How to Buy a Perfect Suit

7 tips from the world’s best tailors on London’s Savile Row.

Our expert

Richard James: The groundbreaker A British Fashion Council Menswear Designer of the Year, Richard James is one of the pioneers of the new bespoke movement, a fashion-forward thread of Savile Row tailors that emerged in the 1990s. His suits have made the cut with the likes of David Beckham, Mick Jagger and Daniel Craig.

Gieves & Hawkes: The institution One of Savile Row’s oldest houses, Gieves & Hawkes proved that it’s fit for today’s world when it designed the uniforms of F1 team Brawn GP – now Mercedes AMG Petronas – in 2009. Head cutter Davide Taub answered our questions.

Dege & Skinner: The classicist This family business has been offering suits subtly inspired by riding and shooting wear for almost 150 years. No wonder Dege & Skinner holds three royal warrants – including one from the Queen herself. We spoke to general manager Matthew Cowley.

1) The one suit you really need

Gieves & Hawkes: It should be plain and single-breasted in dark grey or navy. You’ll wear it with everything: shirts of different colours, open-neck shirts or with a strong tie.

Richard James: Ask for wool – it holds its shape beautifully and works perfectly in both warmer and cooler climates.

2) One thing to remember when buying a suit off the rack

Dege & Skinner: Walk away if a salesperson tells you they will put 50 pins to alter it. The only things you should be having done to a ready-made suit are shortening the sleeves or the trousers and taking in the waist.

Gieves & Hawkes: Make sure the shoulders fit, and ignore what it looks like on your chest. If you look for a suit that fits your chest and take it to an alteration tailor, there’s not much they can do to the shoulders without destroying the suit.

3) Watch your neck

Dege & Skinner: If your jacket collar is standing away from the back of your neck, it means you’re wearing a bad suit. The collar should feel like it’s gripping you slightly, in a nice way.

Gieves & Hawkes: The shoulders of your suit should be very close, too – that gives a lot of movement and flexibility. When you raise your arms, the jacket will stay close to your neck.

4) Buy a long enough jacket

Richard James: We recommend slightly longer, more waisted jackets with deep side vents and a slightly higher armhole. That gives a slim, striking silhouette.

Gieves & Hawkes: You should be able to hold the bottom of your jacket with your arms straight – that shape will give you an athletic look. A shorter jacket will feel boxy.


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5) Get the perfect cuff

Richard James: Sleeves should reveal about a quarter of an inch of your shirt cuff.

Gieves & Hawkes: It’s easier to get that right with a bespoke shirt. With ready-to-wear, you can’t dictate the width of the cuff. It might fit if you get a shirt with a slightly narrower cuff, but it’ll be tight and restrictive when you move your arms.

6) Find lapels that measure up

Dege & Skinner: The width of your lapels should be based on the size of your chest. If you’re a big man, you need wider lapels, and vice versa.

Richard James: Lapels should complement your shirt and tie. I don’t believe in rules, but in harmony – skinny ties don’t work so well with big lapels, for example.

7) Get trousers that fit

Dege & Skinner: Make sure they sit on your waist, not your hips. Bigger men should avoid skinny cuts, while slimmer men might go for a flat-front pant and a skinnier silhouette. And your trousers should be long enough so they’re just touching the shoe with a slight break.