If USA’s hit TV show, “Suits,” doesn’t make you want to pick up an LSAT study guide and take a shot at law school, it sure as hell makes you want to suit up.

Suiting Up for Success

“People respond to how we’re dressed, so like it or not this is what you have to do.” Harvey Specter

The show preaches and epitomizes the idea of “dressing for success” as all the male characters are never without an impeccably tailored suit on. Harvey Specter and Mike Ross shine the brightest – one a superstar partner and the other his freshly minted associate at fictitious law firm Pearson and Hardman. The idea of dressing for success is not a new one. It is built on the premise that what you wear contributes largely to your success in the professional world. As you probably guessed, we are huge advocates of this idea, as expressed in our “What to Wear to an Interview” post. Here we’ll revisit it anew in the context of the TV series, “Suits.”

When Mike Ross frustratingly asks “Why does it matter how much I spend on a suit,” Harvey quickly retorts with “People respond to how we’re dressed, so like it or not this is what you have to do.” His point being that people are making prejudiced assessments based on how we’re dressed, whether we’re cognizant or not, or whether we give a damn or not. Every moment a judgment is being made, sometimes even subconscious to the one making the judgment—is he sloppy like his suit? Why is he wearing that hideous tie? Looks like this is the first time he’s ever put on a suit…

A Sensitivity for the Details of Your Look 

Many men know that thick pinstripe suits often communicate that “boss” or “boardroom” look, but what about other aspects of the suits, such as peak lapels? What are you communicating when you opt for a peak lapel verses a slim notch? What do the differences mean to you, if anything?

To many, it may not mean a thing. But to those who are discerning of the details – an interviewer, a potential business partner or even that attractive blonde across the room –  it may mean a lot. Just like how you wouldn’t wear a floral print shirt to a funeral, you wouldn’t want to head into a boardroom looking like this.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. – Will Rogers

Your Suit as the Language of Success

Dressing for success is a bit like writing, if you’re writing to communicate a message to your readers, you have to be mindful of the language, syntax, grammar and the choice of your words.  Think of every element of your outfit as a word in a sentence—from the fabric of your suit to the style of your pockets. Make sure you know the meaning of each word, and choose your words carefully.

Ask yourself this: What does your suit say about you? What do the details say?

The wardrobe stylists behind the characters Harvey Specter and Mike Ross in the show “Suits” obviously understand this “language.” While both characters look incredible in their well-fitting suits, the details of their looks conveys two very different messages.

In the show, Mike Ross frequently wears a slimmer, more understated and conservatively (but still smartly) tailored suit (slim notch lapel, no vest, slim tie with a small four-in-hand knot), representing the young associate, a bit wet behind the ears, but quickly rising under the promising tutelage of the firm’s top star, Harvey Specter. Harvey, on the other hand, truly dresses like a boss. He’s the top closer of his firm, and his power suits convey his status at his firm perfectly. Everything in Harvey’s look evokes strength from the 3-piece suit to the spread collar and windsor knot. This stark contrast shows how effectively an outfit can communicate a message of power.

Now we don’t blame you if you want to look like Harvey Specter. Like we said, the guy straight up looks boss. He’s there to make moves and it’s evident by his clothes alone that things have been working out rather nicely for him. Replicating a look like this requires a sensitivity to your context and the message you’re trying to get across.

Here’s the break-down of the Harvey Specter power suit look: 

- a custom tailored 3-piece pinstripe suit (with vest) such as this one or this one with the following features:
- flapped pockets with a ticket pocket
- double-vents
- boutonniere
- wider peak lapels

Then add these power accessories:

- pocket square
- cufflinks
- pick up a custom tailored shirt and opt for spread collars and french cuffs
- pick up a 3-3.5 inch width bold tie with a larger knot such as a windsor knot

Want to go for Mike’s younger rising star look? Check out our post on interview suits and wardrobe essentials.

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