Hands down the most important issue to check when buying a suit is the fit. It should take priority over everything else as even a budget suit can look expensive as long as it fits you like a glove. It is because of this that I have pinpointed the 9 steps to a suit that fits, before handing over your hard earned cash.
When trying on a jacket for size, the collar is often an area forgotten about. This is probably because most of the attention is directed at checking the shoulder or chest size.
It is however, a tell-tell sign of an ill-fitting jacket and as it can be one of the more costly areas to tailor, should always be considered.
It’s simple really, the collar of your jacket should always sit comfortably against the collar of your shirt, allowing about ½ an inch of your shirt collar to show.
If the collar is too small then you will see a bunching or folding of material below it. This may not be noticeable when resting but will often become obvious if you start moving or twisting your torso.
If the collar is too big then you will see a noticeable gap between the jacket collar and your shirt collar.
The shoulders really should be the first thing you check when initially trying on a suit. This is because the shoulders are one of the trickiest parts of the jacket to alter and is usually more expensive than it is worth to alter at a later date. The shoulder pad seam should rest naturally on your shoulder.
If the seam is sitting high up along your shoulder bone, rather than at the end of your shoulder then it is too small. This will ultimately result in a ‘ripple effect’ caused by the material of the jacket being stretched.
If the seam is sitting lower or longer than your shoulder then it is too big. Sagging of the shoulder pad or divots at the top of the sleeve are tell-tell signs.
The jacket should have enough material in the back panel to extend across both of your shoulders.
If the back is too big with too much material, the jacket will sag… Not good.
If the back is too small as in there is not enough material, the jacket will constrict as it is too tight. This will often result in tell-tell signs of bunching or tugging.
The thinnest part of the waist should hug your body and be in line with the top button of a two-button suit or the middle of a three. If done right, the waist should help encourage that ever sought after v shape silhouette to your body.
If the waist is too tight it will create the ‘X’ effect. This is caused by pulling or stretching the jacket too much when fastening.
When the waist is too wide you are likely to see the ‘Box effect’. This is where the jacket falls straight down from the sleeves without following your body shape. Ultimately an unflattering silhouette will be the result.
5. Jacket Length
The jacket length should end about half way between the top of the collar to the floor. A good way to check that the length is right for you is to rest your arms down by your side. The bottom of the jacket should be in line with your knuckles. All of your gluteus maximus and most of your fly should be covered.
If the length is too long it will make you look shorter and result in your torso looking disproportionate to the length of your legs.
And although the shorter jacket is popular at the moment, this rule should be followed for a timeless fit that will outlast any temporary fashion trend.
6. Arm Length
The sleeves of your jacket should end where the base of your thumb meets your wrist and allow ½ an inch of shirt cuff to be seen.
If the sleeve falls any higher, they can look comically short for you.
If the sleeve length ends lower, they will reduce the amount, if any, of the cuff being seen.
7. Arm Holes
The arm holes are what is referred to when talking about the point where your sleeve attaches to your jacket. This is important as ideally, you want your arms to be able to move freely without affecting the rest of the jacket. To achieve this opt for jackets with higher arm holes. This will encourage the underarm area to fit well and in doing so produce a more flattering finish. Just make sure that it isn’t digging into your underarm as this will become uncomfortable very quickly.
A good test for this is the handshake test. If you go to shake someone’s hand and the rest of the jacket rises up with your arms, then the armholes are too low.
8. TROUSER WAIST
The waist of your trousers should sit at the top of your hip bones, directly below your navel (belly button). Smart trousers should fit more conservatively than your other trousers. They should be slim enough that there is no belt required, but not so tight that they dig or cut into your waist. do not require a belt to stay put, but they should not cut into your waist either. If the pockets of your trousers stick out rather than lie flat then you know that the trousers are too tight.
9. SEAT (rear)
The back of your trousers should sit smoothly, covering your rear end. If you notice horizontal wrinkles across the back, it means the trousers are too tight. If the trousers are sagging then they are too big. A good tailor can adjust the seat of your trousers to an extent, but there is a limit to how much they can do. This is why you should check the fit before purchasing as you may not be able to re-size the seat to what is required at a later date.
8. LEG WIDTH
The width of the trousers should follow the natural shape of your legs. If done well it should flatter the wearer and help to create a clean silhouette. This is not to suggest that your trousers should look like they are sprayed on though. You should be able to cross your legs, bend over and move freely, without restriction. On the other hand nor should they be so baggy that you look like a 90’s hip hop star.
9. TROUSER LENGTH
When talking about the trouser length it comes down to the ‘break’. Essentially the break refers to how much your trousers will fold at the bottom of the leg. Now there are a few options available to consider.
The safe bet is to always opt for a ‘medium’ or ‘half break’. This where the back of your trouser leg sits halfway down your shoe, creating one fold visible from the front. Unlike ‘fleeting’ trends, this will always be considered as the classic length for any man’s suit trousers to be.
The other option is to go for a shorter length, this is referred to ‘no break’. This is another popular trend at the moment and can be very effective especially if you are opting not to wear socks. With the ‘no break’, the back of the trouser length ends at the top of the shoe and there is no fold visible at the front.
In my opinion, both the medium/half break or no break is fine. Any longer will result in your trousers looking too baggy and any shorter you will look like you are in year 9 but still wearing the same trousers you wore in year 7.