As part of our suit fit guides series, we’ll go in-depth on the various elements of how a suit jacket should properly fit. With the jacket arguably being one of the most central parts of the suit, you can learn the basics as well as the finite details of a jacket:
- Basic Suit Jacket Fit
- Detailed Suit Jacket Fit
- Shoulders & Back
- Jacket Length
- Jacket Sleeves
- Suit Coats
Use the links above to jump ahead to a specific section or scroll down to read it all.
How A Suit Jacket Should Fit
This guide treats the suit jacket with a pragmatic and visual approach where you can identify each part of its construction. We’ve represented this graphically as a group at the top of the article, and then addressed each element individually throughout the rest of the piece.
Furthermore, remember that we have also created detailed guides on each suit garment. Therefore, you can learn about their correct fit too:
Suit Jacket Fit Overview
Scroll down for extensive visuals on the proper fit of every element of a suit jacket.
If you’re interested in detailed explanations, we offer those further down the article.
Of all the elements that go into dressing well, fit is undoubtedly the most important. Sure, your color coordination needs to be on point, and if you’re going to mix patterns you should do so with skill.
But at the end of the day, a man in an ill fitting two-thousand dollar suit will not look nearly as good as a man in an exquisitely tailored three-hundred dollar one.
If you’re looking for a guide on which jacket alterations make the most sense, we have one for you right here.
Breakdown Of Proper Suit Jacket Fit
In addition to being the most complex piece of a suit, a jacket is also its focal point. From a high level, a properly fitted jacket should make you look as tall, lean, and muscular as possible.
There are many aspects to proper jacket fit. We’ll address each individually below.
Shoulders & Back Fit
Shoulders: In tailoring, this is referred to as a “point-to-point” measurement. A suit jacket’s shoulders should sync up closely with your own. If they’re too wide, you’ll look like an American football player in shoulder pads, making your head look puny by comparison.
If the shoulders are too narrow, you’ll have a tight, uncomfortable fit and your head will look huge.
Another way to tell if a jacket’s shoulders are too wide is the presence of rumples and divots. Take a look at the graphic below to see what we mean:
Jacket Collar: This should sit in relation to your shirt collar in such a way that approximately 1/2″-3/4″ of shirt collar are visible above that of the jacket. If it sits too high, it must be lowered. If it stands away, it must be shortened.
Shoulder blades: The back of the jacket should lay smoothly against your shoulder blades. You want to see as few ripples as possible. Horizontal lines across the back are a telltale sign that something is too tight and the center seam of the jacket may have to be let out.
Note: some of us have an irregularity such as prominent shoulder blades that make such ripples more common.
Vent(s): They (or it) should lay flat and closed when the jacket is worn. If they open up like you see on the “too tight” guy above, the jacket is too tight and needs to be let out likely at the center seam (if center-vented) or the side seams (if side-vented).
What’s The Right Length For A Suit Jacket?
Traditionally, the length of the jacket should cut you in half, maximizing the length of your torso and, by comparison, your legs. A too-short jacket will make your torso look tiny, and probably make your arms look apishly long. A too-long jacket will look sloppy and make you appear shorter than you might actually be.
There are two rules of thumb (one more literal than the other) when it comes to judging jacket length.
- The jacket should cover your rear end but not much more.
- When standing naturally, the hem of the jacket should hit at about the second knuckle of your thumb.
Most men find a happy medium that takes both of these factors into account. Your height and personal preferences will also play a factor here. If you’re rather tall, for example (over 6’3″), having a jacket that’s a touch on the longer side will actually benefit you by bringing you down to Earth a bit. On the other hand, shorter men (under 5’6″) look a bit taller in a shorter jacket.
If you’re unsure of your body type, we have a full guide to help you identify it quickly!
As far as preference goes, shorter jackets have been en vogue for a few years now. While we don’t recommend very short jackets because they’re neither timeless nor alterable, if you’re into a more modern look, select a jacket that gives you as much modernity as possible while still fitting into the two rules of thumb listed above.
How Do Jacket Sleeves Fit?
There’s actually more to a sleeve than just length.
Length: You should show 1/4″-1/2″ of shirt cuff showing out from your jacket sleeves. Far too many guys wear their suit jacket sleeves too long. The more fashion-forward of us tend to show more shirt cuff while the more conservative of us tend to show less. Either is fine so long as you’re showing something. Sleeves can be lengthened or shortened depending on your needs.
Slimness: The sleeve should fit snugly -not tightly- around the entire arm and should taper gently from shoulder to wrist. A tailor can take care of this in the same way that (s)he can taper pant legs.
Smoothness: The area from shoulder to elbow should be as smooth as possible. There will often be a tiny bit of rippling around the shoulder, but if it’s drastic, the sleeves will need to be rotated. The way a sleeve hangs on a jacket is referred to as “sleeve pitch.” See below:
How Should A Suit Coat Fit The Body?
Again, snug but not tight is the name of the game. Neatness is important.
Tapering: There should be as much of an hourglass shape as you’re comfortable with, though larger gentlemen may want to forgo hourglass shaping and simply avoid wrinkling/pulling.
Regardless, there should be enough ease throughout the garment that you’re not seeing the aforementioned horizontal lines or pulling at the top button (you might see an “X” if it’s too tight, like below on the right).
Button placement: On a two-button jacket, the button stance moves depending on trend. For the past few years we’ve seen higher buttoning stances, and while we have no issue with moving a button slightly higher than normal, you will begin to look very short and proportionally weird if it’s too high.
Generally, this button should be placed 1.5″-2″ above your navel.
On a three-button jacket, the same logic applies to the middle button.
Chest: The chest should lay flat against your own and not have too much extra material. If it doesn’t, a good tailor can reduce the chest.
Lapels: These should also lie flat against your chest. A phenomenal tailor can shrink a lapel if this happens, but we strongly recommend just trying on another suit jacket as this alteration is expensive and time-consuming.
A suit’s jacket is its focal point. As such, it’s important that it fit you as perfectly as possible. We hope this guide enables you to shop intelligently to achieve that end.
We offer more information on suits in general, and if you need a primer on alterations, please see our comprehensive tailoring guide.
Now that you have read our guide to how a jacket should fit, consider reading some of our related content:
Thank you so much for this content.
Delighted to be of service, Alex!
All the best,
Wonderful site! Could you please explain the various types of shoulder padding options and how to select those best for individual body types, formality etc? I have been offfered light padding, roped shoulders, more structure etc., an cannot determine what’s best. -thank you!
Great and interesting question!
English, roped shoulders are great and among my favourite finishes. They’re not made by padding but with canvas, which creates a distinctive ridge. They’re quite formal and work well on both tuxedos and business suits. Furthermore, they’re ideal if you have strong yet sloped shoulders to create more presence.
Light padding and more structure are quite vague terms. However, this really depends on your body shape. Ask yourself whether you have broad, square shoulders, which may be better suited to more casual, natural shoulders on the suit. Alternatively, your shoulders may slope and need a little structure (e.g. Milanese) to appear bolder to improve your stance.
Hope this helps!
Thank you so much for responding! I am a somewhat average build, 6-2”, 195 lbs. 42L coat 33”waist. I didn’t want to look like a US football player in shoulder pads, or a slouching wallflower in an unstructured jacket. The coats I’m considering are for business purposes, so I take your advice and will looking into light padding or rope shoulders.
If your tailor knows what he’s doing, then more structure won’t result in ’90s shoulder pads. In fact, many people are put off by more structure due to this connotation. The result should instead be a nice Italian-style finish.
However, by your description, I think that natural or roped might be the best options, especially with such a narrow waist. If your tailor can show you examples of his work, it might make it easier for you to choose.
All the best,
Hello, could you please offer some style and fashion advice (colors, styles, fit) specifically for men in their early 50’s? -Thanks!
I recommend that you refer to our guides on color theory as they cater to everyone of all ages and you’ll likely be able to find some content relevant to you.
Fit, for us, is pretty timeless and universal to all ages. So you can check out our fitting guides for that.
I hope that these help!