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Suit three ways: A guide to business, casual and eveningwear

On some levels, a suit is the most versatile purchase a man can make. There are distinctions to be made, though: what exudes authority in a boardroom is unlikely to cut it on a dancefloor; what will do nicely for drinks won’t pass muster for an evening formal. Here we look at three styles for three occasions, and how to make a sartorial success of each.

Executive suit

For everyday office wear, two smart suits are crucial. The accepted wisdom is that one in navy blue and one in charcoal grey are the most timeless and versatile choices. wool (or a wool blend) will allow all-year-round wear and durability; a two-button jacket gives the most flattering shape. The narrower notched lapel is the contemporary go-to, but here is where a peaked lapel can add a touch of the traditional without going too ‘conservative business suit’. Dark hues also help hide wear and tear – relentless dry-cleaning can diminish a suit’s charms, so be sure to rotate and be alert to stains. A simple pin-stripe brings some individuality, though be sure to twin with simple one-colour shirts and ties with solid, simple patterns.

Casual suit

A casual suit is not an oxymoron – a well-cut two-piece put together with personality can deliver for almost any dress code. From office attire in more relaxed work environments, to partywear in any season, a comfortable and contemporary suit can become the most multi-faceted addition to a man’s wardrobe. To ensure ultimate versatility, bear two things in mind when choosing: will it work for multiple occasions and can you wear its constituent parts – jacket and trousers – with other garments. The navy and charcoal rule can apply here too, but with less day-in-day-out wearing, there’s room to be bolder with colour choices – brighter blues, patterned greys, pastel hues, statement buttons… A slim cut works with a trimmer figure – opt for narrow notched lapels and a single-vent on the jacket and trousers that taper neatly; nothing that appears baggy, overhangs the shoe or sticks too closely to the leg. Broader types should opt for two vents in the jacket for ease of movement. Thereafter, it’s a question of pairing; you should be able to dress a casual suit up with a shirt-and-tie combination, or down with knitwear or a t-shirt depending on the season. An unbuttoned shirt is a handy middle point. Consider your footwear, too: bright white tennis shoes cut a dash when twinned with a white shirt; brown loafers worn sockless in summer give a modish Mediterranean twist.

Eveningwear

Formal functions, prestigious galas, evening weddings, society soirées – the tuxedo still rules the eveningwear roost. Its sophistication lies in its simplicity: a single-breasted, one-buttoned, ventless jacket in jet black or midnight blue, twinned with subtly detailed trousers. The shawl collar is the classic, though a tailcoat-inspired peaked-lapel tux jacket adds a further layer of formality. Beneath the eponymous black tie (choose from butterfly or batwing style; silk and self-tie is a must), winged-collar shirts are easily twinned but, for slightly more comfort, the Thirties-style double-cuffed, turndown-collar shirt with a pleated or piqué-detailed front finishes this evening ensemble perfectly.

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Header image courtesy of The Rake magazine

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