A significant part of what makes a suit look good on a man is the construction and appearance of the suit jacket.
Many men have no idea what goes into a suit and what parts of a suit jacket are essential.
To help you out – I have listed 10 details about the finer aspects and what you need to know when shopping for one.
The tips are:
- What's the Difference Between Single vs. Double Breasted Suit Jackets?
- How Many Buttons Should Your Suit Jacket Have?
- Sack Vs. Structured Vs. Fitted Silhoettes
- Soft Vs. Roped Vs. Structured Suit Jacket Shoulders
- Notch Vs. Peak Vs. Shawl Suit Lapels
- Suit Jacket Pocket Types
- Suit Jacket Sleeve Buttons
- Unlined Vs. Half-Lined Vs. Fully-Lined Suit Jacket Linings
- Ventless Vs. Single Vs. Double Suit Jacket Vents
- Lapel Buttonhole
#1 What's the Difference Between Single vs. Double Breasted Suit Jackets?
A single-breasted jacket has two halves that button together at the front. This type is the more classic style and is widely available and used.
The number of buttons on a single breast jacket varies between one to four. Standard single breast jacket styles have two or three buttons with a notch lapel.
A double-breasted jacket is more formal than a single-breasted jacket. These jackets feature four, six, or eight buttons on the front, with six as a standard. Peak lapels are a defining feature of these jackets and help to accentuate the shoulders.
A double-breasted jacket has extra fabric that folds over from left to right. The shortage of cloth during the World Wars and the popularity of single-breasted jackets with returning war veterans made double-breasted suits a rarity.
If you see one in a store – take that as a good sign.
#2 How Many Buttons Should Your Suit Jacket Have?
The choice is between one, two, or three buttons on the front. The preferred option is two buttons on a suit jacket for most men.
- The one-button single-breasted suit jacket: Generally used on a tuxedo. These jackets are suited to lean men and worn for black tie events. They are not versatile.
- The two-button single-breasted suit jacket: Is one of the most classic looks in men's fashion. This style of suit looks good on all body types. The cut of the suit makes just about every man's frame look longer. Two-button suits are great for both social and business events.
- The three-button single-breasted suit jacket: Because of the buttons' arrangement, three-buttons flatter taller men. Men who like to wear waistcoats will also likely prefer the look of a three-button suit. These are suitable for formal occasions.
A word on the rules of buttoning a single-breasted jacket:
- One button: Always closed except when sitting.
- Two buttons: Use the top one and leave the second button undone.
- Three buttons: Button the center and top ones and leave the third button undone.
Never button the bottom button.
#3 Sack vs. Structured vs. Fitted Silhouettes
The term silhouette here refers to the shape or cut of a suit jacket.
The shape of a garment sets the tone of your appearance. There are three basic silhouettes on a suit jacket:
- Sack or Brooks Brothers Suit Jacket: As the name suggests, it is a shapeless jacket with narrow shoulders. The jacket hangs on the body – presenting a classic shape for anyone wanting to blend into the crowd as it hides the wearer's figure.
- Structured Silhouette Suit Jacket: This is the most formal silhouette, influenced by the military uniform. The shoulders have inserted pads, and the waist is trim, giving the wearer an almost hourglass appearance.
- Fitted Silhouette Suit Jacket: This silhouette suits men who are in shape. It presents a tailored fit. With minimal padding, the high armholes enhance the wearer's posture.
#4 Soft vs. Roped vs. Structured Suit Jacket Shoulders
If the shoulders don't fit – You cannot alter the jacket to fit you.
It is the first detail you need to pay attention to when shopping for a suit jacket.
The construction of the shoulder should complement the build of the body. Sloping shoulders may need padding to lift the area.
A man with narrow shoulders and extra weight around the midsection requires a slightly extended horizontal shoulder area. A body with a strong V shape can skip strong shoulders to favor more balance to the overall appearance.
A good shoulder construction does not sag over the shoulder line and is big enough to allow unrestricted movements of the arms.
The Italians prefer a soft, unstructured shoulder, while the English fancy a bit of looping in the shoulders, creating a gentle bump on the shoulder line.
#5 Notch vs. Peak vs. Shawl Suit Lapels
Lapels should always be a reflection of the jacket's proportions. A wide lapel on a suit jacket suits a well-proportioned man. The same lapel on a smaller man will dwarf his frame.
The lapel should extend to just about the mid-point between the collar and the shoulders.
There are three common types of lapels:
- Notch Lapel: The top of the lapel and the bottom of the collar meets in a notch. This style is the most common type of lapel and suits a single-breasted jacket.
- Peak Lapel: These have strong edges pointed towards the shoulders. A peak lapel is more formal and always found on double-breasted jackets.
- Shawl Lapel: The collar has a continuous curve without a break like a peak or a notch lapel. These are seen only on tuxedos and worn at exclusive events like a black-tie night.
#6 Suit Jacket Pocket Types
A standard feature of a suit jacket is a pocket on the left side of the chest, called the breast pocket. You'll notice in some of my videos – my suit jacket has a pocket on the right. Any guesses why?
- The flaps on the pockets should be consistent with the size of the lapels.
- The jetted pocket is more dressy, which explains why it fits the tuxedo.
- The flap pocket will add a touch of thickness to the hip, while the slit pocket gives a slimmer look.
- Angled pockets are sportier and should always have a flap.
- Conductors or valets initially used a ticket pocket to hold train tickets.
- A patch pocket is suitable for sports jackets but not for a formal suit.
#7 Suit Jacket Sleeve Buttons
Whether they are functional or not, a suit jacket will have buttons on the sleeve.
Four buttons are standard for a suit sleeve, while a sports jacket usually has only two. For a two-button suit – I prefer either two or four buttons on the sleeve. For a three-button – I would go with three buttons on the sleeve.
Manufacturers should set the buttons on a sleeve closely together, almost kissing each other. Sleeve buttons that come undone used to be a sign of superior suit quality.
#8 Unlined Vs. Half-lined Vs. Fully-lined Suit Jacket Linings
Bemberg is a natural form of rayon made from cotton linter. It's the king of linings as it's durable, relatively inexpensive, breathable, and easy to find.
Silk is a luxury fabric and therefore expensive. Although sought after for suits, especially custom, I don't recommend it. It can be challenging to clean and impossible to fix if torn (you need to replace it). It is breathable, though, so an option for hot weather.
Polyester or oil-based rayon linings are common in low-cost and mass-manufactured jackets – avoid them as they are the least breathable.
The inner jacket lining is usually color-coordinated with the suit fabric. If you decide to go with a contrasting color, it makes the suit more casual (although you can keep it buttoned, and no one will know). A lining provides a suit jacket with durability and helps to maintain its line.
An unlined suit jacket is bound to cost more than a suit that is completely lined. Why? Labor and skill – unlined jackets are rare, and the artist building the coat will need to ensure his inner stitching is beautiful as the suit jacket's owner will be able to see it.
Advantages vs. disadvantages of each lining style
- Unlined: Preferred in hot climates, unlined jackets are light and breathable. Keep in mind that summer jackets in light fabrics are bound to cost more than a lined jacket.
- Fully Lined: Lining adds weight to a jacket. It also adds protection to the inside of the suit jacket. Business suits need lining. However, the extra layer of cloth holds the heat in these jackets – not the best choice for summer and hot weather.
- Half Lined: The middle-ground for suit jacket lining is a partial lining that protects the canvas of the suit without adding much weight. Partially lined jackets have a softer shape than fully lined jackets. As with unlined jackets, partially lined jackets also cost more than suits with regular full lining.
#9 Ventless vs. Single vs. Double Suit Jacket Vents
Suit jackets may or may not have a vent or slit in the lower back portion. The three options for vents in a suit jacket are:
- No Vent (ventless): Preferred by Italians, this style is more fitted. The downside is when you put your hands in your pockets or sit down – the jacket creases and bunches up in the back.
- Single Vent: I am not a fan of the single vent suit jacket for men. It exposes their backside when they place their hands in the trouser pockets. As the least expensive option, it gives the wearer a boxy appearance.
- Double or Two-Sided Vent: This allows for more fluid movement of hands. It gives the wearer added shape. The flap comes up when you sit or put your hands in your pockets – preventing the jacket from creasing and keeps the backside covered.
#10 Lapel Buttonhole
The one working buttonhole worth having is on the lapel.
The buttonhole on the lapel initially closed the suit jacket and button it up. Now – it has found a more aesthetic purpose in sporting a boutonniere.
The boutonniere goes on the left lapel of the suit jacket, in the lapel's buttonhole, with an opening of about 1-1.5 inches.
Only higher-end suits have a functional lapel buttonhole, with a hand-sewn lining to support the flower and a latch on the reverse side of the lapel to secure the stem of the flower.
Avoid pinning the stem to your lapel unless prepared by a florist.
A special occasion is not required to sport a flower on your suit. The only caveat is that wearing one will attract attention. Apart from funerals and solemn events – wearing a flower is going to be a conversation starter.
How you wear your suit jacket is a matter of your style, taste, and your budget. You can carry off a reasonably well-constructed suit if you pay attention to the details. Get them right, and you will be setting a high sartorial standard.