Different types of suits: an introduction

A guide to the suit

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Knowing the nuances of various cuts and when to wear them is fundamental to maintaining a stylish wardrobe. Here, our succinct guide to the different types of suits.

British, European or American?

It was once that the particulars of a suit could be defined by knowing where they were made – England, Italy or America. While these guidelines are no longer set in stone, they do come in handy when choosing the right fit for your body type.

  • Italian styles typically had padded shoulders, no vents, were full-chested and had a V-shaped jacket and “slash” – or flapless –pockets, and an ideal choice for slimmer builds.

  • In comparison, a British suit sported a more military aesthetic, had padded shoulders, two vents, a pinched waist, flap pockets and came in striped or plaid patterns. This style is considered perfect for more athletic builds.

  • The American variety is best known for its nickname the “sack suit”, and had natural shoulders, a single vent in the back, straight-hanging lines and flap pockets is the style recommended for men with larger frames.

Nowadays, suits are more commonly divided into the following three categories: two-piece, three-piece and tuxedo.

The two-piece is exactly how it sounds – a suit made of two garments, a jacket and the pants. The three-piece includes the additional waistcoat often, but not always, in the same fabric or pattern as the suit.

The tuxedo, in either two- or three-piece format, is the eveningwear par excellence. Never worn before 6pm, and almost always black.

Single or double-breasted?

The most common style of suit, the single-breasted, comes with a single row of buttons down the front, which only overlaps enough to permit buttoning. This is the go-to style for corporate environments or men who prefer a simple, yet no less stylish, aesthetic.

In comparison, double-breasted suits have two rows of buttons, with the front overlapping significantly to allow for both rows to fasten. While becoming more common in some offices, double-breasted jackets are, generally, perfect for events where a more dramatic look is required.


The lapel is the fold of fabric across the chest that sits just above the waist. There are three primary lapels styles to choose from:

  • Peaked – defined by edges that point upward to the shoulder and traditionally the most formal of lapels, peaked lapels now tend to look more fashion-forward and work best with double-breasted suits.

  • Notch – the bottom of the collar and the top of the lapel sit at 75-95 degree angles, creating a “notch” cutaway effect. It’s the most common of the three lapel styles because of its versatility. This style is most often seen on single-breasted suits.

  • Shawl – a continuous curve with no break, often made of satin. This lapel is the reserve of dinner jackets and tuxedos.


Unlike the complexity of jackets, pant styles are a basic choice of either pleated or flat-front, cuffed or straight leg.

While a cuffed leg can add some weight to the leg of your average suit, a tuxedo always has a straight leg. Pleats are more likely to follow trend than tradition.

See our guide to caring for and cleaning your wool suit.

[Top Photo] Courtesy Bespoke Corner 

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