HOME > Tips & Advice >
HOW TO MAKE A CHEAP SUIT LOOK EXPENSIVE
TIPS ON OUTDRESSING GUYS WHO’VE SPENT HUNDREDS OF POUNDS MORE ON TAILORING THAN YOU
Not to go all Barney Stinson on you, but every guy needs a suit. Doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, which party you vote for or how you hang your toilet paper, at some point in your life you will need a suit. That’s not to say you’ll always have to pay a fortune for one though. It’s very easy to be reeled into the marketing spiel of the expensive brands and assume you must spend thousands of pounds on a jacket and some trousers. If you want to go down that route, that’s great. You’ll probably end up the proud owner of a tailored, Italian suit, or even your own beautifully bespoke creation. But as ever, there are other options.
Just as you can buy a Ford instead of a Bentley, you can buy a cheap suit over a pricey one. And unlike with cars, where no number of go-faster stripes or tinted windows will ever have people confuse your third generation Mondeo for something out of Floyd Mayweather’s garage, cheap suits can be made to look far more expensive than they really are. All you have to do is get savvy and put in a little effort.
To begin with, you need to find the right cheap suit, as not all inexpensive clothes are made equally. What you want to do is avoid synthetics like polyester and look for wool or wool-blends. Wool is more breathable and holds its shape better, which is why it’s the material usually used for more expensive suits. And if you can, look for higher thread counts, as this roughly determines how fine the fibres feel in your hands.
It should go without saying that you’ll want to stick to the three basic colours when suit shopping on a bargain: black, navy and grey. As for the more basic but necessary advice, here’s a quickfire round to set you straight: Single breast over double, notch lapel over peaked and certainly over shawl, and checks are acceptable but nothing too flashy (you won't be paying enough to pull off flashy).
M&S and Zara should be your first port of call, offering modern cuts that still stand out from the rest of the high street names. That said, places like Moss Bros, Burton, Slaters and Mango are popular for a good reason, so check out what they’ve got in stock too. It is possible to get lucky and find something from brands like Perry Ellis or French Connection, but don’t bet on it.
If you’ve stuck to the above advice, then you should have found the cheap suit of your dreams, one that’s a nice, dark colour and barely into three figures. If you accidentally splashed £1,500 on a polka dot nightmare, please stop reading now. For everyone else, take your suit into a fitting room and try it on. Now listen carefully; for there’s an old trick to find out if the jacket fits properly that I’m trusting you with: while you’ve got the suit on, slowly lean against a wall, shoulder-first. If you feel the suit touch the wall significantly before your shoulder does, I’m afraid it doesn’t fit. Making sure you’ve got yourself a well-fitting suit is probably more important than anything else, especially when shopping on a budget. If it’s cheap but fits you like a dream, you’ll look incomparably better than the guy wearing a baggy Brioni number.
Now this next section might seem out of place in an article like this, but it’s time to talk tailors. After depleting your small budget by buying the best cheap suit you could find, you probably didn’t give any thought to spending more on alterations, but you don’t actually need to do all that much. If you’re willing to fork out a bit more cash, there are three main things you should be looking to do at a tailor: bring in the sides of the jacket, taper the trouser legs and replace the buttons. You can do plenty more obviously, and the more money you spend the nicer the final result, but you already knew that. Bringing in the jacket sides and tapering the trouser legs both work to give the suit a more angled look, which is something you always want to be aiming for. You can even add an inch cuff on the trousers, a detail not often seen on suits in your price range. As for the buttons; on cheaper suits these are often made from plastic, but they can be easily replaced with genuine shell or horn for a miniscule fee.
And that’s practically that. All you need to do now is pair your suit with some good leather shoes and a nice light shirt and you’re good to go. Accessories like a vintage watch or a pocket square can elevate the style even further, and having it dry cleaned no more than twice a year will hugely increase its lifespan, but as long as you’ve got the basics right, you’re going to be outdressing guys who’ve spent hundreds of pounds more than you.