There’s no substitute for fit when it comes to men’s suits. An incredibly expensive, well-made suit is still going to look bad on you if it doesn’t fit properly. Likewise, even a cheap or entry-level suit can look fantastic if it fits you the right way.
When suit shopping, you’ll be able to evaluate the fit of suits off the rack, but to do so, you’ll need to know what you’re looking for. It’s often better to have your suit tailored to your specifications, whether it’s by the manufacturer or by a third party—but even then, you’ll need to check the fit once the adjustments have been made.
So what is it that makes a suit “fit,” and how can you tell if your fit is appropriate?
10 Important Areas
There are 10 basic areas you’ll need to consider when fitting your suit. These have changed slightly over time, responding to contemporary fashion trends. For example, the “break” at the bottom of the trouser has recently evolved to become more acceptable at shorter levels. Accordingly, you may want to taper your expectations by looking to see what others are sporting.
1. The shoulder. First, pay attention to how the shoulder fits. Traditionally, shoulders should be square, but not so exaggerated that they look puffy or unnatural. Recently, suit shoulders have gravitated toward a more relaxed, natural look. They should still have a sharp edge, but without looking overly boxy.
2. The jacket wrap. How does the jacket wrap around you? Obviously, you’ll need the buttons to fit, but how much room should you have left over? You’ll want the jacket to be snug, adhering to your form, but not overly tight; you’ll want a bit of space to play with here.
3. The jacket length. How long should the jacket hang over your pants? If the jacket is too short, you’ll look cartoonish. If it’s too long, it could look clumsy or unprofessional. You’ll want the ends to hang a little shorter than your fingertips.
4. The button. The modern look is to have a jacket designed for a single button, which will affect how the jacket fits you in a few different subtle ways. This single button should be further down than in decades past, lengthening the appearance of your torso. If you’re especially broad or athletic, you may do better with a two-button fit, which will bring more attention to your chest.
5. The lapel. Lapels have a few options. Narrower lapels give you a skinnier fit, which can look good, depending on your body type. However, modern styles have leaned toward a wider lapel, and a broader, more powerful look.
6. The waist. The waist of your suit should look sharp and tight, but still be comfortable; it shouldn’t be heavily tapered or overly tight.
7. The wrist. Pay attention to how your wrist and hand fit into the sleeve of your jacket. If it’s too loose, the entire suit is going to look baggy. If it’s too tight, you’ll look overgrown. Also, the end of the sleeve should be at the edge of your wrist when your arms hang down. In modern style, the sleeve cuff has a single button only.
8. The stretch. Traditional suit jackets have been somewhat stiff, but these days, it pays to have a bit of stretch. This doesn’t substitute for a good fit, but instead complements it, allowing you to walk, stretch, ride a bike, and partake in other activities without worry.
9. The trousers. Trousers are a broad topic, but in some ways are more straightforward than your jacket. They should align with your body type, providing you with a bit of space and flexibility, but still remaining somewhat tight along the groin, inseam, and waist. You’ll know the right look when you see it here.
10. The break. More to the point, you’ll need to consider the break—in other words, how your trousers hang over your feet. This shouldn’t be so high that your socks are completely visible, but it’s also acceptable in the modern era to have a high enough break that you can show off your shoes.
Finding the Perfect Suit
When shopping for a suit you love, don’t worry too much about the exact fit; instead, try to find a suit with the material, color, pattern, and overall style that you like the most. If you know your measurements and have a brand you trust, you can easily move forward with a purchase you’re sure is a perfect fit. However, in most other cases, you’ll need to take the suit to a tailor to have them help you adjust that suit to perfection.