Vests or “waistcoats” were invented to provide an extra layer of warmth in colder climates. After central heating was invented, it became unnecessary. However as we have seen with other suit features, a part of the suit now rendered useless becomes quite trendy over time. Vests are a current trend in men’s fashion and are also considered a staple in formal wear.  It can be worn on any body type, just make sure that the last button remains unbuttoned and that the length meets 2 inches lower than the bottom of your belt. Also, it’s not a bad thing if your tie or belt buckle show.




A tPicture1uxedo is a well known term that is often misused. Usually, a tuxedo is referred to when one is looking for a formal suit. The question remains is if the person is attending a wedding or black tie event that requires a higher level of formality than a 3-piece suit.

A tuxedo is made up of a ventless jacket with satin peaked or shawl lapels, and 1 to 2 buttons that are covered in fabric. The matching straight leg trousers are cuff-less and have a satin stripe on each pant leg. This 2-peice suit may be worn with a wing tip collared shirt, matching vest, bowtie or cravat and cummerbund. Over time, this has been subject to alot of changes such as adding colour in the lapels or vest or ditching the bowtie, cummerbund and stripes. But, would a tuxedo remain a tuxedo without these details? The answer is no – striping away these details change the tuxedo so that it is no longer considered a tuxedo.

It is popular to rent a tuxedo for weddings and special occasions which can be a challenge as often times the tuxedo turns out to look worn and are either too tight or too big. Investing in a tuxedo may be an expensive option especially if black tie events are not frequently attended, it may be better to forgo renting and invest in a black wool/silk 3-peice suit that can be worn again to other special occasions.

Proper Cuff Length

As shown, the shirt of the cuff has a standard 0.5″ position. A good way to measure this without the aid of a measuring tape is to allow your shirt cuff to reach the beginning of your thumb bone while the jacket cuff should reach the wrist bone. In most cases, an off the rack shirt will not allow such precision, in this case “arm bands” can be used (picture below). These are elastic bands that are worn on the upper arms and allow control of the shirt sleeve length. Unfortunately, jacket lengths do not have this corrective luxury and must be the right length upon purchase. If the length is incorrect, you may need to shorten the surgeon cuffs rendering them useless, however this is a worthy sacrifice.


Trouser Length & “Breaks”

The picture above shows an intentional bend in the trouser fabric. A fine line between trousers that are too high or too low can be prevented by this simple bend in the pant line called a “break”. Unless you are one of few individuals that are a perfect sample size, you will require an alteration. Always take the shoes you will be wearing with the pants to ensure a proper break and drape.
The current trend is to wear tapered and cuffed pants with exposed socks – which forgoes the classic break altogether. This look should only be attempted by experienced trendsetters.

Pocket Squares

The pocket square is another item that was a practical component to a man’s outfit that has now turned into a stylish and useless fixture. It was commonly used as a handkerchief to wipe a lover’s tears or occasionally swat flies with. It did have a brief hiatus but emerges now with much confusion as it adds another layer of complexity to the tie-shirt conundrum.

Take the risk and purchase a white cotton or silk square, fold it like the diagram below and place it into your chest suit pocket. Attempt only if there is white somewhere in your outfit (tie and/or shirt). I recommend sticking to white and folding it like a square FIRST before jumping into crazy patterns and fancy butterfly origami. Once you have mastered this, then stay tuned for part II coming up in the next few weeks.


Harry Magazine (spring/summer 09)

Shirt & Tie Combinations


One the many questions men ask me is the complexities of matching their ties to their shirts. I sense a bit of apprehensiveness and worry about what others will think. In the end, you won’t lose your job by taking some risks with stripes and patterns.

For the first lesson I suggest sticking to 1 colour pallette and the readily available silk tie. The picture on the right shows a striped blue shirt with a paisley tie, notice how different shades of blue are used.

Furthermore, notice how the shirt stripes are small and the paisley tie is larger – it’s usually best to balance out your combination like this although – big and big or small and small tend to work but are a little more advanced.






 bowtie  bowtie2

Photos courtesy of:

I must admit, it was not love at first sight, it was more of a slow attraction and after seeing a few fellows rocking it on the runway – I am now hooked. The model on the top has it styled directly on his neck – definitely something a female could rock or even exaggarate with a scarf. The model on the bottom has it on with a military inspired short sleeve shirt, a kind of juxtoposition of a tough guy/nerd boy look. It appears that bowties are certainly back in style with avengence and its not just reserved for formal occasions.

My advice is to experiment and have fun with it, but more importantly don’t wait till your wedding day.

Shirt Collar Types


There are a slew of collar styles to choose from; I have narrowed down the selection to three that are most common.

The Spread Collar – commonly found on most off the rack shirts, this style suits those with a thicker and/or wider neck. Think body builder.

The Narrow Collar – also commonly found on most off the rack shirts, this style suits those with a long and/or thinner neck.

The Button Down Collar – this is a more casual look and looks great with jeans and a sweater and potentially black rimmed glasses (the Clark Kent look is in style for fall or atleast I dig it).

Of course, a regular sized tie will go with any collar type, the complexity arises as the tie becomes skinnier. A skinny tie will look best with a classic to narrow collar. Would it not be funny or atleast awkward to see a wide collar (body builder guy) wearing a skinny tie?

Tie Widths – Skinny vs. Regular

lapel and tie widthsLapels range from 1 to 3 inches, the standard lapel size hovers around 2.5 inches. Ties are generally between 1 to 3 inches as well. Coincidence? I think not. They are made to be paired together at the the same widths.

So I must digress to my bodybuilder analogy as it is a good way to remember your body shape limitations and if you are indeed allowed to wear the “skinny” look.

I am sorry to say that the bigger your chest the less likely you are to pull off the skinny look. I only recommend a skinny lapel and tie (less than 2 inches) to those that are either a) quite skinny b) chest size less and 38 (40 is pushing it). Everyone else, is destined to wear 3 inch lapels with fat tie knots, a wide spread collar and straight leg pants.

 Collar Stays

Did you know that there is a long plastic piece that fits inside your shirt collar to keep its form? Of course, the shirt has an extra canvas to keep its tough form, but this “collar stay” allow the points to remain sharp. The collar stay can be sewn in or removable. It can also come in fancy metal varieties as well for that extra “umph” needed on those slow days.

The removal of the collar stay becomes pertinent when dry cleaning or machine drying to prevent the stay from becoming warped or less effective. While dryer cleaning may be necessary occasionally, it is best to avoid placing the shirt in the dry altogether – please read: Steam Clean vs. Dry Clean.

Have a look inside your collars to see if you have a collar stay in place that is removal or sewn in. The tricky part is not losing it when they are taken out. Luckily, stays can be bought in bulk from most men’s stores.

Alterations – Part I

I hope that I have stressed the importance of alterations so far in my guides. Unless you are one of those rare individuals who’s body shape matches the off the rack sizes perfectly, then you can ignore this post (I have met someone like this).

Off the rack suits are measured by chest size (avg: 38 to 46) and height (Short, Regular, Tall). Furthermore, you may have noticed that each brand fits differently – this is due to their unique ”house cut”. They may make the armhole and waist tighter or looser depending on what their brand style represents. (Brioni makes theirs big, Boss makes theirs really tight – our house cut is closer to Boss, just a lot more accommodating!).

Although you may pick a chest size that is closest to your own size – it is not as crucial as a jacket’s shoulder fit. This is what you should look for because shoulder reconstruction is complicated and expensive and some alteration places won’t even touch it.

Look at your suits in your wardrobe and see which ones fit you in the shoulders (get your gf or wife to help criticize). If they all do then – congrats, you can keep them!

Next week, I will talk about the types of alterations that you may need on your suits and later I will recommend alteration’s places.

P.S. – this is more or less the same for women – fit in the shoulders first!

Alterations – Part II

Other than the obvious of getting your pants hemmed or the waist taken in (or out) – there are far scarier alterations that sometimes are very necessary.

Shoulder De-construction – this alteration usually needs to occur when the armhole does not fit right. Either the armhole is too big and sags at the armpit or is too tight and cuts off arm circulation. There is also a third problem that may occur where the whole sleeve requires rotation. Have you ever tried on a jacket and you notice the sleeves are puckering and the fabric is gathering? This is due to the way you hold your arms (like a gorilla or at attention). A custom suit accounts for this body naunce.

As I mentioned in the Beginner’s guide – the shoulder is made up of many layers (like the chest). This is why it is a complicated operation and is attempted by only the most experienced tailors. Remember that any shoulder operations will cost upwards of $30 to $70 PER SHOULDER!

As far as fit on the shoulder is concerned- this is a separate undertaking that is rarely attempted. I must stress the importance of shoulder fit – if it doesn’t fit in the shoulder, don’t bother with it, since the alterations alone will cost more than the suit.

Alterations – Part III

By now, I hope that shoulders have been ingrained in your head. Next we will examine 3 other pertinent and common alterations – jacket length, jacket side and jacket cuff. The cost ranges from $15 to $30 per alteration.

 Jacket Length – The standard jacket length is usually up to the end of your thumb (as in the picture). The length is largely influenced by trend, we have seen it become a few inches longer over the past decades – a trend perpetrated by Brooks Brothers – sack suits. Fortunately now, it is trendy to wear the jacket quite short. However, do not attempt this trend if you are not considered an average body type. Even 1 inch shorter will make a huge difference with the overall look of the suit. If you are not a risk taker, now is not the time to start, as this alteration depends on how the jacket was sewn underneath. When in doubt, stick to standard.

Jacket Side – It is currently trendy to get your jacket taken in from the waist rather than wearing it loose like a box. This will more readily show a “V” definition (chest bigger than waist since it is cinched). This silhouette is what you should aim for.

Cuffs – As I mentioned before, the shirt cuff should be showing about a 1/2 an inch. Sometimes, even a band will not save you and you must get the cuff shortened or lengthened. Keep in mind that if the suit has working cuffs then these will not survive the operation, which is quite unfortunate.

Please note that you can’t get alterations without seam allowance (existing fabric sewn into the suit seams) – most off the rack suits do not have this luxury.

Matching Shoes & Belt        



This is a fairly simple in understanding, yet I refer to it in the intermediate guide as in practice it is not as easy as it may look.

For professional and formal wear, there are two types of versatile shoes to invest in. These are BLACK and dark BROWN leather shoes. These should be matched with a black or dark brown leather belt that has a small buckle. The brown shoes and belt do not have to match exactly.
Black shoes and belt can go with everything EXCEPT a navy blue suit. In this case, you must wear the brown combination. Believe it or not, brown can go nicely with a grey suit as well.


The accessories like shirt, tie, pocket square and of course shoes are what makes the whole suit outfit work. Shoes are the mother of all accessories and will quite frankly make or break your suit. Wear something that is quality leather and of course polish as requred. There are two types of shoes to own and be aware of in the formal family. (I am not talking about loafers because they are casual).

Oxfords – Plain Cap-Toe

These are the most formal of the shoe family, maybe because they originated from Oxford University. The distinguishing part of this shoe is the plain cap-toe which is supposed to be a separate peice of leather. These shoes are perfect with a good quality suit worn for work or a special occasion.

Oxford – Brogue – wing-tip

These are a little less formal according to all of my menswear sources but I politely disagree. I think these shoes appear alot more formal than a plain cap-toe. It has patterned perforations on the wing tip as pure decoration. Men have told me that they remind them of their grandfather’s shoes. This is unfortunate.


9 Responses to “Intermediate Guide to Suits – Complete Guide”

  1. […] December 22, 2009 Here is my gift to all of you: Intermediate Guide to Suits: Complete Guide […]

  2. Cool, there is actually some great facts on here some of my associates will maybe find this relevant, I must send a link, thank you.

  3. Alex Says:


    I’m enjoying reading your guide on style and suits. I was wondering what the brown shoes in the picture you have below the “Matching Shoes and Belt” heading? I quite like the look of them, including the buckle. I’ve heard people say that those kind of loafers with strap/buckle are actually too informal to wear with a suit. What are your thoughts?



    • savillian Says:

      Sorry for my late response – we actually switched over our blog to a new theme and website –

      A buckle on a loafer is a kind of happy medium as loafers are seen to be quite casual compared to a laceup shoe. It definitely dresses it up and makes it more appropriate for a suit than one without a buckle. I hope this helps.

      Jas (

  4. […] is my gift to all of you: Intermediate Guide to Suits: Complete Guide (also found on the right, list of links […]

  5. Tom Says:

    What is you opinion on square toed shoes out of interest? I quite fancy them with my grey three piece.

  6. Will Says:

    I love the article covering the different styles of vests,One to perhaps add would be the double breasted!

    • savillian Says:

      Definitely! Thanks for reading and your feedback. I am thinking of doing an updated guide to suits – I will cover it then.

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