Every couple of decades, suits as a casual item return. Your parents might have had a leisure suit, complete with flared pants and a matching polyester jacket, in the ‘70s. By the ‘80s, that would’ve been traded in for one with big shoulder pads and tapered pants – and for New Wavers, wearing it with a ruffled or silk shirt would’ve been essential. Although it disappeared throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s, the casual suit has been experiencing a revival through a few forms: The colorful or patterned head-to-toe ensemble, the unstructured navy or brown getup you’d pair with a tee or turtleneck, and the linen suit, reserved primarily for summer.
Yet, even with these disparities, a casual suit trumps its structured, possibly double-breasted counterparts in a handful of instances: Business casual offices where you’d dress up without a tie, cocktail parties and networking events, weddings, and nights of clubbing in the city, where you’ll be expected to abide by a dress code excluding jeans.
With these points considered, this two-piece ensemble still comes with particular rules. So, whether you’re getting one tailored or you’re shopping around for your first casual suit, think about:
How It Fits
You’ll nearly always buy a casual suit off the rack – likely for a couple hundred or less. Because of this, the fit may be awkward for certain body types. Or, if you simply eyeballed it online before making a purchase, you could have a suit that’s too big in some places and constricting in others.
Thus, be mindful of how the suit fits your frame. No matter your body type, it shouldn’t be too loose and definitely not too tight. Pants, ideally, fit slim but aren’t too skinny around your legs, and the jacket has a hint of structure without being boxy. Too, any blazer should fall right to your hips – not above and not below.
As such, if you’re buying a suit in a brick-and-mortar store, try on as many fits as you can, until you get the desired one. If you’re buying it online, know your measurements in inches before referencing a size chart. In both cases, you’ll want to have a few alterations done before you take it out for a spin.
Think About Your Shirt
Traditional dress shirts? Leave them on the hanger. Instead, pair your suit with another casual piece that’s somewhat fitted but not too tight. If you still want a collar, a polo or a camp collar shirt will do. As one variation, consider a turtleneck. But, for a smoother fit, now’s your opportunity to try out a suit with a tee. Just be sure it’s not too busy with patterns and graphics and doesn’t loosely hang from your frame.
This doesn’t mean that button-downs are off the table. Rather, go for a relaxed approach: Chambray or silk over cotton, with the collar unbuttoned. As you won’t be wearing a tie, it’s not necessary.
Watch Your Shoes
If you’ve got a pair of lace-up, low-top dress shoes you polished once last year, keep them where you last left them. Just as with your shirt, formalities aren’t appropriate. Instead, you’re striving for that “I just look this good” aesthetic without trying too hard.
In terms of footwear, you have a wider range. Casual lace-up boots and oxfords, plus Chukkas and Chelsea boots, are all perfectly game. As well, for a step down, try out sneakers – although avoid anything directly athletically themed. Rather, that solid white or black leather pair, like a set of Stan Smiths, has a particularly understated yet sophisticated quality: You’re on top of current trends, but not to the point you’re pattern-clashing with the rest of your outfit. Or, to push it, think about matching your solid-color suit with a pair of two-tone canvas high-tops.
As already mentioned, your tie’s way too formal – unless, as we saw at the recent New York Fashion Week: Men’s, you’re thinking about a ‘70s-esque silk neck scarf. So, if ties are out, how should you accessorize?
A contrasting pocket square, in this case, is a necessity for just the right pop of color. Just make sure the hue also pairs well with your shoes and shirt. As well, men’s brooches add a metallic accent when pinned to the lapels. Plenty of shapes are out there, from skulls to animals, with bejeweled and even chain-accented styles adding more statement value to your look.
Experiment with Colors and Patterns
It only takes a quick browse through ASOS or Topman to see that suiting has broken out of the navy-tan-black trifecta. Although pinstripes have been a decades-long option and plaid adds more of an impact, suiting now spans soft pastels to loud purples, reds, and neon shades and encompasses prints of all types. Thus, if you’ve always wanted to try out a patterned suit or to just forget about navy for a while, now’s your chance.
Yet, the same rules about dressing still apply: Know which shades will clash, or turn into an eyesore, and understand which hues work for your skin tone. That pink pastel option might accent your reddish undertone, but a blue-based floral print neutralizes and complements it just fine.