la carte” items so you can choose the sizes you need without being locked into a pre-determined drop. This is particularly helpful if you’re an athletic guy with a big chest and a narrow waist.
A decent strategy (if your budget allows) is to buy more than one size of the suit you’re looking at and return those which don’t work.
The men’s tailoring industry, like the rest of the clothing industry, is slowly but surely pivoting to an online model. It’s impossible to say whether or not brick-and-mortar stores will survive, but what we do know is that more and more men are making their purchases online. Should you join their ranks, be aware of the pitfalls and advantages.
When buying suits, it’s also helpful to be aware of your body type and your coloring. It’s one thing to know what you like, but it’s quite another to know what cuts and colors will look best on you. Click the previous links for full guides on how to determine what your body type is and what your coloring is.