How A Suit Should Fit
Updated: Feb 18, 2020
This article was written by Stephen Richards Jr, Owner and Founder of Richards Bespoke. Visit their website here, for any and all of your custom clothing needs. To hear more about Stephen's story and the story of Richards Bespoke check out the podcast episode we did with him here.
I’m often asked, “Since you sell custom suits, do you constantly judge how other’s suits fit?” I’m naturally inclined to notice the fit of people’s suits—I wouldn’t necessarily say “judge” is the right word for how I approach this.
The way I measure someone for a suit is different than how other custom clothiers fit their clients—which doesn’t mean one way is right and one way is wrong. One of the reasons my clients trust me with this service/product is because they prefer my style of measuring/how I fit myself and others in suits—but at the end of the day, it is custom for a reason. I design suits to my client’s preferences and will consult with them before their garments are created to best fit them in something they are most comfortable wearing. No man is created equal—in size, personality, etc. so there is no absolute way of defining what is a “standard” fit for someone.
Here are my top areas of fit that I look for in jackets, pants, and shirts beginning with the most important:
The shoulders of your jacket (often referred to as your “Point to Point” in tailoring) are the most important area that is constructed on your jacket. It is the hardest to alter and the most pivotal (in my opinion) area of fit on your jacket. Guys have become accustomed to shoulders being too wide on their jackets if they purchased it off-the-rack. The reason is because OTR jackets are solely dependent upon the chest size of the person. You shouldn’t wear the same size jacket as someone just because you both have a 42” chest if one person is 6’2”/200lbs and the other is 5’9”/220lbs. Another key component is the slope of an individual’s shoulders. I utilize a leveling device that can accurately depict the amount of sloping your shoulders have. The importance of the amount of sloping your shoulders have will dictate how much padding we put into your jacket’s point to point. Most every guy that I fit a suit for will tell me the #1 thing they hate about their OTR jackets is that the shoulders are too boxy. The reason for this is OTR jackets do not take into consideration what your shoulder’s shape is.
Front & Back Length
Again, men are used to a longer jacket length because they were fit into something OTR that was not made for their height. Often times, clients will come in and say they were told the length of their jacket should end where if you have your arms down by your side and you make a cupping shape with your hands, that the jacket should touch the crest of your hands. In my opinion, that is stupid. What if you’re on the shorter side but have really long arms? If your jacket is “supposed to” reach the cup of your hands and you have longer arms, your jacket is now going to make you look shorter.
The way I measure my clients for jacket length is I make the back vent cover their seat (butt). If I am making a sport coat for someone, I will make the jacket a little shorter than their suit jacket because it is a more casual look. If you are shorter in height, making your jacket length proportionate to your size will make you appear taller. If you are taller in height, having a jacket that fits your frame will keep your body looking proportionate.
And yes, it is possible for your suit jacket to be too short. A way to tell is if when you button your jacket in the front, you can see your shirt between the opening underneath the button closure. If you never button your jacket and you want a more modern look (or if it a sport coat), then you won’t have to worry about this being an issue.
The sleeve length on jackets are often times a controversial area of debate. Your jacket could be tailored to absolute perfection but if your sleeves exceed down past the break of your wrist closer to your palms, it will ruin the appearance of your jacket. My personal preference, as well as a majority of my clients is to have my jacket sleeves end where the knobby bone on your wrist is (and your shirt should end at the break of your wrist, but we will go into more detail on the fit of shirts later in this article).
Every guy (and I mean EVERY guy) will tell me the most important thing they are looking for when I measure them for a suit/sport coat is they want the “hourglass” look. This refers to the shape of your mid-section that will create a curvature from your chest down to your hips/waist. While I do my best to make this happen, not all body shapes will portray this look. If there is not a substantial difference (anywhere from 4-8 inches) in the difference in size of your chest and hips vs. your mid-section, there will not be much of an hourglass shape. But despite your body shape, the silhouette of your mid-section will still look tailored to your body regardless of the difference in these measurements if you buy something custom made for you.
Another popular topic of debate regarding the fit of someone’s pants is what type of “break” they have at the bottom. I hate the word “break” because all I can think about is the first time I bought a suit was at Jos. A. Bank and the “clothier” pointed to a picture on the wall of various break styles and told me to pick one. The length of your pants is dependent on your preference, but my recommendation will always be for your pants to end right at the top of your shoes, so they cover your ankles—but this is subjective to what type of shoes you are wearing. If you wear slip on loafers, the length of your pants should be a little longer than if you were to wear lace-ups or monk straps.
The fit of your pants from your thighs down to your calves is pretty straight forward—don’t let them be too baggy. I can’t stand it when I see someone in a well fitted jacket but their pants ruin the ensemble because they look like you borrowed them from your older brother.
Opening at Bottom
The width of the bottom of your pants is crucial for two reasons:
1. It will dictate how short you can wear your pants
2. It will make your feet/shoes look proportionate to your body size/height
My standard way of finishing someone’s leg opening at the bottom of their pants is dependent upon shoe size and calf size. The more modern look is to have a tighter opening at the bottom—but there is a give and take. The tighter of an opening at the bottom will cause your pants to get caught on your calves when standing up (hence why I say I make them proportionate to your calf measurement). The opening of my pants is about 1-1.5 inches smaller than my calf but I can live with this because I like the look it creates.
The mid-section of your shirt is not only my #1 important area of fit, but just about every client of mine as well. Everyone has experienced the “trash bag effect” when buying a shirt OTR. You’re able to fit two of you in the shirt and it makes you look much larger than you really are regardless of your body size. Having a shirt that is way too big in the mid-section will also affect the silhouette of your jacket because it will cause bunching around the mid-section and leave an imprint of your shirt creases on the back of your jacket.
Regardless of how big your arms are, they can still look more shaped if the shirt is fit to your specific arm size. If you have smaller biceps and forearms, having a shirt with baggy arms will unfortunately not make them seem bigger. Everyone notices when you have trimmer fitting shirts in the arms because it makes your body look proportionate.
The sleeve length of your shirts should be directly associated to the sleeve length of your jackets. My personal preference (and how I make just about every one of my client’s shirt sleeve lengths) are for the sleeves to end at the break of my wrist. I prefer to show about ½-1 inch of shirt sleeve cuff when wearing a jacket. I would say the standard for most guys is anywhere from ¼-1 inch depending on how traditional or modern of a look they are going for. This is why I recommend guys to always purchase custom made shirts when purchasing custom made jackets because I can control the amount of cuff shown—if you buy shirts OTR from various suppliers, you will not have shirts with the exact same sleeve length. If your shirt sleeves are much longer than your jacket sleeves, it is incredibly embarrassing when the entire cuff of your shirt exceeds the opening of your jacket sleeves.