When we talk about suits, we usually describe their fabric, colour or cut. But, really, there is only one thing standing between lifeless tailoring and sartorial triumph: the fit. A well-fitting suit should follow the natural curves of your frame, with no wrinkling or excess fabric, and allow for reasonable movement.
When trying on a new suit, make sure you stand upright, in a relaxed posture, and keep three things in mind. Firstly, you need to know the fit of your suit, e.g. all 3 piece suits come with a tailored slim fit, which means they are more snug than a classic cut but not as tight as a slim one. Secondly, suits are structured and will never give you the same flexibility as e.g. sportswear. You should feel comfortable in them but don’t expect to compete in the triathlon wearing one. Lastly, most men take their suits to the tailor for some minor alterations to achieve the perfect fit but a good tailor will always be honest about what’s feasible.
Always try the jacket on with a shirt, not over a jumper or t-shirt. In fact, if it’s a 3 piece suit, make sure you wear the waistcoat as well. The collar of your jacket should sit neatly over your waistcoat and shirt and they should all hug your neck without gaps.
The seam of your jacket’s shoulder should be at the end of your shoulder, exactly where it meets the arm. Any bulges or wrinkles in this area draw attention to the suit’s bad fit and make you look like you borrowed the jacket from someone with a different body type.
In the past, armholes were big, leaving a huge gap between the jacket and the armpit that distorted the actual proportions of the body. Nowadays armholes sit higher, which is more elegant, but you need to make sure that they don’t cut into your armpits.
4. Sleeve length
There is a very simple test to make sure the length is right: can you see about half an inch of the shirt’s cuff? If the answer is yes, you are good to go. Anything more than half an inch and the jacket sleeve is too short.
The bottom button of your jacket should always be left undone. With the rest buttoned up, you should see the jacket hug your waist and accentuate your torso’s shape. A simple way to check the fit is to slide your fist behind the top button. If it feels tight and you see an ugly X-shaped wrinkle, go up one size. If it feels loose, congratulations! Your diet and exercise regime paid off and you can opt for a smaller size. As for the waistcoat, it can only ever be a standard fit but most waistcoats come with a buckle for minor adjustments.
6. Waistcoat and jacket length
The waistcoat should cover your waist and stomach with no shirt showing. As for the jacket length, with your arms resting at your side, the jacket’s hem should be in line with your knuckles or, else, you should be able to cup the hem with your palm.
First look at the waist. The suit trousers should sit at your natural waist, so higher than your jeans, with no need for e.g. a belt to keep them up. Then examine the seat (yes, your bottom): you shouldn’t see excess fabric there but, equally, you shouldn’t feel like they’re going to rip if you sit down. Continue along the length of your leg making sure the trousers drape comfortably over the hip with perhaps only a pinch of excess fabric and then taper towards the ankles. Finally, check that the hem touches your shoe without folding excessively, a style known as half-break. 3 piece suits come in three options: short, regular and long but altering the trousers’ length is one of the easiest alterations and there is sufficient fabric allowance for you to let out or shorten, as required.
This checklist applies regardless of suit style or passing fad, although you will find that fashion trends sometimes alter our perception of how a suit should fit, e.g. very slim fitting suits are the latest craze and tend to have both shorter jackets and trousers. Ultimately, pick the style that looks and feels right for your body type.