Style / August 2017

The Men Who Wore Double-Breasted Tailoring Best

These ‘DB’ heroes show that men of all shapes and sizes – and stylistic bents – can sport double-breasted suiting successfully.

Fred Astaire wearing a 6x2 double-breasted suit with the jigger button unfastened, which has allowed the right lapel to collapse nonchalantly behind the left, circa 1930s.

There’s a common misconception that only tall, slim gentlemen look good in a double-breasted suit. Not so. As the images featured here prove, all manner of male body shapes can be flattered by a well-tailored ‘DB’.

One of the greatest double-breasted wearers of all time was, of course, Fred Astaire, who stood just 5’ 5’’. Contemporary diminutive movie star Tom Cruise — the exact same height as Astaire — often wears double-breasted well, favouring a 4x1 button stance with closely set lower buttons that, in unison with the upper ‘show’ buttons, create a strong shoulder line. (Sadly, the sartorially slapdash scientologist generally has his trousers cut too long, which only serves to emphasise Cruise’s vertical challenges).

Meanwhile, another 5’ 5’’ fellow, American style giant Ralph Lauren, pulls off double-breasted suiting to perfection, almost exclusively choosing a 6x1 button stance (or 6x2, fastened at the bottom button) with broad shoulders and a longer skirt — not to mention, the ideal shoe-kissing trouser hems — to sculpt an elegant inverted triangle silhouette. Mr Lauren will often intentionally neglect to fix the inner ‘jigger’ button of his double-breasted jackets, allowing the right-side lapel to fall outward, lengthening the opening at the front of the coat and further creating the impression of greater stature.

While, in his whippet-slim youth, Italian business titanLuca Cordero di Montezemolo (the former chairman of Ferrari and Fiat, and current Alitalia boss) would generally wear trimly tailored double-breasted jackets completely unbuttoned, today he’s more likely to be seen with solely the lowest button on a 6x2 fastened, the jigger undone, and the right-hand lapel falling rakishly away, his tie spilling with molto sprezzatura across the lapel. Montezemolo’s mentor, the great ‘Rake of the Riviera’ Gianni Agnelli, also championed these dégagé methods of DB deployment. His jigger button was as redundant as a fender on a Alfa Romeo, and his disregard for the menswear ‘rule’ that says a DB must always be buttoned up was akin to his disdain for such bourgeois concepts as monogamy. Billionaire Tod’s founder Diego Della Valle similarly has no time for fastening, instead filling the opening at the front of his double-breasted suiting with handsome silk and cashmere scarves — most likely from his luxury fashion brand, Fay.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.