Suit Patterns and Formality

There are several options when looking for a suit. Colors tend to dominate the conversation when it comes to suit description, even if the suit is a patterned one.  This doesn’t mean that there isn’t much difference between a solid colored suit and a pattered suit, however. Colors and patterns can have a significant impact on the look and feel of a suit, the look of the person wearing it, and the environment for which the suit is appropriate.

Because this is so important, you need to understand how these options should affect your suit purchase. We will start by giving you an overview of the different patterns that you will see, moving on to other questions you need to answer when making your purchase.

Solid Colors – Very Formal

This is the most common option and the most formal. Solid colored suits are resolute and formal. They can also, when taken in a darker color, have a slimming effect that men of a larger size can take advantage of.

White Pinstripe – Very Formal

When talking in pinstripes, the actual size of the stripe should be no larger than a pen could make. Pinstriped suits are typically of the formal variety when they come in a narrow white stripe. If you start to get into other colors and wider stripes, the suit becomes less formal. Pinstripes are usually seen on gray and navy colored suits and usually come in a vertical stripe, which will give the appearance of a taller person.

Colored Pinstripe – Somewhat Formal

Suits with colored pinstripes are less formal and should not be worn in business environments. Though they are becoming more commonplace, they are typically reserved for prom, dances, and other social gatherings.

Plaid & Tartan – Less Formal

Crossing vertical and horizontal stripes will create the plaid suit pattern, with varying spacing. In suits you will typically see only a couple of colors used, while you can see several colors used in shirts and shorts. Scottish tartans are often brighter and less muted than what you will typically see on a suit. Though we call these less formal, the Scottish tartan is used in formal events as a traditional piece of clothing.

Glen Check & Prince of Wales – ­Somewhat Formal

This is a woolen fabric designed with checks of varying sizes. The pattern is usually found in two colors and has a formal feel. This specific design has been associated with the British Royal Family, as Sir Edward VIII favored the pattern for his bespoke suits.

Windowpane – Very Casual

This pattern is unlike plaid as the pattern is consistent in size. Men who are shorter and larger will find that this pattern is not extremely complimentary to this particular body shape. This pattern is more casual and should be saved for such an occasion.

What will you use the suit for?

Most often, suit used for business are solid and mainly dark colored, with the occasional pinstripe for a more daring look. In a less formal office, but one where it is common to see a suit, one could get away with a glen check or a suit boasting a thicker stripe. These two are good options for a third or fourth suit option, something interesting that veers from the traditional solid charcoal or navy.

Don’t be afraid to have a more interesting suit choice on hand for social events, like a light colored seersucker for a summer wedding or outdoor cocktail party. Showing up in a suit like this will get you the right kind of attention and says that you are stylish and make daring choices.

What will you pair the suit with?

Think about your shirt selection. Each type of pattern will pair well with particular shirt patterns and tie choices. In general, you should never pair a patterned suit with the same patterned shirt or tie. So if your wardrobe is heavy on grid patterns, a pinstripe will work out fine as a choice, and vice versa. For a solid suit, you can go pretty much any direction as far as shirt patterns are concerned, but stick to the same principle with colors as you do patterns – stay away from matching colors.

Does the pattern complement your body?

As we talked about above, stripes and other vertical patterns are going to give the appearance of a taller man. If you are very tall, you might want to avoid these choices. However, if you are looking for a couple of extra inches then you might go this route. As well, if you are lacking in the height department, you will want to avoid checks as the lines will give the appearance of a shorter person. For larger men, you can achieve a slimming effect by sticking to solid, darker colors.

Aside from patterns, fit is the other big issue with a suit. Always ensure a proper fit when buying a suit. Even if you decide not to get it tailored or go with a bespoke suit, work with someone at the store that knows what they are doing in fitting a suit. Stick to these rules and you will make smart choices on your purchases, and look quite dapper in your new suit!

Still unsure? Drop us a line and we’d help pick the best suit for your occasion.

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