I’d like to think that I have a reasonably healthy view on rules. Like Pete, I think rules change over time, and dressing well is about “sticking to your principles, but being flexible on the details.” Here’s one rule that I stick by, however (and think you should too): avoid the dreaded shirt triangle.
For the last fifteen years, men’s tailoring has shrunk. Suit jackets and sport coats are now tighter and shorter; trouser waistbands are lower. Sometimes these sort of cuts work on thin models (typically ones with broad shoulders), but they rarely work for the average guy on the street.
The worst part of this look is the “shirt triangle” that shows up under the jacket’s buttoning point (the middle button on a three-button jacket, or the top button on a two-button jacket). In the first three photos above, you can see the wearers’ shirts peeking out. Other times, it’s the phallic tip of the tie or even the belt buckle.
Don’t wear suits like this. It looks awful. Like a guy who borrowed his kid brother’s jacket and then brought it to a chop-shop tailor.
Some will say this is part of Italian style, where – especially in the southern parts of the country – people like the lower parts of their jackets to sweep back towards their hips. This is false. See Mariano Rubinacci, who heads-up the most famous tailoring shop in Naples, or Ethan Newton from Bryceland’s, who’s wearing a jacket from Liverano & Liverano here. You can have slightly more open fronts without showing the bottom half of the shirt. It just requires good tailoring.
Here are some tips for avoiding that shirt triangle:
- Buy Jackets That Fit: Part of this is about guys buying jackets that are too tight for them, and then tightening them further by cinching in the waist. Check out this video from The Armoury on how a suit jacket should fit. The jacket shown has a lot of shape, but towards the end of the video, you can see Alan See pull on the waist, showing how much room there is around the midsection. Don’t buy jackets that fit like corsets.
- Get Shape Elsewhere: The reason why guys cinch their waist so tightly is because they want that V-shaped figure. And unless you have the figure for it, sometimes you need to bring that midsection closer to the body. Here’s a tip: instead of cinching the waist, consider getting that V-shape by extending the shoulders. The waist will look smaller by comparison.
- Bring Up Those Pants: Pretty straightforward. A higher rise will leave less space for your shirt and tie to show. Unfortunately, higher-rise pants also tend to be cut pretty full. If you can find a pair that fits well around the thighs and seat, know that an alterations tailor can taper the legs below the knee.
- Avoid High Buttoning Points: Similarly, avoid jackets that button too high on the torso. Ideally, your jacket should button at your natural waist (the smallest part around your torso, where you would bend from side to side). Jesse has a good post about this here.
- Open Your Jacket: Sometimes, you just can’t find the right jacket and trousers to make this work. If so, just avoid buttoning your jacket. Seriously, it’ll look better than having that awful shirt triangle show.
Now, we’re not sticklers about it. Sometimes, depending on the cut, a bit of the tie can show and it’s not a big deal. The shirt and tie will also show a little more when your jacket is buttoned and your hands are in your trouser pockets. And sometimes the fronts will open up when you walk. But check out the photos above – don’t the more classic styles look better than the first three?