The cornerstone of male formal wear is, of course, the suit. T-shirts are great for neighborhood parties or running around the house, but suits are a requirement for any closet. No matter how much he might complain, he can’t wear his jeans to a wedding, funeral, bar mitzvah, or formal family get-together! Though it may be a challenge to get the average boy to even match his socks most days, there are going to be times when he has to suck it up, shower, and wear a suit.
Though buying dresses for girls can be a bonding experience, the process of purchasing a suit for a young boy is more often an ordeal than an adventure. Buying a suit can be tricky even for a patient, fashionable adult, so when the wearer in question is a less than enthusiastic young boy, it can feel nearly impossible. But never fear! We’re here to solve all your suit-related problems. Take a deep breath, have a look at our guide to purchasing suits for boys, and rest easy knowing that you have your boy’s formal needs covered until his next growth spurt! You don’t have to take the hard effort in knowing how to purchase suits for boys.
When you’re looking for a suit, the first step is to narrow down your search– boys’ suits come in many different styles, ranging from fairly casual all the way to the ultra-formal tuxedo. It is important to know what kind of occasions you are shopping for. Are you looking for something your boy can use to look a little dressy for family reunions, or are you going all-out with a fancy tuxedo for your cousin’s wedding? Here’s a quick summary of the three basic categories of boys’ suits:
1) The Vest Set
This outfit usually consists of dress pants, a dress shirt, a tie, and a vest. While it isn’t ideal for ultra-formal occasions, it’s casual enough that it can get quite a bit of wear in a short period of time
2) The Basic Suit
A suit contains all the goodies found in your average vest set, plus a jacket. The jacket is the extra piece needed to turn the whole ensemble from casual into semi-formal; it’s perfect for attending a wedding, having family photographs taken, or any other semi-formal gathering. While you can often save a little bit of money by purchasing the vest set, it may benefit you in the long run to invest in the jacket. That way, you can get two outfits in one– simply leave off the jacket for more casual events.
3) The Tuxedo
If you’re going to a black-tie event or another ultra-formal gathering, the tuxedo is a must. A tuxedo usually has the same five pieces as every other suit, except more formal– the jacket may have coattails, the set may include a cummerbund, a bow tie may substitute for the standard tie, and the shirt will almost always be white.
Once you have figured out what suit type will meet your needs, you will need to figure out what size your boy is going to need. Resist the urge to eyeball him and guess! If you make your best guess and end up buying the wrong size, you will be asking for wardrobe malfunction– or worse, hours and hours of an uncomfortable boy squirming in his tuxedo when he’s supposed to be an adorable-but-poised ring bearer. Yikes!
So grab some measuring tape, convince the boy in question to hold still for five minutes, and write down his measurements. To make sure you measure him properly, follow these guidelines:
- Chest: To get an accurate chest measurement, first, have your boy take a deep breath and hold it– this will make sure he has breathing room! Then, once his chest is inflated, slip the measuring tape underneath his arms (which should hang at his sides) and around his ribcage, roughly in line with the middle of his sternum. Write down this number. When in doubt, round up.
- Shoulders: Go straight across the back, measuring from one shoulder seam to the other. Make sure the boy’s shoulders are relaxed.
- Outseam: This should be from the narrowest point of his waist all the way to the floor.
- Sleeve length: Measure the outside of his arm from the top of his shoulder all the way to his wrist.
Sizing varies based on the company and manufacturer, but most providers will have a size chart available on their website. Keep in mind that this variation means that the boy you’re buying for may wear a different size suit depending on the brand! Check the size charts for each new brand you look at. If he is between sizes, always order the next size up. It’s easier to take in the pants a little bit than it is to try to let out the jacket!
Once you begin shopping for a suit, know your budget ahead of time.
More basic suits, such as the Black N Bianco Boy’s Formal Suit will be on the cheaper side, and may be more versatile.
For life’s ultra-special occasions and highly formal events, however, you may want to invest in something like Calvin Klein’s Big Boys’ Tuxedo Suit.
When considering your budget, it’s important to keep in mind that more expensive does not always mean better! If your boy is growing like a weed, or if you don’t think he is going to get a lot of use out of a fancy tuxedo, it may not be such a great investment to buy an expensive suit– no matter how nice it may look! Fortunately, boys’ suits tend to be a little simpler than the suit sets designed for adult men, so the process shouldn’t be quite as difficult.
In the realm of purchasing suits for boys, the most important factor is to know what you’re looking for before you begin the hunt– and keep in mind whether you want to get more than one use out of the outfit. While a bright blue tuxedo may seem fun for your sister’s ocean-themed wedding, is it worth purchasing an outfit that he may never be able to wear again? Know your needs and shop smart.
With a little bit of planning, patience, and a good tape measure, you can make sure that your suit shopping experience is smooth and successful.