It’s a question that’s been asked often. How many suits does a man really need? Especially, if he needs to wear one at work almost every other day. The sartorialist will say a man can never have enough well-fitting suits. The no-fuss banker will say as few as possible so that he takes little time to choose while dressing up each morning.

Answers can range from two to 20. But after speaking to designers, stylists, heads of brands and the men who wear these suits every day, we’ve arrived at the magic number: four. Any additions to this magic number depends on the budget and the style inclination of the individual. A man building his suit wardrobe can cruise through with a minimum of four, ensuring he doesn’t repeat one too often and is mixing and matching the jacket and pants with other separates on more casual days.

Men often make the mistake of buying just the jacket. Avoid making this mistake because there will always be a mismatch in colour, material and finish of the trousers vis a viz the jacket. To look sharp instead of sloppy, you should own four suits comprising a matching set of jacket and trousers.

Since suits are an expensive investment, the general rule on adding a new suit to your wardrobe or retiring an old one depends on how often and gently you wear it. On an average, if you wear a suit to work regularly, then consider updating your wardrobe every three years. If your physical appearance has changed (you’ve lost or gained weight), ensure that you either get the suit altered to fit or replace it. To keep it spiffy and in good condition, get it dry cleaned at least once every four months or sooner if it gets stained.

Below, we break down the suits you should own, the material that works best for Indian weather and the accessories that can add just the right amount of polish. Of course, the fit of a suit plays a definitive role and as far as possible one must get suits tailored or altered according to one’s body type.

The Classics

This is the foundation of your suit collection. Start with two classic two-button jackets with matching pants. Choose one in navy and another in either charcoal or black. “Ideally, a pure wool suit is recommended as they are relatively wrinkle resistant and contour beautifully to your body shape," says Aswathi Krishnan, marketing manager at Tailorman, an online menswear label that recently opened its first store in New Delhi.

For Indian weather conditions, a high quality super fine poly-wool suit is the best option. Pair this classic with a spread collar shirt and complete the look with tan brogues when wearing navy and black for the other two. The great thing about owning suits in two of these colours is that you can pair one with the other to create two completely new outfits. Pair the navy jacket with charcoal pants and vice versa and you’ve got four days of the week sorted.

A patterned suit. Photo courtesy: Tailorman
A patterned suit. Photo courtesy: Tailorman

The Patterned Suit

This is a tricky purchase but is an excellent investment to break the clutter of solids and add some interest to your wardrobe. “I started with a navy and charcoal suit. But after a few years in finance, I wondered if people thought I had just two suits. That’s when I bought one in a traditional pinstripe pattern in a classic single-breasted style," says Ankit Saxena who works with a venture capital firm and wears a suit at least five days a week and all week when he’s travelling on work. If you’d like to push the envelope further, subtle checks, herringbones or houndstooth are also excellent options.

The Frequent Traveller

Some might argue that your day suit can moonlight as your travelling companion but it’s a far better idea to invest in one especially for days that you have to head from flight to boardroom and back. The colour can be classic or a lighter shade of blue or grey. This is a suit that will go through much more wear and tear and will have to come up trumps. “Business travel suits should have added functionality when it comes to material specifications. For instance, it should definitely be stretch and wrinkle free. Additionally, features like water and oil repellency with breathability will add immense value to your suit," says Partha Sinha, assistant vice president, design, Louis Philippe & Luxure, a part of Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail. This suit should also be more lightweight than others so it allows easy movement and leaves you feeling more relaxed. Pair this suit with loafers or monk straps instead of lace-up Oxfords so it’s easy to slip in and out, especially at airport security.

With the three pillars above, you can safely step into those conference rooms without fear of looking under-dressed or out of place. As you work your way up the ranks though, supplement and replace—because no one should be seen in a suit that they last got fitted for when they graduated out of B-school.

The right accessories

Other than a set of shirts that you can mix and match with the suits, your accessories are crucial to making you look sharp.

■ A well-designed high quality brown and black belt acts as a breaking point between the upper and the lower garment and always draws attention.

■ A good quality wallet or cardholder helps to avoid unsightly bulges.

■ A tie can play many roles. It adds sharpness to the look and also gives you an opportunity to showcase your personality. Millennials tend to opt for pocket squares instead of ties which is a good bet.