Dappered Classics: The Suit Fit Priority Guide

Dappered Classics: The Suit Fit Priority Guide

What needs to fit first – Your suit fit by priority

Originally Published 11/5/2010
Above: Calvin Klein BODY Charcoal Solid Slim Fit – $550.00

Given the option of wearing a $1,000 suit that’s too big, or a $170 suit from a clearance rack that’s been tailored to fit you perfectly, take the bargain option every single time.  Having a tailor and knowing how your suit should fit exponentially increases its value.  Some areas of how your suit fits do have a little margin for error, but there are also areas where it absolutely must fit perfectly, period.  If those zero-tolerance areas are off?  No matter how big the discount, leave it on the rack.  Here’s half a dozen areas to pay attention to when buying a suit and getting it tailored, ranked by fit importance.
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1. The Shoulders

Funny how the foundation of your suit is actually at the top.  It has to fit in the shoulders off the rack because it’s one of the few places on a suit that even the best tailors can’t alter.  If the shoulders are too big you’ll look swallowed and weak.  The old trick is to put the jacket on, stand next to a wall, and slowly lean your shoulder into it.  Your shoulder and the pad need to hit at precisely the same time.  If the pad hits first and scrunches up?  Too big.  Also, the height of the shoulder pads minimal.  You’re not a linebacker.  NOTE: Good call by Tarun and Chase C. in the comments to remind everyone to be choosy about armholes. You want higher ones that move with your rotator cuff.  Holes that drop too far down will pull on the body of the jacket every time you shake someone’s hand.  Not all designers have caught on, and many are still producing traditionally low armholes.  High ones are hard to find. For more, try this post.

2. The Jacket Waist

The sack suit is dead. Thankfully.  The fabric from your armpits through your torso should NOT MAKE A STRAIGHT VERTICAL LINE.  It needs to dart in.  It’s the difference between looking like James Bond or Barrel Man.  Lots of jackets come pre tapered, but even then 95% of the time it won’t fit your waist perfectly off the rack.  So even if you think it does?  Take it to your tailor anyway and have them pin you up.  You might be surprised.  Use the hug test to see if it’s too small or too fitted.  Button it, then pretend like you’re going to hug someone (and warn your tailor if you’re going to use them as a test subject).  If you feel like you’re going to rip a back seam with the embrace, it’s too tight.

3. The Pant Break

See that dent where the fabric kinks in on the pic up and to the right?  That’s the “break.”  It’s the wrinkle that’s caused around the shin by the bottom of the pant leg hitting the top of the shoe.  No break is no kink… stick straight while standing with the bottom of the legs just barely hitting the tops of your shoes.  Having zero pant break is like wearing skinny jeans, but some guys swear by both.  Having your tailor leave an inch or so of break is like wearing 501s.  Fitted but not skinny.  Nowhere near baggy.  Can’t go wrong with that.

4. The Jacket Length

It’s one of the two components that make up most jacket sizes (40 Regular, 40 Short, or 40 Long for example) but it’s not nearly as important as the shoulder size.  Adjusting the length of the jacket requires far too much reconstruction on the part of the tailor, so you want to get it right off the rack.  Another old trick:  Put the jacket on, and with your arms relaxed at your sides curl your fingers up like you’re holding a pair of wheelbarrow handles.  The jacket tail should come to rest right in the valley your hands are making.  But some would dispute that.

Left: A jacket that's too short from Topman. Right: A jacket that's just right from Indochino.

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5. The Jacket Sleeve

The idea is to show a half inch or so of shirt cuff when your arms are hanging at your side.  But that’s easier said than done on a lot of jackets.  It’s like a pocket square’s worth of contrast at your wrists.  Always nice to have, but if you can’t adjust, say… a cheap blazer because of the buttons?  It’s not the end of the world. You should be able to get this done on your suits.  Just don’t go so friggin’ short that when you’re driving your entire shirt cuff is showing and your jacket sleeves are riding up.  I’ve got one of those.  Not fun.

6.  The Pant Waist

Here’s the deal.  A suit = pants + jacket.  Belts are made to keep your pants from falling off your waist.  Your tailor should be able to bring your pants in to the point where they’re comfortable, hitting your hips just so, and you don’t need a belt to awkwardly cinch and rumple your pants to your midsection.  The jacket will hide your belt anyway.  Go beltless, watch what you eat, maintain your weight, and you’ll look more streamlined.

Agreements, disagreements, and additions should all go in the comments section below…