make the most of a cheap (inexpensive) suit

There are a couple assumptions I make about my audience.

1.) You’re a working-class guy

2.) You like your appearance to open doors (and not close them with a violent quickness and look of contempt)

3.) You don’t want to spend a [pardon the term] “girly” amount of time/money on your appearance

If you’ve been reading manshion for the past year, you’ll find a lot of re-tread here and I apologize. However, this is probably the most important thing you can do for your work wardrobe and for this reason, re-tread I shall.

Buy the Best of the Best Brand for You.

For starters, the best thing you can do to make the most of a cheap suit is buy the best one you can afford. Let’s say you have but $200 to spend on the suit. Before you purchase, be clear on what you want your finished suit to look like. If you want to be part of the old boy’s club well ahead of your time, then by all means buy any old sack suit. If you’re looking to go with a more modern look, but want to stop short of being your office’s version of Zack Effron (didn’t bother to even google up the spelling), think of a brand along the same accord. Sure, Heritage (men’s line of the fast fashion ragshop Forever21) will sell you slacks and a questionable blazer for about $80 combined. However, it will not last the length of a season, will be entirely polyester, will have more hanging threads and irregularities than you can count, and will be cut to make you look like the aforementioned High School Musical star. Let’s ponder a few brands that are synonymous with our goals here. Target’s general scheme as a store (clothing-wise) is to provide modern goods that stay close to trends while remaining (at least for adults) accessible for the everyday man. Same with Macy’s Alfani Red line.  Zara and H&M tend to be trendy with their cheaper polyester offerings, but generally make some more subtle designs with their wool suiting. There’s always eBay, too, if you want to get a secondhand or sometimes ‘new-without-tags’ suit on the cheap. Just make sure to check those measurements in case it’s already been altered. This brings me to…


Go wool if you can. If you find a blend with some poly and some wool, check its appearance against a wool suit. If it mimics wool well enough and doesn’t drape like sandpaper, then you’re fine. Generally speaking, though, if you’re in a first suit situation, go with wool, or get quality brand’s blend suit. Going off- brand AND polyester when you have a limited number of suits in the closet and 9/10 times you’re going to look cheap, despite alterations.

So now you’ve purchased a suit. Congratulations, kind of. Now it’s time to alter this thing.


In order of importance:

  1. Sleeves (shouldn’t cost you more than $25.. I’ve seen it done for $10 with no complaints)
  2. Hem pants ($10-15) Note: skip these first two if not necessary. ie. sleeves give way to 1/4″ cuff, pants meet shoes, don’t bag up.
  3. Taper the jacket ($20-25 – You want the jacket to meet–but not pull or strain–your chest and outline you without any loose, extra fabric)


So you now have a suit of quality fabric (or that looks like it was made of quality fabric) that fits you well and has only set you back $250.00-ish.  Great. What will you wear it with to really make your inexpensive suit look it’s best? A great shirt a tie combo. How do you make a great pairing but still keep it cheap? eBay. AND some savvy shopping.

Avoid these pitfalls with your shirt selection and you’ll probably have a great looking shirt:

  • No poplin
  • No ultra color (you know those dark, dark blue and maroon shirts.. they suck. burn them if they were cheap)
  • NOT A BLACK DRESS SHIRT (not if you’re doing this all on the cheap, dead giveaway)
  • No button-down or point collars
  • No fly-away, man-blouse fit (gotta look like it fits)
  • Can’t be a “going out” shirt (ie. non-business friendly colors in loud patters/strips)
  • 9/10 times should only have white as a secondary color
  • If the cufflinks came with the shirt.. forget about it.

For ties, your best best on getting a great and expensive looking tie is not to buy that “Burberry”  novacheck tie off eBay. No. That’s what douchebags wear to look like they have money. If you own one, the way to wear it and have friends is not over a black shirt, I’ll tell you that much. What you want to do is buy a vintage Hermes tie from eBay (or another reputable brand). I’ve bought so many vintage ties on eBay it’s kind of ridiculous. But for $7 shipped and in pristine condition, hand made with quality materials.. why not?! If you don’t want to go that route, simply take this test. Go to a Marshalls or TJ Max (discount/retail leftovers store). Look at the boxed shirt/tie sets. Your tie can’t look like this. Look at the ties that you can tell have been there too long. Your tie cannot look like this. That should narrow things down a bit. Another test: Does the design on your tie look printed on? I won’t tell you to kill yourself, but I will tell you to lose this tie immediately. What we’ve done here is eliminated all the tell-tale signs of a cheap tie. What makes a tie look expensive? Quality materials and well detailed patterns (if any). Choose wisely.

Wrap Up.

There. Now you should probably be looking like a million bucks in your suit. Or, at least, $800. So… win. Of course, you could just go to Indochino and avoid a lot of the mess with a $300 suit that they’ll alter on their dime should you find it not fitting perfectly. Just another option.

8 Responses to “make the most of a cheap (inexpensive) suit”
  1. Urbane Legend says:

    Nine times out of ten, it’s the shirt and tie that let a suit down. A good quality shirt is always cheaper than a suit (unless you buy something stupidly overpriced from Prada or whatever), so get yourself down to TM Lewin or Pink and invest.

  2. (I wish my office had a Zac Efron.) Thanks for giving a non-intimidating intro to suits. My husband will enjoy!

  3. PCIV says:

    Ditto on Urbane’s mention of the shirt/tie let down. You can’t go wrong with a nice crisp white BrooksBrothers dress shirt. A wardrobe essential that will stand the test of time. They offer a wrinkle free, slim fit variety that I swear by, just take it out the wash and hang it up. Dries without a wrinkle. After work you can lose the tie and open the collar, it looks great with or without the jacket. Every now and then they offer a 3 for $199 special. Definitely worth the investment.

    • manshion says:

      Definitely a fan of the Brooks Brothers wrinkle free shirts. With lesser brands you can tell a wrinkle free from a mile away, but not with these–great choice as far as quality, functionality, and style go. You usually have to forgo one or more of that triumvirate in any case of affordable fashion, but not so much in this case.

  4. Daniel S. says:

    Hey, have you stopped writing? Reading through this blog, great stuff dude. Keep it up!

  5. Great article. This is more or less how I buy most of my suits, although it does take a lot more work than just going made to measure.

  6. jeff says:

    hey, can you elaborate on poplin vs. oxford? why is poplin bad?

    • manshion says:

      Nothing wrong with poplin, it’s just a bit lighter of a fabric. Less heft. Usually, when buying a cheap poplin shirt, it can be spotted from afar because of the lack of intricacy in the fabric. Hence, don’t wear them in colder weather months and don’t go to cheap on them because it’s noticeable.

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