The importance of fit

Monday, January 2nd 2017
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ring-jacket
Akihiro Mizobata, Ring Jacket

A well-fitted jacket is the most flattering thing a man can own.

It occurred to me recently - in conversation with a long-term reader - that we don’t talk about the importance of fit anymore. Yet it used to be all we talked about.

Fit, I always said and still maintain, is the most important thing in any garment. The subtleties of fit can be a matter of style and fashion, but it should remain the first thing you consider.

And a tailored jacket has the greatest fit potential.

After all, what other garment can a man wear that is so built up, shaped, structured - almost carved around the body - to create whatever image he desires.

If you invented such a piece today, it would be derided for being fussy, even effeminate. All that work, stitching and shaping, all that preening and posing in front of a mirror.

So to all those that don’t wear a suit anymore - that don’t grab every opportunity to wear a piece of tailoring - I say: beware.

Once you’ve lost this ally in elegance, it won’t come again.

thom-sweeney
Oli Benge, Thom Sweeney

The warning is particularly pertinent, I feel, in an age of increasingly unstructured tailoring.

Removing structure can be great, particularly for more casual jackets and for warm climates.

But even the lightest Neapolitan jackets I own, in the lightest of cloths, have a hand-stitched canvas that shapes the chest.

Their personal, hand-cut pattern drapes that cloth around me, accentuating the upper arm, suppressing the waist, making me so much more than I am in a simple T-shirt.

armoury
Nick Ragosta, The Armoury

Women’s tailoring went down this path long before men’s.

Women’s overcoats today are little more than cloth wrapped around the body. They are often fastened with a belt too, and for good reason: it gives the impression of shape where there isn’t any.

If you had buttons you would have to think more about fit. As it is you can just pretend this sloppiness is part of the look.

I was in H&M on Friday (don’t ask) and saw the saddest thing sitting on a rail.

Despite being advertised as a coat, it was barely longer than a jacket. It had no lining, no structure, and was made in the feeblest, thinnest wool/nylon mix. It was grey with a Prince of Wales check, which is probably why it caught my eye.

That coat was just cloth, and pretty pathetic cloth. It would have flattered nobody, and must have been the cheapest thing in the world to make.

aleks
Aleks Cvetkovic, The Rake

The next time you see a bespoke fitting (there are thousands scattered around Instagram; everyone is a publisher today) take a moment to consider the beauty that is the tailored jacket.

Consider the effect of adding a half inch to the width of each shoulder. Look at the swell of the chest. Run your eyes down the sweep of a lapel, through the waist button, and into the flick of the hips.

Think about the importance, the elegance, the strength of fit. And then put on your favourite, well-fitting jacket and go out into the world.

Images, by Jamie Ferguson, taken from our forthcoming style guide

 

Postscript:

Conversations like the one mentioned at the beginning of this post are invaluable to me and to Permanent Style.

It is easy to assume that everyone has read every post; that they are aware of all the advice, the principles, the railing against the commercialisation of social media and writing in general.

Yet thousands of new readers join the site every month, and begin reading regularly.

To those newbies: please ask questions, and search the backlog of 1,660 posts for answers.

To the old-hands: please help them in their explorations, and remind me when things need to be re-stated, or re-examined.

Simon

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Lucas

And so, the question on everyone’s mind: What WHERE you doing in H&M? 😉

Lucas

… WERE … sorry.

Lucas

Aahhh…. those guilty pleasures… we all have them.

pblzqlcn

hi simon,

this was a pleasant reading.

somewhere else you have written e.g. that you would not use a linen shirt and a linen jacket at the same time.

perhaps, in the same advisory vein, it could be nice to read in a single article different and appropriate texture and fabric combinations.

best regards from buenos aires,

pblzqlcn

John

Hi Simon,
Thanks for this timing post! It is as though you were reading my mind miles away! By the way, it’s not the first time such a thing occurs!
Now to the issue I’m grappling with: I recently bought a lovely level 4 MTM jacket – that is, made for someone else – at a tailor abroad thinking that a bit alterations here and there would then be fine.
Surprisingly enough, at the level of the waist, despite planed alterations to be made on the back and on both sides, something really awfull still appears around the belly: it’s too big!
Thus my question, is there a chance to get this side streamlined and more balanced?
Many thanks in advance for your reply.
John

Matt Spaiser

The meaning of what a good fit is has changed for many people who are into today’s fashion. Until a few years ago I understood that a good fit universally meant clean lines with no bagging or pulling, and a jacket had to be long enough to cover the buttocks. Those aspects of fit stayed constant through many different trends and styles. Today it seems that many would consider a jacket that doesn’t pull is too big and a jacket that covers the buttocks is too long. I don’t even want to get into trousers, which so often don’t even cover a man’s bum today because the rise is too short. I’ll stick with the idea of a good fit from most of the suit’s history, but unfortunately many people now either consider that idea of a proper fit to be outdated or just unnecessary. Have you considered discussing fit relative to today’s fashion trends?

Matt S

Discussing the contradictions of certain trends would indeed be very interesting. Back when button three jackets were still popular, I found it funny to hear people argue about whether it or the button two jacket was more flattering for certain body types. There was never any consensus.

Bob Nicholls

Totally agree. Jackets that pull and look as though the sleeves are too short is not a good fit in my view. Today’s fashion which seems to be aimed solely at young men, makes the wearer look like Norman Wisdom. A great look for a comedian of course but it’s not for me.

Mac

Hi Simon,
Happy new year!
Following on from Matt’s comments. What do you consider to be the limits/boundaries of good fit? I remember asking you about Solito vs Caliendo (because I found Solito fit to be very close to the body) and you did say that you didn’t much like the slimness on the arms and body much in favour today.

MichaelH

I would be interested in such a post…also can you tell me anything about Nick Ragosta’s suit in the above pic? Thanks.

Charles Rogers

I would be quite interested in a post like this, Simon.

Matt S

Also, do you know who made Aleks Cvetkovic’s jacket and what it is made of?

Tom K

Dear Simon,

I have been an avid reader of your blog for a couple of years and wanted to ask for your advice. I am getting married on the coast in Dorset at the end of September. I wanted to commission a bespoke suit for the day with the intention of getting some good use from it for other weddings and formal events. I seem to be going around in slightly obsessive circles with making a decision. I have a budget of £2600 (inc vat) and have looked at Solito and Thom Sweeney as potential tailors. Originally I was after a single breasted suit with a db waistcoat but now think this it is too much for what will be a fairly simple and paired back wedding. I’m leaning towards a double-breasted suit in either navy or charcoal. What weight of fabric would you recommend? What type of fabric would be suitable for the occasion? Would flannel be too warm for this time of year? Are there any other tailors you would suggest?
Many thanks, Tom

Mac

Hi Simon

Yes that’s a great idea. I think images with examples of good and bad fit would be very helpful. However, after my chat with Luigi (Solito) I realised how much variation in ‘good fit’ there is even amongst tailors offering the same soft style : Luigi disliked a ‘clean’ front whereas Caliendo was the opposite. I think the most important point is that you should be able to move easily/freely and feel really comfortable, soft tailoring especially should feel like a second skin.

Rabster

Articles on fit are always welcome.
Maybe its just my recollection but articles on some of the fundamentals of cut, construction and fit seemed to have been pushed a little further back in favour of more ‘grandiose’ projects, emphasis on continental tailoring and factory visits in 2016 on PS.
Although these articles are also welcome it always good to touch base with what permanent style is all about.

In this vain, having recently read an article by a certain ‘Parisian gentlemen’ on an entire wardrobe, it would be good to see something similar from our very own English Gentleman.

Noting that an English wardrobe not only caters for the four seasons but often needs to withstand all four seasons in one day.

Looking forward to what PS brings in 2017.
Happy New Year.

Anonymous

Great to see Matt, Mac and Rabster posting comments (where is Nick Inkster?). I agree with Matt on the need for greater information on the aspects of fasion and style. As I wrap up some Armani suits for charity (2005 – high gorge, long in the body, flat front trousers, full in the leg to the point of being baggy) its worth noting the major changes in fashion that occur each decade with the ‘height’ being mid-decade. Think 60’s Beatles mop top and no lapel, 70’s earth tones, flares and platforms, 80’s pastels and deconstruction, 90’s high gorge and 3 button aspect (and a strange return of sideburns). The current mode for shrunken fit, skinny legs etc. will pass soon enough…Armani showed (Milan) a return to double pleats a few seasons ago which may filter through by 2019. What remains in the centre is PS – the well cut suit may not be the constant epitome of fashion, as long as trends are not completely ignored however, it will always remain stylish.

Nick Inkster

I agree fully that fashion and bespoke generally don’t belong in the same sentence, as you will by definition never get any value from something which is “in” today and “out”tomorrow.

If you want fashion go to H&M amd get the coat Simon was talking about.

However, fit has to be seen as a relationship between proportion and shape (as well as personal style, ie what do you feel comfy wearing). Simon has commented many times, and here we agree completely, about how shape can balance your proportions, so cut of trouser relative to leg length etc.

The easy answer, which by definition is therefore the hardest thing of all to achieve, is where something just looks “right”.

Nick Inkster

By the way I really do like the look of Nick Ragosta’s suit. Anything you can tell us about this please Simon?

nick inkster

Thanks. Looks wonderful.

Alex

Hi Simon,

I’ve been reading the site for about a year, thoroughly enjoy it! I have a jacket-related question that may seem dumb to you, but I’ll ask it anyway: do you follow any rules for buttoning a jacket? I don’t mean which buttons to do, but rather *when* to button/unbutton (e.g. button when standing, unbutton when sitting down, etc.) Just wondering whether there are “rules” (written or unwritten) I should know.

Thanks!
Alex

ANM

Yes, but missing is perhaps the most important fact – be in good physical condition.

I like good tailoring as much as anyone, craftsmanship, the knowledge something is made for you, is something everyone should have somewhere in their life, be it furniture, jewelry, clothing, or food…but..If one looks at all your examples, what they have in common, is that they are in some semblance of being fit, or healthy looking….

A male model in a mass merchant cardboard suit, with some alterations, will look more impressive than someone out of shape with the finest bespoke garment on their back…

I was rather surprised to find out that the US president-elect wears Brioni almost exclusively…yet as many have pointed out, he looks as if he is wearing unaltered off-the-rack from a discounter….I wonder if his “shape” has anything to do with this?

For the “fit” to stand out, it needs a good foundation for it to actually be “fitted” to…

Matt S

The problems with Trump’s look are more with his suits than with the poor shape he is in. Look at Alfred Hitchcock, who was far more rotund and very short. Though nothing could ever make Hitchcock look slim, his suits streamlined his shape and gave him better proportions. The fit of his suits really stood out and something impressive. Trump at least has height on his side, being 190 cm tall. The right fit would make Trump (and Brioni) look far better.

Mansy

On the subject of Trump’s suits, there is an interesting read here: http://theslot.jezebel.com/what-is-up-with-trumps-ill-fitting-suits-a-world-famou-1787666547

Peter

I think this should be No. 1 concern because, yes, clothes will look better, but that is secondary to the greatest benefit of being in good shape which is good health and a higher quality of life.

Miss Toni Haynes

Lordy, lordy, I empathise wholeheartedly with every word. I am a specialist Ladies tailor and do lots of Men’s alterations (more often than not to take into account body changes that happen as we age), I can’t bear to see at least 90% of the “coats” available at a number of retail outlets, the nasty synthetic cloth they are made out of pils, and ages in moments and they have none of the warmth that Wool has. I love my burnt orange English Wool mid calf length fitted coat with a contrasting printed twill weave lining!

Anonymous

I have a question regarding the proper length of a jacket. Usually a good length is for a jacket to end at about the mid thumb level. But some people, and in particular Asian people, have shorter arms. Should they have their jackets end kid thumb or have them cover the buttocks?

Stanley

Hi Simon

As a reader, i understand the general rules about the fit of a jacket, however, seems there is no article talking about the fit(width) of a jacket sleeve

Do you have any idea about a good fit on jacket sleeve’s width?

Stanley

Thanks Simon

You are absolutely right, as a skinny guy, when i dress with a tight width sleeve jacket, it make me look more skinnier.