Suit Styles: Differences & Types
Differences & Types
I guess you’ve probably seen different types of suit styles, but what is the thing that defines them?
There can be no doubt that a man’s suit is the most versatile and universally accepted clothing item in his wardrobe. There are not many occasions where a quality suit will look out of place.
When worn with confidence and some fashion know-how, the suit can easily become the cornerstone of any man’s style.
The first and most important rule of men’s style is you should feel comfortable and confident in your clothes. You will need both these attributes to pull off just about any outfit successfully.
A suit that fits increases your confidence and makes you look good. Regardless of how “classy” or expensive they might be.
There are well-defined suit rules that explain how to wear a suit the right way. These rules should be addressed before we get into pocket flaps, fabrics, cuts, and the myriad of other suit-related details.
While these rules allow for freedom of expression, they do not give you carte blanche to simply throw an outfit together.
The most basic definition of a man’s suit is a jacket and trousers intended to be worn as an ensemble. Therefore, they will have the same cut and be made from the same material.
Often, but not always, both the jacket and the trousers will be of the same color.
However, you’ll notice that what this definition lacks is any information regarding the personality of the suit.
Differences in Suit
A lot of factors need to come together to produce the best suit for the man wearing it.
There’s the fabric the suit is made from, including weight and color. Then there’s the level of customization, number of buttons, lapel shape, etc.
But probably the most defining feature of any man’s suit is the cut. You will never look your best in a suit that is badly cut. No matter how much detail it has or the quality of the material.
When we talk about the cut, we need to take into account two factors:
The size and shape of the man wearing the suit.
The overall silhouette that’s created when the suit is worn.
Both 1 and 2 are the main reasons why a good tailor is worth their weight in gold – budget permitting.
The tailor can cut a suit to enhance the wearer’s best features while masking any flaws. Skills you just don’t get with off-the-rack or made-to-measure suits.
Single vs. Double
Your choice of wearing a single or double-breasted suit will be a matter of personal preference. The double-breasted suit can look more formal, but either is perfectly acceptable for most occasions.
Single jackets are by far the most popular kind of men’s jackets worn today. It is due to their simplicity, but also the versatility they offer.
Single-breasted jackets with matching pants create a comfortable suit look, but they can easily be worn with jeans or chinos for more casual events.
The original double-breasted jackets have four buttons, two on each side. However, three per side is also common nowadays.
Besides the button formation, the next thing you’ll notice with this jacket style is additional fasteners, along with the extra fabric.
The number of fasteners can also vary, from one to three, depending on the jacket. Their job is to hold the extra fabric in place as it closes over the other side of the jacket front.
Double-breasted suits are not as forgiving as the single variety and are not for everyone. That said, they are considered extremely stylish and formal.
Suit Jacket Buttons
Most men will have a one, two, or three-button suit in their wardrobe. Ideally, one of each.
Buttons may be small, but they can make a world of difference to your look. How you fasten them counts, too.
Leaving the bottom button open is one of them. Most suits are cut to be worn with the last button undone.
A fastened bottom button will spoil the silhouette and could make you look like a fashion failure.
Your suit’s design also dictates that you should only button the jacket when you’re standing up. That will create the best shape, drape, and look.
When you’re sitting down, however, it’s time to unbutton
Keeping your jacket buttons fastened when you’re sitting down can cause unsightly tugging and pulling. Unbuttoning will relieve the stress on the jacket fabric.
The one-button suit jacket is ideal if you’re going for the cool, hip look. The single button creates a low V from the lapels, emphasizing the lengthening/slimming effect.
You can get away with one button at most events, formal and social. This style is great for showing off your shirt/tie combo, too.
However, you run the risk of appearing a tad raffish in overly ‘stuffy’ environments.
This is the slightly more mature big brother of the one-button version. Two buttons create a truly classic look that has become the go-to for millions of men for any occasion.
With both a heightening and slimming visual impact, it’s really difficult to get this look wrong.
A two-button jacket works well in just about every shape and size. It also provides a stylish, flattering base to build the rest of your outfit.
While it can still come across as stylish, the three-button suit jacket is a step into a more conservative territory. The look lacks the elongated, slimming properties of its one and two-button cousins to be unforgiving on the wearer.
That being said, if you’re on the slim side and over six feet tall, three buttons could work as your signature outfit. If ‘buttoned up’ is what you’re going for.
American vs. British
vs. Italian Cut
There are three main suit-cut variations. In particular, the American versus the British versus the Italian (a.k.a European) variations. All of them have created their own space in men’s fashion.
And they each have their appeal. Knowing the difference can help you choose and define your personal suit preferences.
The British Cut
Developed from English military outfits, the British style has the longest lineage. It comes with a very structured silhouette and finely cut lines.
Several features are associated with the cut, including heavier fabrics, with well-defined shoulders, chest, and waistlines.
This creates a distinctly masculine look. Typical British suit jackets will have double vents at the back, which speaks to the style’s horse-riding heritage.
Hacking (a.k.a slanted) pockets are another feature that gives this style a very particular look.
The Italian Cut
Almost the exact opposite of the British style, the Italian cut is much more casual. That is mainly because the suits are intended to be worn in warmer climates.
The style incorporates lighter-weight fabrics and unstructured jackets designed for a close fit. Tailoring is a huge factor with Italian cuts
The high armholes, for example, are designed to make the suit feel like a second skin. A lot of Italian styles tend to be fashion-forward with some interesting fabric choices, adventurous color combinations, and unique cuts.
Italian suits, in particular, are still considered by some to be the absolute cutting edge of men’s fashion.
The American Cut
The typical American sack suit was the first suit to be mass-produced. But that shouldn’t earn it your disrespect.
Before the sack suit arrived, everything had to be tailored by hand. The flood of cheap suits from the factories meant that the average guy could finally afford a decent quality suit.
The American cut builds up the shoulders and slims the waist. It’s also a great choice for heavier, bigger guys who can wear it as a draped square.
With low armholes and tell-tale buttons on the sleeve cuffs, it’s comfortable and appropriate for most events. The American-cut suit is truly one of the most versatile outfits in men’s fashion.
Notch vs. Peak vs.
The word lapel refers to the flaps on each side of the jacket right below the collar. The two flaps are folded back on either side of the front opening.
A lot of men can be ambivalent about lapels, but the kind of lapel you choose can say a lot about your style and confidence. In my honest opinion, you simply can’t purchase a suit before you’ve decided on a lapel.
Notch, peak, and shawl are the three main lapel types. Each of them comes in different widths, ranging from the massive 5″ down to super slim. Usually, though, the lapel will be somewhere between 3 to 3.5 inches.
This lapel style is called “notched” because of the sideways V shape at the point where the lapel meets the jacket collar. The notched lapel is the most common variation found in suits because it is traditional and classic.
7It’s versatile and fits well with both formal and casual looks. Just as a solid white shirt should be your go-to if you’re ever in doubt, the notched lapel is a safe choice.
There are three things you should note about the notched lapel.
First, the notch should align with your lapel width. It means that a narrow lapel should have a smaller notch, but a wide lapel can have a larger notch.
In addition, notched lapels generally work best on single-breasted outfits. So if you’re going double-breasted, you should probably stick to a peaked lapel.
Finally, go for standard notch lapels for a more classic look. Above the standard can look awkward unless you have a really large chest.
Peaked or Peak
First, let’s clear up the confusion about the name. If you’re American, you will know this variation as the ‘peak’ lapel.
If you’re British, you will probably call it “peaked.” Either way, both terms refer to the same lapel type.
Pointing upwards, this kind of lapel ‘peaks’ at the lapel edge and is all about being formal.
A skinny peak lapel looks out of place, so go with 3.25″ to 4.5″. But don’t go too wide, or the lapel could swallow your entire suit.
Peak lapels look great on both single- and double-breasted suits. However, cutting the peak is a skilled task that could lead to the suit being more expensive.
A well-cut peaked lapel can add a lot of class and style to your outfit. Unfortunately, a bad one can ruin it.
The peak variant is a good choice if you’re short or large in stature. This effect makes you look taller and thinner. It’s a win-win.
You’ll probably only ever see this kind of lapel on a tuxedo. It has no peak and no notch, but a rounded edge instead. There are no hard rules when it comes to the width of a shawl lapel.
So here again, the rule of thumb should be followed. The wider the lapel, the more formal the look. The thinner, the more trendy.
Your suit is a symbol of your level of sophistication, not just something you wear because it fits comfortably. So, choosing the best fabric for your suit is important.
Your budget will play a big role here. But generally speaking, it’s always good to go for the best you can afford.
But it’s not just the material to look at when you’re buying a suit. You need to take into account the fabric’s breathability and its softness, too.
Choosing the Right
When choosing the right material for your suit, you only need to consider a handful of fabrics. This makes it a lot easier when you set out to purchase the perfect outfit.
Wool, cashmere, silk, and cotton are the most common and probably the best fabrics for a suit.
Wool is a more durable fabric and good for everyday use. Velvet, on the other hand, is more “luxurious” and it’s preferable for more glamorous events and parties.
There are a lot of synthetic fabrics out there (like polyester). However, almost none of them can breathe as well as a natural fabric.
The weight and thread count of the fabric can also impact the comfort levels, price, and overall appearance of your suit:
Lightweight: 7oz – 9oz. Great for summer.
Light to middleweight: 9.5oz – 11oz. Perfect for the transition from spring to summer and summer to autumn.
Middleweight: 11oz – 12oz. Go-to fabric weight for most days. Good choice for your first suit.
Middle heavy: 12oz – 13oz. Satisfactory for daily wear, but maybe too hot in the peak of summer.
Heavy: 14oz – 19oz. Perfect for autumn and winter.
Nothing impacts a suit’s overall style and its level of formality than the pockets on the suit jacket.
There are three main types of pocket; patch, flap, and jetted, and they run the range from casual to formal.
The Patch Pocket
The casual patch pocket first appeared on blazer-style jackets. They were originally separate pieces of fabric sewn onto the sides of the jacket.
Tailors later began sewing them on to other types of jackets as a means of keeping valuables safe from thieves and pickpockets. Fully attached flap pockets are a natural development of this security measure.
The Flap Pocket
While considered middle-of-the-road and very conservative, the flap is a highly versatile pocket style. This versatility means that the flap pocket is not automatically restricted to a particular dress code.
Flap pockets on your jacket are equally appropriate when paired with jeans and a tie, as they are with a full, formal ensemble.
The Jetted Pocket
This kind of pocket is almost the exact opposite of the patch version, in both manufacture and style. The jetted pocket is a cut in the jacket’s facing, with a pocket that hangs on the inside.
This keeps the lines of the jacket sleek, making it the most formal pocket variant. They make the suit look clean and ideal for a smart dinner jacket or an impeccably tailored tuxedo.
Suit Jacket Sleeve
Your suit jacket will invariably come with buttons on the sleeve. Whether they have any practical function or not is a moot point.
American suits always have four buttons as standard. Sports jackets will usually have only two. The buttons on your jacket sleeve should be set close together, almost touching each other.
Generally speaking, the number of buttons on the sleeve defines the formality of the suit. The fewer buttons on the sleeve, the more casual your suit appears.
Thus, four-button suit jacket sleeves tend to appear the most formal.
Suit jackets with sleeve buttons that you could open and close used to be a sign of superior design. Not anymore. These days, mass suit manufacturers are copying this style to add quality to their products.
Single vs. Double
Vents vs. No-vents
Your suit jacket will probably have a slit, known as a vent, down the lower part of the back. Or it might not. This is because suit jacket vents come in three options:
This is a style preferred by Europeans, and it creates a more fitted look. But the is a downside. The jacket tends to crease or bunch up when you sit down or stick your hands in your pockets.
A single vent is the least expensive option. Wearing a single vented jacket opens you up to what could be an unflattering risk. You’ll be exposing the seat of your pants when you put your hands in the pockets.