How to wear a suit — the right way


By Declan Harty

From the Rat Pack and James Bond to Barney Stinson and Don Draper,  the suit has been the trademark of the professional man in both pop culture and everyday life. After four years of wearing jeans and sweatpants to class, a suit can be vital to transition into the professional world for college students. But it is the finer details that can make or break a suit. 

Though owning a suit is a rarity on a college campus, it is a necessity. Jason Swenson, a first-year graduate student in Engineering, said his black and thinly grey striped suit is an essential asset for approaching the job market.

“It brings a certain level of confidence to an individual when they apply for a job,” Swenson said. “Obviously, the point of college, in the end, is to get that job, so if you have the suit, you have the swag.”

Swenson said that he believes first impressions are vital to the level of success in a job interview, which can be led by one’s confidence in his suit. 

Brian Neighbors, a senior assistant director for employer development with The Career Center, said he believes the expectations for owning a suit on campus differ by the department and the job one is applying for. 

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    “Any job interview you are going to go for that (is) a business — it is a brick-and-mortar building, there are offices, and it is a formalized business — that is when the suit is going to come into play,” Neighbors said. “If you are a certain type of engineer … and your interview is going to be on sight at a construction yard, if you show up in a suit there, you will get mixed emotions when everyone else is in jeans, work boots and a hard hat.”

    Neighbors said that for most students, there is one rule to always abide by in a professional setting.

    “The rule of thumb is that you want to dress one level up from what everybody else is doing,” Neighbors said. 

    Even the students who do own a suit may not realize the untold success in wearing one right. These tips can help students perfect the look that has been mastered for years.


    Know how to tie a knot 

    According to Doug Conant, assistant manager at Men’s Warehouse in Champaign, the knot of the tie, particularly a half or a full Windsor knot, is dependent on the width of the collar.

    Pick the right tie size

    The size of the tie should always match the width of the jacket’s lapel, meaning that a thinner tie should join a thin lapel and a wider tie should be used with a thicker lapel. The width of a lapel is a preference selection, according to Conant; however, most men determine their lapel width by their age. The younger men wear a thin lapel with a thin tie and older men wear a wider lapel and a wider tie. The wider tie and lapel is a look that is commonly associated with the suits of the 1900s, whereas the thinner approach is more modern. On the other side of the tie, the very tip of the tie should always aim to hit the belt buckle. 

    Color match 

    Unless the colors of the shirt and tie contrast, the color of a tie should always be darker than the shirt’s color, according to Conant.

    Jackets and shirts

    Buying a jacket off the rack 

    As one of the more difficult choices to master, an off-the-rack suit can either hinder or be a lucky charm for some men. If you can’t find a well-fitting suit, don’t force it. 

    “I don’t think it has to be tailored like Barney on ‘How I Met Your Mother,’” Neighbors said. “I think that something you can buy cheaply off the rack is fine. … Instead of wearing a frumpy suit or something that is oversized, if you have slacks, a button-up and a tie that fit you well, … I would recommend you go with that.”

    Button up 

    The middle button, for a three-button jacket, and the top button of a jacket should be equal to a man’s navel ideally; however, it can be above the navel as well. 

    Link your cuffs 

    For a French-cuffed shirt, the sleeve cuff is a place for personalization with the cuff links. Everything from functioning watch cuff links to sports team’s logos, the sleeve cuff is a place for a man’s personal mark. Optimally, the cuff of a sleeve, French cuff or not, should be exposed a half an inch from the jacket sleeve.

    Pants and shoes

    Find the right length

    The pants of the suit are one of the more difficult parts to get perfect. For all suits, the pants hem should have one break in them when the pants hit the top of the shoes. Another difficult aspect is the length when sitting, as a man’s leg should never be exposed. Therefore, this creates another area of personalization: socks. Dress socks can be found in a variety of colors and patterns, which allow some personal options for the man. 

    Shoes should compliment the suit 

    The pairing of a suit and the corresponding shoe color can make or break the final look. For black shoes, one should be wearing a black, light grey, navy or charcoal suit, but for brown shoes one should be wearing either a brown, navy or light grey suit. But one must always remember to have their shoes and belt match.