It doesn’t fit you right and it looks, well, awful. When you go out into the big, bad world in a sport coat or suit that’s too big for you, you get lost in the shuffle. You prove to the world that you really don’t give a shit. Show up with an ill fitting suit to an interview and the likelihood of you getting that gig goes way, way down. Show up looking sharp and confident, and you’ll shine. If you’re a single guy dating the ladies, man you gotta get this right. That’s her first impression of you and she knocks of huge points if you don’t have style. You want results, right? Cool - read on.
Appearance matters whether you want to believe it or not. That’s a cold, hard fact and if I can help you just a little bit, I’d like to do that, so follow along with me and let’s get you headed in the right direction. I accept that this may be a challenge for you so keep an open mind and be willing to make some changes that will help you look and feel more confident.
A jacket - whether the jacket to your suit or a sport coat - needs to fit you properly. It should be snug but not uncomfortable. The areas of fit that matter are:
- Sleeve length
- Jacket length
- Back at neck
I hear guys say, “Yeah, but I can’t move in it! And look what happens to the sleeves when I raise my arm way up high like this!” First, traditional suits aren’t meant to play hoops or hang wallpaper in. Second, there’s a new wave of action suits that use stretch fabric so problem solved! Put that damn suit on and go paint your house.
Buying Off the Rack
This means that you’re walking into a store like Macy’s, Saks, Bloomingdales, Belk, etc, and you’re going to the suit department to buy a suit “off the rack”. They’re displayed usually by designer:
- Calvin Klein
- Ralph Lauren
- Hugo Boss
- Kenneth Cole
- others depending on store
First you have to start off with a jacket that’s close to your size. You might get lucky and find a great fit right away but chances are that something will have to be altered.
Suit and Jacket Sizing
These are the same whichever you’re buying. You’ll see tags like this: 38S, 40R, 42L. The number is your chest measurement and the following initial is Short, Regular, Long. Many manufacturers have started selling suite separates, which is a good thing because not all bodies are created equal. I’m 6’2” and have a longer torso, so what might fit you, probably won’t work for me, even if we’re both around 180.
A guy under 5’9” will most likely need a Short, guys in the 5’10” to around 6’2” are good to go with a Regular, and taller guys are going to need a Long or move to a Big and Tall fit. These are general guidelines - not absolute truths. Every manufacturer sizes differently so you have to try things on.
You need to know your chest size so before you head out, so you should measure yourself. Get a tape measure - you can find them in most any store these days if you’re a single guy - and you want to wrap it around you just under your armpits. Stand relaxed and natural, and get that number. I’m sure your wife/significant other will lend a hand with this to make sure you don’t cheat. And your partner wants you to look great, right? Who wants to be seen with a slob? No one! Okay so, got it? Good, now you can hit the store.
Find that Number on the Rack
Sometimes a sales person will help you with this, sometimes you’re on your own - just go with the flow. As of a few years ago, some designers and labels are making Slim fit suits as well as the regular fits they’ve been doing for years. Not much to explain really. If you’re a fit dude with little to no belly, you may want slim fit.
Find the designer you want, the colors you’re wanting - navy or a grey if this is first clothing purchase for you:
- Just out of college
- Transitioning from field to desk
- Or, just know you need to up your style game
We'll talk about color, pattern, so in in another blog post - it's a huge subject and deserves its own space.
First rule of thumb for overall jacket length
If you hang your arms down and the jacket is longer than your cupped hands, it’s too long. Modern styles are much shorter now so use this as a guide just for maximum length. A jacket that’s too long actually makes you look shorter so smaller guys, take heed.
Here’s where most guys get tripped up. The rest of the jacket fits okay but they leave the sleeves unaltered and too long. If it falls below your wrist bones and onto your hand, it’s too long. About a 1/4 inch of your shirt sleeve should be showing. Get this wrong and you look like a kid wearing your daddy’s jacket. Where you can sometimes get by with the jacket being longer, this is a dead giveaway that you’re either clueless or braindead. And I see this so often! I’ve worked with guys in various industries who walk around with half their hand covered by a jacket sleeve. Sorry if you’re one of them but hey, you’re here to learn and make some positive changes, right?
Also notice the different jacket lengths in these picture. Jacket on right is a more traditional length, and on left you have a shorter, more modern length.
Turn around and look at the back of the jacket in the mirror. Don’t hunch, let your shoulders fall naturally. If there’s a bubble just below the jacket collar, in the middle of your back, you have square shoulders and need to get it fixed. As with all the other measurements on a jacket, the shoulder slope is cut for the “average” guy. This is almost always an area where I need an alteration.
The Chest and Waist
With the jacket on, grab the front right about at your sternum and pull it forward. If you get anything more than about 3 inches you pulled the wrong size from the rack. Remember your measurement from home? Yeah. If it was 39, that 42 isn’t going to work. The jackets are cut to allow for a small range of size differences but that only goes so far. And the sizes only go in even increments: 36, 38, 40, 42, 44, etc.
Here’s where the Slim Fit jackets come into play. They’ll be cut about the same in the chest but most noticeable will be the tighter waist measurement. With the slims, you get more of a “V” cut. The shoulders and arms will be snugger as well so I’d advise trying on one to see the difference from the regular cut.
A word about jacket construction
A fully tailored jacket will have an inner lining and shoulder pads. An unconstructed jacket won’t. Some will be lined from the neck to about halfway down, others will have no lining at all. The shoulder pads, from very slight to kind of big depending on the fashion trends, are meant to give a more formal and polished look. You’ll find the unconstructed mostly in sport coats, because they’re meant to be a more laid back version of a jacket.
There you have it. Look your best whenever and however you can. On the job or going out, look put-together and things will change for you. People will look at you with new-found respect and you may get some compliments. This is part of what being a Gentleman is all about.
Now get out there and go shopping,
Note: all images from Bing. I do not own them.