What Are Men’s 3 Piece Suits and Why Are They Important?
Sitting squarely in between a traditional suit and a formal black tuxedo, the 3 piece suit is a menswear power move. Harvey Specter from USA’s Suits wears these with panache. This is going to sound a bit pedantic, but let’s start at the ground floor: the 3 pieces of a suit are the jacket, pants and vest.
The jacket and the pants are the same as they ever were, and can come in all shapes and sizes from a 2 button single-breasted suit to a 6 button double-breasted suit. Just like a two-piece suit, you have a lot of options here.
What makes a 3 piece suit is the vest.
Today’s vest is the prodigy of the waistcoats of the 18th century, and continue to function in much the same way. They add an extra layer of protection, and in some cases they still have a pocket for watches. Unlike those historical times, however, the vests of men’s 3 piece suits today are matched to the suit fabric itself. This gives a cleaner matched look vs. the bolder unmatched vests
Where to Wear It?
In What to Wear: Business, I gave you an example of a typical modern business suit: 2 button, notch lapel in Navy. But, men’s 3 piece suits have been popular in formal business environments for years. These days, you can wear 3 piece suits whenever you want to dress just a little more formally or commandingly to make an impression. This is still a strong look in more formal workplaces, especially legal and financial.
Tips Wearing Men’s 3 Piece Suits
3 piece suits are more formal that typical suits, so your footwear should match; ideally, a sharp captoe balmoral. The suit is a strong statement by itself, so keep the accessories subtle: dark tie, not skinny, with a clean white pocket square. Make sure the tie goes under your vest, and lose the belt; it will cause a bulge at the bottom of your vest and mess up the silhouette. Instead, get your pants with adjustable side-tabs or wear suspenders under your vest.
Where would you wear your 3 piece suit? Let me know in the comments.
Oh, and Happy suiting.
- Unmatched vests are still in regular use, but the key is to differentiate the vest from the suit material so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to match, but failing. Suits with unmatched vests definitely do not qualify as 3 piece suits. ↩