Power suit is a term that’s often-used, little understood, and arguably dated when it comes to suit styles. But what does it even mean?
Often associated with Wall Street bankers, shrewd lawyers or brash businessmen, it’s a catch-all often employed when suggesting a confident look. Sometimes it refers to a particular style that commands respect and other times it may not be so flattering.
In this guide, you will discover the Power Suit and what it really means. You will also learn how to wear one probably with tips and tricks for obtaining its full potential.
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Speaking metaphorically, a power suit is one that lives at the intersection of conservatism and boldness. The point is to exude confidence and, well, power.
The term “power suit” is a holdover from the 1980’s. When we hear that phrase, we think of the film Wall Street and Gordon Gekko’s clothes.
It conjures up images of wide, built-up shoulder pads and boxy looks.
Nowadays, a power suit is any expertly tailored conservative suit worn with bold colors that tell your audience that you’re competent and confident.
Practically speaking, this means bold blocks of conservative colors. “Conservative” in this sense is being used sartorially and is very similar to what we suggest for a job interview suit:
Feel confident and outgoing. Wearing a power suit should give you a psychological and sartorial edge over your peers.
When Should I Wear A Power Suit?
The point of a power suit is to make a positive, lasting, bold impression on your audience. They are therefore useful tools for:
- Job Interviews
- Sales & Business Development Meetings
We do not advise that you wear a power suit to a funeral. While it’s important to look your best at a funeral, you want to look subdued as well. Out of respect for the deceased and his/her family, wearing a power suit would be too bold a move.
It may also be a bit much to wear such a suit on a date, as the look is more imposing than it is sexy or romantic.
Power Suits & Suit Cuts: British, Italian, Or American?
If you haven’t done so yet, we invite you to take a look at our guides to British, American, and Italian (also known as Continental) suits. These pages will give you in-depth information as to the nuances of each suit “nationality.”
It’s worth discussing which suit cut might be best for a power suit. Our take is that British or new American is the way to go, while Italian and “old” American (that is, sack suits) are not. Why?
British and new American suits share many similarities, one of which is a muscular, almost militaristic regality. For the purposes of a power suit, this is perfect because that’s precisely the image you’re looking to project.
Sack suits, by virtue of their shapelessness, give off a sense of anonymity as opposed to power. Traditional Italian suits, with their slimmer fits, give off too sexy a vibe to function well as a power suit. They can turn the wearer into, as Alan Flusser puts it, “…a walking phallic symbol.”
The Power Suit By SharpSense
A while back we had the pleasure of reviewing a suit and some shirts from the online made-to-measure company SharpSense. We wrote up a full review, and it’s getting a mention again because, with the right accessories, it’s the perfect power suit. Here’s why:
- It’s a simple charcoal herringbone suit. The color is dark enough to exude the confidence you want, and the subtle texture of the herringbone adds visual interest while remaining conservative.
- The fit is modern and flattering but isn’t overly tight. Again, you want confident, not sexy.
- The details are classic and conservative: notched lapels, straight flap pockets, side vents. Though they’d be handsome, note the absence of details such as a ticket pocket, contrast stitching, etc. Unless you’re running your own business and / or are at the C-level of a company, we don’t recommend wearing suits with such details.
When you take the details of this SharpSense suit and combine them with bold and/ or conservative accents and accessories as we’ve done here, you get a powerful presentation that qualifies as a power suit.
Note the burgundy dotted tie combined with a simple white cotton pocket square below:
The power suit today is not what it used to be during the Reagan administration. We’ve moved away from boxy fits and (American) football player-like shoulder pads to modern, trimmer cuts, but the aim of the power suit is the same: project confidence, competence, and strength to the world around you.
For more information on suit styles, we invite you to check out out style guide home page.