When more and more offices are opting for business casual dress codes or ones where hoodies are a-okay with upper management (looking at you, Silicon Valley) we can understand why guys don't want to empty their bank accounts on a single suit.
While we firmly believe every man should have the bespoke experience at least once in his life, not to mention invest in a few break-the-bank styles off the rack, there’s also nothing wrong with padding your wardrobe with cheap suits of the under $500 variety. The trick is knowing how to make them look just as expensive as the good stuff.
How to buy an affordable, quality suit
For starters you want to know how to shop for an affordable suit. Avoid shiny synthetic fibers, for instance, and stick with the mass-market retailers that make an effort to offer quality fabrics and modern cuts (i.e. J.Crew, Suitsupply and the like). And always check the sale section.
It’s easy to grab a $1,200 suit for $600 if you’re savvy about when and how you shop.
Beyond that, here are a few tricks you can use once you buy the suit to make it look a little nicer. Okay, a lot nicer. Master these moves and you might even find yourself wearing a suit without being asked to.
1. Take in the sleeves
In a perfect world you’d be prepared to spend about $150 to have your tailor tweak every last detail of your suit so it looks custom-made. This includes having him or her take in the sleeves. You want a narrow, tapered sleeve that hugs, not hangs off your arms, while giving you enough range of motion to do what needs to be done (i.e. pose for Instagram photos, hold onto the Dubai tram rail, etc).
2. Replace the buttons
Cheap suits tend to come with flimsy shiny plastic buttons that are easily broken or lost during a particularly hectic work day. While you’re at the tailor anyway, ask him or her to replace the buttons with genuine horn. Simple but worth it.
3. Add a cuff at the ankle
Not only should your tailor give your trousers a slim, tapered leg and that has virtually no break at the hem, but you can also ask him or her to add a 1.5” cuff while they’re at it. It’s a detail you don’t often see on budget suits, so by default it looks expensive.
4. Try monochromatic styling
Working within a limited palette when selecting your shirt, tie, and shoes is a modern move that tends to make the fabric of your suit look richer and finer. Switch up the colors and patterns ever so slightly with each piece to create depth. The 202-level move: Add one item like a pocket square or soft briefcase from a totally different color family.
5. Finish with expensive shoes
Cheaping out on every element in your look makes the job of looking great that much more difficult. If you invest in one thing (other than tailoring) make it a pair of sturdy, bench-made dress shoes that you can wear over and over – and over again. Grab them on sale on Mr Porter or even on eBay, and you won’t even have to pay the cringe-inducing price. Not a dress shoe guy? A pair of Achilles Lows works fine too.
Got all that? You’re ready for an affordable suit, man.
Buy one, buy them all, just don’t dry-clean them when you don’t have to.