Personally, I don’t think a man will ever look better than he does when he wears a suit. It can be worn at a variety of occasions and locations without ever looking too out of place, all the while enabling the individual to look and feel truly stylish.
However, a man will never look worse than when he wears a suit wrong. By which I mean, without putting any thought into getting it tailored. Because unless you are very, very lucky, the chances of an off-the-rack suit fitting you perfectly are slim at best. Be it high street or designer, suits are all cut from a precise block in order to fit the specific sort of clientele the brand is after. Sometimes that will be you, and sometimes it won’t be.
One way you can guarantee that a suit will fit you is through after-tailoring. With a few small alterations to the jacket and trousers, you will see an unbelievable transformation in the way that it wears on your body and the way your body appears in it. As far as I’m concerned, there are far too many guys walking around in suits that don’t fit them and there’s no excuse for it. Well, not after reading this article anyway.
Tailoring can also make a relatively inexpensive suit look expensive, so for the guys out there who think that looking good in a suit is out of their price range – you’re wrong, son.
Step 1: Before You Start
Before you even consider heading to a tailor, you need to make sure that you at least get a few things right concerning the fit of your suit.
The jacket should fit you in the shoulder: it should hug your shoulders and encourage you to hold yourself upright. You should not be able to do an over arm throw comfortably in your jacket but you should be able to raise your arms. For example, I’m a 41″ chest in suit jackets but if I find myself in between sizes I opt for a 40″ to be on the safe side.
Furthermore, make sure that the trousers fit you in the thigh rather than at the waist. A tailor really won’t be able to help you in this department if they are too tight as there is no more extra material available to widen the trouser and stop it looking like they’re about to explode when you sit down. Don’t worry if the waist size is too big, the tailor can take it in easily.
Getting A Suit Tailored
To help demonstrate what tailoring can do for a suit, our friends at T.M Lewin on Jermyn Street, London offered for us to come down and try on a few suits, and then get one tailored to our needs.
I obliged (obviously) and decided on a classic navy two button notch lapel suit. I went for a 41″ jacket/36″ waist and started to get pinned for the alterations.
The first thing I did was get the trousers hemmed at the bottom as the brand’s trousers come unfinished – i.e. really long with no finish. It is all about personal preference when it comes to what is referred to as the ‘break’ on a trouser.
I tend to have little to no break on mine but as that’s not what most men enjoy I decided to have them hemmed a little longer than usual. As a good general guideline, have your tailor pin the back of your trousers to where the sole of your shoe starts and the front to where the laces of your shoes begin.
From there I just worked up. The material around the seat (read: arse) of the trousers was pulling slightly, so I decided to have them let out by three-quarters of an inch to give myself a bit more room and allow the material to drape naturally. This is another thing guys should remember – there is such a thing as too skinny/slim! If the material starts to pull and crease under the strain of your body, it’s time to size up.
Due to me having rather large thighs from my rugby days, I also tend to have the trousers ‘thinned’ from the knee downwards. It helps bring my legs back into proportion, rather than it being just one straight line of material from waist to foot. Men’s tailoring is all about showing off your silhouette, so you want it to actually mirror the shape of your body. Or at least the bits you want to show.
Speaking of which, let’s move on to the jacket – the place where much can be hidden or highlighted. Traditionally speaking, your jacket should end where your thumb joint begins when your hands are by your side. Some guys like them shorter (some a lot shorter) but I find that due to me having longer legs than I do torso, a normal length jacket proportions my overall silhouette nicely.
The most common alteration a guy should be having done to his jacket is getting it taken in at the sides. This helps to create or emphasise the effect of broad shoulders and a slim waist (the highly desirable ‘V’ silhouette), which is then mirrored by the shape of the lapels. It’s an easy alteration and really makes the world of difference.
You can also get the sleeves thinned if you find that they are too baggy. Or you can have individual sleeves taken up or down if you happen to have odd length arms. As a good example, when being pinned for my suit, an old injury to my shoulder was playing up that causes my right shoulder to roll forward when I stand – this is why the jacket (below) shows a lot more of my right sleeve than the left.
Ideally you want to show half an inch to an inch of cuff from your sleeve. However, most guys will have shoulders that aren’t perfectly square, are rounded too much or have one side that naturally drops lower than the other.
If this is the case, you can get the odd sleeve adjusted or simply have some more padding added to the corresponding shoulder to lift the sleeve back up again. This was a common adjustment for the actor Cary Grant, who had extremely rounded posture and used the padding of a suit jacket to create the illusion of broad shoulders – hence why he was rarely seen out of a blazer. However, I didn’t do any of this because once I’ve finished my physiotherapy it should be all back to normal again. Fingers crossed.
Finally, if you happen to have quite broad shoulders, as I do, then you may find that the jacket has a slight roll in between your shoulder blades. This is because most suits are cut for guys with a slightly rounded posture so the material will crease here if you are of a more athletic build. It’s easily corrected by a tailor though and ensures the back of your jacket looks cleaner and drapes better.
All in all, I got a lot of alterations done to the suit, which probably would have set me back around £40. But if the result is a perfectly fitting suit then I think it’s a price worth paying.
It took around five working days to get the suit back and when I tried it on, I thought the results were great…