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Choosing the right Suit

Choosing a suit isn't difficult if you follow these basic steps with respect to fabric, fit and style. As with most things you get what you pay for but a contemporary looking business suit needn't cost the earth. If you have a reasonable budget, you will have no problem finding a great suit. There are several websites out there that will give you advice on buying a suit so I will not try to replicate these. However the advice given below is specific to choosing a suit that is suitable in an Officers Mess and would set you in good stead at AOSB.

Fabric

There are a lot of different fabrics available but I would advise going for a hard wearing fabric with a reasonably high wool content (45% or greater). Combining polyester with wool ensures you will have a suit that has good crease recovery and will be relatively easy to dry clean - a good idea for military use. The best option for a multi-purpose suit that is a safe option for AOSB and Sandhurst is a standard dark coloured suit, either plain or pinstripe. I would steer away from browns and blues and stick to black or grey. Under NO circumstances should you wear a cream or garishly coloured suit, and avoid any type of shiny or shimmering fabric at all cost – while these may be all the rage in River Island they are heavily frowned upon in the military. More recently I have seen an increase in the popularity of tweed suits but unless you are confident you can pull it off with style tweed is best avoided at this stage as it does not suit everyone.

With respect to pattern, the best option is to go for either plain or pinstripe. My advice is to go for a clean and uncluttered fabric avoiding chequered and tartan patterns as these can be overly detailed and distracting.

Fit

If you buy from a reputable dealer they will ensure a good fit and one popular option to make sure you get a good fit is to buy a mix and match suit. A mix and match suit allows you to buy a jacket with whatever size trousers you need. This may sound obvious but many suits are sold as a two piece suit and you can't alter the jacket and trouser sizes! Beware of cowboy salesmen who are desperate to sell you anything to earn their commission. We all know the type of sales assistant I am talking about here, those who haven’t got a clue how a suit should fit and most certainly no idea how an Army Officer should dress. If possible take somebody with you who you can trust to give an honest opinion of how you look in your suit before parting with your cash.


One very useful benefit of the mix and match approach is you can buy a second pair of trousers. Very often in a military environment you will find yourself engaging in various shenanigans (usually in the bar) and although you may be able to remove your jacket before participating in a boat race, its less common that you get the chance to remove your trousers! Well, unless things go very wrong for you. This can result in your suit trousers becoming worn before the jacket. The mix and match approach allows you to buy extra trousers either when you need them or when you buy the suit ensuring you get most from your investment.


Style

In terms of style the most popular type of lounge suit in the Officer Mess is a single breasted jacket. Double breasted sports jackets and blazers are common for more relaxed occasions but not recommended for AOSB. Make sure the stitching is as invisible as possible and avoid jackets with contrasting stitch colours.

Collar - Generally, your collar should hug the back of your neck without buckling or pulling on your shirt. Your shirt should stick out an inch from the back of your collar but we will come on to shirts in a moment.

Lapels - Lapels are the extension of the suit's collar, which fold back against the chest. Both a high and low notch are OK, as long as they are flat on your chest, discreet and don't buckle.

Buttons – A lot of retailers consider 3 button jackets to be out dated but these are generally the standard in the Officers Mess. Normally a 3 button jacket is worn with only the middle button fastened. If you are struggling to find a jacket with 3 buttons then a 2 buttoned jacket will suffice but under no circumstances buy a single button jacket!

Vents & Slits - Vents are the flaps of cloth below the waist, at the back. They should cover your entire rear end and they should never be separated unless you're bending or sitting down. Make sure they lay flat against your backside when you're standing straight. A larger individual should choose a jacket with two slits, while a thinner man should opt for a jacket with no slits.

Summary

Buying a Suit

Now that you know what your looking for go to the Buying a Suit section for more practical advice.