This is the fourth article in our Guide to Suit Style.
You can see the full contents so far, and browse between them, on the right-hand side of this post.

Dege & Skinner double breasted blazer
Bespoke double-breasted jacket by Dege & Skinner


Perceptions of the double-breasted jacket

In our previous article we covered what is perhaps the ‘standard’ choice for a suit or jacket (a single breast with a notch lapel). The next obvious style to consider is the double breast. Yet for such a recognised alternative, it occupies a relatively small, perhaps even non-existent part of the modern man’s wardrobe.

This is largely a result of fear or lack of understanding. The DB is often seen as old-fashioned, and therefore worn by older men; it is seen as serious and formal, particularly in a pinstripe; and many consider it unflattering.

Let’s set out what sits behind these perceptions.

simon crompton pitti
Anderson & Sheppard double-breasted flannel suit

What are the benefits of a DB jacket?

One thing that’s certain is that a double-breasted suit adds breadth to a man, as it takes the standard, single-breasted lapel and pulls it further across the body. It is a strong, diagonal streak.

The peaked lapels also create breadth because they point outwards. Even if the peak appears high on the lapel, the top of it will be relatively horizontal, slanting across the chest.

And the buttons, whether there are six, four or two, create horizontal lines as well – or indeed a box, if there are six or four.

Cifonelli DB
Pale-grey herringbone DB from Cifonelli, Paris

You can change it all

A double-breasted jacket can therefore be good for a slim man with narrow shoulders, giving him much-needed breadth.

But it can still suit a bigger or wider man. For the effect can be greatly reduced, altered or simply personalised with the changing of the button positioning.

Imagine a standard double-breasted jacket – as pictured above. Now move the waist buttons (the two central ones) gradually down. As you do so, the lapel lenthens and becomes more vertical, running down the body. If you do the opposite, and move the buttons up, the lapel does the opposite, shortening and flattening.

Small changes to the button position can radically change the angle of the lapel and therefore the amount of breadth it gives to the wearer.

Now consider the jacket as second time. This time, move the two waist buttons slowly towards each other. This makes the lapel more vertical again (though also shortening it slightly), and doing the opposite makes it more horizontal.

One should never push this too far, but it quickly becomes apparent how important the placement of those buttons is. To the lapel angle, and to the size of the box created by the buttons.

Customers of bespoke or MTM tailoring can try this with their tailor. Ready-to-wear customers should compare jackets from different brands to see the difference.

Further Reading

Double-breasted styles compared

The Rules and How To Break Them. No 5.

The Double-Breasted Debate

Button options for a DB jacket

The number of buttons on a DB jacket, and where they fasten, also makes a big difference to the look. This is usually described using a numerical system, where 6×2, for example, means six buttons overall of which two rows can be buttoned (as in both images above).

This is the most traditional and common option. Then there is then the low-buttoning 6×1, the military-looking 6×3, the square 4×2, the 4×1 and the rare 2×1. Each has a different effect, both in terms of formality and style.

Antonio Panico chalkstripe DB suit Symposium
Sartoria Panico bespoke 6×2 double-breasted jacket

Let’s look at the effect of each in turn. The 6×2 arrangement is the most traditional, and perhaps lends itself to more traditional cloth and styling.

Above is a great example of a classic navy chalk-stripe, perfect for a more conservative business outfit. However, the number of buttons and the height of the buttoning can look bulky to some, and perhaps not rakish enough.

Cifonelli royal blue blazer symposium2
Cifonelli 6×1 royal-blue double-breasted jacket

This is solved by the next option – the 6×1, where there are still six buttons but they fasten on the bottom row.

Cifonelli‘s royal-blue double-breasted jacket above is a nice example. By buttoning at the last row and cutting the cloth to open more across the chest, this characteristic Cifonelli style creates a more striking look and more room for the shirt and tie.

The effect is accentuated by having the jacket slightly shorter – normally only employed on jackets rather than suits.

Henry Poole bespoke suit
Henry Poole 4×2 Prince of Wales suit

Four buttons looks less bulky than six. So the next option is getting rid of the top two buttons entirely, leaving us with the 4×2 shown above (from Henry Poole).

This can be a good choice for men that want to try the style of a DB, but fear six buttons will be overkill. It gives a cleaner look to the chest, and you can, after all, merely add the missing two at a later stage.

Given you rarely find this style off the rack, it can also highly a bespoke suit (though of course, you could also remove the top two buttons on a 6×2, if that’s possible without leaving a mark on the cloth).

Edward Sexton cream DB jacket Symposium
Edward Sexton 4×1 double-breasted cream-flannel jacket

Just as with the 6-button configuration, there is then the choice to button to the bottom row of four – as shown by the example of a 4×1 by Edward Sexton in a cream flannel above.

(I should say at this point that with most jackets you cannot just decide to start buttoning to a different row. The jacket will usually be cut to button to a certain point, and if you change that, the shape through the waist will be ruined. There are versions of a DB, largely from Italy, that are soft enough and have enough control in the collar to switch where the buttons are fastened. But they are rare.)  

With the 4×1, the top row of buttons is slightly further apart to avoid creating a square. Note how the buttoning point is lower compared to the 6×2 or 4×2 above, increasing the length of the lapel and so reducing some of the bulk that results from the overlap of the cloth.

Lastly, there is the 2×1, with simply two horizontal buttons, both appearing to fasten. This is the most unusual and is unlikely to be popular. But it can be a starting point, with more buttons (even buttonholes) added later.

Further Reading

Edward Sexton Grey Flannel Suit

Italian Double-Breasted Illustrations

Double-Breasted: Harmony v Balance

Anderson & Sheppard bespoke check jacket cream trousers


Final thoughts

On DBs generally, it is fair to say that most ready-to-wear double-breasted jackets will be less flattering than a single-breasted. This is because they are harder to cut to a standard fit, so are unlikely to fit as well.

That’s a good reason for having one made bespoke, and if you do there is no reason it shouldn’t be very flattering – whatever your shape. Indeed a RTW one might be as well, if you search long enough and find the right style. 

When buying a double-breasted jacket (be it bespoke, MTM or RTW) always consider the position of the waist button and the extent of the overlap – as set out above.

Finally, a large man can wear double-breasted much more easily if he reduces its bulk in every other way, through lack of clutter, texture and excess cloth. In my opinion, large men shouldn’t be scared of a double-breasted suit, and slim men should positively embrace it.

Further Reading

Double-Breasted Checks, and Cream Trousers

Checks, Denim and Balance

Double–Breasted Smoking Jacket – Reader Question

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
98 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Joel

Thanks for the nice article. For the Cifonelli, I think you meant 6×1.
Very instructive, I’ll try double breasted when I’ll have the opportunity then.

Justin

Thanks for this, Simon–I love my A+S double-breasteds. But I wanted to write with an unrelated question about t-shirts for summer. You’ve written about both Sunspel and Orlebar Brown. I tried the OB classic t-shirt and found it skin-tight and completely unflattering–and I’m a slim guy! Perhaps I need to size up, but I suspect their cut may not be for me. Do Sunspel t-shirts have a little more drape to them? Are they any less form-fitting, but still slim overall? Thanks for any thoughts or advice!

Justin

Of course!
And to folks considering DB suits: my A+S earns me lots of compliments and doesn’t look at all old-mannish. Highly recommended.

Rabster

Very informative .
Just a small point . I think it might help if photographs to illustrate points were next to each other.
It just avoids too much scrolling backwards and forwards .

On a point specific to the topic , why do some men always favour double breasted .
Prince Charles is probably the greatest contemporary proponent of the double breasted jacket .
It’s not as if he needs to disguise his physique.

John Edmund

I always like to have at least one DB in my wardrobe but it’s been difficult (at least I think so) in the last few years to wear a DB as informality in business wear has increased and I have felt over-dressed at meetings where the younger attendees don’t even own a suit. I particularly like a 6×3 preferably in dark colours and a plain fabric (box-pattern buttoning) but I admit that that can look a bit too much like a uniform. What are your views on fabric, colour and pattern for DB’s?

gary

theres one reason to get DB and thats because its non office if you get it done the right way , try and get the lapels large and have a 2 button semi drape front, believe if you have a slim stomach this is the top. But use a great unusual material two , a two tone kid mohair.
Never go for thin or normal lapels on a db , must be large .

James

Thanks for this. Really helpful. I’ve currently got three single breasted suits and am thinking about going for a double breasted for my next commission. However, I am concerned a double breasted suit might be too smart for my work. My bespoke single breasted are already very smart compared to others. What would you advise?

Tony Lupton

I don’t think there is such a thing as “too smart”. Dressing smartly says “I care about how I look”. Too formal is essentially, “I made the wrong choice”. You can both both too formal and unsmart; or even informal, and very smart.

Michael

Dear Simon,
indeed I was wandering to see your Caliendo-Blazer in the post, which seems for the buttons to make you equally slim and/or relaxed as the A&S in my view (judging, of course, from photos). Are the positions of buttons similar? // Two other questions: 1) Do you really wear the Elia Caliendo often open – and how does that work with the lapels? 2) And are there special cuts which make a closed DB easier while sitting? Your wore it open during the TV-bicycle thing, didn’t you? I do so and always have to button it up when getting up (which I find slightly more annoying than for a SB, therefore using my DB more for events involving a lot of standing. But I remember pics of A&S Tailors on your blog being seated with closed DBs…

AO

Simon,

A fascinating piece, and series as a whole. What a delight to read articles on the topic of such depth, quality and knowledge. It’s really got me thinking about how a double breasted jacket can be made to suit different body types, or more contemporary/traditional, depending on taste. I cannot wait til the day I make my first bespoke commission, and the degree to which this site will be instrumental in so many aspects of style and fit.

Michael

very interesting Simon, I love DBs. Interesting point I hadn’t considered about shifting the buttons even a little affecting the angle of the lapel. I am considering small adjustment of buttons to allow a rather snug jacket to be a bit less snug (hopefully). A couple of questions: what is the weight of your A&S grey flannel suit & how do you find that fabric works in a suit (being I presume ‘softer’ than many alternatives), and one last question – what is that impressive vintage looking suit that you have used in the photo to introduce the article? Thanks.

Don Ferrando

Dear Simon!
Thank you for this article.
Most on my suits are DB and I had the impression that my tailor was plesed to make a DB since most customers ask for single breasted.
From the pix you posted my favorite is the Panico 6×2

reuven lax

How often do you still wear the Henry Poole suit?

carmelo pugliatti

Is interesting that in Italy the double breasted is a very frequent choice above all between the bespoke and high end RTW customers.
Italian tailors cut numerous double breasteds; is probable that this type of coat is popular because is difficult to make and to dress.
For this is considered “distinguished”.
Is not a new thing: in Italy the double breasted never disappeared,not even in late 50s and 60s when this garnment meet the minimum consent in some countries (as United States).
In RTW field, “Al Bazaar” of Lino Lelluzzi in Milan is the temple of double breasted.

P.S. Simon write:
“There are versions of a DB, largely from Italy, that are soft enough and have enough control in the collar to switch where the buttons are fastened”.

This is true,this model is called “trasformabile” (“Convertible”) and the finest tailors cut double breasted in this way.
For Exemple the Caraceni,Musella Denbech,Rubinacci,Crimi,and others.

Evan Everhart

Hi Carmelo,

Love this little gem of a comment of yrs! You are absolutely right, as usual!

Brooks Brothers also used to make some very fine convertible DB suits back up through the 1950s….

I recently commissioned a duplicate of one of their convertible models from the teens to early 20s and should be taking delivery very soon. It is a 6-3-Roll-2, sack with soft shoulders and high arm-holes, Hopefully it meets my expectations as they pattern was made entirely from scratch and I suppose qualifies as a bespoke garment in that respect….My tailor seemed quite keen on the suit.

facebook_Norbert Scigala.1432263757

I codrially congratulate on your blog. It is the only English-language one which I regularly read. Best regards from Poland.

twitter_rebron

http://www.permanentstyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Anderson-and-Sheppard-DB-flannel-suit-Symposium-465×700.jpg You’ve used this pic in plenty of posts but this is kind of the gold standard/textbook definition of double breasted suit. Just gorgeous and I’d think you’d almost have to start from here. Anyhow, I used to own a double breasted suit, just too warm and too much material to wear in the SF/Bay Area, and also with my height/build it makes me look shorter and wider/stockier. Gorgeous cut though.

nick inkster

For me your Edward Sexton grey flannel DB is just perfect.

José

Hi Simon,
I commissioned a Calvo de Mora db Prince of Wales I still do not have it, but my impressions in the fittings were so good!
I do not know if I will have many occasions to wear it, working in a private Bank, but I believe it is a long term investment!
Best regards from Spain

Haouk

Hello Simon,
Greetings from Seoul.
I was always curious about why Prince Charles when wearing his 6×2 DB jacket, always closes his buttom button as well. Could you please shed some light as to why?
Cheers,

Nick Inkster

I’ve always thought that buttoning up in the way he does was a bit odd, but he was doing it pre Diana, and I guess that as the future monarch he can do wants to. The previous PoW also had a style all of his own………

Nick Inkster

And then more recently persuaded to move to T&A.

Andrew Walker

Another wonderful article. Thank you Simon.

Martin

The royal-blue of the Cifonelli jacket looks as unsubtle as it sounds. Would you wear it?

Christoph

Dear Simon,

reading this post and having been inspired by your beautiful DB navy hopsack from Caliendo, I would like to ask something about the (formal) DB-style and (softer, relaxed) Napolitanian tailoring.

Backround: I am having a suit made by Elia Caliendo in a classic dark-blue (near navy) very wrinkle resistant middle-weight worsted with 10% cashmere, as a somewhat classic „day-time-conference/buisiness-as-well-as-evening“ all rounder. With the exception of a autunm-winter-travel suit in a heavy brown worsted Holland&Sherry, it will be the first bespoke item in an otherwise large, but RTW wardrope. Very happy with going to Naples, I am still undecided between the (3-2 roll) SB or a DB; and your advice would be highly appreciated, also since in touches upon various aspets already discussed at PS.

First, I went to Elia Caliendo precisely because I was most impressed with the straight lapels on your blue hopsack jacket and wanted something similar, we did however end up with the idea of a suit. And than I thought about your valuable post „how many tailors a man should have“ with regard to dramatic ones, business ones and more casual ones, with Naples being in the last of the three categories. Your much commented linen-suit by Dege&Skinner, however, showed how much one can play with different styles, for I would choose (I think) a Napolitanian Tailor for linen as well as, for example, an english one for a Dinner Jacket. Further, in this post you start with DB being more serious and formal, but show magnificent patch-pockets which, im my view, soften the formality in your pale-grey Cifonelli; but it is probably not by chance that this is also a lighter colour and has the herringbone texture in it. So – what would be your recommendation for my darkblue-Caliendo suit, should I stick to the famous 3-2 SB with soft shoulders and leave the DB maybe for latter, more structured and dramatic version? Or what are your general thoughts on DB in Napolitanian Tailoring – still so distinct from the more structured world that I could stick to my initial admiring of your DB travel-jacket? And if so, do I leave the rest more formal (in terms of pockets, dark blue buttons etc.) or continue to „soften“ it a just a little with patch-pockets and dark brown buttons all in oder to play around in the end from, let’s say, tie-less cocktail, shirt and tie for work and bow tie for the theater?

Thank you very much for your help and advice,
Christoph

Rafael

Is it ok to wear bow ties with a DB suit ?

Daniel

I am wondering where exactly is the best place to buy a DB suit. I live in southern america so finding a lot of stores that sale them is working. Do you places that you would recommend?

Roger

Simon – is it appropriate to wear a waistcoat under double breasted suit and if so what kind of style would go well?

Roger

I absolutely love the Cifonelli 6×1 royal-blue double-breasted jacket yet for what occasions I can wear it ?

It seems to rakish for the office wear (american investment bank in the city)?

Also when the royal blue seems very loud, when it would be appropriate to wear this color?

Andrew

A foolish question, perhaps, but does one unbutton a double breasted suit when sitting down? It’s customary and easy enough with a single breasted, but if you’re up and down, undoing multiple buttons seems cumbersome.

Thanks!

omoh

Hey Simon,
My friend is thinking about getting a MTM suit and he wants to go with a double breasted three piece. He wants double pleats on the pants and he wants the vest to be double breasted and have a collar as well. Is that overkill? I understand those things can be done individually but all at once I feel would be too much. Am I wrong?

Best regards,
omoh

Patrick

Simon,

Thank you for taking the time to elucidate us on the double breasted jacket, an almost extinct species here in NYC. Following your lead, or finding similar utility, I’ve decided upon a double breasted suit for my wedding, and I seek your further wisdom. Next week I’m traveling to London and would like to commission a mtm double breasted suit, in a sober navy or charcoal. I’ve been a soft shoulder acolyte since beginning my suit wearing life (primarily Eidos), but for my wedding I’d like something in the English style. Not too broad shouldered and nipped at the waist, but something that makes my narrow shoulders look a little more chiseled and gives my chest a bit of shape.

If you would be so kind, could you make a recommendation for London MTM in a more English style than Italian. Perhaps not a house on Savile Row as budget is a concern. I’m looking for something around $2,000. Additionally, a house that might make a stop in NYC is a plus. Once, again, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wit.

Sincerely,

Patrick

Patrick

Thank you, Simon!

Kirill Dashkovskiy

With regards to the earlier discussion on the subject of Prince Charles’s fastening of both buttons on a 6×2, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is due to the lack of knowledge, perhaps just his personal preference. I find that a fully fastened DB (especially structured) looks rather neat because of a more ‘military’ look and therefore works better than a fully fastened SB. All is of course a matter of personal preference.

Jonathan

Firstly, great website!
Secondly, wanted to get your opinion. Just got a MTM DB Suit (6×2)….everything fits great but the stomach area (where you button it) can use a drop more room. So my question is, since I’d rather not have to alter it for such a small amount, would moving over the button work? Would it mess up the proportions of the entire suit? Would I have to move over the other 2 buttons on that side (right side) as well? Thanks in advance!

Jj

Is solid navy a good choice for someone’s first double breasted suit? I currently have a navy, charcoal, black, mid grey, grey glen plaid and navy pinstrip suit.

rups

How do you sit down in a double breasted? Assume you have to unbutton the jacket, which means it splays open and with all that extra material doesnt it cause an inconvenience?

Mr J

Don’t know if it’s an obvious question but do you typically unbutton your DB when sitting down? Would that create a lot of extra fabric visually?

What’s your view of not buttoning DB in general?

Bernie

Hi Simon,

I haven’t been able to achieve a satisfactory fit for my sunken chest (fairly large on the top and sides but hollow in the center) even through bespoke (WWC). That being said, I haven’t tried a DB yet. If I go down the MTM or bespoke route for a double breasted, would it be easier to achieve a good fit?

Bernie

Thanks for your feedback! Is there any special aspect of fit that I need of be aware of for a DB or do the same principles for a SB apply?

Bernie

Thanks!

R Abbott

Seems to me that the Cifonelli 6×1 style would work very well for someone who is on the shorter side and has an athletic body. The V-shape of the buttons has a lengthening effect, and the lower buttoning point and and more open look would also be flattering. Would you agree with this assessment?

Perhaps too rakish to wear at the office, but then again, the same is probably true in most office environments for any DB, so no loss there. However, I could easily see wearing that type of jacket for a nice dinner out. I would probably tone down the rakishness by going for a dark navy rather than royal blue, and for dark brown buttons rather than gold colored buttons (which are great for military dress but otherwise a bit too much, in my view).

vogel jp

Hi,

would you recommend wearing a vest with a DB as they did in the 30s and 40s (see China Town)?

Greetings from Gay Paree

J.P.

AM

Hi Simon – thank you for the informative article. Could you elaborate on the best styles for different body types i.e. button positioning / number, lapel width / positioning etc. I’m currently commissioning a number of double breasted suits and like the look of 4 on 1. I’m 5ft 9, slim / athletic and wanted to know what would be best suited in term of the above and if a 4 on 1 is a good option. Also is 4 on 1 relatively a timeless option (I like to keep it classic).
Cheers.

George

Hey man, I am considering getting a DB suit, but my body is tricky.

I am 5 foot 7, 170-180lbs aroungd the year and I’m quite muscular, I need the DB to work with my height while not making me look fat, I’m stuck between 6×2 and 4×1:

1. normally 4×1 is better for short guy, but because of the slight lower button position, it will kind of elongate the waist, the only benefit I see it is less button less detail;

2. 6×2 has a higher button stance , if combine with shorter jacket, can look very nice, while with 4×1, lower stance plus short jacket kind of look comic like, but is is 2 more button,

Theoretically speaking 4×1 is more for me, but when I look at myself in the mirror, 6×2 actually look better, I want to know how you feel about it?

George

Yeah I think it is better this way, and I agree with u that one button sb is better, I made this 2 button suit mtm and I asked the tailor to keep the button at my natural waistline no lower, and eliminate the second button, the result is fantastic.

1 button sb and 62 db looks like the definity answer to mtm suits.

George

However, regarding the SB jacket, I have seen some one button, but they button below the waistline, making my torso even longer, I like the neutral button stance on 2 button jacket, I though about doing a 2 button jacket but just remove the second button, BUT!!! the proportion of the jacket design start seems unbalance, so I think yeah, even though I’m 5 foot 7 only, 2 button will probably better for me.

S

Hello Simon, Wondering what your take is on patch pockets on a DB suit or jacket (in something like navy fresco or hopsack) ? Thanks !

S

Thanks for the great advice ! Stay well.

LLP

Hi Simon

Thank you for a great guide. In terms of what you have covered, I especially was wondering how you consider bringing in fabrics and colors, which may have an ‘old fashioned’ look and feel to it? So that you won’t fall into the trap which you mention in the beginning: “The DB is often seen as old-fashioned, and therefore worn by older men”.

Sheikh Ali

Hello Simon,
Can you please explain why do we sometime see double breasted jacket lapel break in the middle? I have added an image link as example in the website link box.

Hamza

Hi Simon,

Could you please share your experience with the length of double breasted suit jackets in both 6×1 and 6×2 arrangements? It appears that the 6×2 is generally somewhat shorter whereas the length of 6×1 is kept longer. Is that true?

Robin Basu

why is there a thought out there that small men shouldn’t wear double breasted? i think when fitted well they look good on any size.also I’ve seen rake extraordinaire Edward VIII wearing them constantly and he was 5ft 4 and wore 4/2 and 6/2. I personally thought he looked better in the latter with long looking lenth to the bottom of the jacket

Ashish Joseph

Hi Simon

Would the style of the Cifonelli jacket lend itself to a full suit, or is this best suited for a blazer?

Sincerely
Ashish

Shem

Hi simon given the current context and how everyone is dressing more casually, how can one wear a dB sportscoat and dress down sufficiently to not stand out too much? I don’t think I have ever seen you wear a navy dB sportscoat casually (jeans etc) and wondering if there can be an article on that

AC

Hi Simon, very helpful and informative discussion here. Noticed a lot of the questions (understandably so) is focused on the suit jacket, but what trouser trim/fit would you recommend for a DB suit? Would a slim fit work well given the top is wider/gives more breadth?