When you need a suit, the nearest department store might seem like the easiest option, but it’s also one of the riskiest. Most off-the-rack suits look great in the store, and might even fit relatively comfortably in the fitting room, but once you buy them, they lose their shape or wear out after a few months.
The bottom line? Those suits aren’t well made.
By investing in just one or two high-quality suits, you’ll look better, feel more confident, and spend less time shopping. High-quality suits are built to last and will look amazing after years of use. One great suit will outlast five low-quality ones.
But, wait a minute…
If they all look good on the rack, how can you tell the good suits from the low-quality ones? There are actually several reliable ways that you can tell, so let’s go over what to look for step by step.
1. Feel & Examine the Fabric
Most high-quality suits are made of 100% wool, and for good reason. Wool is strong, breathable, versatile, and great for keeping you warm when it’s cold out. Your first order of business is to check to make sure your suit is made of wool. Low-quality microfiber and polyester suits aren’t worth it.
Not all wool is the same though. Did you know there are over 200 different types? It’s true! The type and quality depends on a host of factors, including the breed of sheep it came from, the thread count, and whether it’s recycled or not.
Look for raw or virgin wool (recycled wool isn’t as strong), and make sure your suit is 100% wool, and not a “wool blend.” A wool blend is when the wool is mixed with polyester or another lower quality material.
Suits made with sub-par materials are often itchy or scratchy. Make sure you’ll feel comfortable wearing a suit all day before you buy.
Before you make your decision, you should also take a close look at the fabric. Make sure the weave is smooth with no loose strands or knots. Poor quality wool is also prone to pilling (loose fibers forming little balls on the fabric). Any pilling on a new suit is a bad sign.
2. Look Closer: Thread Count & Wool Weight
Reading fabric labels and even doing a little online research before you buy can save you time and money in the long run.
When it comes to thread count, more really is more. Thread count is measured by the number of threads per square inch of fabric. Fabric earns the title “super” if the thread count is above 100.
I highly recommend suits in the Super 110 to 150 range. That’s where you’ll get the best mix of comfort, durability, and price. There is such a thing as a thread count that’s too high. Get up around 200 and the fabric starts to lose its durability. Sure, it will feel soft, but you want your suit to last, after all!
Wool weight is another important factor. There’s no good or bad weight, but if you live in a warmer climate you’ll want a wool weight under 10 ounces. If you live somewhere that gets really cold for much of the year, look for 16 ounces or more.
3. Examine the Seams
You don’t have to be a master tailor to recognize a poorly-constructed seam.
The best quality suits have tighter seams (more stitches placed closely together). That means they’re stronger. You shouldn’t even be able to see the stitching on the shoulders from the outside.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: Pull the seam slightly apart very gently. See a lot of spacing between stitches? The suit is probably not well made.
-Be on the lookout for:
-Seams that aren’t flat
-Seams that have been stitched over more than once
-Loose or visible threads
Also, if you’re buying a suit with a pattern, like checks or pinstripes, the pattern should line up at the seams.
4. Check Buttonholes
Buttonholes may seem unimportant since they’re barely visible when your jacket is buttoned. But think about it, if you’re wearing your suit correctly, you spend a lot of time with buttons undone. In fact, some buttons should never be buttoned!
The best quality suits, like bespoke suits, have elegant buttonholes handsewn with silk thread. You probably won’t see craftsmanship like that in most department stores, but at least make sure your suit’s button holes don’t have fraying edges, flimsy stitching, or loose threads.
Don’t forget to make sure the buttons themselves are sewn on tightly and evenly too.
5. Trust Your Instincts
Anytime you buy a suit from a store, even if you’ve had it tailored, always try it on and make sure you’re happy with it before you leave. A high-quality suit that fits well will feel amazing when you put it on.
You should look sharp and be able to move freely with the jacket on. If the fabric feels stiff, weak, or stretched out, don’t buy it — it’s only going to get worse over time.
Trust yourself to know when you’ve found the perfect suit, and don’t rush into buying something that doesn’t feel quite right.
The Fit Should Be Perfect
Even the most expensive suit in the world will look and feel cheap if it doesn’t fit your body.
Want to look your best? Don’t waste a bunch of money on an expensive, brand name suit that doesn’t fit you. If you want a suit that truly complements your figure, you have two options:
Option 1: Tailoring
Getting your suit professionally tailored is a great option if you already own a good quality suit that doesn’t quite match your measurements. Many department stores employ professional tailors who can alter your suit. Try taking it back to the place you bought it and ask.
Option 2: Custom Suits
If you’re in the market for a new suit and you want the best of the best, get a custom suit. It’s the only way to ensure a flawless fit. Plus you’ll get to make your own decisions about fabric, buttonholes, jacket lining materials, and every other detail that goes into crafting your suit.
How Do Custom Suits Get Made?
Custom suits — also called bespoke suits — are made individually by custom tailors like me. A good custom tailor will meet with you, talk to you about what you want, and take over 30 measurements before creating your suit.
Every suit is unique because every person is unique. You won’t believe the difference when you put on a bespoke suit that was made from scratch just for you.
Ready for an Amazing Suit?
Now that you know how to spot low-quality clothing a mile away, you’ll be able walk into any room looking your best and make a stellar impression at every occasion.
It it time to update your wardrobe? Whether you’re shopping at a department store or interested in a custom suit, a little research and attention to detail go a long way. Remember: Go for quality, not quantity.