Studies have shown that when you’re wearing a suit that you look and feel great in, your mentality and thought processes change. You stand up straighter, you walk more assuredly and you sweat the small stuff a lot less. In short, you’re much more self-assured and confident.
However, unlike the clothes you choose to wear on a day-to-day basis, a suit doesn’t have quite the same capacity for expressing individuality. It’s easy to often feel a little robbed of your identity, especially as, unless your suit is tailored, it’s quite possible that there’s going to be another person in almost exactly the same suit.
And when you're dressed the same as everyone else, it’s difficult to feel like you stand out at all.
But fear not. There's an easy solution to this problem – accessorising your outfit. Whether you decide to tuck a pocket square in your breast pocket or wear a bold patterned tie, accessorising is a great way to subtly stand out from the crowd.
A word of warning
Although they’re a great way of displaying flourishes of identity, be careful. One too many accessories and you’ll start to look less like James Bond and more like Austin Powers.
As a rule of thumb, stick to two obvious accessories at a time and add subtle details – like a watch or cufflinks – to properly complete the ensemble.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
(If you’re at this stage, we’re going to assume that you’ve got the basics of wearing a suit nailed. However, if you’d like a quick brush up on matching your leathers, choose the right cut to match your body shape and remember the ‘always, sometimes, never’ rule.
Tie it all together
Wearing a tie has become so synonymous with putting on a suit that it’s almost easy to forget that it’s an accessory and – like all accessories – an opportunity to make a statement.
As a general rule, you should make sure that the width of your tie matches the width of your lapels, that your tie is darker than your shirt and that it just touches your belt line. After that though, everything is fair game – feel free to go as wild and bold as you like.
For a subtle touch, some people like to match the materials of their suit and tie. This combination can look especially great if you’re pairing a woollen suit with a knitted tie. We’re particularly fond of the triple navy look – a navy three piece woollen suit with a light blue shirt and midnight blue knitted tie. It draws attention to itself in a classy, understated and subtle way.
If you’re wearing a subtler tie, you could also use a tie pin to add a subtle hint of elegance and class to your outfit. It gives off a classic, 1960s cool and has become a very popular accessory on the red carpet in the past few years. Be careful though – tie pins should not take up more than three quarters of the tie, otherwise they become too obvious and can look a little comical and tacky.
Break the rules
If you’re after a bit more of an overt statement – why not opt for a patterned tie or even a bow tie? We’d leave the novelty, musical ties and spinning bow ties alone, but simple patterns like this subtle rose design can add a burst of character and personality to your outfit, without feeling out of place or gaudy.
If you’re feeling brave – or formality isn’t really for you - perhaps even ditch the tie altogether.
Wearing a club collar shirt with no tie is becoming increasingly popular – in large part due to the effortless cool of Peaky Blinders. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be Tommy Shelby? The shirt’s rounded collars are a great way to add a great vintage feel to your outfit while still being neat and tidy enough to wear to a formal setting, even without a tie. (For this ensemble, Brummie accents and flat caps entirely optional.)
Another great way to ditch the tie is to wear a shirt with a mandarin collar, keeping your top button open. This is great way to make your suit more smart-casual, and is perfect for summer evenings and outdoor events.
Hip to be square
Dating all the way back to the Ancient Greeks in 500 B.C, pocket squares became popular again in the 19th Century when dapper gents would carry perfumed hankies to cover their noses from the stench of open sewers.
Although they’re – thankfully – not needed for that purpose anymore, that’s no reason not to have one in your arsenal. They’re a great way to add a bold display of character to your outfit in an instant.
A simple, plain pocket square folded along the top of the pocket will add an immediate air of understated 1960s cool – think Don Draper or James Bond sipping a cocktail. It’s refined, elegant and – best of all - easy to do. Plus, if you’re stuck for choice – a white pocket square goes with almost every outfit, so is a must have for your wardrobe.
However, if you pair a more extravagant fold with a bolder material, you can make a rather different statement altogether. Although you should be careful to make sure that your tie and pocket square match in some way, you’re free to experiment with all of the different folds (and there are many) to get the look you’re happy with. A paisley pocket square (and tie or – if you’re feeling bold – cravat) goes particularly well with a tweed jacket, if you’re looking for a modern twist on the country gent look.
It’s not a time piece, it’s a conversation piece
The watch is one of those little details that can really complete an outfit. You don’t want it to be on display or visible at all times, but as you’re leaning in to shake somebody’s hand or to pay the bartender, you want it to draw attention. Again, classic, classy and refined is the way to go here.
A leather strap – that matches your shoes and belt – is always a great choice. So too are gold and silver watches, providing they don’t clash with your outfit at all.
However, if you’re looking to buck trends and conventions, maybe even try adding a modern watch into your outfit? Every rule says that you shouldn’t do this – but what are rules for, if not for breaking? Check out Idris Elba at the Met Gala this year, sporting an Apple Watch with a classic white tie outfit, for an example of how to pull this off in style.
And that’s not all, folks
It doesn’t end there. There are plenty of other ways to accessorise your suit. From cufflinks and socks to braces and arm bands (to help you constantly shoot the right amount of cuff) – that all add another level of class, exuberance or character to your outfit. So look around, find an accessory that suits (excuse the pun!) your personality and wear it with confidence!
Did we miss anything? How do you accessorise your suit? Have you got any tips, tricks or rules that you use when you’re accessorising your suit? Let us know in the comments.