The Three-Piece Suit // Style Counsel

The three-piece suit: it sets you apart and it is memorable

By Emir Aly Crowne

On Thursday September 15th, 2011


 I enjoy three-piece combos — be it Popeye’s or suits. In fact, I never wear a tie without a vest. And indeed this may be an inherently self-serving column, as it simply reflects my own tastes.

With that caveat aside, I would encourage young lawyers to seriously consider the three-piece suit. Why? It sets you apart, and it is memorable. Think James Bond in the closing scene of Casino Royale, Steve McQueen in the original Thomas Crown Affair or Harvey Specter in Suits (a show which I highly recommend, legal inaccuracies aside).

Indeed, the three-piece suit is one of the few ways that men can play with their business attire. Unlike women who have the versatility of pants or skirts, there is little versatility in a man’s business suit (aside from the number of buttons it has).

However, there are some general guidelines:

  • A three-piece suit is purchased as three pieces. Do not mix and match vests from/with other suits. Please. Even if they’re black. Wear the vest that came with that particular suit.
  • Bold colours and patterns are probably not recommended. The three-piece suit itself makes enough of a statement — stick to black, dark blue or gray.
  • Vests are made to be adjusted. It should fit somewhat snugly on your torso. Use the strap at the back of the vest (and if you don’t know how to tighten it without slipping, remember that it can fold back in on itself if needed — try it and you’ll see what I mean).
  • The length of the vest should also reach somewhere around the waistline, and it shouldn’t be short enough that a noticeable amount of the dress shirt makes an appearance.
  • And finally, the height of the vest is critically important. Some of the vest should be visible if the suit jacket is buttoned up, but it should not — I repeat not — be so high on your chest as to only reveal the knot of your tie. You’re not trapped in the Matrix.


Emir Aly Crowne is a Law Professor at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law. He wishes Windsor had a Popeye’s.

Image by Kent Wang