Every man should have at least one suit that is both classically stylish and fit him perfectly.
A good suit makes a man appear trimmer, taller and stronger.
Who doesn’t want that!
A significant part of what makes a suit look good on a man is the construction and appearance of the suit jacket.
For years – I had no clue what constituted a good suit jacket. If it had buttons, a fancy collar and enough space for my body – it was good enough.
I wish I would have known the info below years ago; it would have stopped me wasting money on poor quality suits.
Shopping for a suit jacket can be a tricky proposition for most men. Often the question is not where you buy one but rather what to look for in a men’s suit jacket?
To help you out – I have listed ten details about the finer aspects of a suit jacket and what you need to know when shopping for one.
1. Single vs. Double Breasted Suit Jackets – What’s the Difference?
A single breasted jacket has two halves that button together at the front. This is the more classic style and is widely available and used.
The number of buttons on a single breast jacket varies between one to four. Standard single breast jacket styles have two or three buttons with a notch lapel.
A double breasted jacket is more formal than a single breasted jacket. These jackets feature four, six or eight buttons on the front with six as a standard. Peak lapels are a defining feature of these jackets and help to accentuate the shoulders.
A double breasted jacket has extra fabric that folds over from left to right. The shortage of cloth during the World Wars and the popularity of single breasted jackets with returning war veterans made double breasted suits a rarity.
If you see one in a store – take that as a good sign.
2. Suit Jacket Buttons
The choice is between one, two or three buttons on the front. The preferred choice is two buttons on a suit jacket for most men.
- The one-button single-breasted suit jacket: Generally used on a tuxedo. These jackets are suited to lean men and worn for black tie events. They are not versatile.
- The two-button single-breasted suit jacket: Is one of the most classic looks in men’s fashion. This style of suit looks good on all body types.
The cut of the suit makes just about every man’s frame look longer. Two-button suits are great for both social and business events.
- The three-button single-breasted suit jacket: Because of the arrangement of the buttons – three button suit jackets suit taller men.
Men who like to wear waistcoats will also likely prefer the look of a three-button suit. These are suitable for formal occasions.
A word on the rules of buttoning a single breasted jacket:
- One button: Always closed except when sitting.
- Two buttons: Use the top one and leave the second button undone.
- Three buttons: Button the center and top ones and leave the third button undone.
Never button the bottom button of a suit jacket.
Confused on suit buttoning rules?
3. Sack vs. Structured vs. Fitted Silhouettes
The term silhouette here refers to the shape or cut of a suit jacket.
The shape of a garment sets the tone of your appearance. There are three basic silhouettes on a suit jacket:
- Sack or Brooks Brothers Suit Jacket: As the name suggests, it is a shapeless jacket with narrow shoulders. The jacket hangs on the body – presenting a classic shape for anyone wanting to blend into the crowd as it hides the shape of the wearer.
- Structured Silhouette Suit Jacket: Influenced by the military uniform – this is the most formal silhouette for a suit jacket. The shoulders are padded and the waist is trim giving the wearer an almost hour glass appearance.
- Fitted Silhouette Suit Jacket: This silhouette suits men who are in shape. It presents a tailored fit. With minimal padding, the posture is enhanced by the use of high armholes.
4. Soft vs. Roped vs. Structured Suit Jacket Shoulders
If the shoulders don’t fit – the jacket cannot be altered to fit you.
It is the first detail you need to pay attention to when shopping for a suit jacket.
The construction of the shoulder should complement the build of the body. Sloping shoulders may need padding to lift the area.
A man with narrow shoulders and extra weight around the midsection requires a slightly extended horizontal shoulder area. A body with a strong V shape can skip strong shoulders in a suit jacket in favor of more balance to the overall appearance.
A good shoulder construction does not sag over the shoulder line and is big enough to allow unrestricted movements of the arms.
The Italians prefer a soft, unstructured shoulder. The English fancy a bit of looping in the shoulders, creating a soft bump on the shoulder line.
5. Notch vs. Peak vs. Shawl Suit Lapels
Lapels should always be a reflection of the jacket’s proportions. A wide lapel on a suit jacket suits a well-proportioned man. The same lapel on a smaller man will dwarf his frame.
The lapel should extend to just about the mid-point between the collar and the shoulders.
There are three common types of lapels:
- Notch Lapel: The top of the lapel and the bottom of the collar meets in a notch. This is the most common type of lapel and suits a single breasted jacket.
- Peak Lapel: Has strong edges pointed towards the shoulders. A peak lapel is more formal and always found on double breasted jackets.
- Shawl Lapel: The collar has a continuous curve without a break like the peak or notch lape. These are seen only on tuxedos and worn at exclusive events like a black-tie night.
6. Suit Jacket Pocket Types
A standard feature of a suit jacket is a pocket on the left side of the chest. This is called the jacket breast pocket. You’ll notice in some of my videos – my suit jacket has a pocket on the right. Any guesses why?
The flaps on the pockets should be consistent with the size of the lapels – neither too large nor too small.
- The jetted pocket is more dressy, which explains why it is traditionally found on the tuxedo.
- The flap pocket will add a touch of thickness on the hip, while the slit pocket gives a slimmer look.
- Angled pockets are sportier and should always have a flap.
- A ticket pocket was originally used to hold train tickets.
- A patch pocket is suitable for a sports jackets but not for a formal suit.
7. Suit Jacket Sleeve Buttons
Whether they are are functional or not, a suit jacket will have buttons on the sleeve.
Four buttons are standard for a suit jacket sleeve while a sports jacket usually has only two. For a two-button suit – I prefer either two or four buttons on the sleeve. For a three-button suit jacket – I would go with three buttons on the sleeve.
The buttons on a suit jacket sleeve should be set closely together. Almost kissing each other. A suit jacket with sleeve buttons that come undone used to be a sign of superior quality.
This is no longer a defining feature as mass-produced suit makers are copying this design detail in an attempt to present their goods in a favorable light.
8. Unlined vs. Half-lined vs. Fully-lined Suit Jacket Linings
A natural fiber lining on the inside of a suit jacket is a sign of quality.
Bemberg is a natural form of rayon made from cotton linter. It’s considered the king of linings as it’s durable, relatively inexpensive, breathable, and easy to find.
Silk is a luxury fabric and therefore expensive. Although sought after for suits, especially custom, I don’t recommend it is difficult to clean and impossible to fix if torn (you need to replace it). It is breathable though, so an option for hot weather.
Polyester or oil based rayon linings are common in low-cost and mass manufactured jackets – avoid them as they are the least breathable.
The inner jacket lining is usually color-coordinated with the suit fabric. If you decide to go with a contrasting color, it makes the suit more casual (although you can keep it buttoned and no one will know). A lining provides a suit jacket with durability and helps to maintain its line.
An unlined suit jacket is bound to cost more than a suit that is completely lined. Why? Labor and skill – unlined jackets are rare and the artist building the coat will need to ensure his inner stitching is beautiful as the suit jacket’s owner will be able to see it.
Advantages Vs Disadvantages Of Each Lining Style
Unlined – Preferred in hot climates, unlined jackets are light and breathable. Keep in mind that summer jackets in light fabrics are bound to cost more than lined jacket.
Fully Lined – Lining adds weight to a jacket. It also adds protection to the inside of the suit jacket. Business suits need to be lined. However, the extra layer of cloth holds the heat in these jackets – not the best choice for summer and hot weather.
Half Lined – The middle ground for suit jacket lining is a partial lining that protects the canvas of the suit without adding much weight. Partially lined jackets have a softer shape than fully lined jackets. As with unlined jackets, partially lined jackets also cost more than suits with regular full lining.
9. Ventless vs. Single vs. Double Suit Jacket Vents
Suit jackets may or may not have a vent or slit in the lower back portion. The three options for vents in a suit jacket are:
- No Vent (ventless) – Preferred by Italians, this style is more fitted. The downside is when you put your hands in your pockets or sit down – the jacket creases and bunches up in the back.
- Single Vent – I am not a fan of the single vent suit jacket for men. It exposes their backside when they place their hands in the trouser pockets. The least expensive option – it gives the wearer a boxy appearance.
- Double or Two-Sided Vent – Allows for more fluid movement hands. It gives the wearer added shape. The flap comes up when you sit or put your hands in your pockets – preventing the jacket from creasing and keeps the backside covered.
10. Lapel Button-hole
The one working button-hole worth having is on the lapel.
The button-hole on the lapel was originally designed to close the suit jacket and button it up. Now – it has found a more aesthetic purpose in sporting a boutonniere.
The boutonniere is worn on the left lapel of the suit jacket. It should be worn in the lapel’s button-hole, an opening of about 1-1.5 inch.
Only higher-end suits have a lapel button-hole that is functional; with a hand-sewn lining to support the flower and a latch on the reverse side of the lapel to secure the stem of the flower.
Avoid pinning the stem on to your suit jacket unless it has been prepared by a florist to be attached to the lapel.
A special occasion is not required to sport a flower on your suit. The only caveat is that wearing one will attract attention. Apart from funerals and solemn occasions – wearing a flower is going to be a conversation starter.
Pictured on the right is a carnation fixed on the lapel buttonhole. You could also wear a red rose boutonniere to send a message of passion and love.
Some other flower choices are gardenia, lily of the valley, sweet william, orchids, hyacinths, daisies, and lilacs.
The flower you choose should be appropriate for the occasion – red blooms or simple white for formal occasions. For less formal occasions – exotic and more colorful flowers are fine.
Coordinate the boutonniere with the clothing you are wearing. A simple white pocket square is always a safe bet.
How you wear your suit jacket is a matter of your personal style taste and your budget. You can carry off a reasonably well constructed suit if you pay attention to the details. Get them right and you will be setting a high sartorial standard.
This is the one item in your wardrobe that requires quality and attention to the details.
Curious about suit jacket colors?
What about how your suit should fit?
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