Nice Try, Bro recently wrote this about the picture above:

One must wonder: is this just an unflattering photo of the gentleman on the left or does he indeed have way too much fabric in the upper back of his jacket?  Or maybe he recently hit the gym and shed some pounds.  Who knows.
But notice how much better the jacket homie on the right is wearing fits.  
Pinching and raising the neck of a jacket is usually done to correct collar flaws.  However, any time I have had my neck pinched and raised, I’ve noticed a better fit across the back as well.  You’d think this Florentine gentleman would have gotten that fixed, whether by pinch and raise or some other technique.
In any event, nice bag, bro.

To which Ethan Desu responded with:

A tailor much more skillful than myself once tried to explain to me the fascination of overtly tight clothing in young men new to tailored clothing. I mentioned to him the trend of those coming to me for suits, favouring jackets far too small, that looked magazine worthy while standing still but lacking any elegance or drape for movement.
The example he used was that of a leather glove - close a fist and it looks molded to the skin, stretched as it is against the back of the hand. But open the fist and the glove will bag at the knuckles and extend past the ends of the fingers. It explained it well for me and I’ve strived for elegant fit ever since, not always successfully considering how well my wife cooks.
While neither gent has particularly great fit with these obviously off the rack cotton jackets, judging by a static image of two different body shapes in motion is a poor case study. While the man on the left has his left shoulder up and back, causing the imbalance and what you are seeing as the excess cloth, the man on the right is wearing a tight jacket to hide these sins. With a forward and sloping shoulder, the jacket pulls tight like the glove on a fist, and gives the impression of fit.
Dropping a collar is a fix for a too long back balance. The issue here is an imbalance from left to right, and a cotton jacket worn off the rack in a size that isn’t skin tight.  Had the photo been taken a second later you might be deriding Mr Short rather than Mr Tall.While taste is subjective without bounds - what I post and what I wear might have the coolest of tumblr scoff - fit has parameters, particularly in classic clothing. While it is tempting to praise the ultra slim, two dimensional fit, achieving clean lines with enough drape for movement and ease to remain elegant is the true marker of beautiful tailoring.

The last paragraph of Ethan’s post is something you should commit to memory. 

Nice Try, Bro recently wrote this about the picture above:

One must wonder: is this just an unflattering photo of the gentleman on the left or does he indeed have way too much fabric in the upper back of his jacket?  Or maybe he recently hit the gym and shed some pounds.  Who knows.

But notice how much better the jacket homie on the right is wearing fits.  

Pinching and raising the neck of a jacket is usually done to correct collar flaws.  However, any time I have had my neck pinched and raised, I’ve noticed a better fit across the back as well.  You’d think this Florentine gentleman would have gotten that fixed, whether by pinch and raise or some other technique.

In any event, nice bag, bro.

To which Ethan Desu responded with:

A tailor much more skillful than myself once tried to explain to me the fascination of overtly tight clothing in young men new to tailored clothing. I mentioned to him the trend of those coming to me for suits, favouring jackets far too small, that looked magazine worthy while standing still but lacking any elegance or drape for movement.

The example he used was that of a leather glove - close a fist and it looks molded to the skin, stretched as it is against the back of the hand. But open the fist and the glove will bag at the knuckles and extend past the ends of the fingers. It explained it well for me and I’ve strived for elegant fit ever since, not always successfully considering how well my wife cooks.

While neither gent has particularly great fit with these obviously off the rack cotton jackets, judging by a static image of two different body shapes in motion is a poor case study. While the man on the left has his left shoulder up and back, causing the imbalance and what you are seeing as the excess cloth, the man on the right is wearing a tight jacket to hide these sins. With a forward and sloping shoulder, the jacket pulls tight like the glove on a fist, and gives the impression of fit.

Dropping a collar is a fix for a too long back balance. The issue here is an imbalance from left to right, and a cotton jacket worn off the rack in a size that isn’t skin tight.  Had the photo been taken a second later you might be deriding Mr Short rather than Mr Tall.

While taste is subjective without bounds - what I post and what I wear might have the coolest of tumblr scoff - fit has parameters, particularly in classic clothing. While it is tempting to praise the ultra slim, two dimensional fit, achieving clean lines with enough drape for movement and ease to remain elegant is the true marker of beautiful tailoring.

The last paragraph of Ethan’s post is something you should commit to memory. 

(Source: ethandesu, via ethandesu)

Q and Answer: How Much Can My Clothes Be Altered?
Mario writes us to ask: When you’re hunting for used quality clothing, you’re bound to come across pieces that are a couple of sizes too small or a few too big. Some of this, I assume, can be corrected with a visit to a tailor. If that’s the case, my question is: in your experience, what size range can be (relatively) easily retrofitted to your measurements?
It happens to all of us - we put our hand on a perfect garment in a thrift store. We pull it out, and it looks tremendous. We try it on, and it doesn’t quite fit. Immediately, we wonder: can it be altered?
Altering second-hand clothes is the same as altering new clothes. Some procedures are possible, some impossible. Some are easy, some difficult. Let’s take it by garment.
Shirts
Shirt sleeves can be easily shortened, but usually they can’t be easily lengthened.
Cuffs and collars can be replaced, but only with white (and it may be a bit expensive).
The torso of a shirt can be brought in, and the sleeves slimmed, as in episode six of Put This On. Remove more than three or four inches and you may have a badly unbalanced shirt, depending on your shape.
The collar button can be moved about a quarter inch either direction to make the collar larger or smaller, but this may throw off the balance of the collar. Your taste should guide you.
The shoulders and chest of a shirt are largely inalterable.
Trousers
The waist of a pair of trousers can be let in or taken out 2-3”. Look inside the seat for extra fabric at the waistband - this, minus half an inch or so, is as far as you can take the pants out.
Trousers are easily shortened, but lengthening them requires fabric at the hems. You should be able to turn the leg inside out to check how much room you have. Cuffs can also be removed for extra length.
Be careful when lengthening as edge wear could leave an undesirable line when the pant is let out.
Pleats can be removed, but you may not be happy with the result. Either they are replaced with darts, or the pants are substantially re-cut.
Trousers can be slimmed or tapered from the bottom of the pockets down, from either the inside seam, outside seam or both.
Jackets
Jacket waists and torsos can usually be altered by about 2”, though 1” is generally safer.
The top block of jackets - from the armholes up - is very difficult to alter. Don’t try.
Shoulders must fit, if they don’t, put it back.
Jacket sleeves can be taken up or down as long as the buttons are non-functional. To see how far they can be taken down, feel with your fingers inside the lining of the sleeve end for folded-back fabric. Usually there’s an inch or two, but remember that you will need to retain about half an inch to reach the lining on the inside.
If jacket buttons are functional, the sleeve can be taken up from the shoulder, but this is a tricky and expensive process - budget $75 or so, and find a good tailor. It’s possible the sleeves can be taken down a bit, too, but you’d have to ask a tailor to look for extra fabric in the armhole.
When lengthening sleeves from the cuff, you may find that there’s a line of wear, especially on textural fabrics like flannel.
Vents cannot be added to or removed from jackets.
Jacket lengths are alterable, but it’s inadvisable and expensive to try.
Jacket lapels - same deal.
Shoes
Shoes that are slightly too large (1/2 size or less) can sometimes be fit with insoles or tongue pads. This is particularly true if width is the problem, rather than length - just be careful that the ball of your foot hits in the appropriate flex point in the shoe.
Shoes can be stretched, but only in width, not in length. Stretching can usually take a shoe about one width larger - say from D to E. Sometimes two, depends on the shoe.
Socks
Socks are generally inalterable, but if you have notably large feet and are set on second-hand hosiery, try gluing two or more pairs of socks together, then putting both on your foot. I’ve never done it, but it seems like it might work.

Q and Answer: How Much Can My Clothes Be Altered?

Mario writes us to ask: When you’re hunting for used quality clothing, you’re bound to come across pieces that are a couple of sizes too small or a few too big. Some of this, I assume, can be corrected with a visit to a tailor. If that’s the case, my question is: in your experience, what size range can be (relatively) easily retrofitted to your measurements?

It happens to all of us - we put our hand on a perfect garment in a thrift store. We pull it out, and it looks tremendous. We try it on, and it doesn’t quite fit. Immediately, we wonder: can it be altered?

Altering second-hand clothes is the same as altering new clothes. Some procedures are possible, some impossible. Some are easy, some difficult. Let’s take it by garment.

Shirts

  • Shirt sleeves can be easily shortened, but usually they can’t be easily lengthened.
  • Cuffs and collars can be replaced, but only with white (and it may be a bit expensive).
  • The torso of a shirt can be brought in, and the sleeves slimmed, as in episode six of Put This On. Remove more than three or four inches and you may have a badly unbalanced shirt, depending on your shape.
  • The collar button can be moved about a quarter inch either direction to make the collar larger or smaller, but this may throw off the balance of the collar. Your taste should guide you.
  • The shoulders and chest of a shirt are largely inalterable.

Trousers

  • The waist of a pair of trousers can be let in or taken out 2-3”. Look inside the seat for extra fabric at the waistband - this, minus half an inch or so, is as far as you can take the pants out.
  • Trousers are easily shortened, but lengthening them requires fabric at the hems. You should be able to turn the leg inside out to check how much room you have. Cuffs can also be removed for extra length.
  • Be careful when lengthening as edge wear could leave an undesirable line when the pant is let out.
  • Pleats can be removed, but you may not be happy with the result. Either they are replaced with darts, or the pants are substantially re-cut.
  • Trousers can be slimmed or tapered from the bottom of the pockets down, from either the inside seam, outside seam or both.

Jackets

  • Jacket waists and torsos can usually be altered by about 2”, though 1” is generally safer.
  • The top block of jackets - from the armholes up - is very difficult to alter. Don’t try.
  • Shoulders must fit, if they don’t, put it back.
  • Jacket sleeves can be taken up or down as long as the buttons are non-functional. To see how far they can be taken down, feel with your fingers inside the lining of the sleeve end for folded-back fabric. Usually there’s an inch or two, but remember that you will need to retain about half an inch to reach the lining on the inside.
  • If jacket buttons are functional, the sleeve can be taken up from the shoulder, but this is a tricky and expensive process - budget $75 or so, and find a good tailor. It’s possible the sleeves can be taken down a bit, too, but you’d have to ask a tailor to look for extra fabric in the armhole.
  • When lengthening sleeves from the cuff, you may find that there’s a line of wear, especially on textural fabrics like flannel.
  • Vents cannot be added to or removed from jackets.
  • Jacket lengths are alterable, but it’s inadvisable and expensive to try.
  • Jacket lapels - same deal.

Shoes

  • Shoes that are slightly too large (1/2 size or less) can sometimes be fit with insoles or tongue pads. This is particularly true if width is the problem, rather than length - just be careful that the ball of your foot hits in the appropriate flex point in the shoe.
  • Shoes can be stretched, but only in width, not in length. Stretching can usually take a shoe about one width larger - say from D to E. Sometimes two, depends on the shoe.

Socks

  • Socks are generally inalterable, but if you have notably large feet and are set on second-hand hosiery, try gluing two or more pairs of socks together, then putting both on your foot. I’ve never done it, but it seems like it might work.
A Three-Step Process to Finding Good Tailors and Dry Cleaners
I’m moving to Moscow for a few months, and being that it’s my first time there, I’ll have to find a new tailor and dry cleaner. When I was young, I used to worry about having to find a new barber when I travelled. The whole idea of having a new person cut my hair just seemed frightening. What if they chop my hair to uneven bits? I’ve learned, however, that hair grows back. Clothes that you’ve painstakingly poured a lot of time and money into, on the other hand, will never be restored once they’re ruined. That’s why it’s important to find good tailors and dry cleaners - one exchange with a bad one could ruin your favorite garments forever. 
So I’ve developed a kind of system to finding good tailors and dry cleaners in a new area. Perhaps it will be useful for you as well, whether you’ve arrived in a new place or you’re still trying to find someone reliable. Here’s my three-step process:
1. Find the local consensus: The first step is to call the very best upscale stores and hotels in the area. For stores, this can be high-end boutiques such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus; independent fine menswear stores that sell brands you respect; and internationally known brand stores such as Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, or Zegna. For hotels, this can include the Four Seasons, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, etc. Just check your Zagat Survey for the five-star operations. 
Ask the managers of these places which tailors and dry cleaners they send their work to. Hotels will obviously have dry cleaners they depend on, but menswear stores will often also have a dry cleaner that they send soiled garments to. They will most certainly at least have tailors they work with for alterations. Try to identify a consensus among these recommendations. You’re likely to spot at least two or three that everyone goes to. These will be your candidates.
2. Ask questions and identify quality operations: Call up your candidates and ask them questions about the job you’re looking to have done. Unfortunately, you have to know a little bit about tailoring and dry cleaning in order to know what are the right questions to ask. It’s beyond the scope of this article to cover these subjects, but you should search the archives of StyleForum to get a sense of the processes behind whatever you want done. Ask them about some of these technical details. A good tailor or dry cleaner should be able to discuss these things with you competently. 
Additionally, for dry cleaners, look for places that do the work on-site and, ideally, offer hand ironing. The second part is particularly critical if you have high-end suits, otherwise your nice rolling lapels may come back incorrectly pressed. 
Note that while you can often find a very skilled alterations tailor who is affordable, good dry cleaning never comes cheap. If someone tells you they only charge $25 to clean a suit and $5 to launder a shirt, and you can pick it up in just a few days, you’d be a fool to hand over your garments. 
3. Give them your worst: Everyone has low-end, ill-fitting garments they don’t wear. Send these in before you hand over things you actually favor. After you get the garment back, spend two or three weeks with it - wear it a few times, see how it fits, examine the quality, etc. For me, it takes a few weeks to really review these things. First impressions are often always positive, but three weeks in, I may notice that the work might not be done as cleanly and well as I would like. Before I trust someone with something I’ve spent a considerable amount time to find, and somewhat hefty amount of money to purchase, it’s absolutely critical that I can fully trust their work. Getting to this place can sometimes take two or three “test runs.” It might seem like a lot of hassle, but imagine the hassle you’ll go through if you had to replace some of your favorite clothes. 

A Three-Step Process to Finding Good Tailors and Dry Cleaners

I’m moving to Moscow for a few months, and being that it’s my first time there, I’ll have to find a new tailor and dry cleaner. When I was young, I used to worry about having to find a new barber when I travelled. The whole idea of having a new person cut my hair just seemed frightening. What if they chop my hair to uneven bits? I’ve learned, however, that hair grows back. Clothes that you’ve painstakingly poured a lot of time and money into, on the other hand, will never be restored once they’re ruined. That’s why it’s important to find good tailors and dry cleaners - one exchange with a bad one could ruin your favorite garments forever. 

So I’ve developed a kind of system to finding good tailors and dry cleaners in a new area. Perhaps it will be useful for you as well, whether you’ve arrived in a new place or you’re still trying to find someone reliable. Here’s my three-step process:

1. Find the local consensus: The first step is to call the very best upscale stores and hotels in the area. For stores, this can be high-end boutiques such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus; independent fine menswear stores that sell brands you respect; and internationally known brand stores such as Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, or Zegna. For hotels, this can include the Four Seasons, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, etc. Just check your Zagat Survey for the five-star operations. 

Ask the managers of these places which tailors and dry cleaners they send their work to. Hotels will obviously have dry cleaners they depend on, but menswear stores will often also have a dry cleaner that they send soiled garments to. They will most certainly at least have tailors they work with for alterations. Try to identify a consensus among these recommendations. You’re likely to spot at least two or three that everyone goes to. These will be your candidates.

2. Ask questions and identify quality operations: Call up your candidates and ask them questions about the job you’re looking to have done. Unfortunately, you have to know a little bit about tailoring and dry cleaning in order to know what are the right questions to ask. It’s beyond the scope of this article to cover these subjects, but you should search the archives of StyleForum to get a sense of the processes behind whatever you want done. Ask them about some of these technical details. A good tailor or dry cleaner should be able to discuss these things with you competently. 

Additionally, for dry cleaners, look for places that do the work on-site and, ideally, offer hand ironing. The second part is particularly critical if you have high-end suits, otherwise your nice rolling lapels may come back incorrectly pressed. 

Note that while you can often find a very skilled alterations tailor who is affordable, good dry cleaning never comes cheap. If someone tells you they only charge $25 to clean a suit and $5 to launder a shirt, and you can pick it up in just a few days, you’d be a fool to hand over your garments. 

3. Give them your worst: Everyone has low-end, ill-fitting garments they don’t wear. Send these in before you hand over things you actually favor. After you get the garment back, spend two or three weeks with it - wear it a few times, see how it fits, examine the quality, etc. For me, it takes a few weeks to really review these things. First impressions are often always positive, but three weeks in, I may notice that the work might not be done as cleanly and well as I would like. Before I trust someone with something I’ve spent a considerable amount time to find, and somewhat hefty amount of money to purchase, it’s absolutely critical that I can fully trust their work. Getting to this place can sometimes take two or three “test runs.” It might seem like a lot of hassle, but imagine the hassle you’ll go through if you had to replace some of your favorite clothes. 

Bill sent us this wedding photo, which I’ve cropped to protect the guilty.
I’d say this is a pretty solid example of too-long pants, wouldn’t you?
(Hint: yes, it is.)

Bill sent us this wedding photo, which I’ve cropped to protect the guilty.

I’d say this is a pretty solid example of too-long pants, wouldn’t you?

(Hint: yes, it is.)

Stephen at The Simply Refined sent me this video he shot with Leonard Logsdail, one of the finest tailors in the United States. Logsdail has a lot to say about the tailoring process and particularly about how important his relationship with his customers is. Very interesting stuff.

While Derek’s been busy writing up a storm here on the site, I’ve been busy myself. I spent the weekend at my annual conference, MaxFunCon. Today, I was out shooting my very last segment for season one of Put This On. I took some phone shots of Ben Harrison, our shooter, and Mr. Ryu, my tailor, while I was off camera. Look forward to Episode 6: Body and Episode 7: Personal Style soon!

Q and Answer: Why Are Vintage Ties Short?
Eijah writes to ask: For the second time, I found myself with a vintage tie I’d bought  online that was far too short. I clearly need to pay more attention. The  last time this happened, I decided I wasn’t crazy for the tie anyway,  and so I gave it away to be someone else’s problem. This time, however, I  really like the tie in question, which you can see here http://www.etsy.com/transaction/50877227 Like the last one, strangely, this very short tie doesn’t have much or any lining inside of it, and so is pretty thin.
First question: Why are these ties so short? Are they kids’ ties?  Are they from back in the day when everyone had a vest or a  double-breasted jacket and ties didn’t usually reach too far? (When I  tie it normally, it reaches just past my chest.)  
Second question: Is there anything that can be done? I really think  that I could pull this thing off in the summertime, but the only  possibility for wearing it as a tie that I can think of is to have a  tailor add a big chunk of random fabric around where it would be on my  neck (like the solid section of a knit tie) and hope that it’s never  visible. That doesn’t seem like a great idea. The only other thought  that came to me is taking it to a tailor and seeing if it can be turned  into a pocket square, but I don’t know if that’d be some kind of  horrible blasphemy or what.
Let’s address why vintage ties are so often shorter first, then address your craft project ideas.
There are a few reasons older ties are often shorter.
People were smaller. Any vintage clothing buyer can tell you that the American man of the 21st century is bigger than his grandfather was. My grandfathers were 5’11” and 5’10” or so. My father’s 6’1”. I’m 6’3”. 
Trousers had high rises. You know the classic image of an old fogey with his pants waist hiked up to his chest? Trousers used to have much higher rises. The tie simply had less distance to go to reach the belt line.
Short ties were in fashion. Before the 1950s or so, and especially before the mid-30s, ties were often worn shorter, above the belt line. Think of Oliver Hardy, for example. In the 1960s, a short, wide tie called a Kipper had a brief vogue among the peacock set.
Yeah, that’s probably a boy’s tie. It’s really, really short. A typical contemporary necktie length is about 58”, and the one you bought is 45”.
Also of note: that type of unlined tie was not uncommon in the 1960s and earlier, particularly for “Ivy League” styles and more casual ties.
Now: about your craft projects…
I love the creativity of the neck addition, but it’s so short that unless you’re a very small man, even adding 10” to the tie would still leave it pretty short. I think it’s possible, though, if you can find a tailor willing to take on a completley cockamamie project.
As far as turning it into a pocket square - if, unfolded, the tie is big enough, then that should be a pretty straightforward process. I’d make sure there’s no wear or discoloration along the folds before I tried it, and I’d expect to pay a tailor or seamstress about $20 to roll the edges.

Q and Answer: Why Are Vintage Ties Short?

Eijah writes to ask: For the second time, I found myself with a vintage tie I’d bought online that was far too short. I clearly need to pay more attention. The last time this happened, I decided I wasn’t crazy for the tie anyway, and so I gave it away to be someone else’s problem. This time, however, I really like the tie in question, which you can see here http://www.etsy.com/transaction/50877227 Like the last one, strangely, this very short tie doesn’t have much or any lining inside of it, and so is pretty thin.

First question: Why are these ties so short? Are they kids’ ties? Are they from back in the day when everyone had a vest or a double-breasted jacket and ties didn’t usually reach too far? (When I tie it normally, it reaches just past my chest.)  

Second question: Is there anything that can be done? I really think that I could pull this thing off in the summertime, but the only possibility for wearing it as a tie that I can think of is to have a tailor add a big chunk of random fabric around where it would be on my neck (like the solid section of a knit tie) and hope that it’s never visible. That doesn’t seem like a great idea. The only other thought that came to me is taking it to a tailor and seeing if it can be turned into a pocket square, but I don’t know if that’d be some kind of horrible blasphemy or what.

Let’s address why vintage ties are so often shorter first, then address your craft project ideas.

There are a few reasons older ties are often shorter.

  • People were smaller. Any vintage clothing buyer can tell you that the American man of the 21st century is bigger than his grandfather was. My grandfathers were 5’11” and 5’10” or so. My father’s 6’1”. I’m 6’3”. 
  • Trousers had high rises. You know the classic image of an old fogey with his pants waist hiked up to his chest? Trousers used to have much higher rises. The tie simply had less distance to go to reach the belt line.
  • Short ties were in fashion. Before the 1950s or so, and especially before the mid-30s, ties were often worn shorter, above the belt line. Think of Oliver Hardy, for example. In the 1960s, a short, wide tie called a Kipper had a brief vogue among the peacock set.
  • Yeah, that’s probably a boy’s tie. It’s really, really short. A typical contemporary necktie length is about 58”, and the one you bought is 45”.

Also of note: that type of unlined tie was not uncommon in the 1960s and earlier, particularly for “Ivy League” styles and more casual ties.

Now: about your craft projects…

I love the creativity of the neck addition, but it’s so short that unless you’re a very small man, even adding 10” to the tie would still leave it pretty short. I think it’s possible, though, if you can find a tailor willing to take on a completley cockamamie project.

As far as turning it into a pocket square - if, unfolded, the tie is big enough, then that should be a pretty straightforward process. I’d make sure there’s no wear or discoloration along the folds before I tried it, and I’d expect to pay a tailor or seamstress about $20 to roll the edges.

What Is Traditional American Style?

Our most recent video, Tradition, features a conversation with Jay Walter, a true-blue American style traditionalist. The American aesthetic is largely a creation of the mid-20th century, and after some years of being maligned, it’s being re-evaluated at the moment, as “Ivy League” style (a close variant) has its moment.

Above are two men in tailored clothing. In black and white, we see a customer at J. Press in the mid-20th century. In color, we see a contemporary photo of Patrick Grant, proprietor of Norton & Sons, a Savile Row tailor. Each of these guys is wearing an outfit that couldn’t be more emblematic of their nation’s signature styles.

Difference to note (pictured and unpictured):

  • The American suit features what’s called a 3-roll-2 buttoning arrangement. That means that there are three buttons on the front,but only two are openly visible and only one is intended to be used. The third (top) button rolls under the lapel. This is a classic button arrangement for suits of any nation, but it’s particularly vital to the American look. The English suit is in a classic English configuration: a narrow double-breasted.
  • The shoulders of the American jacket are soft and nearly unpadded. This is called a “natural shoulder,” and it’s comfortable and casual. Contrast this with the built-up, strongly-shaped shoulder on the Savile Row suit.
  • The American jacket lacks darts (folds, sewn into the fabric for shape) on the front. Most continental jackets have a dart on each side, running from about nipple level to the waist. This gives the jacket shape over and above the shaping permitted by the side seams. The classic undarted American coat is called a “sack,” because, well, it’s sack-like, rather than following the countour of the front of the body.
  • The classic American jacket has a single vent in the back, often a “hook vent.” The hook vent, a J. Press innovation, is cut wider at the top (giving it a hook-like shape) to prevent awkward splaying. An English coat is typically double-vented (sometimes called side-vented), which helps prevent splaying. Sometimes it’s unvented, in the style of the “golden age” of men’s style, the 1930s.
  • Pants in the classic American suit are, as Jay Walter described in our piece, typically flat-front, rather than pleated. They often have plain fronts as well. Generally, this is a simpler, more relaxed style.

There are of course other difference in the aesthetics - Americans have a predilection for button-down collars, even sometimes wearing them with suits, for example. The knit tie is a particularly Ivy League aesthetic. Belts are favored over braces, and loafers, especially penny loafers, are beloved.

The end result is a distinctive, American aesthetic. The shape is youthful. Because it lacks darts, the jacket falls straight, rather than emphasizing the shoulders and chest and narrowing the waist. The goal here is to attain the slim, straight body of the 20 year old, rather than the strong-shouldered, broad-chested body of the Powerful Man favored on Savile Row.

Of course, this style is just as much associated with an insurance salesman in Muskogee as it is with a young Bobby Kennedy. On the hefty man these youngsters of the 1950s and 60s became, the look has a different effect. The shapelessness and weak shoulders of the look can make a heavy man look, for lack of a better word, dumpy. Still: it is classic, comfortable and proudly American.

What’s important to remember is that a suit’s silhouette isn’t an absolute value, following exactly the curves of the body. There are choices about what to emphasize, what to de-emphasize, what to build up and what to slim down. These are informed by individual aesthetics and cultural tradition. I hope this will help you make informed choices for your own wardrobe.