Suit Guide

“I remember my dad telling me about when he first went away to university. He was first in our family to attend one of the ‘big’ schools, and so granddad took him up to Brooks Brothers two weeks before freshman orientation. Under the amber lights, and with the smell of polished oak and fresh wool thick in the air, dad learned about things like lapel width, necktie matching, vents, buttons, cut, and drape.

I went to a smaller school, and dad wasn’t quite so formal. My learning process was catch-as-catch-can, with dad peppering his advice over the course of ten years or so, but I still learned how to tie a four in hand, how to wear a double breasted suit, and how to polish your dress shoes. It was jarring for me to hear from my friends and peers that they were left in the dark; that they were getting by on scraps and bits of information pieced together using Google.” (Source: Suitored Suit Guide)

For every guy has to go through the process of getting their first suit, learning about dressing well and building a professional wardrobe, we decided to include an introductory suit guide. This guide is inspired by the suit guide on the Suitored website and is meant to teach you the very basic knowledge about suits.


What Makes a Suit

The Big Details

A suit consists of different components. The basic components that most influence the overall look and character of your suit are the fabric and the cut.

Cut / Design

Before any piece of clothing is made, patterns are designed and drawn onto the fabric. After that the fabric is cut and the pieces can be sewn together to form a garment. The design of the patterns determine how the garment will fit. For suits, the cut determines whether it will have an English, Italian, or American style and whether the suit jacket will be double versus single breasted for example. At Clifton Charles, we create the patterns of the suit based on your body measurements and personal preferences and the fabric is very precisely cut with a laser machine.

  1. The Italian Cut: The Italians are known to be the best tailors in the world. They found out how to cut their suits in way that helps men with different body types to look like the ideal v-shaped man. To achieve this, the Italian suit usually has a slim cut in the waist and padding in the shoulders.
  2. The American Cut: The typical American style suit is known to emphasize the natural body shape of a man. It has minimal padding, minimal or no darting (taper or tuck of the jacket), a single vent in the back and a full cut. The American style suit usually comes with a cuff on the bottom of the trousers.
  3. The English Cut: An English style suit is a more moderate option, as it is more shaped than the American cut and includes light padding. It usually comes with double vents. Cuffs on the bottom of the trousers are not very common.

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There are two breasting options: single versus double. Nowadays, the single-breasted suit is far more common. However, this is not so much a style related choice, but more a personal choice of what you like better and what looks good on your body. A body posture with broad shoulders can benefit from a single-breasted suit, while a slim and tall guy can really shine in a double-breasted suit. A practical difference between the two options is that the single-breasted jacket can be worn unbuttoned and the double-breasted jacket is meant to be worn buttoned at all times.


The fabric determines the entire look of the suit and the color of the fabric influences whether it is appropriate to wear in certain situations. Standard business suit fabrics for example are charcoal gray and navy blue, whereas black fabrics are more appropriate for evening matters and events. Light colored fabrics are common to wear and functional in the spring and summer seasons.

But choosing a suit fabric is not only about the looks and colors, it is just as much about the type of material and weave thereof. Good for the standard business suit is a tightly spun wool, while a coarsely woven fabric, like a tweed, would make for a more sporty choice for the fall. Lightweight fabrics like linens are nice to wear in warmer weather. A downside of these materials is that they crease easily.

The Smaller Details


There are three lapel types; notch, peak and shawl. Typically the single-breasted suit is combined with a notch lapel and the double-breasted suit with the peaked lapel. It is possible to spot a single-breasted suit with a peaked lapel, but you’ll never see a double-breasted suit with a notch lapel. The shawl lapel is common on tuxedos and dinner jackets, and is faced in silk or grosgrain.


Where bespoke suits usually have working buttonholes on the sleeves, cuffs on an off the rack suit are usually sewn shut. The buttons serve mainly as decoration. The reason for this is that it is easier to change the length of the jacket sleeves without the working buttonholes, so that off the rack suits can be altered by a tailor. All suits at Clifton Charles come with working buttonholes, as we produce the jacket based on our client’s measurements.


Single-breasted jackets can have one, two or three buttons and double-breasted jackets four or six. All jackets are acceptable for everyday wear, except that the one button suit is perceived as more fashion forward. Because jackets are designed to flare away at the bottom, it is a tradition to leave the bottom button of a single-breasted coat undone.


Vents are the slits on the bottom of the back of your jacket. There are generally three options: one single vent in the centre, one vent on each side, and no vents at all. Vents were originally designed to make riding easier, but are still convenient for sitting down and can improve the drape of the jacket. A suit jacket without vents is not very common, although this style is normally seen on sport coats and dinner jackets. A ventless jacket will stay tighter around your body in comparison with vented jackets and is associated with Italian tailoring. Double-vents can be helpful to create a good figure. This style is perceived as more British and is usually seen on bespoke suits. The single-vent style is most common and mostly seen on suits off-the-rack. The choice of vent style is a matter of personal taste and not subject to strict rules.


Although you might not expect this, many features can be chosen for the trousers. For example choices regarding pleats, leg width, cuffs, rise, belt loops, suspender buttons and more. We will only focus on the most important and influential features for now. Usually, the trousers are made from the same fabric as the jacket. We always recommend to purchase two pairs of trousers when buying a suit, as the trousers will wear out much faster than the suit jacket. Having two pairs will therefore significantly lengthen the life of your entire suit.

Most common nowadays is the flat-front style, but for heavier men and for more room and comfort pleats can offer a solution. The appropriate length of your trousers is when they touch the shoe when standing and show a little sock when seated. The amount of break in the pants is a matter of personal taste. In Europe little or no break is very popular, whereas in America a moderate to heavy break is quite common. As for the bottom of your pants, you can choose to have cuffs or a plain hem. A plain hem is most common, whereas the cuffs are considered a little less formal. Cuffs were initially designed to add weight to the bottom of the pants for it to hang straight.


Keep your suits hanging on regular suit hangers, preferably one that mimics a human’s shoulder profile which will preserve the jackets collar and drape. Try to pick hangers with a wide shoulder flare, as this will maintain the shoulder shape of the jacket. Make sure to fold and hang the trousers along the crease.

Because of the high temperatures and chemicals, the dry cleaning process can damage fabric threads. We recommend to only take your suit to the dry cleaners when it is really necessary and not more than once every season. Instead, try to remove stains yourself using a suit brush. To get rid of wrinkles, you can just have the suit pressed which is less harmful than a total cleaning treatment.

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Grooming Boom

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Grooming, a once female dominated field, has transcended heavily into the male realm. These days men’s grooming regimens are receiving more hype than ever.  Magazines, such as GQ, Esquire, Details, Men’s Health and Men’s Journal have all reached out in attempts to appeal to the submerging world of men’s grooming.

One of the main incentives in increasing grooming advertisements is associated with the money.  Last year, Men’s Health readers, alone, spent $1.2 billion on grooming products.  The ad pages devoted to this category rose 37 percent in June 2012 in comparison to June 2011.

According to publisher Jack Essig at Esquire, advertising for grooming products is up 45 percent for the first half. Esquire editor in chief David Granger said that “We’ve made a big push on grooming in the last couple of years, talking to men about a common sense approach to taking care of themselves. As the category has exploded and product for men has multiplied, guidance is more important than ever.”

They also found a great percentage of growth (37) in advertising in the grooming category compared to last year at GQ. An online tracking system showed that GQ’s readers are very interested in hair, even more so as in shoes, suits and watches. ‘Hair’ turned out to be the number-two search term on their website.

Many magazines devote an increasing amount of pages to men’s grooming and the ad pages for this category are up 79 percent compared to last year.

Developments in the retail industry cannot stay behind on this trend. A partnership between Details and Space NK Apothecary resulted in endorsed products for men in 21 stores in the U.S. and shops-in-shop in Bloomingdales. “This is a pilot program for us and I believe Details endorsing a product as best of the category will of course have an impact,” said editor in chief Dan Peres.

Men’s grooming habits are sure getting a lot of attention these days. In Morgan Spurlock’s film ‘Mansome’, he gets models, actors, experts and comedians to weigh in on the subject. “I think you try to look good to meet a woman or you try to look good so the woman doesn’t run away,” explains Judd Apatow.

Article source:, by Amy Wicks