How It Should Fit - Men's Suit Jackets
"Never trust a man who offers you a free suit." - Topper
If Topper has taught us anything, it's that the fit of a garment means as much or more than its patterns or colors. Indeed, the suit jacket is the ultimate statement of fit over style.
The subtle cues of how a suit jacket or sports coat fits a man dramatically affect our perception of his overall look. When the lines are perfect, and it lays just right, there may be no sharper look. But when these little things go wrong, the look falls flat, and it's time to replace it with something that will truly flatter. Click below for tips on how each part of the suit should fit.
'Front of House' Must Be Front of Mind
Topper’s view is well reasoned common sense. If you are investing in a high specification jacket cut from fine materials, you want the whole garment to work as a seamless, perfectly fitting ensemble. You are not purchasing an approximation. Precision should be your watchword and that should extend to the details it’s easy to rush, in our eagerness to 'buy something, anything' that fits even roughly.
Topper says: "Flapping lapels and straining buttons risk having a man look as if he’s struggling with a sailboat in a rising wind. The front of your jacket is the front you present to the world. Make it right." And you can make it right every time by making a moment to follow Topper’s advice.
There are a number of styles of big and tall jacket around, many boasting different button and lapel fit styles. But, irrespective of the style you choose, fitting your body type accurately and comfortably is, as we have seen, extremely important.
Initially, make sure that the buttons are falling in the right places. As a rule of thumb, for a two-button jacket, the top button should never fall below your belly button. (Not even if you are a navel man!) The same holds true for the second button of a three-button jacket.
Now, having got buttons buttoned down, let’s look at other issues that can interfere with perfect fit on the front of your suit jackets.
"The X Man"
Help Me Topper: The buttons on my jacket are pulling, forming a wrinkled X at the front of my suit.
Topper’s Diagnosis: Your jacket is too tight! (A confident man is never afraid of a simple solution.)
Topper’s Top Tips: To test if your jacket is in fact too tight, place your hand flat below the buttons and clench your fist. If the jacket pulls the button up and feels too tight, you will require a different size. When choosing a suit jacket, make sure you select the correct big or tall size rather than immediately defaulting to a larger regular size. Good news. All big and tall suits sold at Westport Big and Tall have been crafted specially to meet the needs of big and tall men, so you have every chance of avoiding those wrinkled x’s on the front of your suits.
Help Me Topper: My jacket lapels are not lying snug against my chest when buttoned (most common on one side).
Topper’s Diagnosis: There are a few problems that might cause this issue. They include a jacket chest that is too wide, or an oversized chest area where the excess fabric causes the lapel to sag under its own increased weight.
Topper’s Top Tips: Choose a suit that has been accurately tailored to your body size. When choosing big and tall jackets, make sure you select a specialist big or tall size . Remember, these sizes have been cut specially to match the needs of the big and tall wearer and are far less likely to cause buttoning and lapel fit issues.
So Long, Jackets of Incorrect Length
As a man of true style, Topper believes passionately that fashion should be fun and definitely not a forest of fussy rules and obscure regulations. But there are some things that really reward a little care and attention up front. One of them has to be making sure your choice of jacket comes in a length that’s right for you. Fortunately, this can be achieved without a doctoral degree in engineering.
Topper says: “When you pause to investigate the correct length of a jacket, you will soon find various ‘rules of thumb’. The most popular is literally a rule of the thumb and goes something like this. The appropriate position for the cuff hem of a jacket to finish is where the thumb joint meets the palm. Another variant is that the hem should be capable of being cupped in the palm when worn. Both versions are essentially the same.”
If you are more traditional, you can go with the ‘cupping your hand method’. This occurs when you are able to cup your hands around the bottom of the jacket. The other current approach to acceptable tailoring on jacket length would be to make sure it ‘just’ covers your rear end.
The real issue however is about proportion and the lengths that are both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable for various body types. In fact, for many body shapes the rule of thumb seems to work. However at Westport Big and Tall we are not serving ‘most’ people. We tailor exclusively to the needs of the discerning big and tall man. Our informed thoughts, guided by the wisdom of Topper, on the question of jacket length are summed up in the length related puzzle solved by Topper below.
"The High and Low Tide"
Help Me Topper:Different suit jackets dramatically change how I look. Some make me look top-heavy, others make me look short.
Topper’s Diagnosis: You are wearing the wrong size!
Topper’s Top Tips: If you are of a big or tall body size, you should be selecting a jacket that has been developed to meet your specific needs. Westport Big and Tall have spent a number of years researching - and indeed setting the standards - for big and tall sizes, that’s why when you choose from our big and tall jackets you will find specialist lengths such as Regular, Long, X-Long, Portly Regular, Portly Long and Portly X-Long. If you select a big or tall size from us that truly fits, you will find the jacket has the correct length and no rules of thumb or palm will be required.
Sticking Your Neck Out
Can be a fine and noble thing to do, says Topper. But it should always be metaphorical and over a point of principle, never literal and over a roll of ill-fitting material.
Ill-fitting jacket collars are not always so apparent at first sight. But getting the right fit on the jacket collar is extremely important as part of assuring those refined looks you undoubtedly seek. Topper’s view is clear: a pleasing collar will always incorporate the elegant lines that indicate a truly well tailored jacket. So how do we judge perfection in the well-cut jacket collar?
Topper says jacket collars should align with the line of your shirt collar. There should be no gap between the shirt collar and the jacket and the jacket should be situated half way up the shirt collar showing some, but not all, of it.
If the fit is right you can and will always avoid the following inconvenient and style damaging issues.
"The Jacket Ate The Shirt Collar"
Help Me Topper: I have to buy shirts with really big collars in order for my jacket to rest behind my shirt on my shoulders.
Topper’s Diagnosis: The jacket is sitting too high on the shoulders, in turn forcing the collar up too high.
Topper’s Top Tips: Find a jacket with a wider back measurement, allowing the jacket collar to rest more easily against the shirt collar.
"The Over The Top"
Help Me Topper: My jacket collar keeps getting stuck under my shirt collar on the back of my neck.
Topper’s Diagnosis: The shoulders of your jacket are too large.
Topper’s Top Tips: You've likely selected a size too large to gain the extra length in the jacket. Always take care to select a jacket that fits correctly across the shoulders, like the custom sizes available at Westport Big & Tall.
"The Collar Canyon"
Help Me Topper: There is a gap – a chasm, actually - between the jacket collar and the shirt collar.
Topper’s Diagnosis: There are a number of potential causes of this problem. The most common is that the jacket collar is too big for the neck circumference. This issue can however be down to posture: holding your neck forward or standing with your arms back can contribute.
Topper’s Top Tips: Try suits from different makers to find a cut that really works for you. In particular, seek out a style where the collar and upper back sit comfortably on the neck and make sure the shoulders are not tight or restrictive.
How It Should Fit: The Shoulders of a Men's Suit Jacket
Topper’s view is that jackets are among the more costly items in any wardrobe. As a piece of prominent outerwear they are very noticeable to others. In fact, an ill fitting jacket is the first thing that strikes the observer and it will spoil an otherwise impeccable look. For Topper, it is in fact simply impossible to pass muster as a man of style if the jacket is anything less than perfectly fitting. That means always avoiding looking either as if you are padded for the football field or wearing a restraint.Luckily, with just a little prior knowledge, perfection is well within the jacket choosing grasp of any gentleman of taste.
Ideally, jackets shoulders should align at the point where your arm meets your shoulders - with enough room for a shirt or possibly a thin sweater. If this crisp alignment is not happening, we have a first base issue. Attempting to adjust the other aspects of your jacket will simply not be worth the effort.
So shoulder your responsibilities. Recognize any problems with your big and tall jacket shoulders before you buy. That way, you’re on the road to a great fit.
"The Shoulder Bunker"
Help Me Topper:The shoulder of my jacket has a divot to appear below it, interrupting a smooth line from the shoulder to the sleeve.
Topper’s Diagnosis: The shoulder is too small and it is unlikely that any tailoring will be able to remedy this problem.
Topper’s Top Tips: Select another jacket that aligns the shoulder of the jacket perfectly with the meeting point of your shoulder and arm. Get out of the shoulder bunker and stay out!
Help Me Topper:My jacket looks baggy in the upper torso – as if a lifejacket is being worn beneath – and there are no smooth lines in either the shoulder or arms.
Topper’s Diagnosis: The shoulder is too big and the seam joining the arm to the shoulder is falling on the arm rather the joint of the shoulder and arm.
Topper’s Top Tips: Sharpen the look by selecting a smaller shoulder; this will produce lines that flow effortlessly from the neckline to the cuff of the sleeve.
A Call To Arms
Topper is fair but firm when it comes to the sleeves of a jacket. "You wouldn’t dream of drawing the wrong kind of attention to your hands by having dirty or ragged fingernails, so why even contemplate having a whole room stare at your arms because your sleeves don’t fit properly?"
Sleeves of the wrong length are some of the most apparent and the most challenging jacket problems. Topper says: "To see if your sleeves are the right length, stand straight with your arms to the side, and look at the lengths. You want the jacket sleeve to basically hit you at the break of the wrist. This is usually somewhere around 4.5 inches up from the tip of your thumb. Ideally, you should be able to see the base of your hand and a quarter to a half inch of shirt sleeve."
If you want to avoid the "I just borrowed this jacket from somebody I have never met before" look, read on and know these issues.
"The Short Story"
Help Me Topper:My jacket sleeve ends at or above my wrist and more than half an inch of shirt sleeve is showing.
Topper’s Diagnosis: As the great Sherlock Holmes tells us, sometimes it pays not to overlook the obvious. Your jacket sleeves are too short!
Topper’s Top Tips: You need to buy jackets with longer sleeves. Many tailors will also be able to alter sleeves to meet you requirements. One significant point is to ensure you buy a big or tall size truly suitable for you, rather than always go for a larger regular size with a larger number. Big or Tall sizes such as Regular, Long, X-long, Portly Regular, Portly Long and Portly X-Long are specifically tailored to provide correct sleeve lengths without distorting the other jacket measurements.
Help Me Topper: My jacket sleeve is totally masking my shirt sleeve and cuff and covering too much of my hand. It looks like I borrowed my Dad's jacket as a kid.
Topper’s Diagnosis: Your jacket sleeves are too long!
Topper’s Top Tips: You may need to buy a jacket with shorter sleeves or have them adjusted by a tailor. You should note that if you select the appropriate big size or tall size jacket, you are more likely to find the sleeve to meet your size requirement properly.