Style / May 2019

How To Spot An Ill-Fitting Suit

Our Sartorial Guru is here with five tips to spot an ill-fitting suit and, in turn, provide you with the knowledge to not make the exact same mistakes…

We see them every day: The guy in the ill-fitting suit; usually accompanied with the bad shoes (chunky orange brogues or chicken bhuna brown loafers) and a plastic rucksack with all the essentials he needs for survival on his 15-minute commute. And we think to ourselves…”does he know how bad that suit fits him?”

This is followed by a pang of guilt that maybe he can’t afford anything better, until you notice the latest iPhone he produces from his overly stuffed inside pockets and the four-figure watch on his wrist. The next five minutes are spent trying to look closely to see how many “Ls” there are in Rolex but you are pretty sure his timepiece is the real thing. Does he care that his suit does not fit? And why does he insist on buying it in bright blue? So in the name of magnanimous education (and reducing the number of eyesores on the daily commute), here are the telltale signs that a suit is ill-fitting and what you can do about it.

The lapels are bowed

The jacket lapels should lie flat against the chest. A combination of the size being too small or the side seams being taken in too much will cause the lapels to bow outwards. Unfortunately, many modern “skinny” fits suits have no shape in the chest and they will naturally sit like this. I have even seen examples of this online when the suit is being used to illustrate “correct modern fit”.

The issue is made worse when inside pockets are stuffed with thick wallets that close with Velcro.

The trousers break at the knee

Trouser length can easily be remedied to achieve the amount of “break” you want. But if there is creasing at the knee, that is a harder fix. This is caused by the trousers being too narrow and being obstructed by the calf muscles. Bespoke trouser makers will press a lot of shape into the calf area to make sure slim-fitting styles hang straight. There should be a continuous unbroken line from hip to hem. Tailored trousers do not fit like jeans or chinos.

The jacket is too short

When will the madness stop? Suit jackets became longer in the late 90s with the influence of brands such as Richard James and this continued into the 00s. We started to see a reverse of this trend by the end of that decade but it has gone too far. The jacket must cover the seat of your trousers. No excuses. The overly short jacket is comical and draws attention to the ill-fitting trousers that are invariably paired with it.

Sleeve pitch

One for the geeks. I can reveal that some brands purposefully set the sleeves of the jacket forward so that they look nicer on the hanger. Unfortunately, most men stand with their arms by the side and this causes the sleeves to crease at the back. The concept of the brands is that “hanger appeal” is more important than fit and who looks at the back of the sleeves anyway? Well, hopefully you will now.

The collar sits away from the neck

The collar of the jacket should sit closely to the shirt collar but a combination of the coat being too small and poorly made, exacerbated by the wearer insisting on using a rucksack, will cause the collar to sit away from the neck. The over-tailored look is not attractive and when trying to determine suit fit it is not about trying to fit into the smallest size possible. It does not make the wearer look younger.

Illustration by Jonny Leigh.

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Christopher Modoo

Christopher Modoo is 'The Urbane Outfitter', with twenty five years of experience in classic menswear. He has conducted suit fittings in both Beckingham and Buckingham Palace. He hates short socks.