Our in-house fashion expert on the evolution of suit shopping and how to find the perfect fit.

Shopping for Suits

Shopping for suits can be very tiring if you’re not into the current style of slim fitting jackets and pants. They may look great on a skinny youngster but ridiculous on grown up men . I’m saying this as someone who has kept his size since his college days. And I don’t mean to propagate the baggy suits of the 1980s that have fortunately disappeared from European shopfloors a long time ago. All I want is a healthy balance between body huggers and tents.

Most designers mistake a tight fit for a good fit. It seems they have never heard of the term drape. It denotes a certain amount of extra width on the chest and in the back of a jacket above the shoulder blades. Drape allows us to move our arms. Drape will also create a bit of bulge over the chest. Too much of it will make the male torso look busty which is certainly not desirable. Too little drape makes the chest look flat. Tight fitting jackets with a flat chest creates a boyish appearance. This may be charming in the eyes of young guys trying to look like a nerd. For a professional man the result it’s a catastrophe.

Roominess of a coat (which is the tailor’s term for jacket) also means enough width for the shoulders. Current jackets tend to have very narrow shoulders in conjunction the lack of drape. Narrow shoulders will make the head look bigger. We don’t need shoulders of zoot suit proportions but the head of a grown up man must not appear to be too big. Babies have large heads and who wants to look like a baby?

I remember the first time I shopped at Brooks Brothers in New York in 1992. I was impressed that the suits were available with pleated or unpleated fronts. This was unknown in Germany then and it is still unknown today. It is a great idea though to offer both styles because different bodies require different trousers. A guy with a flat stomach will look good in any type of pant but if he puts on weight a pleated pant will work much better for him. A good side effect of pleats are pockets that don’t show if you use them.

I’m not advocating shapeless suits with no line to them. I only want to remind men of the fact that suits were originally designed to make the most of a man’s appearance and to be comfortable at the same time. Drainpipe trousers and bumfreezer jackets are definitely don’t make a man attractive and they are not comfortable either. If you want to know what I mean look at Cary Grant’s suits.