2020 Suit Style Essentials
Wear what makes you you.
These are great words to remember in life and in fashion because truth be told, there’s no one-size-fits-all outline for style. Every man has his own way of standing out, the trick is he’s just gotta learn what that is. For some, that’s loud patterns or stand-out colors, while others have a knack for building an entire outfit around an eye-catching pair of shoes. For me, it’s all about making the classics look fresh. For you, it may be a constant pursuit of the newest, trendiest look imaginable.
But no matter our individual tastes, we all rely on a few essentials. How and when you use them or what you wear them with is where your individual style will be applied. With that in mind, here are some of 2020’s Suit Style Essentials — pieces that can and should exist in every wardrobe today. Whether it’s the double breasted suit, the three-piece suit, finding the perfect discount suit that makes you feel like a million bucks or figuring out how to make the classic (and essential) navy suit your own, here’s that essential list:
-Double Breasted Suits (the DB):
No suit should ever be worn without attention to detail, but the DB requires a level of intention few styles can touch. One important distinction to make with your double breasted suit is to know the several button styles and outlines in its range, from the 6-by-2 all the way down to the 2-by-1. Each has its own purposeful design that gives a slimming look based on the wearer’s body type. Know which one is for you and you’re ahead of the game.
Originally gaining popularity as a literal sport coat — as in, men wore them as activewear — the double breasted suit's roots are as a casual jacket. Remembering that simple fact can be inspiration when deciding where one will fit in your wardrobe because it’s actually a versatile garment. Turtle necks, crew neck sweaters, tee shirts, and formal button ups with a tie are easy to swap out on just about any DB.
You can find an entire guide to the Double Breasted Suit here.
For the trendy at heart, wild patterns are a great way to keep things casual and stylish when trying to make a statement. Floral prints and bold, bright plaids are popular today, but there’s no shortage of options in the wild-pattern foray. These wild sport coats and bold pattern plaid suits are for the style guru’s that trust their confidence in them. This doesn’t mean you can’t branch out and wear a bold pattern suit (that’s what we are all about!) but know that it matches your style before committing.
My personal rule: never wear more than one pattern. If the objective of a pattern — whether it’s bold or subtle —is to draw attention to that design, why distract onlookers with anything else? If you opt for a suit like this then let the shirt and tie take a back seat and the suit do ALL the talking.
And one simple hack is remembering you really get multiple outfits from one patterned suit, no matter the design. For example, I’m an advocate for pairing one patterned garment with an opposite garment of solid color, either complimentary on the color wheel or its direct match.
Set out to get at least one pair of pants that will stand out on their own. And here’s the thing, “bold pants” don’t have to be checkered slacks or salmon chinos. Bold pants can also be a trendy fit that upstages the rest of your outfit.
For example, a popular style right now is simply tapered skinny fit slacks paired with some trendy shoes and no-show socks. The trick to pulling it off is you can’t skip the tapered cuffs, otherwise your pants just look too short. So whether it’s a bold pattern, color, or fit, you’ll need a trip to the tailor.
Wearing a polo shirt with a suit or just your blazer is a great way to put a casual touch on things. Even so, there are at least a few factors you should be aware of when doing so:
Beware of The Collar
Every polo will eventually get those dreaded rolled collars. They’re a telltale sign of a polo that’s been worn and washed over time, and while that may be acceptable on the golf course, a polo with crisp, flat collars are the only kind that should be worn under a suit jacket. If you don’t want to constantly buy new shirts for this, you can find multiple designs of collar stays made for polos, from tape-like simplicity to wire stays.
Keep It Simple
As mentioned, a polo is a great way to dress a suit or sport coat down. But dressing it down too much can easily look sloppy. This means patterns or details on collars, and even mismatched buttons that would normally look fine when a polo is worn on its own won’t sit so well under a sport coat. Solid colors with very minimal or no design at all are typically your best bet. Remember that sometimes what makes a full suit look it’s best is when it’s built around an entire outfit.
What Shoes Should I Wear?
Your nicest pair of dress shoes probably won’t look great with your favorite suit and a polo shirt. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but the safest bet with polos is going to be something like a clean pair of leather sneakers. Speaking of…
Leather sneakers are probably the most versatile accessory you can invest in. A single pair of quality leather sneakers in one of three basic colors — black, white, or brown — can be worn with everything from a full suit down to your daily jeans and tee shirt, so their use covers a wide range. Pair them with quality jeans and a blazer and they’ll even round out a presentable business casual outfit when traveling for work or attending evening events. But it can’t be stressed enough, you have to keep them crisp and clean if you want to wear sneakers with a three piece suit or double breasted suit.
There’s a fine line between stylish and bulky when putting a sweater under your suit jacket. Lightweight wool or cashmere tend to work well with blazers, either as your primary top or layered with a collared shirt.
If the sweater is being used as another layer, be mindful of which color you choose. Since you’re now working with three garments on top (jacket, sweater, and dress shirt), it’s important to work with contrasting colors that don’t overwhelm each other.
Think tie-shirt-sweater. If you’re wearing a white shirt and dark blue tie, then your sweater will probably look best if it matches your tie precisely and compliments your jacket. Neutral colors can be your best friend in this game.
Buy at least one pair of denim jeans that won’t be worn for everyday use. Dark denim is typically the most versatile and durable, since faded jeans can quickly start to look sloppy up against a nice blazer. Buying quality denim will take you far with your wardrobe. Quality denim can be worn with a casual, dinner sport coat or with a solid, textured t-shirt.
2020’s Color Trends
Now that you have a starter list of suit essentials, what are the colors you should be seeking out? The traditional, classic closet has one black suit, a navy suit, and a dark grey suit. If your aim is to build a classic wardrobe, seek out those standards and build around them with the other essentials covered here.
Meanwhile, you can take almost any suit and add a splash of color to give it a trendier feel and look. The following are some of 2020’s color trends to consider:
Blues / Mint
The great thing about a navy blue suit is it will look good with just about any other shade of blue complimenting it. This means from ties to pocket squares to socks, you can add a splash of color. Mint and teal are popular choices right now that can instantly soften the strength of a classic blue suit, balancing out the entire look well.
Warm Red / Orange
Few things will stand out more than a red or orange tie against a black suit. It’s tough to don a warm red or orange tie or socks, for example, without them becoming the centerpiece of your outfit. That’s a good thing!
Violet is another regal color for men. There’s nothing wrong with going all out and sporting a bevy of violet accessories or a full purple suit, but just a couple of violet accents in the design of your pocket square, for example, will stand out against a gray suit. Violet may sound like a wild, bold color but it’s actually a low-key, sophisticated option as an accent amidst other dark colors.
Neutrals (Off-white, bone, light grey)
Off-white doesn’t sound risky but it’s definitely not an easy suit to pull off. Your two most reliable techniques for making this work are “go all the way” or “go halfway.” What this means is you should compliment an off-white/light-colored suit with a shirt and shoes of similar light hues, keeping your entire outfit light and neutral. The other method would be to pick contrasting dark colors, like a navy polo, for example, or dark brown shoes or grey and matching belt.
The Foundational Pieces I Will Not Go Without
Every man develops and grows his own sense of style, and having a standard or two to build from accomplishes a handful of things. First, it gives you ‘a look.’ Whether people can put their finger on it or not, they notice something distinctive about your style each day.
Second, it eliminates decision fatigue when putting an outfit together. For example, if you have a specific color palette you stick to, there’s one less thing you’ll have to deliberate over. And that makes deciding on shoes or just the right tie that much easier every time.
So work in your wheelhouse — a few items or tricks that consistently work for you. Here are a few of my own:
-Pocket Squares / Handkerchiefs
I almost always wear a pocket square or handkerchief when wearing a sport coat. Personally, I almost exclusively wear solid color suits (black, navy blue, or grey), a solid white or black shirt, and a solid colored tie. The pocket square accents it all and against a palette of traditional solids, no pocket square can be too wild. Trust me, a red pocket square against a traditional black suit and tie stands out.
-The Solid White or Black Tee Shirt
A solid black or white tee shirt, quality jeans, and a blazer is my go-to outfit for business trips —when I want to get off the plane and greet my host looking presentable while also avoiding going full suit on a long flight. It’s also an outfit I use for business casual industry events like non-formal red carpets or film industry holiday parties. It’s never too dressy for any occasion and rarely leaves me underdressed.
“Fit plus fabric” are three words to remember for a tee shirt to work under a blazer. Heavy, sturdy tees that aren’t faded are a must. And they should be fitted rather than baggy. Pro tip: have a couple quality tees that will only ever be worn under a suit jacket and never as everyday shirts.
I love knitted ties because A) they’re slim ties and slim ties are the only ties I will wear, B) no matter the room you’re in, a knitted tie is the minority which always stands out, and C) I genuinely just like their look better than the pointed-edge of a standard tie.
The point is that again, having a default option you love and know you look good in takes the guessing game out. They’re called foundational pieces for a reason.