Giving myself bigger shoulders has never been a priority in the buying of bespoke suits. Perhaps I’m just lucky, being relatively slim and relatively tall, that sloping shoulders have never been much of a concern. Either way, I think focusing too much on the flattering effects of a suit can distract from its style.

Some colleagues and acquaintances have a very different attitude. For them, the greatest achievement of any suit is to maximize their physical attributes, giving them bigger shoulders, a small waist and a plunging neckline to emphasise the chest. They favour shoulder padding, a one or two-button front and a high gorge.

Such a suit may well make them look sexier, and perhaps that is their main aim. They certainly seem to keep count of the number of compliments they receive from women as opposed to men. I have read critiques of the English drape cut, as practised by those trained at Anderson & Sheppard, expressing disappointment that it did not give the author an Atlas silhouette. Readers on this blog have commented similarly that it is a shame some of my suits don’t do more to pad out my shoulders.

To focus on this exclusively is to miss out on many of the glories of tailoring. A softer shoulder and chest creates a different, more casual look. For me it is more suited to the softness of moleskin trousers, old-favourite slip-ons and a dandyish pocket handkerchief.

It is also simply a different style in itself. My Anderson & Sheppard double-breasted suits do far less than other DBs to strengthen the shoulder, but it makes them distinctive and gives a unique look that no ready-made suit could emulate. There is also an argument that it goes better with the rounded lapels and thick collar, which already suggest a roundness to the chest.

I would wear a navy suit in a structured, one-button style for a job interview. Black tie should be cut to flatter, equally. These events are occasions to impress and the tailoring should be appropriate. But such padding in an unlined, cashmere blazer is out of place.

More importantly, the range of styles available through tailoring is often larger than you think. Limiting yourself through a single, narrow objective is a crying shame.

Pictured: two examples of sloping shoulders, on Mariano Rubinacci and myself
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Simon, would this not be affected by the choice of cloth, with more ‘traditional’ cloths having a more pronounced drape on the body? I have a A&S jacket in Harris Tweed, and even with the soft shoulder and minimal padding, it genuinely seems to broaden the shoulders. When I received the finished jacket, I was a bit stunned by its elegant and frankly masculine effect on my appearance! The effect is almost as pronounced as a similar tweed jacket made for me by Kilgour, which obviously has much more structured shoulders…

Anonymous

As a woman, I prefer soft shoulders on a man’s jacket…too much structure looks like you’re trying too hard…and we know what that means!

Sean

I would find a one button jacket, no matter the styling, to be too fashion forward for an interview

Anonymous

What the drape does is extend the shoulder line without necessarily raising it. For a soft shoulder without the elongation, check out classic Ivy League ‘natural shoulder’ coats of the 50s and 60s.

On Simon’s coat in the picture, the roping helps to draw the eye to the end of the shoulder.

For comparison of different shoulders, one great pic is the 1949 MGM group shot. Fashionable shoulders were enormous at this time. Compare the shoulders of Fred Astaire (fourth from left, front row) with those of almost every other man.

http://media.photobucket.com/image/mgm%20stars%20of%201949/cornershop15/Group%20Photos/MGMStarsOf1949-1.jpg?o=2#!oZZ2QQcurrentZZhttp%3A%2F%2Fmedia.photobucket.com%2Fimage%2Fmgm%20stars%20of%201949%2Fcornershop15%2FGroup%20Photos%2FMGMStarsOf1949-1.jpg%3Fo%3D2

Christian

Dear Simon,

As someone who has very strongly sloping shoulders, this article was very helpful and I agree with what you write. There are however some elements in a suit’s construction that you did not include in your thoughts, such as shoulder angle and roped shoulder vs. spalla camicia. Would you maybe like to elaborate a little on these?

In my view, I don’t mind a stronger padding of the shoulders if the padding doesn’t alter (too much) the natural angle of the shoulder. If it does, it looks like trying to hard. But if remains true to the natural angle, it can just create a very clean look that I personally like.

What probably makes more difference than the padding is the transition between shoulder and sleeve. With my sloping shoulders, there is a risk that it is all just one falling line, so some roping seems good to create a visual separation between shoulder and sleeve. Do you think this is an element to consider to help men with sloping shoulders look good?

Thanks for your comments!

Christian