The Deadly Sins of Style… Sin #1: Bad Fit (II) | Men’s Clothing Style Guides

Sin #1: Bad Fit | Men’s Clothing Style Guides

The  first  deadly  sin  of  menswear  –  and  the  most  common  –  is  choosing  poorly-fitted garments.
Most men buy suits and shirts that are between one and two sizes too large for them.
Closely-fitted  clothing  is  viewed  as  stifling  and  uncomfortable,  the product  of a bygone era when individuals suffered for their style.
The  important  thing  to  remember  about  those  formal  decades  of  the  early  twentieth century is that menswear was still a tailor-dominated industry; most suits were still being made to an individual’s measure.

Even department stores paid in-house tailors to take the store’s base model suits and adjust them for every client.
Without human tailoring involved, menswear depends on general parameters of human body shape to create numerical sizes.
Any  part  of  the  body  that  falls  outside  those  parameters  will  be  pinched  uncomfortably (in the case of a man too large for part of his suit) or lost in drapes of loose fabric (if the suit is sized too large).

Beyond  comfort,  a  proper  fit  is  simply  better-looking.  Good  tailoring  can  emphasize a man’s most attractive features and draw the eye away from everything else.
Different  body types will seek different effects (discussed in Chapter 5), but  no one is flattered by clothes that look like a loose sack, or that wrinkle and pinch tightly at the joints.
The smooth, unbroken line of a well-fitted suit or shirt is the centerpiece of a well-dressed man’s appearance, and other efforts will be wasted without it.

How, then, to determine when a garment fits?
Comfort  should  be  the  first  guideline  –  anything  uncomfortably  tight  is  too  small, especially if the fabric bunches up with the body’s movements. Beyond that,  tailors  over  the  years  have  settled  on  a  few  basic  conventions  that  guide flattering fits for most men:

Jacket Fit | Men’s Clothing Style Guides

Jackets,  whether  individual  sportcoats  or  parts  of  suits,  are  primarily  characterized by their overall shape, often called the silhouette.
Without  delving  into  the  history  of  style  too  far,  it  is  sufficient  to  say  that  silhouettes usually fall somewhere between the very traditional European-style suit and the loose, unfitted “sack” suit. A more fitted suit will define the body beneath it more clearly, while a looser one will hide it.

Most jackets in America these days are something of a compromise between the two extremes, soft and draping at the hips and shoulders but brought in a bit at the waist and chest.
Comfort is the best guide here – a suit that constricts around your flesh when you move is too tightly-fitted, and should be looser in the constrained area.
In general, you want your jacket to remain stationary as you move; the fabric should  not  be  tugged  along  with  your  motions.  If  cloth  billows  or  spreads  when you move, the fit is too loose.
The  movement  of  the  jacket  is  also  heavily  influenced  by  the  venting  –  the  presence and number of slits running upward from the base of the jacket. While  single-vented  jackets  (with a single slit up the middle of the back) are  the cheapest to produce, and have become the default style for most manufacturers, they are also the least flattering option for most men.

An  unvented  jacket  will  usually  provide  the  closest  and  smoothest  fit,  but  bunches in the back when a man sits or puts his hands in his pockets.   These are often favored by politicians or other men who are required to stand  in  one  place  and  speak,  but  may  not  suit  more  active  men,  or  men  whose interactions are primarily done sitting down. For them, the double-vented  jacket  is  ideal,  with  two  slits  up  the  back  creating  a  wide  square of fabric that moves with the motion of the legs beneath.

Double-vented  jackets  also  allow  a  man  to  put  his  hands  in  his  pockets  without hitching the back of the coat upward, which has made them very popular  in  England.

Jacket  lapels,  the  folded  pieces  of  cloth  that  cover  the  chest,  have  varied  with fashion throughout the years, but a balanced look is never unfashionable,  and  can  keep  a  suit  appropriate  no  matter  what the current  trend is.

Look  for  the  outermost  point  of the lapel to fall halfway between the  shirt collar and the end of the shoulder, or just shy of that point.

On  most  men,  the  measurement  works  out  to about 3 1/2″, but there will be  some variation on broader or narrower torsos.
So  long  as  the  lapel is near that halfway mark, the numeric measurement is  not an exact standard.
Jackets  are  generally  longer  in  the  back  than  they  are  in  the  front,  which  allows them to flow visually down into the trousers; at minimum, the bottom of the jacket should cover the bottom curve of the buttocks.

Anything  shorter  will  rest  awkwardly  on  top  of  the  buttocks  and  look  like  a  tiny skirt – the opposite of the desired effect.
There  is  something  of  an  old  wives’  tale  in  menswear  to the effect that the  jacket should end halfway down a man’s hand when his arms are resting at his  side;  while  being  somewhere  in  that  neighborhood is visually appealing,  there can be a large difference in arm lengths even between two men of the same height.
Use  the  curve  of  the  buttocks  to  determine  where  the  jacket  should  fall  instead.

Most  errors of fit can be remedied by simply knowing the warning signs of a  bad fit. If cloth bunches or pinches in any place the fit is too tight; likewise, if the cloth is loose and billowy the fit is too large.

A  jacket  collar  is  too  loose  if  it  stands  off  the  neck with a gap between the  fabric and the shirt collar.
Sleeves that completely conceal the shirt beneath are too long.

A half-inch of shirt fabric should show at the cuffs, allowing the buttons of the shirt cuff to be visible. If a vest is worn, it should not touch the points of the shirt collar at the top, but should reach the waistband of the trousers at the bottom.

Shirt Fit | Men’s Clothing Style Guides

Unlike  the  jacket,  which  hangs  along  the  frame  and  offers  its  own  unique  shape, men’s dress shirts are meant to be worn as close to the body as possible regardless of your physical shape.
Like  jackets,  the  test  of  the  fit  is  first  and  foremost  comfort  –  a  shirt  that  hangs loosely, or that balloons around the waist when tucked in is too loose. A shirt that pinches or bunches up with movement is too tight.
The  soft  cotton  of  a  quality  dress  shirt  allows  a  close  fit  to  be  very  comfortable.
Most  manufacturers  offer  shirts  sized  by  both  the  collar  and  the  sleeve  length, which makes them somewhat easier to fit than suits.

Most  humans  have  one  arm  longer  than  the  other,  making  some  minor  adjustments to the sleeves flattering.
The “yoke,” the panel across the back of the shoulders, is often made of two slightly differently-sized panels on custom shirts.
As a result the “split yoke” is generally taken as a sign of quality manufacture (although some mass-produced, untailored shirts have begun to appear with split yokes for precisely that reason).
The  proper fit for a shirt is easy to judge visually: the two sides of the collar  should meet neatly at the throat, with no overlap and no gap requiring the button to stretch tightly.

The  collar  should  extend  a  half-inch  above  the  collar  of  a  suit  jacket  or  sportcoat. The cuffs of the sleeve should reach all the way over the joining of the hand and wrist, easily found by the two large knobs of bone on either side of it.
At  the  bottom,  the  shirt  should  fall  four  to six inches past the waistband of  the trousers, giving enough extra cloth for the shirt to be tucked in.


Trouser Fit | Men’s Clothing Style Guides

Many  men  struggle with finding a good trouser fit in the dressing-room, and  this is generally because they are attempting to wear the pants too low on their body.
Dress pants are cut to be worn at the waist where they can fall smoothly past the belly instead of digging under it and creating an unsightly bulge.

Wearing trousers down at the hips requires them to be belted tightly, and the extra  fabric  –  meant  to  cover  the  bottom  of  the torso – will sag and balloon  around your middle.
It also requires the dress shirt to be longer so that enough fabric remains to tuck  the  shirt  in  with.  That  extra  cloth  also  risks  becoming  loose  and  billowing.

Well-fitted  trousers  taper:  they should be wider at the tops of the legs than  at the knees, and wider at the knees than at the base of the legs.
The  cuff  (or  uncuffed  bottom)  of  the  legs  should  rest  directly  on top of the  shoe, and looks best when it is wide enough to cover between half and three-quarters of the shoe’s length. At the tops of the legs, the center seam of the trouser should be as close to the body as comfort permits, preventing the fabric from sagging.

As  always,  move  in  the  trousers  when  trying  them  on  –  if  the  crotch sways  and billows, it needs to be brought up further.
If  the  front  of  the  legs  wrinkles  and  bunches  as you move, the trousers are  too small (seeing if you can fit your hands into the pockets easily is also always worth testing).

Pleats  are  not  strictly  speaking  an  influence  on  fit,  but  they  do  allow  the  trousers to move and flex more easily, and are generally considered preferable to plain-fronted trousers.
The small, vertical folds require additional cloth in the seat and thighs, which billows  when  worn  too  low,  contributing  to  the  modern  misconception that  pleated trousers make your bottom look bigger.

Worn  high enough on the body, pleats drape in smooth, vertical lines, which  actually have an overall slimming effect.
They open when the fabric is stretched by sitting, preventing the fabric from pulling tight and bulging.

If you do opt for pleats, be sure the fit is loose enough that they do not pull  open  when  you  stand  still  –  the  pleats  should  only  change  shape  when you sit or bend over. Resting, they should be plain vertical lines.


This is just the ​beginning of your style journey? Stay connected for the upcoming articles.

Please  note  that  much  of  this  publication  is  based  on  personal  experience  and anecdotal evidence.  
Although  the  author  and  publisher  have  made  every  reasonable  attempt  to  achieve complete accuracy of the content in this Guide, they assume no responsibility for errors or omissions.  
Also, you should use this information as you see fit, and at your own risk. 
Your  particular  situation  may  not  be  exactly  suited  to  the  examples  illustrated here; in fact, it’s likely that they won’t be the same, and you should adjust your use of the information and recommendations accordingly.
Finally,  use  your  head. Nothing in this Guide is intended to replace common  sense, legal, medical or other professional advice, and is meant to inform and entertain the reader.  
So have fun and learn to dress sharp! 

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