So, here in SF most people don't need a suit for work. But, don't think that excludes you from needing one altogether. You're going to go to weddings, you are going to go to funerals, this is just inevitable. And there will be other occasions too. The biggest mistake people make is waiting until they have such occasion then rushing around and buying something suitable yet not perfect. Get ahead of the game. Shop for a suit when you least need one. This will ensure you get something that fits right. There is nothing worse then an ill fitted suit. Suits are expensive and there is no way around that. But one nice suit in a proper color should last a lifetime. If you are not full of money to buy endless suits stick to a basic color and fabric that can be worn for any season. It doesn't need to be boring, but, it should go well with your coloring and have flexibility to be changed drastically by using different shirt and tie situations. Black, blue or grey works year round and can be worn for any formal occasion. In this day and age it is not necessary to wear only a black suit to a funeral. Lives are meant to be celebrated. And while black suits may be appropriate for weddings something cheerier like a blue or beige is nice. Most importantly though, is versatility and fit.
I am not a huge H&M fan. They do have some ok clothes, my not fan status comes more from the fact that none of it fits me right, and some of it is made like shit. This said, the most affordable not ugly suit you can find will be at H&M. And since I'm always out for the little guy, you'll be happy to know that these will also come readily available in the smaller sizes. Here's Will Arnett from Arrested Development(funniest show ever) wearing an H&M suit.
The second most affordable suits you can find are vintage. Vintage suits are great. You only need to watch Mad Men to know this is true. Though the suits on there are not vintage but tailor made for those guys. Anyway, the only problem with vintage suits is that they are VERY high wasted, so if you don't like that, don't buy them. They are not ALL great so be very careful where you get them and NO polyester thank you. Don't expect them to be dirt cheap because a well made vintage suit that has been well cared for throughout the years will probably set you back more then a new suit at H&M. You can also run into tailoring problems with vintage suits as they have more often then not already been tailor fitted to some other bloke. Like Cary Grant perchance.
If you live here in the Bay area the best place I've found for vintage guys suits is La Rosa on Haight Street. If you're like me then you usually want to be left alone when shopping. But, when suit shopping it is very useful to have some knowledgeable help as it can be overwhelming and is a pricey purchase. The staff at La Rosa can tell you if something fits right and if where it doesn't can be tailored to fit right. Take advantage of their know-how.
Another place in SF you can try is Idol Vintage. They have a smaller selection and will offer less help. Be extra careful of a polyester blend here.
(Strangely similar store fronts, no?)
Side note: Vintage suits are harder to separate. You know, wear the pants with a sweater or jacket or the blazer with jeans. Keep these things in mind while shopping if they are important to you. Which they should be.
Moving on up the line of cost comes Banana Republic. These will have a more formal vibe and are pretty well made. And Banana also looks out for the little guy carrying the smaller sizes.
Next up is J.Crew. They offer nice fabrics, slim fits and if you go to a bigger store may have some helpful staff.
Finally, Ben Sherman suits. These are great because they have the vintage vibe without the too high waists. And the Mad Men vibe without the stuffy boardroom or midlife crisis.
These are the most affordable places to get suits. If you've got more money to blow then hit Saks, or Barney's or Bloomie's for christ's sake. Find a salesperson you feel comfortable with and get to it. Just don't get too brand obsessed. Dying for a Band of Outsider's suit? Fine, but don't purchase online, you must try it on and it must fit properly not just be Band of Outsiders.
Hey little guy, two or one button blazers, you want as big a V as possible to make you appear taller.
Hey everyone, unless you are of perfect proportions(which you aren't, trust me), do not pass GO after purchasing your suit. What I'm saying is do not take it home. Proceed directly to a tailor and have proper alterations done. Wherever you make your purchase should be able to give you a recommendation of one nearby their store.
Another side note: Topman was not included in this post because I have never been there nor seen in person a suit from there. If you live in NYC check it out.
And readers please feel free to ask me any questions. You can leave them as comments or email me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org