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Top 10 Signs You’re in a Poor Fitting Suit

The 2020 Update - How your suit should fit

There are always going to be online lists pointing out the dos and don’ts of suit etiquette. They outline a very generic right and wrong, black and white opinion on where men’s fashion is at currently. They seem to speak to a suit-buying customer who’s in the market for their first garment. Suit 101, entry-level stuff.

A few of their opinions are spot on, but there are not nearly enough points on the importance of fit, and especially what makes a bad fit. It's one of the things we find people are most uncertain about, so we've identified some of the finer details to watch for when determining whether or not a suit actually fits you properly. 

These are timeless rules that won't change as suit styles evolve, so memorize 'em, bookmark the post, do whatever you've got to do to make sure you're never wearing a poor fitting suit again. 

These are The Helm’s Top Ten Signs You’re in a Poor Fitting Suit

10. Jacket shoulder sag/bite 

When trying on a jacket, the first thing you should look at is the shoulder. There are a couple of major signs that the suit you’re wearing isn't the right fit:  shoulder sag and shoulder bite. Both are bad, but sag is the greater of the two evils. These debacles occur when the jacket’s shoulder width doesn’t match the shoulders of the wearer.

When the shoulders/armholes of a suit or sport jacket are too tight, you get a divot on the arm towards the back of the sleeve head, known as bite

When the shoulders are too wide you end up with shoulder sag – the '90s Chicago banker look. You know what we mean. 

If you notice sag or bite when trying on a jacket, it's best to try a different size or go the custom route. A tailor can fix it to some degree, but it's difficult to adjust and will probably be expensive. A jacket should fall clean off your shoulder, with a slight amount of shoulder coming out beyond the armhole. 

 

9. The jacket's front button stance is too high and pops

Button stance has been a long-debated topic in the menswear scene. Many of today’s ready-to-wear jackets have a mid-to-high button stance, especially from contemporary Italian clothing manufacturers.

A higher button stance can look quite casual and trendy when worn properly, but when it’s too tight the result is terrible – especially if the wearer’s sporting a bit of a belly.

The higher the button stance, the shorter your torso will look when the jacket is done up. This can be a good or bad thing depending on a guy’s body shape. It's ideal if you're on the shorter side and want to lengthen the appearance of your legs.

The top button on a two-button suit should hover between 1-3 fingers above the belly button and will pull ever so slightly when done up (depending on the look the wearer is going for). If it is too high and tight, it will "pop" or pull too aggressively. 

2nd photo in point 7 represents an incorrectly high button stance.

 8. The jacket's chest breaks/gapes

The chest of a suit or sport jacket should always follow the shape of the wearer's chest! A gaping coat chest is not a good look and neither is chest break. A chest break usually happens when the jacket is too small, and chest gape usually happens when it's too big. It can also have to do with where the shoulder is sitting in general. 

If either of these issues are evident when trying on ready-to-wear garments and going up or down a size doesn't fix it, you should really consider custom options to correct the problem.

7. The suit jacket is too long and looks like a dress or shows too much seat and crotch

Shorter jackets are trendy, but don't take it too far. Your suit jacket should cover 80% of your butt and crotch. This is the rule. It's non-negotiable.

If trendy is not your thing and you’re still wearing jackets down to your fingertips, you need to correct that situation as well!

Generally, the bottom edge of a jacket should end between the two knuckles on your thumb. This rule can be pushed a little bit when wearing a casual sport coat because they tend to be a little shorter.

6. The pant has a saggy seat

Tailors exist. There is no need for this. If your pants have a saggy seat, get it taken in. 

 

5. The pant pockets pop like elephant ears

This is a tough one and not easily solved with a quick trip to the tailor. The pockets on a trouser should lay flat and clean against the side of a man’s hip. If they pop, your pants don’t fit like they should!

Popping pockets occur when the seat is too tight or the stride doesn’t offer enough thigh room. The tighter the fit, the bigger the pop. This is an important fit issue to watch for. And again, if you’re not having luck with ready-to-wear trousers you should consider custom.

4. The jacket collar is sporting a roll behind the neck! 

Collar roll. The worst! But again, this is something that a good tailor can correct. Collar roll happens for two reasons--either the posture of the wearer is upright and erect or the person has high shoulders. These evils can easily be dealt with by any saintly tailor.  

 

3. The pants have a '90s Chicago banker look

A friend of ours was in Chicago on vacation not too long ago and snapped a photo of some business guy having drinks in the Financial District. Not to rip on Americans for their poor fashion sense, but the guy in the photo looked comical. The guy's suit looked to be circa 1994: super long jacket and trousers. Don't get caught looking like a '90s Chicago banker! 

Your trousers should fit clean through the thigh and somewhat narrow at the bottom – relative to your build. They should also fall clean against your shoe, with a slight break in the front. Trousers should never ever break at the back of the shoe.

2. The jacket sleeves are covering your knuckles

Another easy fix. The sleeve should rest just above the hinge where your hand meets your wrist. If all of your jackets are tailored to this point and your shirts fit properly, you’ll always show the proper amount of shirt cuff, which should be between 1/4" - 1/2".

  

1. The dreaded collar gap!

This is the #1 cardinal sin in tailored clothing! It's not something most people know to look for, but the collar gap is a telltale sign that you are wearing the wrong jacket. This is where there's a space between the collar of your jacket and the collar of your shirt. 

Your jacket collar should always lay clean and tight against the back of your neck. Sometimes it’s a sizing issue and sometimes it’s a balance issue. Whatever the case, make sure it doesn’t happen to you! 

 

These are the top things to look for when buying fine tailored clothing. By following these ten guidelines you’re bound to look sharp in your suit. If any of these faux pas apply to a suit you are currently wearing, you know who to call. (It's us. Call us.) 


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