How to Buy a Suit

Break it down: the suit. Nordstrom Men's Shop.
SILHOUETTE
Natural suit silhouette illustration.

NATURAL SILHOUETTE (OR SOFT SILHOUETTE)

Made with softer canvas (the stuff between your jacket's fabric and lining) and less padding. Considered the American style.

Structured suit silhouette illustration.

STRUCTURED SILHOUETTE

Made with stiffer canvas and usually has a padded shoulder. The British or European model.

SHOULDER
Soft shoulder illustration.
SOFT SHOULDER
A low "knocked-down" shoulder; typically unpadded.
Rope shoulder illustration.
ROPE SHOULDER
Prominent ridge at the shoulder seam.
Natural shoulder illustration.
NATURAL SHOULDER
A very slight ridge, but basically appears flat.
LAPEL
Notch lapel illustration.
NOTCH LAPEL
Has a triangular notch cut into it.
Peak lapel illustration.
PEAK LAPEL
The most formal lapel option; the lower blade extends above the upper blade.
Shawl lapel illustration.
SHAWL LAPEL
The lapel has a smooth line with no cut; typically seen on formalwear.
Illustration of back of jacket lapel against shirt collar.
AVOID A COLLAR GAP
Your jacket's lapels should hug your shirt collar, particularly in back. You want about a half inch of shirt collar showing at the back of your neck.
BUTTON CLOSURE
Illustration of single-breasted button closure.
SINGLE BREASTED
A single button or single row of buttons. (Never button the bottom one.)
Illustration of double-breasted button closure.
DOUBLE BREASTED
One side of the jacket overlaps the other and is secured by a double row of buttons.
BACK VENTS
Side vents illustration.
SIDE VENTS
Two vents (slits) placed on either side of the back of the jacket. (Yes, the string on them should be cut.)
CENTER VENT
One vent cut up the middle of the jacket. Again, cut that string.
Closed jacket (no vents) illustration.
CLOSED
A jacket that has no vents. Not a common option, but they're out there.
JACKET CUFFS
Illustration of jacket sleeve with half inch of shirt cuff showing.
THE RIGHT SLEEVE LENGTH
About a half inch of your shirt cuff should show below your jacket sleeve. This needs to be tailored to fit you perfectly.
TROUSER PLEATS
Flat-front trouser illustration.
FLAT FRONT
Trousers that don't have any pleats under the waistband.
Double-pleated trouser illustration.
DOUBLE PLEAT
Two pleats on either pant leg. (This helps with fabric drape and provides a bit more room.)
Single-pleated trouser illustration.
SINGLE PLEAT
One pleat on either pant leg. (This helps some fabrics drape better.)
TROUSER CUFFS
PLAIN HEMS
The uncuffed hem. Provides an overall cleaner look.
CUFFED
Hemmed with a fixed cuff. Good for pleated trousers or heavier-weight wools (with the exception of tuxedos, which should never be cuffed).  
TROUSER BREAKS
Illustration of full break on trousers.
FULL BREAK
The "break" is the crease formed when your trousers are hemmed. With a full break, your trouser hem reaches the top of your shoe heel in back.
Illustration of no break on trousers.
NO BREAK
No crease at all—your trouser hem skims the front of your shoe. Typically reserved for slim-leg trousers.
Illustration of half break on trousers.
HALF OR SLIGHT BREAK
The safe bet for most trousers. There's still a crease in the trouser leg but a considerably smaller one than with a full break.

WINDOWPANE PLAID
A wide, open grid design formed by thin lines.


HOUNDSTOOTH
A two-tone pattern made up of broken checks. 

HERRINGBONE
A distinctive V-shaped design composed of two colors.


PINSTRIPES
Very thin vertical stripes that, upon close inspection, actually look like a series of pin dots.

SHADOW STRIPES
Vertical stripes that are in the same color family as the suit background—hence, they look like shadows.

CHALK STRIPES
White vertical stripes that are wider than pinstripes—the idea is that they look like they're drawn with tailor's chalk.

GLEN PLAID
A distinct plaid design made up of overlapping patterns of large and small checks. Sometimes called the Prince of Wales check.

TWEED
Technically a fabric, not a pattern, tweed has a rough, unfinished texture and is woven with multicolored yarns for a flecked appearance.

COMMON SUIT FABRICS

COTTON
Ideal for warm weather; typically unstructured, with a crisp look.

LINEN
The perfect fabric for hot weather; extremely breathable with a cool, intentionally rumpled look.


WOOL
The most common—with many variations. Worsted wool is made from tightly twisted yarn that produces a smoother finish. Super 100s and 120s wool refers to the fineness of the yarn, which results in a softer, silkier product. Tropical-weight wool is lightweight and—you guessed it—ideal for warmer weather.

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