How to choose a single breasted jacket

Suit Jackets

How to choose a single breasted jacket

With all the variations and styles of jacket, how does the modern gentleman choose the right single breasted jacket?The single breasted jacket differs from the double breasted suit from having minimal overlap on the front panels. I will cover double breasted jackets in a later article.

Number of Buttons

A single breasted jacket is usually fastened by 1, 2, or 3 buttons. Anything more than 3 buttons on a coat are usually the domain of the exceptionally tall or overtly fashion conscious and won’t be covered here. All single breasted jackets are designed around a central button, this is to give the jacket structure to help it hang correctly, and so a jacket should always be fastened at the front. In the 3-button, the coat is designed for the top 2 buttons to be fastened normally. On a 2-button coat, you would only fasten the top button, and in the 1-button version, keep the button fastened. Wearing the jacket unbuttoned ruins the lines, and traditionally a gentleman would never remove his jacket in mixed company so when choosing a jacket, make sure you can sit comfortably with the jacket buttoned, another reason to leave the bottom button unfastened with 2 and 3 button jackets.

How many buttons? If the suit is bespoke, your tailor should ensure the jacket is in proportion so it is personal preference. If however, you are buying off the rail, 3 button jackets can shorten the length of the lapel giving a squat look on shorter men. 2 button jackets can extend the length of the lapel giving the impression of a longer body.

The Lapel

Lapel widths vary with the changing fashions, and current trends are for a thinner lapel. This is also a classic style and the safe bet for a timeless look. A thinner, longer lapel will elongate the body and enhance the illusion of height for an elegant look. Broader lapels work better when presenting an athletic build, but do not work so well on shorter frame.

Lapel Notch

The lapel notch is the part of the jacket where the collar meets the lapel. As the length of the lapel is core to the shape of the jacket, a higher notch will allow for a longer lapel giving the illusion of a longer body. Most men will look for jacket that makes them look a bit taller, so look for a notch at the clavicle or higher unless you are very tall.

Button Hole

The top of the left lapel, about an inch or so below the notch, should carry a buttonhole for a flower. Quality jackets will have a working, hand stitched buttonhole. Many modern jackets have a fake buttonhole or if it is working a machine stitched one.

Jacket Pockets

The suit jacket always carries at least three pockets. A handkerchief pocket on the left breast, which in my opinion is a waste if left unused. An exception is modern office culture where you may feel overdressed, but if you can wear a pocket handkerchief, you should.

Two side pockets either jetted or flap covered. Jetted pockets are the most formal and are usually seen on dinner jackets. Flap pockets are the standard for jackets. The flap was intended to be a functional addition to keep the contents dry from the rain, but tucked in when the wearer is indoors to resemble a jetted pocket. Now pocket flaps are part of the design and as such, may not even be able to be tucked in at all.

Variations on these traditional pockets are patch pockets which are informal and usually seen on sports jackets. Unlike traditional side pockets which have the pocket on the inside of the jacket and are accessed via a slit, the patch pocket is created by stitching a patch on the outside of the jacket.

Ticket pockets are a half or three quarter sized pocket above the right side pocket. These are designed to hold a tube ticket and are usually only found on higher quality jackets.
Hacking pockets can trace their origins to equestrian trends. Hacking pockets are when the pockets are angled, to make them accessible when riding a horse.

Jacket Vents

The vent is the slit up the back of the jacket. A single vent is the traditional style and is another equestrian detail. The wearer could ride on horseback and still allow the jacket to hang correctly. Modern times have introduced double vented jackets so the modern gentleman can place his hands in his pockets without his jacket parting at the rear to expose the seat of his pants and keeping his modesty.

Jacket Length

A well-fitting jacket is just long enough to allow the wearers fingers to curl around the bottom edge when standing straight. Any shorter will expose the seat of the pants, any longer and the elegance will be lost. Ideally you will be able to pinch the bottom edge of the jacket without moving the angle of your wrist.

Jacket Sleeves

Often off-the-rail suits have the sleeves cut far too long. A good fitting sleeve will show approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch of shirt cuff and will stop in line with the wrist joint. There should be 4 working buttons at the end of the sleeve which are perfectly aligned and have minimal spacing. Traditionally to enable the wearer to wash his hands with removing his jacket, today working sleeve buttons are a sign of a quality garment.

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  1. ‘A single vent is the traditional style.’

    In the United States, perhaps. In my experience, most Savile Row tailors are averse to the single vent.

    1. Brian,

      I agree entirely and it’s not just Savile Row tailors who are averse to single vents – I too much prefer double vents.

      I was trying to show times had changed and double vents are now in vogue. It is probably time I revisit this subject and write an update to this post. Thank you for pointing that out.

      The Mitchelli

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