Confused about suits? Are they hard to draw? What styles are good for what occasions and what body types? What does a suit say about your character? There are so many variables, it can be a lot to take in and nowadays most people don’t know too much about ‘suit rules’. That’s fine, since generally these rules are flexible and in many ways they’ve been broken or bent in modern times. When drawing a suit it’s important to pay attention to the details though: the shoulders, the lapels, the vents, the breast cuts and button etiquette. You must know your basics first! And then you can feel free to arse the rules! Let’s get started!
The profile of the suit, the length and width of it, is heavily reliant on the height and weight of your character. Shorter, squatter men want to accentuate the vertical line, so they should wear straighter cuts and shorter coats. Tall, skinny men need just the opposite: a slight nip in the waist to break up the long tall shape of their body and a slightly longer coat.
Before we jump into the 3 cuts of shoulders, let’s talk about length for a short while, (pardon the pun). There’s a saying that a good suit jacket is like a good lawyer: it should always cover your ass. This is a very American thing (and American style suits are typically the most common) This also applies more to suit jackets or sports coats than with blazers (I’ll discuss the differences later). Shorter coats tend to look young, hip, and modern. However, for the standard cut, the jacket should end about where your thumb joint meets your hand with your arms by your side. Italians tend to get away with slightly shorter coats with a nice trim waist and the slightest peek of fanny. How flashy.
Also referred to by tailors as the ‘natural shoulder’. There is little to no padding and it slopes gently around the frame of the shoulders. The waist cut itself can be a little more relaxed and straighter than the other two cuts. “Relaxed” by the way is NEVER BAGGY. Don’t draw a suit with too many soft wrinkles, it looks awful.
These suits have a bit more British stiffness to them, with additional padding in the shoulder, it is usually accompanied by a nipped, fitted waist.
Also called the “roped shoulder”, with a slightly more pronounced bump at the seam of the sleeves. The Italians like it sharp, cutting, and sleek. The waist is also usually quite trim and the length can be slightly shorter than the other two, where Snookie’s longest pair of shorts might end.
Again, there are 3 styles of lapels: the notched lapel, the peaked lapel, and the shawl lapel. A good lapel should roll to a finish, not crease. Another variable is width. Currently, narrow lapels are “in” and have a fresh, modern look, while very wide lapels can look very dated or 70s. A good rule of thumb is that a lapel should be as wide as the tie, if not the exact same width, then at least very close. There should be a dialogue between the two pieces.
The notched lapel, or “step lapel” is the most common, the most versatile, and a timeless classic, good for most occasions. The notch should be at collarbone level to catch the eye and bring attention to the face. Again, a suit is all about balance though, so a very tall man would drop the notches down slightly to break up his blank middle portion.
The peaked, or pointed (if you’re European) lapel is often reserved for formal settings such as weddings, birthdays, galas, etc. The peaks communicate a certain amount of excitement and panache. Many people think the peaked lapel belongs only on tuxedos, but I’m inclined to think it can be worn more and more on other kinds of suits and with a variety of fabrics for that extra flair. You’ll almost always see this lapel type on double breasted cuts.
This is the least common of suit collars and might be reserved for relaxed evening dinners. It gives the wearer a calm and controlled impression, often found on tuxedos or smoking jackets. Though it can be found on tuxedos it should be considered slightly less formal than the peaked lapel equivalent. This is the only kind of lapel that does not have a button hole.
Breasts! Just like on a woman, the breast(s) of a suit are one of the most interesting and diverse parts of the ensemble. Just like with women, there are a lot of VERY SPECIFIC rules and very specific dos and don’ts on how to work with them, so I’m breaking it down into two parts: breast styles, either single or double breasted, and button count and etiquette.
Single breasted suits have one, two, or three buttons. Some coats have four or more but you’ll look like a complete dingus so just don’t do it. It screams 90s zootsuit and no one wants to be that guy.
This is the most common kind of suit and is a great staple. Every man should have one or two if not more. While standing the button should always be kept fastened and when seated it’s in best form to leave it open so it doesn’t create unsightly bunching or wrinkles.
The single-breast two button suit is also quite common and useful for many occasions. The top button should not fall bellow the navel. When buttoning it, almost every coat is designed so that the bottom button should not be fastened; the top button is the one that sees the action. Like the single button, undo it when seated.
The three button Jacket has two styles: the standard three buttons all in a row, and what’s known as the three roll two, where the lapel actually rolls over the first button and finishes above the second. The three roll two looks quite a bit like the two button at first glance with a little extra button hole in the left lapel. For the standard three-button, the top button is sometimes buttoned (not even possible with the three roll two). The middle button is always done, and the bottom button: never.
This suit is definitely a head-turner when done right. One common mistake is that men overwear it. Don’t do that, the one button suit should be your go-to suit, the double-breasted should be your fire engine red lipstick, whip it out when you really want to turn heads. The double breasted suit, as mentioned earlier, is almost always paired with a peaked lapel, I wouldn’t stray from that convention. In these suits the buttons are always kept done, even when seated. Additionally, double breasted suits are usually avoided by more portly men as there’s a lot of action in the middle.
The two on one is the least common style of double breasted suits. Two on one, or Number X on Number Y, refers to how many buttons are in the formation versus how many buttons are kept fastened. Two on one means that there are two buttons and only one keeps it together.
Four button double breasted suits are not terribly common either, and are divided into two categories: four on one, and four on two. The most common style of these two is four on two, with the top two buttons functioning. All rows must be inline for this style. The four on one style has the buttons slightly splayed and only the bottom right button fastened.
Six button suits are divided into six on twos and six on ones. Six on two suits have the middle two buttons functioning with the two top buttons spread out slightly wider over the chest framing the lapels; this is the most common double-breasted arrangement. (There is a variation where the top two buttons are inline, but this is not very common). Six on one has only the bottom right button functioning. It’s trimmer and slightly more casual, it’s second most common.
The vents are the oft neglected slits at the back of the jacket. There are three styles, the single vent, the double vent, and the no vent. They give added room and flexibility.
The single vent is most common and is a very American style cut with a more casual look. It’s worn best by men that have a bit of a booty on them. With hands in your pockets, this vent will splay open and reveal the backside. However, the vent should never be open when the arms are at the side, it’s a sign of a poor fit.
This is a more Italian style jacket and is worn best by trim, petit men or men trying to look a bit slimmer. It does effect mobility slightly, if you put your hands in your pocket the coat will bunch up much more than the other two. These jackets are likely a bit shorter. This is a very formal, statuesque look most common in tuxedos.
This is the most expensive vent to manufacture and is therefore not as common as the other two, though preferred in custom-fitted suits. These are common in very English looking, modern style jackets, and give a nice streamlined profile for all different sorts of body types.
Now! Like I mentioned earlier, there’s some confusion over what the difference is between suit jackets, sports coats, and blazers. In modern times, this difference is much less pronounced and it all sort of blends together.
Commonly found on yachts and in English prep schools. This kind of coat is almost always a solid color, mostly navy or whatever the official school color was. It commonly features a patch or insignia over the left breast pocket and is complete with stylish metal buttons, usually gold. The blazer can be slightly shorter than other coats, for a clean, youthful look, good for young men. The pants shouldn’t be matching with this look, usually a grey or a khaki.
The sports coat is typically made of more relaxed cuts and the fabrics are heartier things like tweeds, corduroy, and earthy, heavy wools. Its pockets have flaps over them, sometimes with a second pocket above the right one. (psst. It’s called a ticket pocket.) This is the kind of coat that can be accessorized with elbow patches. It should always match the pants or vest if you have one, exception to the rule is if you’re wearing it with a sweater vest.
Always made of finer stuff, and softer to the touch. Should be fitted, tailored, and lined. Like the sports coat, don’t wear it with pants that don’t match.