Finding the right fit for your suit
Continental Cut British Cut American Cut
Back in the ‘80s, there were three styles of suit that all Tailors knew: the American, the British, and the Continental. Although they have morphed into one style these days, we think these terms are still useful for creating a mental check-off list when picking the right suit for your body. Now that we are in the heat of the daytime suit season, with fancy indoor and outdoor occasions that may require you to buy a new suit or have tailored for you, it is worth running through the ideas that featured in each of these suit styles.
The American-Cut Suit
An American-style suit is best for larger bodies, and indeed was first created to accommodate the larger frames of many Americans compared to their European counterparts. Two of the hallmarks of this classic suit that continue to make it appropriate for today's larger men are the three-button, single-breasted blazer and the plain-front trousers. A three-button blazer, like a two-button blazer, will never go out of style; however, the three-button blazer, particularly when the top button is left undone, has the advantage of elongating the body of a heavy-set man, thereby making him appear taller and thinner.
A double-breasted blazer will smooth out additional lumps and bumps. Also, as long as the lapels meet below the waist, the V-effect created by a double-breasted jacket will make you seem taller. In addition, larger men should look for jackets with side or double venting to conceal their wider posteriors while sitting or moving.
When it comes to your bottom half, picking the right suit for your body entails choosing a suit with plain-front trousers. This will slim your belly and pelvic region if you’re a little on the chunky side, whereas pleated pants will draw unwanted attention to this area of your body. In fact, pleated trousers should be avoided by all body types.
The British-cut Suit
English suits are most flattering on average and athletic body types – think ‘Bond’. As a result of their design (which bears resemblance to a military uniform, due in part to the hacking-style jacket with its long shape, slightly nipped waist and flared skirt), British suits tend to confer an authoritative appearance on their wearer. Like a uniform, the shape of the suit also follows the line of the body quite closely and puts emphasis on the chest. Other features of English-style suits include soft shoulders and slightly shorter jacket sleeves.
If you are particularly tall, a British suit will really complement your physique. The jacket’s longer length will keep a sense of proportion to your body; the extra pockets will create more horizontal lines on your body and balance you out a little more. Men with very V-shaped, athletic bodies will benefit from a single-breasted, two-button blazer in which the lapels sit higher up on the chest in order to reduce emphasis on the width of the shoulders. The nipped-in waist of the British suit, as well as its tapered sleeves, are also good for athletic bodies as these features emphasize other areas of your body and take attention off your top half.
The Continental-cut Suit
The traditional aspects of Italian suits have been a close cut, severe shoulders, a shorter length, and small, high armholes. These are the hallmarks of The Continental Suit. These suits are usually single-breasted with two buttons, have slim-cut trousers with a lower rise and a ventless back to slim the figure further.
To wear a European suit, one requirement is a slim, more stereotypically European physique. Worn properly, these suits are quite sexy; but worn improperly and you can come off looking like a small boy. If you have a very slim build, stay away from skin-tight suits to make sure you carry off the style with flair. Instead, pick a suit that skims the body, and thereby adds a bit of bulk, otherwise you’ll end up looking like a rail. Men with average builds can invest in slightly more fitted suits, however, proceed with caution.
Even though you may not have to wear a suit on a regular basis, when it comes time to dress up, take suit shopping seriously. After all, what’s the point of suiting up if you’re going to look like a monkey? Hopefully we’ve inspired you to be more mindful of your body and its strengths and weaknesses when picking the right suit, and you now have a better idea of the general suit shape that will help you look your best.