Buying Your First Suit - Graduation Outfits for Guys

A Guide to Buying Your First Suit

For most parents, a son’s transition from teenager to young adult is a welcome relief. But when you’re the young man in question, it can be an unsettling time and with so many new responsibilities battling for your attention, you’ll have to learn to juggle. With a new job interview, wedding or graduation ceremony to attend almost every month, chances are that your new responsibilities will involve a suit. To make matters worse, you’re on an ultra-low budget and you’re clueless about formalwear.

Traditional Suits

A traditional two-piece is the most popular choice for most formal occasions and nowadays, there’s a staggering amount of choice. £30 will buy you a full suit from everyone’s favourite high-street bargain paradise – but you’ll have to steer clear of naked flames. For £100, you can pick up a similar suit from a more fashionable retailer that is scarcely any better quality when compared in terms of construction and materials used. As a result, most men assume that sourcing a sharp-looking suit is a cabalistic art that can only be enjoyed by the wealthy and well-connected.

The fact is, anyone can get suit-buying right first time. Take heed of the following tips and you’ll be well on your way.

The fundamentals


Poor fit can be the death of an otherwise brilliant suit. Lapels that bow, collars that float and sleeves that ride up the arm are not a good look.

Dependant on your budget, you have three options. A made-to-measure suit will usually cost north of £400. A bespoke suit offers a more precise fit but costs far more – usually in the region of £2,000 - £5,000. Fitted suits will, however, pay dividends over time and will usually be incomparable to the shop-bought alternative. Fitted suits are a very personal investment and so it’s important to shop around and feel comfortable with your chosen tailor.

Ted Baker Tailoring

Look #1: GALAKSJ navy suit, £273 at Ted Baker; COCHETT leather bag, £107 at Ted Baker; TERRIF shirt, £42 at Ted Baker.


The more wallet-friendly and realistic option is a pre-made, off-the-peg suit and nowadays you can pick up a good quality suit for between £110 and £200. Be sure to check the construction for loose thread or uneven stitching and remember that a designer label is not necessarily indicative of good quality.

For a tailor-made look, set aside some of your budget to have your suit fitted by an alterations tailor. If you’re looking for a good “all-rounder” suit that won’t date then opt for a classic fit rather than skinny fit.


Pure wool suits come in different thicknesses and are a classic, failsafe choice. Cotton, however, is slightly cheaper, lighter and better suited to summer wear. Wool blends or cotton blends offer cheaper alternatives with most of the same properties as the purer versions. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester are popular and will pass the inspection of your average person so long as they don’t give off that tell-tale wet-look. Synthetic fabrics do not breathe easily and may make you sweaty, something to bear in mind!


Grey, navy blue or black are all solid choices. They won’t date and will match virtually any shirt and tie. Navy blue is especially good; it’s dark enough for job interviews and funerals but not as sombre or bold as black. For a more unconventional choice, try burgundy – it’ll look fantastic with a light blue shirt. If blue shirts aren’t your thing, try another pastel colour. White shirts can look corporate and cause those with lighter skin tones to look washed-out, so choose carefully.

Ted Baker & Paul Smith

Shoes and accessories: the finishing touches


A patterned pocket square with a simple, quality watch and/or tiepin is a subtle way of showing that you have taste. Cufflinks for double cuffs are another classy touch. A badly tied-tie can draw attention for the wrong reasons, so make sure you get this key detail right. Slim knots are a popular choice right now and the Windsor knot is a classic. Finally, avoid white socks! Patterned or dark socks only.

If you’re planning an overnight stay or just want to have an extra-safe place for your diploma, take a holdall or messenger bag. If you can stretch your budget to a leather one then it will age beautifully. See look #1 (above) for inspiration.


‘Fashionable’ shoes – such as square-toed shoes or those with upturned ends – may come to look dated and low-rent in time. It is always worth investing in a timeless pair of brogues or Oxfords in tan or black. Finally, ensure that you choose shoes and belts in corresponding colours.

Brogue at Mainline Menswear

What if I don’t want to wear a suit?

If you hate suits but can’t sidestep the occasion, try smart separates as an alternative to the suit-and-tie. Try pairing dark chinos with a formal shirt and finish with a heritage tweed or linen blazer and a pair of classic brown Oxfords or brogues. See look #2 (above) for inspiration.


This article was written following my involvement with an article produced by men’s fashion retailer Mainline Menswear. You can click here to read the original article ‘Choosing the Ultimate Graduation Get-up’.

Don't forget - if you find shopping a chore and want some one-on-one personal shopping advice get in touch with Lisa and find out more at


Lisa x