There was a time when men who worked in an office wore a suit everyday. There was also a time when men would drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes profusely in those offices. Those days are gone. And for as much as Mad Men made us wish they weren’t, it’s for the better. Our livers, lungs, and mirrors look better for it.
Today, there are just a few professions left that call for a man to wear a suit on a regular basis. In many ways, the pendulum has swung all the way to the other side where shorts and sweatpants (fancy sweatpants, of course) have become acceptable office attire. That shift has its own cons and you could make the argument that a little more formality in attire could lead to a little more professionalism at work. But the fact remains that men’s fashion has become more casual and doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. So in that environment does a guy still need a suit? And does he need more than one?
If you’re a person who works in a place where a suit is still the de rigueur attire, feel free to stop reading here. You still need multiple suits, at least until your corporate culture catches up to the times and those suits end up looking like fossils hanging in your closet. But if you’re the person who was brought up on the idea that every guy needs to have at least one navy, one grey, and one black suit in the closet at all times but can’t remember the last time you wore any of them, then this is for you.
Pick up any men’s magazine and the odds are pretty good that it will contain a fashion story with some variation of the headline “How to wear a suit now.” It will show some Hollywood actor looking cool while draped in an array of finely tailored suits from top designers that each probably cost the same as one (if not multiple) rent checks. You can’t deny that the celebrity looks good, but it’s also tough to understand how to incorporate that look into your everyday life.
Today, one suit is all that a guy needs. The only time most men wear a suit anymore is for milestone occasions like a wedding or a funeral. Those events rarely occur on back-to-back days so you don’t have to be concerned with wearing the same thing twice.
With weddings, there is the issue of the rehearsal dinner. If that is a more formal affair, you don’t want to sport the exact same jacket and pants on Friday and Saturday, even if you switch up your shirt and tie. But it’s a problem that can be easily solved by breaking up the suit into separates. Pair a navy suit jacket with grey or tan pants or combine the suit pants with a different colored blazer. All of a sudden you have a completely different outfit without needing to shell out for an additional suit.
For funerals, tradition holds that one wear black. But show me a person who calls out a man for wearing a navy suit instead of a black one and I will show you an asshole.
The idea of “buying less, but buying better” is a popular one these days, and it’s one that especially holds true with suits. I’d challenge anyone to come up with an occasion where a sharp navy suit couldn’t be made appropriate. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your style or not look your best. You simply find the one suit that, ahem, suits you and stick with it. There are endless ways to change the way that single suit looks by incorporating things that you wear on a more regular basis. Want to make that navy suit look more casual? Wear the jacket over a crisp white T-shirt and put on a pair of equally crisp white sneakers. Want to make it look polished but not stuffy? Throw on a slim turtleneck sweater under the jacket and rock it with brown wingtips sans socks. Do that and no one is going to come up to you and say, “Isn’t that the same suit you wore last week?”
Finding a suit that can be so versatile means you have to prioritize quality. Fast fashion has its place, but it isn’t for buying suits that you will own for years to come. Stick with a reputable designer whose style you appreciate and find something that allows the other elements of the outfit to shine. Because if you pick a suit with, say, a really thick pinstripe that will always stand out to others as that pinstripe suit. Whereas if you opt for something more subtle, the other details stick out in people’s memory, freeing you to wear the same suit multiple times.
Perhaps the best part of finding “one suit to rule them all,” to paraphrase Lord Of The Rings, is that it frees up space in your closet and your wallet to buy other things that you will get plenty of use out of, like sneakers…and whiskey (just don’t drink it in the office).
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