Choosing wisely what shirt collar and cuffs to wear is fundamental to setting the tone of your appearance. A change of the collar or cuffs won’t change the language of your look but will give it a different accent. For example, a cutaway collar is decidedly more formal than a button down and a point collar is more staid or common than a tab or pin collar. French cuffs are more formal than the more common barrel cuff. But, it’s really not about your shirt’s collar and cuffs. It’s about your face and hands.
How your Body Type determines the Cut of your Clothing
As quoted by Nicholas Antongiavanni (pen name), in his book The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men’s Style, Xenophon wrote in his Life of Cyrus (4th or 5th century B.C.) “It is not reasonable that a big man wear a little coat, or that a small man wear a big coat, and expect to look smart.”
Albeit getting the size of your clothing correct may not prove very challenging, getting the best “cut,” especially for a tailored jacket, often proves to be more elusive. Each variation of cut is designed to emphasize one thing and to downplay another. Since it could mean other things, when I speak of the “cut” of clothing, I am referring to the basic shape and style as well the proportions of a given garment.
For every body type there are particular cuts of clothing that simply look better than others. For men, body type is based on three main dimensional factors:
- Height (Vertical)
- Girth (Horizontal)
- Proportion (Distribution)
To keep it simple, with the respect to the vertical dimension, a person is tall, average, or short (diminutive). Horizontally, a man is of ample girth (stout), average, or thin (slight). With regard to proportion, a man is V-shaped (chest wider than hips), average (chest and hips about the same), or A-shaped (hips noticeably wider than chest).
How would you describe/categorize your dimensions?
What cuts of clothing look best on you?
If you fit with “average” in all three categories, well lucky you! You can wear pretty much whatever you want and look good, assuming that what you choose is in good taste, appropriate to your level of maturity, station in life….that sort of thing. If, however, you fit into any one of the other categories, then what you choose to wear will require more thought and attention.
All of the following advice assumes that you want to use clothing to its best advantage – to create some illusion or ideal – whether to make yourself look taller, thinner, less imposing, or to improve your chance at a desired association or result. The basic idea then is to create a visual counter balance to anything that may be out of balance – to visually emphasize an opposite of your natural body type in order to balance your appearance.
Space will not permit an example of what to do for every body type, but the following should give you a framework to use for your individual situation.
Short (vertical)/Average (girth)/Average (proportion)
Two-button with a lower button position or a Three-button (soft roll), high armhole, high notch and narrow lapels, roped shoulder, with a coat length as short as possible while still covering the seat. Slightly more than average cutaway in front will allow more of the pant to be visible. No vents or pocket flaps.
Worn high on the waist, beltless, with a single pleat and no cuffs. The pant length should be as long as possible without breaking too much on top of the shoe.
All of those design details accentuate the vertical, working to create the illusion of height. A two-button coat with lower button position creates a long lapel while a three-button coat also draws out a vertical emphasis. The higher notch and more structured shoulder elevates the eye, and a higher waist, beltless pant provides the longest possible leg line, while a single pleat is trimmer than a pant with more pleats. A flat front pant would also work, though it would typically be worn lower, more on the hips. In that case, I would suggest less cut away on the jacket, because the goal for the vertically challenged is to continue all vertical lines as much as possible.
Two-button (or soft roll three button), easy-fit, standard notch and lapel width, natural shoulder, coat length that covers the seat or slightly longer. A tall man with ample girth will do better to keep coat details to a minimum. If of average girth or relatively thin, then he should wear more pattern and texture and add details such as pocket flaps and a ticket pocket. A tall, thin man will always look especially smart in double-breasted clothing as well.
Worn at the natural waist, with forward pleats (facing toward zipper) and cuffs, fitting with a bit of ease. This style will do the most to counter the effect of girth, especially when viewed from the profile. If the pants must be worn below an ample mid section, then they should be flat front and still have an easy fit. Pleats worn lower on the waist have no chance of draping properly. A man with ample girth or stout of build should never wear trim fitting clothing if he wants to be comfortable and look his best.
Those are but two examples, but, in any case, the goal along this line of thinking is to arrive at the best style and cut choice for your particular build. From that point, any deviations based on fashion or style preference will at least be better informed decisions, and you will find yourself wearing your clothing in comfort and with a more confident swagger.
Is there another body type you’d like to ask about?
Always a cut above,
Could Civilization (western anyway) survive without it?
My first serious piece of clothing from the local men’s store (The Squire) was a navy blazer – a wool/poly blend, purchased for my high school graduation. I realize that some of you reading this got your first blazer at a much earlier age; but for me, that jacket was symbolic of my transition into manhood and filled me with pride.
Not including the powder blue leisure suit, purchased a few years earlier, of which nothing more needs to be said, I didn’t get my first “real” suit, a three-piece grey herringbone, until I was a senior in college. A more modern approach to wardrobe building might be to purchase the suit first; with a blazer (and grey trousers)being the second addition. Either way, the essential nature and casual elegance of a navy blazer is inarguable.
For those who care about such things, red, green, navy or blue, or a boldly striped cloth containing similar tones, would all fall within the range of acceptability for a jacket properly referred to as a blazer. Respected sources, G. Bruce Boyer in particular, suggest that the original blazer was in fact “red” and was worn by the members of the Lady Margaret Boat Club of St. John’s College, Cambridge.
The term “blazer” referred more to the color – which appeared to be set-a-blaze – than to anything else about the jacket. The model for what most of us now think of as a blazer has nautical roots, thus the term “navy blazer.” Midshipmen in the British Navy began wearing short navy jackets called “reefers” as early as the 1820’s. (The multiple meanings of the term “reefer” are the subject of a different blog.)
Navy blue, more than any other hue, has long been the international standard for the most fundamental and versatile of “odd jackets” (a jacket not belonging to a full suit of clothes.) The most traditional cloths for a blazer are wool serge, gabardine, or flannel. More often than not a blazer would be accented by gold (or brass) buttons, historically exhibiting the crest of one’s family or club. For a more relaxed look the buttons could also be bone or mother-of-pearl, ranging in color from white to a medium or even dark brown.
The navy or blue blazer remains a beloved and iconic wardrobe essential because of its universal acceptance, extreme versatility, and at least a mildly subconscious if not direct connection to the sea and a sense of discovery. What’s better, there are numerous ways to fine tune the details of a blazer to make it both a classic and very personal expression. Your Tom James Clothier can help you design one that is just right for you.
Already have a blazer? Think that a blazer is just too basic? Consider these five ways to update your blazer in a way that you will thoroughly enjoy:
- If the blazer you own is made from a smooth cloth, choose one with noticeably more texture. Or vice versa.
- Pick a new shade of navy or blue. Dare to go blue and enjoy the compliments.
- Go Double Breasted this time. Classic elegance epitomized.
- Get a new blazer with an updated, trimmer fit.
- Have your next blazer made by Oxxford (Worth every penny. It will change the way you think and feel about clothing.)
Blazing new trails,
Ten Sure Ways to Successfully Mix Up your Look (aka rejuvenate your wardrobe)
– Part Four
I’m not done talking about Wedding Season, but as a brief interlude, here is the final installment of the series we began earlier this year. Most of the other ways, previously mentioned, to mix up your look are relative child’s play when compared with the topic of the day.
I Revere You… Masculine Man of Strength! – Return of the Double Breasted Jacket
Whether in fact or illusion, a well-cut double breasted jacket, with the exaggerated ‘V’ created by the lines of lapels as they descend from the shoulders, creates a strong, masculine and somewhat regal image, one which commands a certain reverence. Popular between the wars (WWI and WWII that is) and again from the early 80’s through the mid-90’s, wearers of double breasted clothing have exuded a certain aura of strength and vitality, possessing “an undeniable jauntiness.”
The night I met my wife I was wearing an impeccably cut six-on-one (one button, six to show) double breasted suit, cut from a most amazing cloth – a blend of Super 140’s wool, cashmere and mink – that Holland & Sherry 1838 called “Victory.” If I could still fit into that slim 33” waist I would wear it again today. My bride would be the first to admit that the suit played a definite role in her giving me not only a fair audition, but a life-long call back.
Not designed for the every man’s day-to-day attire, double breasted jackets lend an air of formality, and carry with them a bit of the dandy – ever so slightly excessive in elegance. If for no other reason, men of reputation and a certain distinction would do well to include double breasted clothing among their choices for important events of a social nature (including business social) and special occasions.
When properly cut and fitted, the long diagonal line created by the lapel, in concert with the pointed shape of the peak lapel will cause the wearer (all but the shortest) to appear more athletic and slimmer. Though the aforementioned Six-on-One creates a longer line, the classic British Six-on-Two (two button, six to show) model shown above is the preferred style of the day, and always preferred by the classically attired. The Six-on-Two should be styled with side (double) vents, because the coat should be buttoned while standing, and double vents are the only way to gracefully access the trouser pockets, in addition to maintaining the style’s basic geometry and essential panache. This would be a perfect opportunity to acquire a custom made suit.
Note: A modern double breasted jacket is decidedly trimmer and a bit shorter than those of prior eras. The navy blazer pictured above is from the “old school,” shown for the purpose of comparison, and because a blazer is a top tier choice for including the DB style.
If after all of that, you’re still not of a mind to consider some new double breasted clothing at this point, a perfect transition style might be a single breasted jacket with peak lapels, instead of the conventional notch.