10 Ways to Spot a Quality Suit

With Suitsupply's vice president Nish de Gruiter

“We don’t let anyone out of the door who isn’t wearing a well-fitting suit,” says Nish de Gruiter, the vice president of Suitsupply, a burgeoning suit brand disrupting the age-old market. Every employee in the shops attends suit school to learn the historic art of tailoring. 

We met de Gruiter at the New York City Hudson Yards store, the behemoth mall known for its architectural jewel called The Vessel. Opened on Oct. 10, Suitsupply Hudson Yards—the sixth NYC location—is a 5,900-square-foot shop that houses the brand’s full collection of garments. They chose the position based on zip code research of their existing customers, thinking that bridge-and-tunnel commuters would find it conveniently located. With ten-minute tailoring options, you can drop your duds off on the way into the office and pick them up on the way home. Convenience is king. 

We talked at length about suits and the lost art of tailoring, with de Gruiter noting, “If you love what you do, it will never bore you.” Your first suit should always be a basic suit that you can break apart for personality and different events. Choose a classic navy. The fit is key. To spot a great suit, look for quality construction. Here are his expert insights into purchasing your first suit as a newbie buyer. Look out for these ten indicators of quality.

For guys looking to invest, what are the telltale signs of a good suit?

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1. Canvas Interior

Nothing on a body is square. So a suit needs to have a canvas interior. If the canvas reinforcement between the fabric is camel or horsehair, it will bounce back into its natural shape. To give something a curve, you need that lining. You get soft shoulders, comfortable clothes, great lines. And when you wear it, it feels great. On the hanger, it should go right back into its shape.

2. Exterior Breast Pocket

On a good suit, the breast pocket is always in a boat shape. It isn’t straight across. There is a curve that flows with the body line that can only a quality canvas can bring. You can’t make fabric have a curve without support.

3. Working Buttonholes

If you have a well-made suit, all of the buttonholes should be functional. Also known as a “surgeon’s cuff,” the small buttons at the cuffs should operate. This function was initially intended for doctors and surgeons to be mobile in the operating room while still wearing their jackets.

4. Neapolitan Tailoring

Well-made sleeves on good suits have little pleating along the upper armhole. The armhole is high, and the body is a little slimmer than average. It gives the wearer more space to move their arms. This detail is particularly telling, as the delicate craftsmanship is hand-finished.

5. Lining

A good suit has a proper lining. There should be a reinforcement to keep the back vents in place, an inside pocket at the breast and other thoughtful details.

6. Unconstructed Silhouettes

Unconstructed jackets take quite a bit longer to make than traditional suit jackets because the seam work is exposed. You can’t hide anything behind the lining.

7. Monograms

In traditional Italy, when people laundered their white shirts and hung them to dry on the line, ladies couldn’t always decipher which shirts belonged to their husbands. So they started stitching their initials into clothes. Thus, the beginning of the monogram. It’s not meant as showing off—its origins are functionality.

8. Boutonnière

Also known as the Milanese buttonhole, a boutonnière was inspired by Romans pinning flowers to their lapels. A small hole and corresponding loop behind the lapel is used for flowers—now most associated with American high school proms—monocles or lapel pins. 

9. Side Adjusters

In a good pair of suit pants, you’ll find side adjusters. Created to eliminate an unsightly belt, you can adjust a few inches around the waist of the pants with these clever additions. They can be metal or buttoned.

10. Sous Bras

Translating to underarm in French, sous bras (pronounced soo brahs) is a small underarm shield in the armhole of all beautiful suits. The extra piece of fabric, cut into a half-moon shape, soaks up any excess sweat in your underarm, prolonging the life of your outfit.

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