Difficult Boys, Dressing Them For Occasions and How To Buy A Suit

Dear Gala,
Please help me. I need some fashion advice for my boyfriend PRONTO. My boyfriend and I are going to a flurry of weddings (mostly semi-formal) over the next few months and he has literally NOTHING to wear. He’s a recovered bogan (westie, you probably call them) and wears a uniform of black T-shirts, black jeans, Converse and wraparound sunglasses. He is super hot and has the recovered bogan number one haircut.
I wear lots of floral gear and am an accessoriser (think Carly Harris versus World) but don’t want to turn him into a boy version of moi. I suspect that while he would look great in a suit, he’d probably only wear it at these weddings.
Can you give me some advice on a ‘seperates’ approach to smart-casual dressing for men?

Dear Girls Across The World With Non-Metrosexual Boyfriends,

Please do not despair. Quite frankly, a boyfriend who has no clue about fashion & is happy to admit it is FAR preferable to one who THINKS he knows but is sadly mistaken. Another upside: if he dresses hideously on a regular basis, you will be far more excited about it when he makes an effort. Now to answer your question.

Everybody needs a suit, regardless of gender. I think they’re painfully dull & conformist, which has never been my bag, but that doesn’t change anything. Everybody needs a suit, & if it fits well, it can look amazing. If he’s particularly hard-up at the moment, he should hire one, but either way, wearing a suit to a wedding is pretty much unavoidable. Okay, now that we have that out of the way, here’s how to buy a men’s suit without feeling like a moron.

Go somewhere with a good range.
Usually a department store is going to be your best bet. John’s Suit Shop might be having a sale, but their selection is probably going to be sub-par. There’s no point in saving money if you end up with something that doesn’t fit or turns into a teatowel when you wash it.

Take somebody with you.
In a perfect world, all sales staff would be stylistic geniuses with only their customers’ best interests at heart. Unfortunately, a lot of them are clueless, have targets to hit & lipstick on their teeth. If the salesperson assisting you is useless, don’t be afraid to request someone else. They might be miffed, but so what? You need the best assistance you can get, & it’s not like a suit is a small purchase. Anyway — take a friend with you. Someone honest, who can say “no” (& who you will listen to), with some stylistic nous, & no lipstick on their teeth.

Be prepared to spend some money.
I know you men usually don’t like to do this, especially when it comes to clothing. You could buy a guitar or a new server instead! But seriously, this is worth investing in. Spend as much as you are able to. I know it’s a cliche, but it really will last you a very long time — longer than a car if you take good care of it.

Buy wool.
Why wool? Because linen & polyester are nasty. No, really, why wool? Because it’s durable, breathes wonderfully & is incredibly stylish. Usually you’ll want a mid-weight wool, though of course you should always consider where you live. If you live somewhere chilly, tweed or flannel might be a better bet. Ask the salesperson if you’re unsure.

Make sure the shoulders fit you perfectly.
They shouldn’t stick out at all — they should drop straight from your shoulder down to your arm.

Free arm movement is important.
You need to be able to hail a taxi, carry a casket, shoot hoops & dance along to “YMCA”.

In the perfect suit jacket, with your arms hanging straight, you should be able to curl your hands into fists & just skim the bottom of it.

You should be able to see a quarter-inch of your shirt cuff underneath the jacket.
It seems like a stupid fiddly detail, but it will improve your overall look drastically. If you need proof that this works, see here.

Buying a two-button suit jacket is your best bet.
It’s classically stylish, a great choice for a first suit since it is so easy to wear. If you want to go for something high fashion, it’s best to do that once you’re more comfortable & confident wearing a suit.

Give the buttons a bit of a tug before you buy it.
Make sure they’re secure. This will betray a lot about the general craftsmanship of the suit.

Never buy a ventless suit.
It will make you look boxy & shapeless. “Vents” are the vertical slits at the bottom of the jacket. A vent in the centre is American-style, while a vent at either side is European & less conservative — take your pick.

The suit pants you buy should sit on your hips, & shouldn’t require a belt or suspenders to stay up.
Whether you wear a belt or not should be a personal stylistic choice: not a must.

Buy two pairs of suit pants if you can afford it.
They will wear out faster than the jacket — all that friction from sitting down is hard on material, even good material. Plus, you can pretty much wear them with anything.

If you’re short, you should avoid cuffed trousers.
It’ll just make you look shorter than you are.

If you want it to fit really well, get it tailored.
It is so very worth spending a little extra on this. If you spend $100 on having it taken in, it could make the suit look $500 better. Remember try it on in the store after it’s been altered.

Basically, buy the right size!

If the wedding is informal, he could wear a shirt with a high quality sweater & well-pressed trousers. A white shirt, black trousers & royal blue sweater would look great. The thing is, most weddings are pretty staid. If it isn’t too formal, men can get away with mixing it up a little bit — i.e., he could wear his suit jacket with different pants, or he could wear a “casual” suit jacket (which are pretty trendy these days so shouldn’t be difficult to find). He could also dress it down slightly by going without a tie, but it is always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

Generally if you’re attending a wedding as a hetero couple, the man tends to be the accessory to the woman, not the other way around. It’s unusual to see a man decked out with a woman in sobering black, for example. This makes it much easier for men, but also kind of boring. He can make his outfit a little bit more exciting by wearing a nice tie (I have a distinct hatred for those really fat ones typically sold in men’s chain stores) which matches his cufflinks.

I’m into the matchy-matchy thing, & my boyfriend is long-suffering. If my boyfriend & I were going to a wedding & I was wearing a blue dress (for example), I’d have him in a black suit with a white shirt, blue tie, cufflinks with blue detail, a black belt, shoes & socks. I would also probably wrap the gift in the exact same Pantone blue shade we were wearing, but then I’m anal like that.

Extra For Experts:
Never, EVER wear a novelty tie. If you wear it with a suit, you’ve just wasted your money. If someone bought you one for Christmas, smile politely, thank them & then sell it on Ebay. Wearing a tie in one colour is the easiest thing to pull off.
If you want to look really, really good, wear a pocket square. Here’s how to fold one. A good pocket square should complement, not overpower.
Beware of silk ties. They can pull easily. Check the other ones on the rack in the store — if one of them has that problem, it’s likely yours will too.
When you buy a suit, they will typically give you a hanger with it. Keep it. Use it. It will help keep the clothing in shape.
No matter how trashed you get at your little sister’s Bat Mitzvah (or whatever), when you get home, always hang your suit up.
Use a lint-brush.
If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to good black shoes, you can get away with boots as long as they’re polished.
If you wear a belt, match it to the shoes, & match your socks to your trousers. (Wear dress socks.)

Good luck to you & your boyfriend! I have faith. I once had a bogan boyfriend myself, & he scrubbed up exceptionally well. Send pictures!