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How To Choose The Perfect Suit For Your Body Type

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What's your body type? Depending on your body's shape, a suit that looks good in the photo might not look so good on you. The importance of fit can’t be underestimated. A suit that’s too large, too small or too tight won't look or feel good. On the other hand, a perfectly-fitted suit will enhance the best of your physique and hide any flaws. The key tip to looking your best in a suit is knowing your body shape and type.

Men's body types

Image source: Fitbay

Our guide will help you identify your body shape, and show you how to pick the right suit fashion and style for your body type. It’s all about visual illusions, but don’t be alarmed - all the best-dressed men utilise these tactics. Most men fit into one of five body types as shown above. Read on to learn tips for the best suit styles for each body type, and the variations for tall and short men.

The Triangle

Men with triangle body types

Men with triangle body types have waists and hips that are larger than their chest and shoulders. This means that your suit should reduce the effect of a disproportionately larger lower half. To create the necessary balance:

Broaden Your Shoulders

Suit jackets with structured shoulders with enhance and emphasise your shoulders, making them appear wider and make your frame look more square. Look for suits with more commanding roping (the ridge formed by the rise of the sleeve attachment in relation to the shoulder). Though it might seem like a good way to broaden your shoulders, never buy a suit that’s too wide for your shoulders. It will just look oversized and the sleeves will drape off of you clumsily.

Draw Attention Away from the Stomach

Single-breasted suits help to create a narrower waist that tapers inwards from your shoulders. A custom-made suit can be tailored to be structured on top whilst also accommodating a roomier waist. Double-breasted suits on the other hand will add bulk to the waist. Details such as ticket pockets put a focus on the stomach area, something you don’t want.

Give Your Legs More Substance

Skinny or heavily tapered trousers are what’s “fashionable”, but will make your midsection look larger than it really is. You’ll look best in trousers with wider and straighter legs, which will create a streamlined silhouette.

The Inverted Triangle

Men with inverted triangle body types

Men with inverted triangle body types have significantly broader chests and shoulders in comparison to their waist and hips. This wide upper body and narrow lower body physique is often formed by heavy lifting at the gym. Suit styles for this body shape should bring balance to the upper and lower body, and, since you worked so hard for it, show off your well-toned body.

Soften the Harsh Sharp Lines of Your Torso

Wide peak lapels and prominent shoulder padding or roping will draw attention to the shoulders. If you’re particularly bulky on top, aim for softer shoulders instead and notch lapels that will unify your body’s contours.

Focus Attention on Your Body’s Natural Shape

Wear slim-fitting jackets that taper gently in towards your waist. A well-tailored single-breasted jacket will show off your perfect “V shape”. Note, “slim-fit” does NOT mean figure-hugging - you’ll look as tightly tied up as a Christmas ham. Don’t be tempted to wear a jacket that cinches in tightly at the waist, which can make you look grotesquely disproportionate.

Steer Away from Skinny Trousers

To prevent your shoulders appearing much too oversized relative to your waist, stay clear of skinny trousers. Slim pants that taper subtly will suit you best.

The Oval

Men with big and oval body types

Men with oval body types have a midsection that is wider than the shoulders and hips. In comparison, the arms and legs are disproportionately slim and frequently also shorter. A suit can be strategically tailored to give your body definition and make you appear slimmer.

The Proper Fit is Critical

It’s a mistake to wear a roomier suit to accommodate your larger shape. This error will make you look unshapely and sloppy. Likewise, wearing a suit that’s too small will only emphasise your body’s bulk. You want something that fits you just right, to create a long and lean line. A well-tailored single-breasted jacket that tapers inwards slightly will give the illusion of a narrow waist and streamline your torso. A structured shoulder that is the correct width (very important) will add authority to the shoulders without making you seem broader.

Create Vertical Visual Lines

To give a longer look, try a narrow pinstripe or herringbone on a dark base. Avoid large checks and horizontal patterns as they add visual clutter and make you seem more hefty. If you must go with a solid colour, choose a dark one, as single colours tend to highlight rather than hide your body shape. A peak lapel will draw the eye upwards and away from your midsection, adding height and bringing better proportions.

Don’t Bring the Focus to Your Stomach

A double-breasted suit, which adds bulk to the waist, is definitely not for you. Don’t add any reason for someone’s eye to be drawn to your waist, such as ticket pockets. Instead, try a pocket square to bring the focus to your chest.

Give Your Legs More Substance

Similar to the inverted triangle body type, skinny or heavily tapered pants will make your midsection look more rotund than it really is. Wear trousers with wider and straight legs to balance your appearance. Make sure they’re the correct length, as you don’t want to make your legs appear shorter!

The Trapezoid

Men with athletic trapezoid body types

A man with a trapezoid body type, also termed “athletic”, has a torso that’s broadest at the shoulders and slightly narrower in the waist and hip. Luckily for this type, the fashion industry considers this to be the “average” build. It’s easiest for athletic men to find off-the-rack suits that fit fairly well. If you have a trapezoid shape, your upper and lower body is already well-balanced, and so you can play around with patterns, cuts and styles. Flaunt your athletic shape in a suit that’s slim and fitted.

Be a Bit of a Daredevil

They say “everything in moderation”. Well, you’ve kept your body well moderated, so you can worry less and take some risks with your suit. Make a statement and try bold colours, patterns and fabric combinations.

Accentuate Your Shapely Figure

A slim-fit suit will follow your body’s natural contours, narrowing at the waist and hips. This will emphasise your enviable “V shape”.

Don’t Mess it Up

You’ve got the ideal build for a suit, but that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. You can still knock your proportions off balance. To maintain elegance and a timeless appeal:

  • Don’t aggressively taper your pants
  • Don’t go overboard and cinch in your waist until it looks like your top button will pop off
  • Do tailor your suit to look sharp and put-together

The Column

Men with rectangular or column body types

A man with a rectangular or column body type has a torso that’s roughly the same width from the shoulders all the way through the waist and hips. The best suit for this body shape should widen the shoulders and narrow the waist. In effect, to create the illusion of a more sculptured look.

Clever Tailoring for Shape

The versatile single-breasted jacket will do wonders for your frame. With the correct tailoring, you can create a silhouette that nips in at the waist and widens at the shoulders. A double-breasted jacket is a fashion no-go, as its rectangular shape will only emphasise yours. A structured jacket with more padding in the shoulders will give the impression of broader shoulders. Tailoring the sleeve to remove any bagginess will allow for more space between your waist and arms and help the waist appear narrower.

Streamlined From Head to Toe

Tapered trousers will work in your favour to bring shape to your form. Straight trousers, on the other hand, will drag you back into rectangle-land. Pleated pants that are wider around the hips and thighs will also give your lower body more definition.

Body Type Variations

So far all the discussion on body types have assumed average heights. What if you were short or tall? Add these suit style decisions on top of those given for your body shape.

The Short Man

Short man in a suit

Whilst a strategically tailored suit can’t make you grow taller, it can perform many a visual sleight-of-hand to make you seem taller.

Create a Long Vertical Line

To add height to short men, a suit should create the appearance of one long line from head to toe. A single-breasted suit’s inherent vertical central line is great for this role. An upwards-pointing peak lapel will also help to add height. Trouser rise is also very important in changing your perceived dimensions. Mid- or high-rise pants will serve to visually lengthen your legs. Keep the break on the trouser leg to a minimum, or go with no break at all.

Proportions, Proportions, Proportions

Proper proportions should always be a goal. To keep a suit more in-line with your shorter stature, choose narrower lapels and a relatively shorter jacket. A narrow lapel prevents your shoulders from appearing too wide, which will detract from your height.

Traditionally, a jacket’s length is determined by dividing the distance from the back of the suit collar to the floor by two. Thus, the jacket is half of the visual length. However, if you want to look taller, slightly shorten the jacket to accentuate your legs.

The Tall Man

Tall man in a suit

Tall men have been blessed with height. Though you’re the opposite of the short man, the opposite solution, making you shorter, isn’t the answer. Rather, you want to (surprise, surprise) bring balance to your proportions and not look long and lanky, or big and imposing.

Keep Things Tailored

Tall men often have the most troubles when buying suits off-the-rack. To get the length, you’ll often get boxiness. You could taper the jacket, but then the arms would look like barrels. Your best option is to get a custom-made suit. You’ll avoid looking frail in an oversized suit with ridiculously large shoulders, or a suit that fits well across the shoulders, but is too short everywhere else.

To ensure your legs don’t look like towering poles, make sure the pants break cleanly, without too much fabric creasing on the top of the shoes.

(Yep, You Guessed It) Proper Proportions

The suit jacket length will determine the balance between your upper body and lower body. A jacket length that’s halfway between the back of the suit collar and the floor is a good rule-of-thumb. However, if you have a long torso and would like to down-play it, you can shorten the jacket.

As long as you’re not already quite stocky, a double-breasted jacket is a great look for tall men. Along with the customary peak lapels, it will widen your silhouette. If you need it, to add more width to your torso go with wider lapels.

Fit is everything. Whether you’re tall, short, slim, broad or stocky, proper fit will make you look downright first-class. You’ll achieve the elusive goal of making others esteem you. A bad fit, however, can make you look terrible and bring disrespect instead of admiration. With so much variation in men’s figures, it’s little wonder that off-the-rack suits aren’t going to accommodate all men and their unique body shapes. Even the athletic man with the ideal shape is going to need alterations when buying a suit off-the-rack.

A quality custom-made suit will save you the cost of alterations and the hassle of finding a suit that fits sort of but not really right. At Joe Button, our stylists take your body type into consideration to create a suit with the perfect proportion, for you. A custom-made suit will make you look and feel your best, no matter your body shape. Get personally fitted, and see for yourself the power of the right fit. 

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