Although they’re a classic, suits still have some design changes depending on what the current trend is. For a lot of guys, that can make it harder to find a suit that fits and feels good. You don’t want to look sloppy with a baggy suit, but you also don’t want to look like you’re squeezing into your suit either. Trust us, there is a perfect fit for every guy out there, but you have to know what to look for.
How should a suit fit?
We promised a perfect fit for anyone, and we have it. Follow these rules on how a suit should fit and you’ll be on the right track.
Length often seems like the hardest part of deciding how a suit jacket should fit. You don’t want it too long, that throws off your natural proportions. Nor do you want it too small, which causes the same issue. There are two ways to check if your suit is the proper length.
First, you can stand with your hands flat at your sides. The bottom of the jacket should be around knuckle level. The other method is making sure the bottom of the jackets falls to just about mid crotch. Guys with a little less height may want to end their jacket right at mid crotch to even out their proportions. As a classic rule of thumb, suits should give you a little coverage behind too. Check and make sure your rear is at least partially (or mostly) covered by the back of the suit jacket.
Shoulders and Shoulder Seams
One of the most important things to look at with the shoulders of a suit is where the seam is. The seam that connects the shoulders to the arms of the jacket is a reliable indicator for fit. Basically, the seam should be at the edge of your shoulder, right where it slopes down to your arm.
The shoulders on a suit should be flat and smooth. You don’t want any rumpled fabric or creases. While there are a lot of things tailors can fix to make your suit fit better, shoulders are tricky. Because it’s not an easy or cheap process to fix shoulders, it’s better to make sure they fit, and tailor other parts instead.
When we talk about arms in suits, we’re not talking so much about the sleeve as we are the actual armholes. Naturally, you don’t want them too high or tight. Suits may not be the most comfortable outfit, but it shouldn’t pinch you either.
Measuring from your armpit to the bottom of the arm hole, you should have a little space, but not too much. Stay away from suits with arm holes that extend down two or three inches. It’ll make the rest of the suit look less tailors, and bunch or sag.
You shouldn’t be able to feel the bottom of the armhole against your armpit. Basically, look for just enough space to be comfortable, but be careful of giving yourself too much extra room.
The body of the suit is just as important as the length. Remember, nobody wants to be either stuffed or swimming in a nice suit. A more fitted suit flatters anyone, as long as you do it right. You should be able to feel the suit jacket slightly ‘hugging’ your torso, but lightly is the keyword here.
Fasten the middle or upper button to test out the fit. If you’re seeing the suit flare out near the top and bottom, it’s too tight. The suit creates a sort of X shape extending out from the button.
It’s far easier to take a jacket in than let it out, so it’s better to find a slightly larger body. You should also be able to slip your hand under either lapel without much pull back.
This is another area where there are two different spheres of opinion. We recommend choosing a middle ground between each, or going the slightly shorter route.
The first way to check sleeve length opts for a somewhat longer sleeve. Stand with your arms at your side, and see where the sleeve falls. Ideally, the sleeves should reach where your wrist and the very base of your thumb join.
This method is longer, and also keeps dress shirts underneath from showing much, if at all when you bend your arm.
The next way to find a good sleeve fit is similar, but you’ll end up with shorter sleeves. Stand with your arms at your side, and palms horizontal (facing the floor). The sleeve should sit about a quarter of an inch above your hand. This fit is especially popular with watch wearers, and guys that like to let a glimpse of their dress shirt show.
With a three button suit, you’ll always have the middle one buttoned, and sometimes the top or bottom depending on the occasion. With a two button suit, you button the top one, but very rarely the bottom one. Those rules are pretty simple, but what about where the buttons are positioned?
For two button jackets, we’re referring to the top button. For three button jackets, we’re referring to the middle button. Either way, the rule on buttons is the same, it just depends on which button you’re looking at to judge positioning. The button should always reach to your belly button at the very least, and absolutely never below it.
Depending on your preference, you can move the button higher. However, it’s best not to have a button that sits an inch or more above your navel.
The jacket collar won’t be comfortable if it’s too tight. However, if it’s a bad fit, you’ll have gaps where it sort of ‘tents’ out from you. Unfortunately, not all problems with collars happen because the neck is just too big.
Many times, the shoulders or the body of the jacket affect how the collar fits overall. Collars, like shoulders, aren’t the easiest fix in a suit jacket. With that in mind, try to find the best fitting collar from the start.
A collar that fits properly won’t have large spaces between the inside of it and your dress shirt underneath. While the collar of a dress shirt sits on the back of your neck, you can still see if your collar fits by checking with your shirt. The suit collar should still touch your shirt collar, without any gaps, or bunching your shirt fabric.
How should suit pants fit?
Now that you know everything about how a suit jacket should fit, let’s talk about suit pants.
When we talk about leg fit, we’re talking about how tight they are. Don’t worry, we’ll cover length later too! Suit pants should have a tailored look, but without being too tight. Aim for about an inch of extra fabric on either side of your leg.
You can simply pinch the fabric on either side to check. It’s pretty easy to take in the leg width of suit pants, so if you’ve found the otherwise perfect pair, just call your tailor.
Length and Hem
If pants are too short, it’s fairly obvious right away. Your biggest concern is likely if they’re too long. Depending on your personal style, you can choose the break of your pants. The break is essentially how much, if any, fabric overlaps at the bottom of your pant leg. No break suit pants don’t have any fold at all, although it’s usually best to go with at least a slight break.
Suit pants with full breaks don’t look as formal or polished as those with a more mild break, so you may choose to avoid them depending on the occasion. You also have the option of a half or quarter break.
A subtle break flatters any body type, and it’s always on point, no matter the occasion. This is another easy fix for any tailor. Just ask them to hem the pants to your chosen style.
The seat of your suit pants is another important area to get fitted. Avoid pants with a lot of extra room in the seat so fabric doesn't get baggy or wrinkly. Of course, you don’t want them too tight either.
Typically, if the pants are too tight in the seat, you don’t even need to see it to know. You’ll be able to feel it if there’s too far on the snug side (although it never hurts to do a visual check, either).
If needed, move around a bit, sit down, get up, and see how it feels. If it squeezes too much while you’re moving around, you’ll need something a little bigger.
The fit of the waist gives a lot of guys trouble for a couple reasons. The first is that a lot of guys think of pants as pants, and have the waist of suit pants where jeans go. Unfortunately, this just isn’t how suit pants should fit. The waist is much higher, usually at least reaching to your upper hip bone.
Of course, you can tell whether or not the waist fits pretty easily. It shouldn’t dig in, but it also shouldn’t leave huge gaps where fabric stretches out from your waist.
One of the best ways to double check the waist is just wearing the pants without a belt. Suit pants should fit so the waist is secure enough to hold up even without one.
The Proper Fit of Dress Shirts
While your dress shirt may not technically be part of your suit, you really can’t wear a suit without one. Not only that, your dress shirt is an accent point that works with your suit in your overall appearance. When you put it like that, you’d better make sure your dress shirt fits properly too!
The body of your dress shirt covers your torso. While the suit jacket does cover some of this area, there’s still a lot that shows. If your shirt is too big, you’ll see extra fabric puffing out. There may be some looking baggy around the chest, but you can really tell at the waist. It’ll puff out, looking a bit like a muffin top.
You can usually feel it if a shirt hugs too tightly. Of course, your buttons feel the strain too, and that’s why fabric wrinkles out from the buttons if the shirt is too tight. You’ll often also see some pulling around the seams and shoulders.
Length can be a little tricky, but it’s not as hard as you think. Ideally, a perfect fitting dress shirt falls to just a few inches below where your belt would sit. If a shirt is too long, you’ll have extra fabric puffing up, or crumples in your pants from where it tucks in.
If a shirt is too short, it may be difficult to keep it properly tucked in throughout your activities. At the very least, a dress shirt should be long enough to fully cover, or fall below, your belt line.
Shoulders for dress shirts, much like for suit jackets, should sit with the seam right at your shoulder where it slopes down. Again, much like with suit jackets, the armholes of your shirt should give you some room to move, but not too much.
Sleeves and Cuffs
Your sleeve shouldn’t pinch when you bend your arm, but they also shouldn’t be baggy enough to wrinkle over. You still have an inch or two of extra space if the sleeves fit properly, although most sleeves taper slightly as they near the cuff.
Cuffs should be just large enough to slip your hand through without unbuttoning them. The cuffs should hit right around where your hand joins with your wrist (where the more prominent bones are).
Why Is It Important for a Suit to Be Well-Fitted?
As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Of course, you might get a second chance to get to know someone, but you can’t change the image you gave off upon first meeting them.
In casual situations, it’s a lot easier to make a good impression based off of your personality alone. However, in pretty much any situation that requires a suit, your appearance does a lot of that for you.
Suits aren’t for barbecues and casual summer parties. They’re an item reserved for more formal, business oriented situations. It goes without saying that in these situations, a good first impression can be paramount to your success.
Wearing clothes that practically hang off you gives the impression of slackness, or at least someone that puts little effort into their attire. Of course, clothes that are too tight or small don’t do you any favors either.
A well tailored suit shows that you take pride in your efforts, and yourself. Not only that, it can show that you’re coordinated and meticulous.
Have you had the hem altered? Sleeves adjusted perfectly? Or is there a missing detail that could make or break your ensemble? Most employers, business associates, and even clients look to associate with detail and goal oriented people.
By paying attention to what may seem small, you can make a big difference in how people first perceive you and continue to do from there on.
People are naturally attracted to others that they see common traits they share. As another old saying goes, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Well-fitted suits give a distinctly professional, confident appearance. If you want to impress, you need to dress the part.
Whether subconscious or conscious, a baggy outfit gives others the idea that you may lack confidence, since it hides so much of your form. Likewise, a suit that’s much too tight may give the opposite impression that you’re rather bombastic or quite showy. It could even mean you won’t invest in a new, properly fitted suit.
Even if you’re not confident in your body type, having a well tailored, well fitting suit is an absolute necessity. You don’t have to swim in your clothes, or feel like your suit is swaddling you. You just need to work with your proportions and the way the suit fits your body.
The most important thing is to wear your suit. Don’t let it wear you. You don’t want to distract from the important things you have to say because you show up in a poorly fitted suit.
For every guy that’s ever struggled with finding a well-fitted suit, you now have your answer. This guide has given you all the tools you need to look sharp, smart and at your very best with a proper fit. You won’t struggle with ill-fitting suits anymore.
Remember, these tips about how a suit should fit work for anyone, no matter how tall, short, thin or wide you are. Base everything off your own proportions, find a great tailor and you’re all set!