How to dress like the men and women in the TV series Suits?
A very common assumption made by most people I meet who don’t know me well is that “I must have a need to dress well as I’m now in the business of making and selling clothes”. In fact, it’s the opposite.
I love good clothes which is what prompted me to get into retail fashion, and then grow from there to start my own business, along with other experiences like working in advertising, marketing and media, and completing my MBA.
But how do men (and women) who don’t enjoy dressing well find the motivation to dress well and look good?
Before we go into styling with stylists, or following trends, or labels, it is most important to know ‘what does dressing well mean to you’? And why would you make yourself dress well in the first place?
For me, personally, dressing well, is about presenting yourself to the best of your ability, so that people see you as confident, positive and in-control of your life. The thought of unshaven, uncut hair, sloppy clothes and just woke-up-without-a-shower look shows that you don’t take yourself seriously.
It doesn’t mean one needs to be super well-dressed all the time, but there has to be a standard to be maintained. The men and women that show proper grooming, wear clean clothes and present well, mostly, move up the career – social – personal ladder too. And it has all to do with self-worth and perception of one in the eyes of others.
As Tom Ford famously said, “Dressing Well is a form of good manners”. And it is. It shows respect and value for self (first) and others you meet. It denotes confidence, purpose and class. It is irrelevant to the style, colour, design and value of the garments you wear, and more to do with your personality.
How do most sartorially challenged people dress (including celebrities)?
The most common start is to engage the services of a stylist, who will take you shopping (for a fee), and suggest clothing to match your skin tone, body type, profile and personality. They will find clothes that fit, based on choices you’re comfortable with. For example, you may not want to wear a suit so they will start with a nice shirt, good pair of jeans and smart casual shoes and match that with a sport jacket or blazer. It’s not quite as formal as a suit, but its better than a tee shirt and jeans look.
Most of the TV shows, especially Suits, use the services of renowned stylists right from hair to clothing and more. These characters are represented through the clothes they wear. And every detail is thought of with precision, and most people don’t even notice these things, but it is put into the minds of the viewers smartly yet subtly.
Let’s look at Gabriel Macht who plays the character of Harvey Specter – a cocky successful lawyer who is obsessed with winning and confrontational attitude. All of his suits are made by the fresh-new-God of fashion – Tom Ford (as referenced many times in Season 1 and 2). The suits are cut wider on the shoulders, with extra wide lapels in peak styling that point upwards. This add depth to the chest and shows it to be bigger than it is, almost like a puffed up cock. The other feature is that Harvey’s suits are modern fit, with ticket pocket and stitch detailing and not at all conservative. And this is reflected in the hair cut with slight spiking on the front.
Now compare this with another character Lewis Litt, who is shown as conservative and old-school. He is referenced (as in Season 1 and 2) to wear Brioni – an elitist label worn by ultra-rich people. The jacket is shown to be a bit tighter and pulling on the stomach button (on purpose) to present Lewis as not-so-cool as Harvey. The choice of suit design with classic lapel in very conservative colours adds to the boring-old-mentality personality of this character.
Looking at the ladies, the choice of dressing of Jessica (Managing Partner) is always in Dior, which is presented as modern, powerful and classy. Compared to what is worn by Donna (Harvey’s redhead secretary) is Gucci / Prada which is upmarket but nothing close to what’s worn by Jessica in value of brand and price. All of this is a hierarchy of fashion established well in the way these characters are dressed, in reflection of their earning status as well.
What can men and women take away from this?
It is good to aspire to dress like these characters, but it’s equally important to match the clothing to your profile. If you’re a junior partner or manager, then don’t try to outmatch the CEO or Chairman of the company. You’ll have little money to spend on anything else. Similarly, if you’re up on the ladder, don’t dress like the kid you just hired by dressing at below-par brands and clothing which doesn’t reflect quality or craftsmanship.
Guys please invest in a good belt and shoes (that match) and don’t wear your digital Casio watch to work. Invest in a classic leather strap watch which will complement your suit. The sports heath watches are for the gym, and don’t look neat when you’re heading a meeting or running a seminar.
And my single most important tip for ladies, keep it classy. Choose not more than 3 colours in any outfit you wear, and match it with your shoes, bag and accessories. Keep the colour palette compatible so it’s pleasing on the eye, and if you don’t have the body to wear short skirts, please don’t. You’ll get more guys admiring you when you dress smartly showing the curves in the right places.
Hope you found these tips helpful, and I’d recommend connecting with a stylist or engaging with a well-dressed friend or family member to ask them how they do it. With all due respect, don’t let the young man who’s only ever worn a free work suit to advise you on how to dress for a business deal or a work conference worth millions.
Dress for the part, and show up at the your best. Pay a bit more to use a professional and let him/her take care of the rest. Add your flavour and show your personality a bit, by choosing a little accessory or fresh coloured lining or funky shoes to add to your outfit.
It’s not about how much you spend, but how you present yourself. Most people make their mind about you within the first 15 seconds, so don’t start by showing your second best, when with a few minor changes you can impress the s*** out of them. All the best with your ventures, and just be cool.