With prom and wedding season, most men have worn a suit that has been sized at least somewhat to fit them, but how do you know if it fits you well? What do you need to look for to get a jacket that enhances your overall look?
Tailors don’t know everything, and you can’t always rely on them to give you the precise fit that you need to look your best.
The short answer is easy:
The jacket should sit smoothly against your body. No gaps, no wrinkles, and no dimpling – like a second, more attractive, skin.
Want more information? Let’s start at the top.
Just like your shirt collar should hug your neck, your jacket collar should hug your shirt. Put on the jacket and look straight on into the mirror. Do you see a small gap that forms around the rim of your neck? If so, the jacket is too large and will need to be brought in.
Now have a look at the collar from the side . Just behind the collar on your upper back – is it smooth? When I purchased my most recent suit, the collar fit beautifully from the front, it hugged the shirt and lay nice and flat. When looked at from the side however, the jacket had some significant bunching on the upper back. This meant that the jacket was actually just a bit to tight across my shoulders. Thankfully, my tailor was able to easily adjust this section so that it lay smoothly across my shoulders.
I’ve stressed the importance of shoulder fit repeatedly in the other fit articles, and the same is true of suit jackets. The shoulders of your jacket should end at the end of your shoulders, and not stick out beyond them. The best trick I’ve ever read for testing shoulder fit is the wall test by Dappered. Place the jacket on and stand vertically next to a wall. Now lean into the wall slowly. Does your shoulder and the jacket hit at the same time? If not, and the shoulder pad of the jacket hits first, try a size down.
The lapel of your jacket  should lie flat against the front of your chest. There are two good ways to check fit here, but first let me talk about buttoning your jacket.
You should never, ever, button the bottom button of a jacket.
Jackets are designed for this button to be left undone to give movement and flow to the fabric. The only exception to this is if you are wearing a one button jacket . In this case, there is one button – use it. If you’re wearing a two button suit, button only the top button. If you are wearing a jacket with three buttons, you have two options. You can button both top buttons, or if your lapel rolls nicely, you can leave the top button unbuttoned as well. This will extend the length of the ‘V’ of shirt that is visible through your jacket and tends to add length to your torso.
Okay, back to the lapel fit:
- The Hand Test:
- With the jacket on and buttoned, reach your hand inside your jacket as if you were reaching for your wallet in the jacket pocket. You should be able to do this easily without too much pulling of the jacket. If you can make a fist without too much pulling, then it’s too big.
- The ‘X’ Test:
- Stand again facing a mirror with the jacket buttoned. If the jacket draws in tightly creating an ‘X’ across your waist, then the jacket is too tight.
- As with a shirt, if there are vertical lines of relaxed fabric, then the jacket is too large.
There are three areas that you really should pay attention to on the sleeves: the length, the arm holes, and the pitch.
The length of the sleeves is the most straightforward. The sleeves of your jacket should stop at the two bones in your wrist. If you followed my guide on dress shirt fit, this will leave between a quarter and a half inch of fabric sticking out from the end of your jacket sleeve. This adds the perfect amount of contrast and keeps your sleeves from getting in the way.
The cut of arm holes varies dramatically in the US, and this is one of the best things that the “European invasion” of clothing has brought over. Arm holes are literally the holes in your jacket that are cut out to attach to the sleeves. Traditionally, American suits have had very low armholes which means that the bottom of the sleeve is not attached at your armpit, but rather further down your side. This has the unfortunate side effect of deforming your jacket oddly when you move and making it seem like you are wearing a large bag rather than a trim jacket.
To test for this, wear the jacket, buttoned, and place your arms by your sides. Now reach forward as if you were pointing, shaking hands, or starting the ‘Thriller’ dance. Do your arms move easily? Do the sides of your jacket pull forward creating a large gap in front of your chest? If the arms pull, unfortunately, you should try on a different jacket or brand. Fixing low armholes after the fact at a tailor is difficult  if not impossible. Abandon that one and try, try again.
Finally, the sleeve pitch can also be checked using the armhole test. When your arms are by your side, does the arm material lay flat, or does it pull as if it’s being twisted? If it’s twisting, try a different brand that fits your natural frame better.
The back of your jacket is often overlooked, even by those of us who pay attention to these sorts of things. The jacket should sit smoothly on your back without any excess wrinkling, and the vents  should lie flat and not be pulled when standing still. Also, you should be able to move in your jacket. If while making normal movements, it feels that the back might rip, the jacket is too tight.
The overall trend in recent years has been to shorter and shorter jackets. But you’re not here for trends. The typical length test is to hold your arms down by your sides and curl your fingers under the bottom of the jacket. In theory, this should curl around your second knuckle. I don’t like this measurement – people’s arm lengths and hands are far too inconsistent to make this work well. Instead focus on where the jacket hits your lower body. Get a jacket that is long enough to mostly cover your rear end. If it’s resting on top of your butt, it’s too high, and if it’s hitting your upper leg, it’s far too long.
The fit of a jacket is one of the most difficult things to get right, and if you manage it, you’ll be ahead of most every guy you meet. A sport jacket with a great fit can class up any outfit and make you look great. There is no piece of clothing that makes me feel better and more confident to take on the world, than a jacket that I know fits just right.
- this is easiest to do with the help of those 3 part mirrors in most men’s department dressing rooms ↩
- You can see the original article here: http://dappered.com/2013/05/5-clothing-fit-tricks-every-guy-should-know/ ↩
- the front collar piece that wraps from your neck down to the buttons ↩
- these are typically only found in very formal jackets, like tuxedos ↩
- read ‘expensive’ ↩
- slits in your jacket to allow room for movement ↩