Suit Etiquette for Men

by Lilian M Raji

Making a great first impression means following a few etiquette rules designed to make you look your best.

Brian Ach/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Etiquette is something that goes beyond knowing the proper fork to use for the salad course (hint: it's the outermost fork). Etiquette also applies to how a person dresses. Some of these rules have obscure origins tied to fashion folklore, while others are based simply on what is visually compelling. There's a laundry list of etiquette tips to make a fashionable gentleman -- but knowing just a few will help your rock your next suit in style.

The Suit Jacket: Single-Breasted

"Should I button my jacket?" is a common inquiry regarding suit etiquette, but the answer greatly depends. With a single-breasted jacket, whether or not you button depends on how many buttons your jacket has. Single-button jackets should always be buttoned when standing and unbuttoned when sitting. Two button single-breasted jackets require the top button to be done and the bottom button undone. A three-button jacket will have an unfastened bottom button, with a choice of fastening either or both the top and middle button.These rules are based on the notion that a fastened lower button restricts natural movement.

The Suit Jacket: Double Breasted

There are less rules with a double-breasted jacket than the single variety, but none are written in stone. You will typically fasten all the buttons in a double-breasted jacket, except the bottom one -- however, you'll sometimes see a figure like Prince Charles buttoning up completely. "GQ" magazine advocates getting a double-breasted jacket tailored, as its cut gives most men a "powerful, athletic hourglass figure" that suggests "alpha-male confidence."

Dos and Don'ts of the Ties

The color of your tie should be darker than your shirt. For a print tie, the background color should not match your shirt's color. While a shirt is essential to wearing a tie, a shirt and tie alone doesn't make for a great look -- especially if the shirt is short-sleeved. Always throw on a jacket, cardigan or vest to accompany your tie. The length of the tie should end just at your pant's waistband -- any longer looks awkward. Add a dimple to your tie to make a great impression.

About Accessories

Black belts must go with black shoes, brown belts with brown shoes. If you choose to wear a belt, nix the suspenders. A belt or suspender alone is perfect; together, not so much. If your pants are tailored with a half belt or other type of side adjuster, however, forget both belt and suspenders. Vests are acceptable with tailored trousers or over suspenders, but never should they accompany a belt. A colorful pocket square says "cultured gentleman"; a pocket square that matches your tie says "I'm trying too hard."

Photo Credits

  • Brian Ach/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

About the Author

Lilian M Raji is a strategic marketing and public relations adviser for luxury lifestyle companies in the areas of fine jewelry and watches, fashion, accessories, beauty, cosmetics, restaurants and hotels. Equally passionate about writing as she is developing and executing business strategy, she has been published on Forbes.com, Luxury Society, "The Village of Merrick Park Magazine" and "Canadian Jeweller Magazine."