When to Wear a Three Piece Suit

by Jamie Wilson

Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA

If you want to achieve the three piece classic and sophisticated look then you’ve come to the right place. Wearing a three piece suit has a certain level of smartness so when can you actually wear one?

A three piece suit is something that many men don’t own, as they can come across as a bit much, especially for everyday purposes. However, you can look pretty darn stylish and suave in a three piece suit , plus as they’re dominating both men’s street style and the catwalks across the globe it’s the next best thing to get your hands on. With the right styling, colours and fit you can alter the look of your three piece number to suit your own personal style, as well as the event you’re planning on wearing it to.

What is a Three Piece Suit?

First off, what exactly is a three piece suit? Well in layman’s terms, it’s a suit with a waistcoat thrown into the mix. Suit, trousers, and waistcoat – three pieces – three piece suit.  You know the drill. Go for a classic matching look, with the waistcoat blending into the rest of your suit, or choose a more striking look with the waistcoat differing in colour or pattern in order for it to stand out.

Both can be be equally smart, so what look you go for is up to you. However, if you’re new to the whole three piece thing, and you want to keep things easy, a matching waistcoat is a failsafe option. The great thing about three piece suits is that, despite its reputation, you don’t actually have to look like a Victorian landowner, and with the modern alterations on offer you can achieve a varied range of looks.

How to Wear a Three Piece Suit

Okay we’re not assuming you don’t know how to use buttons, or that you try to put your blazer on your legs or anything like that, but there are a few ways to pull off a three piece suit that you might not be aware of. Here’s a few things to remember when you’re putting a three piece suit together.

  • The last button on your waistcoat should be left undone.
  • Your waistcoat should always cover your trouser belt line, but never go too far below it.
  • Don’t pair a three piece suit with a belt.

When to Wear a Three Piece Suit

A three piece suit isn’t the easiest ensemble to just slip on, so admittedly unless you’re David Gandy, it’s probably not something you’re going to wear everyday. However it’s not strictly suited to only ultra formal affairs, and if you work out exactly what look you like best, whether it’s a slim fitted number, or a bold colourful design, then you can keep things more relaxed a lot less structured.

To a Wedding

This is probably the most common occasion to sport a three piece suit. No ones going to make fun of you for dressing up, and depending on the time of year you can experiment with different colours and fits. Although most people can agree that a three piece floral suit probably isn’t a good idea, you can go for more subtle patterning like a tweed three piece suit or check design to stop yourself looking too office ready.

Navy Three Piece Suit

Navy or bright blue is a great colour for a wedding as it maintains a clean, smart look, while still bringing some brightness and life to your outfit. For shoes, try out something with a good mix of formality and style, avoiding anything too strict, and instead go for something like loafers, which are great at adding a relaxed twist to a smart look.

White Three Piece Suit

Admittedly not the most common look to go for, but hey it’s a wedding, and if you’re the groom then you’ve got even more room to experiment and impress. If you’re not convinced, take a look at David Gandy pulling off the look. I know we’ve used him as an example a lot, but the guy can pull off a three piece suit with so much style. The key for this look is to keep the rest of the clothing light coloured as well, and not give into any temptation to pair it with a black shirt.

A light blue shirt is the perfect accompaniment, and offers a summery sophistication to the look, rather than making you look like your Tom Hanks in Big. Spray on a bit of fabric protector spray if you’re feeling nervous about stains, and maybe add some classic wayfarer glasses to the look to carry on with that stylish, riviera vibe.


To better your three piece look (but not over do it) you can try adding some accessories. Depending on what kind of style you want to go for your accessories will make or break the look. A bow tie for example stops your outfit from looking too formal – sounds weird I know. Also if it’s not paired correctly you can run the risk of verging on the bad side of hipster. Keep it simple, and avoid a patterned suit jacket if you’re going for something like a stand out bow tie.

A pocket square is a standard suit accessory and probably the best option, it doesn’t have as strong a look a bow tie, meaning it can blend into a array of looks without taking over the outfit. Try a neutral coloured, un-patterned one if your suit jacket is loud enough, or if your suit is fairy calm and collected, boost the look with a printed design.

To Work

Okay, so if you work anywhere where a three piece suit is acceptable apparel, then it’s probably the place where bold colours and a bunch of loud accessories aren’t really on the cards. Keep things simple and sleek by maintaining a matching suit and waistcoat, and don’t go overboard the with colours. Anything too bright, like light blue might be fine for some offices, but if you’re at a new place and you don’t feel like making a statement straight away, it’s best to stick to the classics.

Black Three Piece Suit

The perfect colour for a smart, versatile and timeless look. You can’t really go wrong with a black three piece suit, and as long as you keep the waistcoat and jacket in the same tone, and don’t add too many embellishments, no work will ever say it’s not suitable. It’s smart and shows you mean business.


So although you might not be able to don a bow tie and an extravagant pocket square in every work environment, you can still accessories a little to bring out some personality. A good watch is a great way to add some practical class to an outfit, and a simple black strapped one is versatile enough to match with casual as well as formal looks, so investing in a good quality one is worth the money.

Bags are a necessary part of work, so you might as well get a good one, and nothings more perfect for your office wear than a sleek, black leather satchel. The simplistic detailing ensures it won’t draw attention away from your suit, while the slim line design keeps your overall outfit trim and sophisticated.

A Day at The Races

Okay, a day at the races – not the most common activity and clearly not a weekend staple, but it can be a big part of people’s lives, and if you do go, it’s one of the few places were it’s totally acceptable to dress up. There’s going to be a fair bit of peacocking, but don’t feel you have to don some checked trousers and a peach blazer to be let in. Simplicity is always appreciated, even in these occasions, so as long as you’ve got the fit spot on, you can go for a more neutral look.

Grey Three Piece Suit

Elegant, versatile, and with a range of tones to choose from, a grey three piece suit isn’t a difficult piece to pull off, and pretty much any guy, regardless of size or stature, can look good in one. Keep the rest of the apparel in a light colour to ensure the outfit doesn’t look too intense, light blue and pastel pink shirts are a good option if you want to achieve a summer friendly vibe.

Don’t go overboard with your shoes, and if you’re looking for a colour that will go with grey, brown is really your best bet. Patent leather shoes are a nice option, but if you’re planning on heading out onto the track, you might want to go for some more easily cleanable muted leather shoes.


Some standout, but classy, cufflinks can be a great addition to your three piece suit. If you’re pairing some with a grey suit, it’s best to stick to an equally cool toned design to avoid any clashing and to ensure that everything looks put together and complementary. If you want to add some of your own personality to the outfit, try out more complex designs, but experiment with shape and detailing rather than colour.

If however you do want to go for some pattern and colour, don’t go overboard. We shouldn’t have to tell you that holiday themed or ‘racy’ design (or both) are just generally a bad idea, and anything too garish might just end up scaring the horses.

Three Piece Suit Rules

So now you’ve decided to go out and don your three piece suit, you know the colour, style and fit. To finish off your three piece knowledge, here are some quick do’s and don’ts for when you come to styling your suit.

  • Leave the bottom button of your jacket undone.
  • Always button the top button of your shirt.
  • Make sure your jacket and trousers fit well.
  • Don’t ever let your shirt cuffs cover your hands.
  • Make sure your shoes match the tone of the suit.
  • Ensure that your socks cover you legs – no-one wants to see your hairy pins.
  • Your waistcoat should finish at your waist – this is standard waistcoat etiquette.

When to Wear a Three Piece Suit

  • A three piece suit is just a suit jacket, trousers and waistcoat combination, so you can wear one in situations where you’d normally wear a suit, as well as for more formal occasions.
  • Three piece suits are perfect for weddings, and navy or white ones are great at bringing out a smart, yet relaxed vibe that’s ideal for the formal and fun occasion. Accessories like pocket squares are great at adding some added interest to your look.
  • For the office it’s best to keep things neutral, and you can achieve a timeless look with a classic black three piece. Keep accessories to a minimum with pieces such as watches and leather satchels bringing out a practical style to your outfit.
  • Although the races aren’t in everyone’s calendar, they’re a great opportunity to dress up, and you can go for a smart, put together look with a grey suit and cool tone accessories like cufflinks.

On That Note

You don’t have to stick to the expensive Hugo Boss three piece suits to pull off a smart, tailored look, and neither do you have to go down the Victorian gentleman look either (unless you want to). The three piece suit is obviously classic, obviously smart and not something you can easily wear to your local, but there’s no reason that you can’t make it your own, and keep it grounded in a mildly casual look. Shirts in cool tones, more eccentric accessories, and the right shoes can change up the vibe of your outfit, making it formal and perfectly sleek, or with a touch more personality. Don’t worry about seeming overdressed, and just see the addition of a waistcoat as an extra way to keep warm in the winter months. It’s a classic look, and there’s no reason you can’t pull it off.

Feature image from Pinterest

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