How Many Suits Does A Man Really Need To Own?

Building a smart suit wardrobe starts with the basics

It’s the age-old question. How many suits does one guy really need?

What it comes down to is your lifestyle. What do you do for a living? Obviously, a lawyer working in Manhattan is going to need more suits than a construction worker in Seattle. But how many suits do you really need?

For the average man, having a boardroom-appropriate wardrobe is more of a luxury than a necessity. At the very least every man should have at least one suit. At some point, you’re going to need it for a funeral, a wedding or a job interview. If you only have one suit, make sure it’s navy since that’s as versatile as they get.

But let’s look at the guy who wears a suit to work every day. How many suits does he need? The answer might surprise you.

After graduating from law school, the average lawyer will have two or three suits. When we looked at the forums and Reddit, there were numerous discussions about how many suits a corporate executive or lawyer should have in rotation. The answers ranged from three to 20-plus. Our answer is five.

With five suits that pair harmoniously with each other, you can effectively gain enough outfits to make it look like you’re wearing a new outfit everyday of the month. After that, you can add-on some of the more rakish jackets to complement your wardrobe. Here are the suits you need.

The Navy Suit

how many suits should man own

If you’re buying the first suit, forget black. Black is reserved for funerals and even then, these days navy and charcoal are just as appropriate. Focus on a classic navy suit that fits you really well. A single-breasted, notch lapel. Not too fitted, not too broad. Focus on a classic look, not a trend because, inevitably, trends always go out of style, whereas a classic suit will look good in five, 10, or even 30 years from now.

The Gray Suit

how many suits should man own

This is that second suit. Anything from a mid-gray to charcoal works well. Single-breasted to play it safe, double-breasted if you have more rakish tendencies. Plus, the gray and navy suit complement each other if you’ve chose the right fabrics. So instead of thinking of them as suits, start looking at them as separates. Now, not only do you have two suits, but you can alternate the trousers and jacket to create two new outfits; one with gray pants and a navy jacket, and the other with navy trousers and a gray jacket. You’re now fitted for four out of five work days.

The Subtle Pattern

how many suits should man own

Whether gray or navy, adding some patterns brings new life to your wardrobe and gets those thinking you keep alternating the same suits wondering if they’re wrong. We’re not talking pinstripes here. Forget 1930s New York. Instead, opt for a subtle check in blues or grays but either a shade or two lighter or darker than your first two suits. Not only will you be able to alternate the pants and jacket from this suit with the other, but you can even pair it down with jeans or chinos for casual Friday’s.

On The Lighter Side

how many suits should man own

If you already have a dark charcoal or sharkskin suit, now is the time to go with a cooler birdseye gray. If you have a dark navy, opt for a pastel or royal blue. The cool thing about having a really light blue suit and a dark navy is that you can even wear them together. Just use some caution with the grays.

Breaking The Mold

how many suits should man own

Browns, tobaccos, or even a linen coral suit, opting for something bold mid week allows you to break up the monotony of the dress code. For those who don’t notice the details, having a really rakish suit in a noticeable color will make even the programmers look up from their desks. The key is ensuring that the fabric looks great with your skin tone and hair color and that it pairs harmoniously with all your other suits. This way, you can put the coral linen pants with your light blue jacket, or the shiny tobacco jacket with your navy trousers. Get creative and have fun.

One Final Tip

Spend more time buying shirts and ties. Having a good core selection of dress shirts will make dressing each morning a little more fun and a lot more effortless. Just switching up the shirt and tie can make your outfit look like new. The goal is a lean and versatile wardrobe. Not a packed closet full of nothing that works together.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

J.A. Shapira
He Spoke Style


Chime In

  • Avin Jones

    In my case, I don’t need 5, but I have them. I don’t 10 but I have them, and in the process of having another in the pipeline; be ready in two more weeks. Can’t wait ! Do I need it ? No. Do I want it. Hell Yes. I guess there must be something really wrong with me. Your psych assessment is more than welcome. I gotta go find a place to wear my new suit.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Nothing wrong with you, my friend! Dressing well makes you feel good and when you feel good about yourself you can do anything.

  • Alan Johns

    Doesn’t the extent to which you can mix and match depend on fabric, details etc? If, say, you tried to wear a pair worsted wool navy trousers with a worsted wool grey jacket that had no casual details (patch pockets and so on) I would imagine it wouldn’t look very good.

    • Brian Sacawa

      Yes, that is true. If your goal is to be able to mix and match as separates, them you should pay special attention to fabric.

  • Bill Gabbard

    Five! Whew. I need to get cracking. I have eight suits to get rid of :)

    • Brian Sacawa

      Something tells me you’ll have no problem!

  • Dennis Cook

    Why not a black suit?

    • Brian Sacawa

      Because it’s not very versatile, that’s why we suggest a dark navy. And you could wear the dark navy for pretty much any event that would require a black suit.

      • Bernardo B.

        But if a I have a black suit, how is the best way to wear it? With grey trousers perhaps?

        • 歩 春日

          my go to combination is a black suit and trousers with a pastel blue shirt. tie it all together with a black or royal blue tie with subtle diagonal stripes. A white gold or stainless steel watch with sunburst blue dial looks especially striking with this combination. while my personal preference is a patek phillipe grand complications (5327G), there isn’t anything wrong with choosing a seiko, orient, citizen, or even a timex.

  • OldManJoe

    Interesting about the mix and match ideas. I try to avoid mixing suit pieces up because, well, it’s no longer a “suit” but for casual events I can see it with the right fabrics. But I think overall the suggestion of Navy first, gray second is solid. You could really wear either of those all week long with different shirts and ties and even shoes. 99% chance no one would think you are wearing the same suit.

  • 歩 春日

    I wholeheartedly disagree with your assessment on black suits. A well fitted black suit can be mixed up with different shirts and ties for a very different look. a skinny black tie and a white shirt makes for a timeless formal appearance, change the tie for something a little wider with a pop of color for a more casual look that’s perfect for business, go with a sky blue shirt and a wider royal blue tie for an informal appearance, or go black on black for a casual, yet glamorous look.

    My go to suit combination is black 2 button jacket and trousers, pastel blue shirt, and a royal blue tie.