Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean article! On this shiok Sunday, I’m writing an article on my personal tips for those that are looking to purchase their first suit.
With Singapore moving into Phase 2, it’s time for most of us to return to at least a semblance of normal life. That means going for job interviews, returning back to work, or getting back to planning for that dream wedding of yours. Over the years, I’ve received numerous DMs/emails from readers, the bulk of which goes something like this: “Hey there, I’m thinking of getting my first suit soon, but I’ve never been to a tailor before. Do you have any advice or tips?” After replying to numerous such messages, I’ve decided to compile my two cents in an article. Hope you guys find this helpful!
By far, the most common question I get is: “Which colour should I get?“
If you’re on the hunt for your first suit, my advice would be to opt for a navy blue one. To me, a plain navy blue suit is the perfect starting point in one’s sartorial journey. Not only is it more visually intriguing than black, it is also much more versatile. You can wear a navy blue suit to virtually anything – it will look appropriate for a job interview, a boardroom meeting, a wedding, or an event. I see a lot of people getting a black suit as their first suit, especially fresh graduates. Don’t. In my opinion, unless your work environment (e.g lawyer) explicitly requires a black suit, avoid black at all cost. It’s really only appropriate either for a funeral or a black-tie event. Go for a solid colour navy blue – you will thank me later. A navy suit also pairs terrifically with a plain white shirt, and you can play around with contrasting ties/pocket squares.
If you really hate blue, or already have a blue suit, another colour that you can consider is grey. Grey is great, especially for more formal/work settings. Like navy, it’s a very versatile colour, and it has an added maturing effect that makes the wearer look older than he actually is. If you’re a young professional that wants to be taken seriously, a grey suit may even aid your cause more than a navy suit will. However, if the intention is to look youthful – say at your wedding – then stay away from grey. Grey is a powerful colour, but it must be wielded correctly.
However, despite all that I’ve written above, I know that some of you are dead set on a black suit. I once explained at great lengths to a reader why he shouldn’t get a black suit as his first suit, only to be rebuffed by: “But everyone at the office wears black. I don’t want to be different and stand out.” Even if that is the case, I’ll advise you to perhaps consider a black fabric with a subtle detailing, such as the one I’m wearing above. From afar, it looks like a plain black suit, and only upon closer inspection does the blue windowpane pattern become more obvious.
Lastly, be careful of your colour choices. If you’re in doubt – especially if it’s your first suit – stick to safe colours such as navy, grey, or (if you must) even black. Don’t try to be too adventurous. I once got a purple suit, and I worn it…just once. It’s simply not a colour that suits a lot of occasions, or if I’m being honest any occasions at all. I remember why I chose it – I saw Joe Bastianich (of Masterchef fame) wear it on TV, and I thought it looked cool. However, what looks cool on another person (especially if it’s a celebrity) may not be practical to pull off in everyday life. Looking back, I definitely regret opting for that colour.
One of the most crucial aspects when tailoring a suit is the lapels, as they can’t be altered once done. When you’re at the tailors, they will often ask if you would like 1) a notch or peak lapel, and 2) if you want the lapel skinny, normal width, or wide. If you’re new to tailoring, you most probably wouldn’t know much about lapels, and what kind of lapels you should go for.
If you’re getting your first suit, I’ll suggest you to stick to lapels of normal width, as they are the most versatile. For some reason, affordable tailors tend to advise their customers to go for a skinnier lapel, saying that it looks more trendy, etc. Don’t. Put your foot down, and request for a “normal” lapel width. I went for slim lapels on my first suit (pictured above), and it’s a decision that I’ve regretted dearly. It just looks terribly disproportionate, and as a result I don’t wear the suit often anymore. Also, I discourage playing around with the colour of the lapel buttonhole. On my first few suits, I loved the idea that you can customise anything you want at a tailor’s (as opposed to buying off-the-rack), and honestly went overboard with some of my customisation choices. When I look at the light pink lapel buttonhole on my first suit (also pictured above), I cringe a little. I still do toy around with the colour of the lapel buttonhole sometimes, but when I do it’s usually two colours that don’t contrast much.
I think my suit from Closeknip showcases how much I’ve grown in this regard. As compared to the first suit I got, the lapels are much better proportioned. Again, I did go for a customised colour for the lapel buttonhole, but here it’s a much subtler contrast, and blends in nicely with the earthy tone of the entire outfit. And yes – if you’re commissioning your first suit, I highly suggest sticking to notch lapels. Notch lapels are more versatile, and will suit most occasions. Some feel that notch lapels can look a little boring, and lacks the presence that peak lapels possesses. I disagree – you can simply make the notch lapels a tad wider (as I did on the suit above), and it will still make for a visually intriguing look!
However, if your main intention is to command attention and stand out, then by all means go for peak lapels. Peak lapels makes a statement – nothing screams confidence more than a suit with peak lapels. If you’re looking for a suit to be your modern day armour, definitely opt for that option. This is especially true if you’re commissioning a suit for your wedding, for a special event, for the courtroom, or perhaps to reward yourself for getting that much deserved promotion. However, if your purpose is to go for a job interview, or to the wedding of your best mate, then a notch lapel would still be the more appropriate option.
Another question that I sometimes get – should one go for side adjusters or belt loops for the trousers? My unequivocal advice? Go for side-adjusters (some call them side tabs).
I always go with side-adjusters over belt loops. I don’t wear belts – why wear a belt if your trousers fit perfectly? Furthermore, wearing a belt requires one to wear the same coloured dress shoes as well. As such, I’ve always felt that belt loops were superfluous, and much preferred the cleaner look of side-adjusters. I love experimenting with different materials too. My current favourite is to go for brass side-adjusters, as they patina beautifully over time. However, I do have trousers with gunmetal side-adjusters, and they are (for the lack of better words) super cool. Of course, plain ol’ stainless steel side-adjusters look great, especially when they are polished.
If you’re looking for something a tad different, I recommend you to try commissioning a pair of Gurkha Trousers! If you have no idea what they are, you can read this informative article by The Rake here. It’s a very distinctive look, but yet still subtle in nature. I’ve noticed a trend of people wearing ostentatious belts (you know, those garish Gucci/LV/Hermes ones) with suits. I even had a reader who insisted on getting belt loops on his trousers because he wanted to show off a Gucci belt that he has. Well, to each their own, but in my opinion if you really want to stand out, a pair of Gurkha Trousers reflects much better taste than slapping on a gaudy belt. To those of you who are looking to commission something special for your wedding/event, I recommend going for a pair of Gurkha Trousers from Sors Studio – I loved mine!
4) Dare to be Different
For those that want something with a bit more panache, there are several ways to do so sartorially.
If you want to add more pizzazz in your outfit in a more formal work setting, I would suggest that you try a 3-piece suit. If you just moved up the corporate ladder, or have an important presentation that you want to nail, a 3-piece suit is pretty much the modern day version of a chainmail armour. If you have been wearing the standard G2000 suits to work, I guarantee you that the difference when you show up in a 3-piece will be night and day. Do note that a tie is a must when it comes to 3-piece suits, so if you’re not keen on ties you might want to give this a skip. But for those who want to channel their inner Don Draper for an important pitch, nothing beats a 3-piece suit.
For those that find a 3-piece suit too stuffy, why not consider a double breasted suit instead? A double breasted is perfect if you’re looking to leave a lasting impression, and it’s what I would personally wear to either a wedding (as a groom, not a guest), or an event. There is nothing that grabs one’s attention as much as a double breasted suit. I’ve worn my double breasted suit from Meiko Tailor (pictured above) a number of times, and it has always garnered compliments. If you’re planning to get your first double breasted suit, I suggest going for the traditional – but also versatile – 6×2 configuration, as I did with the red DB above.
To my surprise, I discovered that quite a handful of people are “forced” to get their first suits when they are invited to a black-tie event – proms, weddings, charity dinners, etc. If you’re one of them, then I’m afraid a tuxedo is the only way to go. (Okay, there are other options, but a tux is definitely the safest choice.) Now, you can rent a tux for a night, but it’s often pretty expensive anyway (about $100) and it won’t fit you right. I suggest simply going to a tailor and commissioning one. If it’s your first tux, I recommend playing it safe and going with the traditional shawl lapels, pleated shirt, cummerbund, and bow tie. You can’t go wrong with that combination!
Lastly, you can also opt for contrasting trousers! The suit jacket and the trousers doesn’t have to be the same colour all the time. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend you to opt for this if you’re on the hunt for your first suit, but it is definitely something you can keep in mind especially for more casual occasions. The options I suggested above – 3-piece suit, double breasted, a tuxedo – are all very formal in nature. If your purpose is more casual, having contrasting jacket and trousers is a great way of perfecting smart casual. Something to consider if you’re worried about being overdressed!
5) Don’t get ripped off
Perhaps the most important tip in the article – don’t get ripped off. Tailoring is often an “upsell” business, and it’s not uncommon for tailors to make all kinds of claims to persuade you to spending more than what you initially intended. It’s not the most transparent industry, and there is – surprisingly – a lack of information online on what to look out for. If you have never been to a tailor’s before, I highly suggest reading my previous article here, whereby I listed down a few things to look out for to ensure that you don’t get ripped off. In addition, I also recommend checking out my list of recommended tailors here – I’ve visited all of them personally, and thus can vouch for them.
Now that it’s Phase 2, it’s time to step out into the world again. That means actually having to dress up, groom ourselves, and not look like you’ve been wearing the same pair of sweatpants for a week. As Singapore comes out of the darkness, I hope the local tailoring scene recovers too – all of them have been forced to shut due to the CB measures, and due to the personalised nature of the industry it was near impossible to shift operations online. If you’re on the hunt for your first suit, or a new suit in general, I hope the above tips will be useful to you!
Hope to see you dapper gentlemen on the streets soon. The dawn is on the horizon.
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!