If there’s one experience every man should have, it’s the feeling of a putting on a perfectly tailored suit. Luxurious fabric, flawlessly cut to contour every part of your body–yes, this suit is yours. That’s right, yours and no one else’s. Unfortunately, most men entering their early to mid 20’s are left with the tragic memory of slipping into a terribly ill fitting rental tux to prom. The type of suit that looked like a child playing dress up in their Dad’s closet. Shameful. No wonder most young men shudder at the thought of attending any sort of formal occasion.
Let’s walk through this together, shall we? You start off by going to your local department store. You look through the racks and pick a suit in your size. Easy. Get the pants hemmed while you wait, pay at the counter and you’re all set. Right? Well, not quite. If you have that rare build that can wear a suit off the rack without alterations, I applaud you. For the other 90% of us, it’s not that simple.
Suitless majority, if a jacket is a bit too long, chest is too loose, the neck rolls up and the pants are reminiscent of MC Hammer, don’t worry. All of these problems can be fixed with a little time and patience.
Shoulders: In my experience, always pick the suit that best fits your shoulders. This is very important because if the shoulders are too wide on the jacket you’ll look like a disproportionate linebacker. Even if the rest of the suit is tailored perfectly, it’s difficult (and expensive) to properly alter the shoulder seams of a jacket. You run the risk of ruining the whole look of the suit. If you’re unsure of your shoulder size, simply request assistance and your tailor will be able to get you in the proper size.
Length: Traditionally, the end of your jacket should land at the top of your pant leg. With jacket length, it’s all about personal taste. Since I’m not the tallest man on earth, I tend to prefer suit jackets to be cut on the short side. Choosing to alter an inch or two higher than the traditional jacket length helps to create the illusion of more height, a helpful hint if you aren’t the tallest guy around.
Chest: A good rule of thumb for the chest and stomach size is to give yourself a finger or two of room underneath the front buttons. The fabric should have a slight pull, but not enough tension that it looks like its about to burst. Think Chris Farley in Tommy Boy. You don’t want to be the fat guy in a little coat.
Sleeve Length: If you were around during the Mad Men era, you always wanted your jacket sleeve to fall at the first joint in your thumb (and you probably wanted an 8:00AM scotch). As fashion progresses however, we’ve seen the norm for sleeves continually crawling upward. It’s now fairly standard for your sleeve to fall just past your wrist.
Pants: Tailors can do next to anything when it comes to pants, so there are only two things I will say on the matter. 1. The hem is very important. Back in the day it was standard for pants to be hemmed so that they fell at the sole of your shoe. Nowadays, it’s more acceptable for the hem of your pants to be slightly shorter than that. Aim to have the pants only break once at the front of the leg—very few things look as careless as poorly hemmed pants. 2. Tapering. Due to my slim build, I get my suit pants tapered. My only advice is this: don’t go overboard. If you over-taper your pants, you’ll suffer from what I like to call the “Ice Cream Cone Effect” (the illusion of being top heavy).
Simply put, when it comes to tailoring, you can never be too thorough. Trust me, if you’re nonchalant about it, it is blindingly obvious. My best suit buying experiences were always done while directly consulting with the tailor rather than the sales rep. You’re able to paint a picture for them, giving them the right direction and inspiration, rather than being another piece of fabric with pins and a chalk dotted line. A tailor hears what you want out of a suit because they know it’s all about attention to detail.
Feature image sourced on WeHeartIt.