Assessing A Suit’s Longevity - Tailors And Suit Makers For Men  

No other garment in the history of fashion better connotes an image of formal continuity and authority than the man’s tailored suit jacket. The permanence of its form relies on a set of design relationships whose formal composition accommodates a surprising variety. During the past thirty years, fashion has remolded the jacket’s envelope into temporal configuration ranging from boxy and short to fitted and long, each with different dispositions of button and trim. At the same time, its components have varied in shape, texture, and behavior. In spite of all these provisional arrangement, as the century draws to a close, the suit jacket continues to set the universal standard for civility in masculine attire.

While fabrics and patterns usually attract the eye first, the most important thing to consider in a suit is its silhouette. Most suits are made to last as least several years; however, more often than not, a suit’s proportions determine its useful lifetime. A suit that is extreme in silhouette is more likely to go out of style before it falls apart. The right choice can give you years of pleasure; the wrong one will haunt your closet. However, once chosen, the suit’s fit, not its design should be the focus one’s attention.

In assessing a jacket’s potential life span, four element of its design should be considered. There are the garment’s “bones”. When in accordance with the wearer’s architecture, they should flatter and enhance his stature. If the coat’s geometry conflicts with the wearer’s or deviates too far from the archetype’s acknowledged grace notes of style, the coat’s staying power will be significantly weakened.

THE SHOULDERS

As the widest part of the jacket, the shoulders’ expression sets the mood for the entire garment. The assertive eighties saw jacket shoulders attain aircraft carrier returned the shoulders to a less obtrusive, more classic positioning. Most of history’s best-dressed men had their shoulders tailored to look natural yet smart. Unless a man is extremely slope-shouldered or self-consciously short and needs the illusion of height, padded shoulders should be avoided.

The square, high shoulder became internationally fashionable with the emergence of Rome’s “Continental look” in the late fifties. Then, in the late sixties, Pierre Cardin’s hourglass suit reinforced the notion that strong shoulders were a criterion for high style. Today, gives the priority placed on understand comfort, even in the sculpted shoulder’s birthplace, the sophisticated Italian wears his hand-tailored shoulders soft, sloped, and less studied

Close attention need also be paid to the shoulder’s width. Since they frame the head, if the shoulders are cut too narrow, the head will appear larger than it actually is; if they are cut too wide, the head will appear disproportionately small.

Their width should be generous enough to permit the jacket’s fabric to fall from the shoulder in a smooth, unbroken line all the way down the sleeve. If the width hugs too narrowly, the man’s shoulder muscle will bulge out from under the top of the sleeve head, that point at which the jacket sleeve is attached to the should.

The jacket also needs enough fullness across the front and back to lie flat on a man’s chest without pulling open. A man with a strong chest requires a larger sized jacket just to accommodate this prominence. Fullness over the shoulder blades with breaks extending upward on the back from below the armholes allows ample room for free action. This extra fabric also causes the jacket to drape properly. A tight fit over the shoulder blades can make you fell as if you are in a straitjacket.

Sharp angles formed on either side of the head create an artificial formality. Stylish dressing is distinguished by its naturalness and unconscious ease. The more aggressive shoulder line is the mark of someone who is trying to look more important than he actually feels.

JACKET LENGTH

The correct length of an average man’s jacket can vary up to ½” without diminishing its longevity. Altering its length can play havoc with the hip pockets, moving them out of balance with the whole. Your appropriate jacket length can be established using several methods. Regardless of which is chosen, one principle must be kept in mind: the coat has to be long enough to cover the curvature of a man’s buttocks.

The first approach utilizes the arm as a guide, the other the torso. With the first method, a man uses the knuckle of his thumb to line up the bottom of his jacket. Though generally reliable, this formula has one draw back. A man with a short or average torso but long arms can end up with too long a coat. While its hip pockets may be more accessible, its excess length will swallow up his legs.

Employing the second method, the tailor measures from under the jacket’s back collar, where the collar is joined to the coat’s body, down to the floor and divides by two.

In the absence of a jacket, a buttoned shirt collar may be substituted as a starting point. This is the procedure taught in all formal tailoring schools. Both guidelines originated with America’s introduction of ready-made tailored clothing for men, which needed to establish generalities upon which to base its standards of fit. However, since either of these can be influenced by dimensions unique to the wearer’s physique, a top custom tailor will trust his learned eye to take in the whole picture before deciding on the jacket’s ideal length.

THE WAIST BUTTON

The waist button is to a suit jacket what the fulcrum is to a seesaw. If it’s off center, a delicate balance is lost. When the waist button is fastened, the entire body should be in proportion, with both legs and torso appearing at their maximum length. Since the button functions as an axis, raise it and you abbreviate the torso, lower it and the torso becomes elongated but the leg line is shortened. The correct placement of this critical element occurs ½” below the natural waist. To find your natural waist, put your hands around the smallest part of your torso. With the suit jacket’s final fitting, most custom tailors will pull on the fastened waist button to confirm that there is enough fullness in the jacket’s waist while observing how the coat moves on the body. An incorrectly positioned waist button calls the garment’s pedigree into immediate question.

THE GORGE

The gorge is that point where the collar and lapel meet. The coat’s design determines its positioning. While there is some flexibility in its placement on the upper chest, move it outside of this area to where it becomes a focal point and you court instant obsolescence. One American designer used to cut his lapels so high, his coats looked as if they 1980s Giorgio Armani dropped his so low, they are now decorating the backs of their owners’ closets. The lapel needs to have enough sweep to produce a graceful upswing without finishing so high on the collarbone as to make the coat appear as if it were moving backward.

Twenty years ago, this design element was never an issue. Today if the jacket’s gorge is out of sync it is usually because its placement is too low. Done initially to loosen up the coat’s starchiness, dropping the gorge too low also loosen up the coat’s longevity. Like all element of classic design, the placement of the gorge should follow geometric logic, not the arbitrariness of fashion.

INTO THE FITTING ROOM

Proper fitting can do much for a less costly suit, while a poor fit can scuttle the most expensively hand-tailored creation. If a$3,000 suit’s collar is bouncing off your neck as you walk, the suit’s value will be severely compromised. The jacket collar that creeps up or stands away from your neck is the fault of the tailor, unless he fit it while you assumed a posture other than your normal one. When standing in front of tailor’s mirror, relax, Do not stand at attention unless that is your natural stance. Standing overly erect can affect the way the tailor fits the jacket collar to your neck. Collar alterations will be even more accurate if you wear a dress shirt’s collar showing above the jacket; ¾” should be exposed when wearing awing collar.

Since there should be the same amount of linen rising above the jacket’s color as that which peeks out from under its sleeve, let’s move on to sleeve length. Ninety percent of all men wear their coat sleeve too long and therefore are unable to slow that ½” of shirt cuff that dresses the hand of any well-attires gentleman. Since most dress shirt sleeves either shrink or are bought too short, they cannot be seen even if the jacket’s sleeve have been correctly fitted. Most tailors, in an effort to cover the wrist, finish the coat sleeve where the shirt sleeve is supposed to end. The jacket sleeve should extend to where the wrist breaks with the hand. This length should reveal ½” of the shirt cuff. The band of linen between sleeve and hand, like that above the jacket collar, is one of the details that defines the sophisticated dresser.

VENTS

In less than a dozen years, vent less jackets have gone from avant-garde to mainstream. This design gives the hip a cleaner, more slimming line while lending the suit a dressier stature. Though aesthetically pleasing, vent less backs lack function, as they prevent easy access to the trouser pockets in addition to wrinkling more easily from sitting. However, as this back gives a man’s torso a leaner, sexier shape, most men ignore its inconvenience.

The center vent, an American predilection, is the least aesthetic venting option, though it offers more utility than having no vent at all. While perfectly designed for spreading the two sides of a rider’s jacket across the saddle of a horse, its original intention, the single vent looks awful when a man, having put his hand in his trouser or jacket pocket, pulls it open to reveal his derriere and, if the vent is cut high enough, a fringe of disordered shirt. Savile Row custom tailors avoid the center vent like the plaque unless it is imposed upon them by a visitor from the Colonies. The single vent’s only saving grace is that it can be altered to better conceal a prominent hip than either the ready-made vent less or double-vented jacket.

The double vent or side slit offers the best combination of function and form. When you put your hands in your trouser pockets, the side vent’s flap stays down, covering the buttocks. If you are seated, the flap moves away, thereby minimizing distortions thus created, because the side vent moves the observer’s eye up from the bottom of the jacket. Since double-vented coats are costlier to manufacture and more difficult to fit than other models, you see them less frequently. However, the well-designed side-vented jacket gives its wearer a dash of style that bespeaks its English pedigree and custom-tailored tradition.

From Style and The Man by Alan Flusser

 

 


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