Men's suits buying guide

A suit is an essential component of every man’s wardrobe. Suit tailoring is a time-honoured practice so there are many traditional details and conventions it helps to be aware of before you buy your suit. This guide will take you through the fit details and design features you’ll need to consider when making your choice, to help you find your perfect suit. It also offers advice on shirts and accessories to complement your look.

You can also watch this video for a visual guide.

How to get a great fit

Slim Suit

Slim

Tailored Suit

Tailored

Regular Suit

Regular

When you’re trying on a new suit jacket, the first thing to look at is the shoulders; the pads shouldn’t protrude beyond your shoulders.

Our Suit Shop offers three key fits: 

  • Slim: A slim fit suit is the most contemporary of all styles; sleek, sophisticated and of-the-moment
  • Tailored: Achieve unparalleled elegance with a tailored suit. Elevate your on-duty and occasion wardrobes with this timeless fit
  • Regular: Crafted for comfort, take it back to basics with the fail-safe regular fit suit

The back of the suit jacket should fall neatly in a straight line, with the bottom edge no lower than your knuckles.  When fastened with one button, the jacket should fit closely around your stomach but not tightly. 

Sleeve length is also important - sleeves should never meet your wrist any lower than the base of your thumb. For a neat, smart look, you’ll want to be able to see a few centimetres of your shirt sleeve protruding beyond the jacket.

To lengthen the life of your suit, we recommend purchasing two pairs of coordinating trousers. 

How to measure yourself

If you’re unsure of either your jacket or your trouser size, measure yourself using our tips below and then compare your details to our measurement table which will give you an idea of which sizes you should be buying.

To do this, you’re going to need a tape measure, and it’d be easier if you have someone else to take the measurements for you.

Keen to get a second opinion? Why not make an appointment with our new in-store tailoring service? Our 'Made to Measure' service is now available at Oxford Street. Further information can be found here

 

Jacket

Using the diagram to the right as a guide, note down your 6 measurements for the following areas:

Neck to shoulder, Body length, Sleeve length, Sleeve width, Waist, Chest

Suit Jacket Front
Suit Jacket Back
Waistcoat



Trousers

To find out your trouser size, you’ll need to take down 5 measurements:

Leg length, Waist to groin, Hips, Thigh width, Ankle width

Trousers Back
Trousers Inside Leg
Trousers Front
 

Keen to get a second opinion? Why not add a touch of bespoke luxury to your wardrobe with our new in-store tailoring service? 

Our 'Made to Measure' service is now available at Oxford Street. Further information can be found here

Dimensions

Jackets

Regular Fit Suit Jackets

Jacket Size To Fit up to Chest (in/cm) Sleeve Length* (in/cm) Centre Back Length (in/cm)
36S 36 IN / 92 CM 24 IN / 61 CM 28 IN / 71 CM
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 25¼ IN / 64 CM 29 IN / 74 CM
36L 36 IN / 92 CM 26⅜ IN / 67 CM 30⅜ IN / 77CM
38S 38 IN / 96 CM 24¼ IN / 61.5 CM 26⅜ IN / 72 CM
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 25⅜ IN / 64.5 CM 29½ IN / 75 CM
38L 38 IN / 96 CM 26⅝IN / 67.5 CM 30¾ IN / 78 CM
40S 40 IN / 102 CM 24⅜ IN / 62 CM 28¾ IN / 73 CM
40R 40 IN / 102 CM 25⅝ IN / 65 CM 30 IN / 76 CM
40L 40 IN / 102 CM 26¾ IN / 68 CM 33 IN / 79 CM
42S 42 IN / 108 CM 24⅝ IN / 62.5 CM 29 IN / 74 CM
42R 42 IN / 108 CM 25¾ IN / 65.5 CM 30⅜ IN / 77CM
42L 42 IN / 108 CM 27 IN / 68.5 CM 31⅝IN / 80 CM
44S 44 IN / 112 CM 24¾ / 63 CM 29½ IN / 75 CM
44R 44 IN / 112 CM 26 IN / 66 CM 30¾ IN / 78 CM
44L 44 IN / 112 CM 27⅛ IN / 69 CM 32 IN / 81 CM
46S 46 IN / 116 CM 25 IN / 63.5 CM 30 IN / 76 CM
46R 46 IN / 116 CM 26⅛ IN / 66.5 CM 33 IN / 79 CM
46L 46 IN / 116 CM 27⅜ IN / 69.5 CM 32¼ IN / 82 CM
48R 48 IN / 120CM 26⅜ IN / 67 CM 31⅝IN / 80 CM
50R 50 IN / 128CM 26⅝ IN / 67.5 CM 32 IN / 81 CM



Tailored Fit Suit Jackets

Jacket Size To Fit up to Chest (in/cm) Sleeve Length* (in/cm) Centre Back Length (in/cm)
36S 36 IN / 92 CM 24¼ IN / 61.5 CM 27½ IN / 70 CM
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 25⅜ IN / 64.5 CM 28¾ IN / 73 CM
36L 36 IN / 92 CM 26⅝IN / 67.5 CM 30 IN / 76 CM
38S 38 IN / 96 CM 24⅜ IN / 62 CM 28 IN / 71 CM
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 25⅝ IN / 65 CM 29 IN / 74 CM
38L 38 IN / 96 CM 26¾ IN / 68 CM 30⅜ IN / 77CM
40S 40 IN / 102 CM 24⅝ IN / 62.5 CM 26⅜ IN / 72 CM
40R 40 IN / 102 CM 25¾ IN / 65.5 CM 29½ IN / 75 CM
40L 40 IN / 102 CM 27 IN / 68.5 CM 30¾ IN / 78 CM
42S 42 IN / 108 CM 24¾ / 63 CM 28¾ IN / 73 CM
42R 42 IN / 108 CM 26 IN / 66 CM 30 IN / 76 CM
42L 42 IN / 108 CM 27⅛ IN / 69 CM 33 IN / 79 CM
44S 44 IN / 112 CM 25 IN / 63.5 CM 29 IN / 74 CM
44R 44 IN / 112 CM 26⅛ IN / 66.5 CM 30⅜ IN / 77CM
44L 44 IN / 112 CM 27⅜ IN / 69.5 CM 31⅝IN / 80 CM
46S 46 IN / 116 CM 25¼ IN / 64 CM 29½ IN / 75 CM
46R 46 IN / 116 CM 26⅜ IN / 67 CM 30¾ IN / 78 CM
46L 46 IN / 116 CM 27½ IN / 70 CM 32 IN / 81 CM
48R 48 IN / 120CM 26⅝ IN / 67.5 CM 33 IN / 79 CM
50R 50 IN / 128CM 26¾ IN / 68 CM 31⅝IN / 80 CM



Slim Fit Suit Jackets

Jacket Size To Fit up to Chest (in/cm) Sleeve Length* (in/cm) Centre Back Length (in/cm)
36S 36 IN / 92 CM 24⅜ IN / 62 CM 27⅛ IN / 69 CM
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 25⅝ IN / 65 CM 26⅜ IN / 72 CM
36L 36 IN / 92 CM 26¾ IN / 68 CM 29½ IN / 75 CM
38S 38 IN / 96 CM 24⅝ IN / 62.5 CM 27½ IN / 70 CM
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 25¾ IN / 65.5 CM 28¾ IN / 73 CM
38L 38 IN / 96 CM 27 IN / 68.5 CM 30 IN / 76 CM
40S 40 IN / 102 CM 24¾ / 63 CM 28 IN / 71 CM
40R 40 IN / 102 CM 26 IN / 66 CM 29 IN / 74 CM
40L 40 IN / 102 CM 27⅛ IN / 69 CM 30⅜ IN / 77CM
42S 42 IN / 108 CM 25 IN / 63.5 CM 26⅜ IN / 72 CM
42R 42 IN / 108 CM 26⅛ IN / 66.5 CM 29½ IN / 75 CM
42L 42 IN / 108 CM 27⅜ IN / 69.5 CM 30¾ IN / 78 CM
44S 44 IN / 112 CM 25¼ IN / 64 CM 28¾ IN / 73 CM
44R 44 IN / 112 CM 26⅜ IN / 67 CM 30 IN / 76 CM
44L 44 IN / 112 CM 27½ IN / 70 CM 33 IN / 79 CM 
       

* Short jackets measure 3cm/1.2in shorter in sleeve and centre back length

** Long jackets measure 3cm/1.2in longer in sleeve and centre back length

Waistcoats

Regular Fit Waistcoats

Jacket Size To Fit up to Chest (in/cm) Centre Back Length (in/cm)  
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 22¾ IN / 58 CM  
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 23¼ IN / 59 CM  
40R 40 IN / 102 CM 23½ IN / 60 CM  
42R 42 IN / 108 CM 24 IN / 61 CM  
44R 44 IN / 112 CM 24⅜ IN / 62 CM  
46R 46 IN / 116 CM 24¾ / 63 CM  
48R 48 IN / 120CM 25¼ IN / 64 CM  
50R 50 IN / 128CM 25⅝ IN / 65 CM   



Tailored Fit Waistcoats

Jacket Size To Fit up to Chest (in/cm) Centre Back Length (in/cm)  
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 22¾ IN / 58 CM  
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 23¼ IN / 59 CM  
40R 40 IN / 102 CM 23½ IN / 60 CM  
42R 42 IN / 108 CM 24 IN / 61 CM  
44R 44 IN / 112 CM 24⅜ IN / 62 CM  
46R 46 IN / 116 CM 24¾ / 63 CM  
48R 48 IN / 120CM 25¼ IN / 64 CM  
50R 50 IN / 128CM 25⅝ IN / 65 CM   



Slim Fit Waistcoats

Jacket Size To Fit up to Chest (in/cm) Centre Back Length (in/cm)  
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 22½ IN / 57 CM  
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 22¾ IN / 58 CM  
40R 40 IN / 102 CM 23¼ IN / 59 CM  
42R 42 IN / 108 CM 23½ IN / 60 CM  
44R 44 IN / 112 CM 24 IN / 61 CM  

 

Trousers


Regular Fit Trousers

Trouser Size To Fit Waist* (in/cm) Inside Leg (in/cm) Total Rise* (in/cm)
30S 30 IN / 76CM 29 IN / 74 CM 25 IN / 63.5 CM
30R 30 IN / 76CM 31 IN / 79 CM 25⅜ IN / 64.5 CM
30L 30 IN / 76CM 33 IN / 84 CM 25¾ IN / 65.5 CM
32S 32 IN / 80 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 25⅝ IN / 65 CM
32R 32 IN / 80 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 26 IN / 66 CM
32L 32 IN / 80 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 26⅜ IN / 67 CM
34S 34 IN / 86 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 26⅛ IN / 66.5 CM
34R 34 IN / 86 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 26⅝IN / 67.5 CM
34L 34 IN / 86 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 27 IN / 68.5 CM
36S 36 IN / 92 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 26¾ IN / 68 CM
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 27⅛ IN / 69 CM
36L 36 IN / 92 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 27½ IN / 70 CM
38S 38 IN / 96 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 27⅜ IN / 69.5 CM
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 27¾ in / 70.5 CM
38L 38 IN / 96 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 28⅛ in / 71.5 CM
40S 40 IN / 102 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 28 IN / 71 CM
40R 40 IN / 102 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 26⅜ IN / 72 CM
40L 40 IN / 102 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 28¾ IN / 73 CM
42S 42 IN / 108 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 28½ ni / 72.5 CM
42R 43 IN / 108 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 28⅞ IN / 73.5 CM
42L 44 IN / 108 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 29¼ IN / 74.5 CM



Tailored Fit Suit Trousers

Trouser Size To Fit Waist* (in/cm) Inside Leg (in/cm) Total Rise* (in/cm)
30S 30 IN / 76CM 29 IN / 74 CM 24¼ IN / 61.5 CM
30R 30 IN / 76CM 31 IN / 79 CM 24⅝ IN / 62.5 CM
30L 30 IN / 76CM 33 IN / 84 CM 25 IN / 63.5 CM
32S 32 IN / 80 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 24¾ / 63 CM
32R 32 IN / 80 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 25¼ IN / 64 CM
32L 32 IN / 80 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 25⅝ IN / 65 CM
34S 34 IN / 86 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 25⅜ IN / 64.5 CM
34R 34 IN / 86 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 25¾ IN / 65.5 CM
34L 34 IN / 86 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 26⅛ IN / 66.5 CM
36S 36 IN / 92 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 26 IN / 66 CM
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 26⅜ IN / 67 CM
36L 36 IN / 92 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 26¾ IN / 68 CM
38S 38 IN / 96 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 26⅝IN / 67.5 CM
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 27 IN / 68.5 CM
38L 38 IN / 96 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 27⅜ IN / 69.5 CM
40S 40 IN / 102 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 27⅛ IN / 69 CM
40R 40 IN / 102 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 27½ IN / 70 CM
40L 40 IN / 102 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 28 IN / 71 CM
42S 42 IN / 108 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 27¾ IN / 70.5 CM
42R 43 IN / 108 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 28⅛ IN / 71.5 CM
42L 44 IN / 108 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 28½ IN / 72.5 CM



Slim Fit Suit Trousers

Trouser Size To Fit Waist* (in/cm) Inside Leg (in/cm) Total Rise* (in/cm)
30S 30 IN / 76CM 29 IN / 74 CM 25¼ IN / 64 CM
30R 30 IN / 76CM 31 IN / 79 CM 26⅛ IN / 66.5 CM
30L 30 IN / 76CM 33 IN / 84 CM 27⅛ IN / 69 CM
32S 32 IN / 80 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 25¾ IN / 65.5 CM
32R 32 IN / 80 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 26¾ IN / 68 CM
32L 32 IN / 80 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 27¾ in / 70.5 CM
34S 34 IN / 86 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 26⅜ IN / 67 CM
34R 34 IN / 86 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 27⅜ IN / 69.5 CM
34L 34 IN / 86 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 26⅜ IN / 72 CM
36S 36 IN / 92 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 27 IN / 68.5 CM
36R 36 IN / 92 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 28 IN / 71 CM
36L 36 IN / 92 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 28⅞ IN / 73.5 CM
38S 38 IN / 96 CM 29 IN / 74 CM 27½ IN / 70 CM
38R 38 IN / 96 CM 31 IN / 79 CM 28½ IN / 72.5 CM
38L 38 IN / 96 CM 33 IN / 84 CM 29½ IN / 75 CM
 

* Short trouser measure 5cm/2in shorter in inside leg

** Long trouser measure 5cm/2in longer in inside leg

 

All in the detail

The difference between suits is often in the little details. These can say a lot about the suit and could give you a dash of individuality.


Colour and pattern
Suit fabrics can be plain, or come in many different weaves and patterns. The more popular weaves are:

Herringbone - A cloth with a distinctive chevron pattern, created by the way the fabric is woven.

Birdseye -  Cloth with a particular diamond shape pattern.

Pick and pick -  An elegant twill weave suiting fabric that can sometimes have a two tone appearance due to the weave

Prince of Wales - The Prince of Wales Check is a Glen plaid with a coloured windowpane check over the top.

Windowpane - A large and simple check pattern.

 

Image of a suit


Fabric
Sometimes a suit will be described with a ‘super’ number; such as “Super 120s”. This number refers to the fineness of the individual fibres that make up the fabric; the higher the number the finer the fabric

Consider the purpose of your suit when looking at the fabrics available. If you’re intending on wearing the suit for travel, consider one of our John Lewis Travel Suits.  This suit made from 100% wool high twist yarn, meaning it is crease resistant and features a lighter internal structure ensuring comfort on your travels or commute. 

Buttons 
Two-button fastenings are the most commonly found style but many variations exist. Tradition dictates that the bottom button of a suit jacket should always be left undone. So, if your jacket has two buttons you’ll only fasten one; if it’s a three button jacket you’ll fasten two.


Lapels
The ubiquitous lapel shape for modern tailoring is the simple notched lapel. There’s also the peaked lapel and the shawl lapel, most commonly seen on dinner jackets.

Pockets
Suit pockets are usually jetted or flapped. When you buy your new suit, the pockets are often sewn up so you can choose whether you want to leave these as they are, or unpick the stitching. You should also look at internal pockets and consider how many you’d like. Modern suiting is becoming more inventive, with internal pockets provided to fit your electronics and in the case of a travel suit, a passport.

Image of suit


Construction
Suits are constructed in one of three ways: canvas, half-canvas or fused construction.

A suit with a canvas construction will have an inner layer made of canvas, which is there to structure the suit and give it stability. The canvas absorbs the heat and moisture from your body, helping it to mould to and memorise your shape so that you’ll get a better fit from the suit over time. This construction is difficult and very labour-intensive, and therefore is usually found on top-end and bespoke suits.

A half-canvas construction has a canvas inner layer but this doesn’t extend all the way down the jacket. The canvas will only be in the upper part of the suit, so it will give you a great fit around your shoulders. Suits with a half or full canvas constructions have a free, more natural fit. This is featured on our John Lewis Woven in Italy and John Lewis Zegna range.

Our fused suits still have a canvas chest piece. An inter lining provides structure to the shell of the suit. We ensure this method is long lasting and practical.

Complementing your suit

Office wear can be a very sombre and conservative affair, but choose a few choice accessories to inject colour and personality, without flouting convention.

 

Shirts

 

Shirts
Firstly, you’ll need to get your collar size right:

Take a tape measure and wrap it around your neck, just below your Adam’s apple and measure in inches.

Shirts can have single (fastens with a button) or double (usually needs cufflinks) cuffs. 

There are many different collar styles, as fashions change over time. The most common for everyday shirts is the spread collar, as it allows ample space for a tie knot.

Ties

 

Ties
Similarly to shirts, ties can demonstrate individuality amidst your more conventional attire. Whilst some prefer  a more subtle and muted look others enjoy the bright pop a tie can add to an outfit. 

To make sure your tie recovers its shape, store it unknotted in a hanging position, except for knitted ties, which should be rolled for storage. If you can’t hang your ties, rolling them is better than folding.

Shoes

 

Shoes
Finally, the safest bet with a suit is traditional black, but brown will instantly de-formalise your suit if you’re wearing it straight after work.

Watch this video to find out how to make your suit work harder.