Video: Comfort vs style in the fit of a suit

Friday, April 24th 2020
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Here is the final video in our series on how a jacket should fit. The first looked at the basics of fit, while the second was on the length of a suit jacket.

In this third one, we look at how much the fit of a suit is a matter of comfort. So arguing fit is a partly personal preference - but also why some men have their suits cut too tight.

In all three, Charlie from Henry Poole kindly agreed to be our guinea pig, allowing me to point our various aspects of fit on his suit. Helpfully, his suit is also in SpringRam cloth from Harrison's, who sponsored this mini-series.

All the other tailoring in the background of the video is also by Henry Poole, using Harrison's cloth.

 

 

The points we make are:

  • How a jacket should fit is not just about right and wrong. It’s partly a question of style, and how much room and comfort you want
  • The chest can be clean, or have more drape. There are style reasons for wanting one or the other, but also, drape does allow more freedom and room to move. It’s one reason I like it.
  • Second, the waist. Guys often try to have this cut very close, as they think it’s more flattering. I know I did when I started.
  • But actually, the 3D structure of bespoke means you can have a lovely, flattering line through the waist and still ample room.
  • If this particular suit were cut closer, it wouldn’t actually make the waist look slimmer - at least from the front, which is where it matters most
  • In the small of the back, space makes arguably a bigger difference to comfort. And it’s less noticeable than the front.
  • So some tailors will build more space into the back of the waist, rather than the front, to add comfort. The only thing you lose is a really sculpted, or S-shape look from the side.
  • At the top of the back you’ll nearly always want some excess fabric below the armholes, so your arms can be raised and move.
  • But how much you want can be a matter of preference. Rather like drape at the front, I don’t mind a little extra room if it allows easier movement. Otherwise I can’t sit at my desk and work in it.
  • But others want something sharper - perhaps they never wear the jacket sitting down, or its worn more to be on display, and don’t mind it being closer.
  • As with all things related to style, just be aware of the advantages and disadvantages, and then make up your own mind.

 

 

The first two videos are:

Other practical videos are (also all on the YouTube channel):

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Anonymous

Simon this may sound harsh, but I have watched this video three times and simply don’t get anything from it.

What is the story?

Fernando

Simon, is your Chittleborough and Morgan suit for example with a very close back uncomfortable for daily wear? Also much prefer these type of video slightly more specific

Fernando

I understand, thank you

Triskel

On the matter of fit (but also structure) and comfort there is one other point which I think is relevant which is how much support the coat gives. For years I wore very structured English bespoke suits. I then tried some softer Italian ones. The English weren’t difficult to wear, but you knew you had structure; however the structure wasn’t all bad – after a long day of standing I felt much less tired when I’d had the support which the closer fit and stronger structure of the English suits gave.

Jay

Thank you Simon, I find this video extremely helpful. One of the primary reasons I haven’t gone bespoke on suits before is that I missed this key piece of knowledge and realized that without it the result wouldn’t be what I was looking – the most comfortable yet elegant piece of clothing I’ll ever own. On a tailored RTW or MTM (to a lesser extend) I can except some flaws in fit, but for the price of bespoke I can’t afford to get it wrong and not get the appropriate “mileage” out of it. Luckily there is you, because it seems like no one out there (including tailors) is giving this subject the attention it deserves. And thanks for making all the “mistakes” for your readers, your empirical learnings through commissioning a gargantuan amount of bespoke pieces is a real treasure.

Robin

I certainly emphasis with your sentiments.

I’ve experienced the ‘ego’ of tailors to dismiss alterations on RTW but then want me to commission a bespoke from them
OR
to question whether I really should spend more on a full canvas when “a half canvas is just as good” !.

When I politely challenge them many become ‘off handish’.

Simon, there’s many a ‘educated idiot’ because of your articles ‘challenging’ sub-standard tailoring.

Robin

To clarify …. as a PS educated reader (a educated ‘idiot’ or amateur sartorialist as I regard myself ) I’m able to question tailors more about construction and fit and In doing so found I’ve inadvertently ‘trod’ on the ‘ego’ of tailors (something Bernhardt Roetzel referred to recently in a Instagram post).
So just seconding Jay’s comments about how your shining a light on areas that sometimes even tailors don’t concern themselves enough with .

Dr Peter

Simon, I wonder why this video, as well as most writing I have seen on the subject of fit for jackets, leaves out any discussion of sleeves. One particular aspect I am interested in is how much room there should be at the cuffs. When you look at an arm extended toward you, and raised a bit, you can see clearly the gap between shirt cuff and the cuff of the jacket sleeve. The amount of room also depends on whether the shirt has a French cuff with links, or a barrel cuff. I believe there is an ideal fit so that the wrist and shirt cuff does not appear to be dangling and waving about within a too-roomy cuff of the jacket’s sleeve. The sleeve as a whole must also have a slight curve to it, and here again, there are optimal ways of doing this that makes the jacket sleeve conform well with the entire arm.

A second critical aspect is the size of the armhole. High cut scyes used to be a feature of English jackets in the past (I don’t live in the UK so I am not sure if it continues to be so) whereas on this side of the pond, we had lower cut scyes. To be sure, these are also a matter of personal preference, but high armholes tend to allow better freedom of movement, and the jacket does not pull when you move your arms, whereas low armholes actually cause jacket fabric to be pulled when you move your arms. Your thoughts on these issues will be greatly appreciated.

Burt

Sleeves! Some are cut so narrow (e.g. on Davide Taub’s jackets) that they tend to wrinkle a lot around the elbow, more than on other bespoke jackets. When you’re bending down in order to lace up shoes, those sleeves sometimes remain in place, i.e. halfway up!

Anonymous

I always had the cuff of my coat sleeves between 5.5” and 5.75”. Cloth weight makes a marginal, but only marginal difference.

Anonymous

Yes I am sure he was, but I was simply making the point that me sleeve opening was pretty much the same size on all my coats, no matter the fabric, and was very at home with either barrel or double cuffed shirts.

Did your have any observation to make on the pitch point?

Anonymous

The gap would be in the range of 0.25 to 0.5” depending on the shirt cuff. Perfect in my view.

EZEQUIEL

since we have reached the end of these series, i just wanted to give a thumbs up to charlie. against all the comments in the previous posts, i do believe that his suit is beautiful and he looks great in it (it is not short, it is not tight, it is well-balanced).

Triskel

On the size of the sleeve opening, my British tailor (sadly no longer alive) pressed me when I went to be measured, and to the fittings, to be sure to wear the kind of shirt (in that case double, or French, cuffs) – indeed, ideally, the same shirt (as not all double cuffs are the same) – I would wear with the suit so that we could be sure that the sleeve looked right, was easy to put on an off and that (on the left) the sleeve was practical for looking at my watch. Generally, I think a wider sleeve is needed if one wears double cuffs; but that does not always, in my view, look good – on an informal coat, unless you like the current fashionable style, sleeves which are too narrow do not, in my view, look good with barrel cuffs.

Anonymous

Great series. Thanks for making it.

Harry

One of my best fitting jackets requires a micro contortion of just one shoulder to start the donning process. Once on it fits perfectly, with no straining anywhere. Wonder how common that is, as I often see jackets slip on/off so effortlessly.

Harry

Slight exaggeration on my part 🙂 Contort too strong a word, and I understand each person’s idea of perfect fit is different. All I do know is that if a jacket (coat) slips on easily, it’ll be a tad too wide in the shoulders. Used to do lots of that ‘get big’ stuff in the gym. That might be it.

Anyway, don’t want to disrupt the flow of comments here with my particular peculiarity 🙂

Robin

Simon, you’re alluding there to how waist suppression is done but I think what you need to demonstrate (with a tailor ) is how technically a tailor an create a suppressed waist silhouette that but still be comfortably ‘roomy’.
Most men think that waist suppression equals tightness across the button point.
There’s too much of men trying to look ‘strong’ with waist suppression , tight natural shoulders, shirt trousers and no socks (sigh!).

Also get the wearer to move to show how much movement is possible and how much is lost through a ‘tighter’ fit .
I myself thought a very clean back was the height of perfection not realising it left arms unable to move .

Most men don’t have a clue .
Many a gent can be seen stretching his arms out front whilst curving his upper back testing for roominess of the jacket whilst stood in changing room mirror .
This is great stuff.

All in all fantastic videos . More , please!

Jason

The opening shot of this video shows you wearing your A&S DB cord suit jacket, open neck shirt and casual strides. A killer look that you spent years counselling against !
What a great suit that is and I fabulous example of a great, relaxed and comfortable fit.
Perhaps the best advice you could give to flaneurs is simply to go to A&S ?

Jason

Sorry Simon but you seem to be suffering from selective memory.
You have said on multiple occasions that you wouldn’t wear an open neck shirt with an English jacket because the shirt collar would be crushed.
And you are splitting the atom over the strides. That A&S DB would look fabulous with the right colour jeans.

David G

Simon you should look at some of the ways Michael Alden illustrates perfectly the art of wearing English tailoring with jeans.

There is one photo in particular (can’t lay my hands on it though) where he is wearing a bespoke DB blazer with gilt buttons, with a pair of very distressed jeans.

I think he is a real leader when it comes to dress and style, and of course he has a long history too. Personally I have never hesitated to wear a bespoke blazer with jeans.

Anonymous

I cant find a link but it’s on London Lounge Flickr and its IMG_1500.

Obviously a classic English cut DB 6 button, from about 2007.

Frankly if it’s good enough for Alden, it’s good enough for me. Take a look at the rest of his shots; this is a guy who really knows how to dress.

Adam

I think the subject of bespoke blazer with jeans came up some while ago.

It’s been part of my wardrobe for many years. SB, worn with an oxford shirt, be it white, blue, or a palish pink or yellow, and normally with brown suede loafers.

Works for me.

Adam

But I don’t think it hinders it at all! It’s actually the contrast between the very soft, casual appearance of the jeans and the slightly more formal look of the blazer that makes this combination work so well.

A properly constructed SB blazer will never be built in such a structured way as a suit jacket; if it is you’re using the wrong tailor!

Adam

Simon I do wonder if you are beginning to obsess a little.

Wearing a navy blazer with jeans is as old as the hills. A blazer is not formal wear unless it has the right number of buttons to fit a naval context.

All over Europe, it’s a bridge between casual and totally casual.

Please have an opinion, but don’t try and make rules where they obviously have no place beyond your particular perspective.

Adam

Ok so let’s agree to differ.

My blazers have no padding on the shoulder, and the lightest of canvassing. They feel very soft. One has no canvas at all, just a buggy lining, and whitish MOP buttons. All made by my English tailor.

Bryan

Simon,

How does whether or not someone uses their inside chest pockets factor into fit? I have had some trouble with this recently as my jackets have looked and felt great while trying them on at the tailor, only to end up too tight during daily wear.

I believe that this is in large part due to the fact that I use both of my inside chest pockets (my iPhone in one and an elongated wallet in the other). I know we are supposed to limit the items we keep in our pockets to maintain the integrity of the drape, but I often go about my day sans bag, so it is difficult to adhere to this rule.

How would you go about communicating this issue to a tailor and what possible adjustments could be made for this (considering the inside pockets generally extend from the chest down to the waist of the jacket)?

Thanks!

Lindsay Eric McKee

Hi Sinom.
On shirt cuffs.
Do I really need a Double Cuff on say my best white T&A shirt. I prefer Button Cuffs?
I feel its important if I’m getting a first navy suit or jacket tailored . Probably a matter of personal preference really.
Many thanks
Lindsay

Anonymous

What do you think of the following statement Simon?
If someone has relatively broad shoulders but is thin and has a narrow waist, one inevitably needs to have suits tailored with more waist suppression.

Anonymous

Is there a rule of thumb for how much waist space you should have (minimum)?

Hongyuan

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your article and I can feel that all your articles are written with love and dedication for garments, tailor made stuff particularly so. Well done!

One question – I have about 7 or 8 suit/odd jackets (both RTW or tailormade) and half of them are not suitable for sitting in the office – actually quite sad as all of them are liverano, dalcuore, luciano and quite expensive. The place I feel the most uncomfortable with for the bad half are around the bottom and front of the armholes – when I sit down or start walking I can feel that my shoulders are being suppressed on the front and lifted up from the bottom. The thing is I often work in an office environment and when I do I normally only wear the good and comfortable half of the jackets. But, I think, with my requirements becoming stricter for comfortability as I wear more and more jackets that are forgiving on the armholes, I may never want to wear any jackets that have even slightly tight armholes, regardless of them being liverano, dalcuore, etc. I think maybe they can be considered tuition fees paid? Haha.

I wonder – how many suits you have (a percentage) that you think are not suitable for office and how many you feel comfortable everywhere? Would you be more willing to wear the comfortable jackets over time all the time? or you are so hardcore and still put on those less comfortable jackets sometime (maybe because they look so good)?

Cheers,
Your faithful reader.

Remington Smith

The finer attention articulate details!✈