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How to Buy a Suit

Illustrated man wearing a suit.
Natural Silhouette (or 'soft' silhouette)

Made with softer canvas (the inside lining of your jacket) and less padding. Considered the "American" style.

Structured Silhouette

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

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.

Notch Lapel

Has a triangular notch cut into it.

Peak Lapel

The most formal lapel option; the lower blade extends above the upper blade.

Shawl Lapel

The lapel has a smooth line, with no cut; typically seen on formalwear.

Rope Shoulder

Prominent ridge at the shoulder seam.

Natural Shoulder

A very slight ridge, but basically appears flat.

Soft Shoulder

A low "knocked-down" shoulder; typically unpadded.

Single Breasted

A single button or single row of buttons. (Never button the bottom one.)

Double Breasted

One side of the jacket overlaps the other and is secured by a double row of buttons.

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.

Flat Front

Trousers that don't have any pleats under the waistband.

Single Pleat

One pleat on either pant leg (this helps some fabrics drape better).

Double Pleat

Two pleats on either pant leg (helps with fabric drape and provides a bit more room).

The Right Sleeve Length

About one half inch of your shirt cuff should show below your jacket sleeve. This needs to be tailored to fit you perfectly.

Plain Hems

The uncuffed hem; provides an overall cleaner look.


Hemmed with a fixed cuff. Good for pleated trousers or heavier-weight wools (with the exception of tuxedos, which should never be cuffed).

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.

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.

No Break

No crease at all—your trouser hem skims the front of your shoe. Typically reserved for slim-leg trousers.

Illustrations of fabric patterns and types.
Common Suit Patterns
Windowpane Plaid

A wide, open grid design formed by thin lines.


A two-tone pattern made up of broken checks.


A distinctive V-shaped design composed of two colors.


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.


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

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


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


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.