One of the most common things I get asked about is the formality of suits. Both how formal a given suit is as well as how formal is it appropriate to make a certain suit. And then on the other hand, how to make a suit less formal and how appropriate is a less formal suit for any given situation. To help some of you guys I think it may be wise to review some of the more prominent details of suits, as well as the ones that have the most influence on the formality of a jacket. Which, coincidentally or not, are many of the things that we have control over when customizing our suits at any given made to measure or custom shop.
I am of the opinion that there are three things that determine a suit’s formality, or lack thereof. The first is fabric, the second is the cut and the third is the details. For now, let’s focus on the details of a suit and leave the cut and fabric for later posts. Loosely speaking, the closer to the face a detail sits, the more of an influence it has on the formality of a jacket. Although all of the details contribute to the overall feel and formality of the jacket.
Sometimes you will hear people refer to jackets and suits as city jackets or country jackets. That is because some details are primarily used on one type of jacket (look for notes in parentheses), which often has to do with the origins of any given characteristic. It is important to note that ‘city’ and ‘country’ details do not need to be kept apart. Many times it is more fun and interesting to mix the two. As you will see in a few of the jackets pictured.
For this post, let’s keep things as simple as possible and denote what is more formal by a simple < or > equation. Yes, we are talking about tailored menswear using 5th grade math terminology. For example, the first detail below, ‘Double breasted > Single breasted’. Read this as a double breasted jacket is more formal than a single breasted jacket. You should get the idea.
Double breasted > Single breasted
Peak lapels (city) > Notch lapels. Shawl collar is for dinner and smoking jackets
Besom pockets (city) > Flapped pockets > Patch pockets (country)
For single breasted jackets: 1 button > 2 button > 3 button
Straight pockets > Slanted (hacking) pockets (country)
No ticket pocket > Ticket pocket (country)
No vent (city) > Side vents > Center vent
Now let’s discuss three examples have been showcased on the blog and Instagram recently. For purposes of this discussion focus only on the details, not the fabric. The jacket up top is the most formal of the three jackets pictured in the post. It has peak lapels and a one button front, which are both very formal. Although the pockets are flapped hacking pockets, they are overpowered by the lapels and button. But what about the other two jackets?
Questions, comments and thoughts; hit the comments section. Or just feel free share the details you like to have on your jackets.