Sometimes you see a man in a suit and he just looks right. You don’t quite know why. It looks a normal suit, nothing special, but he just looks really good in it. It could be the quality of the cloth. It could be the quality of the construction. But the most likely reason is that it fits properly.

I am fond of saying ‘You are not Mr Average, so why are you wearing his clothes?’. While off-the-peg suits are made to a standard set of dimensions that are not specifically yours, some men are very close to the average sizes and can get away with an off-the-peg suit with no alterations.

These men are as lucky as they are rare. But as tailored suits are (wrongly) seen as the preserve of very wealthy men or very large men (and often both), most men settle for a Mr Average suit. But it is not until you have a suit tailor-made that you realise just how badly your Mr Average suits actually fit.

In the same way as your eye will instinctively spot a well-fitting suit, you can just as easily spot a suit that doesn’t fit.

Here, we will examine the four tell-tale signs of the ill-fitting suit.

Puddling Trousers

Your trousers should ‘break’ on the front of your shoe. That is to say they should sit on the front of your shoes to produce a single notch in the front crease when standing with feet together. The size of the break is a matter of personal preference. However, the back seam of the trousers should be totally straight. If there are wrinkles in the back as well as the front of the trousers this effect is known as ‘puddling’ – a puddle of fabric is created. This is simply caused by the trousers being too long.

Any high street tailor can fix this. It is an inexpensive, but highly effective fix.

Jacket Too Big

Fasten your jacket – top button only on a single breasted two-button, middle button on a three-button. Now pull the jacket forward to see how much space you have. There should be little or no space here. If there is space here the jacket is too big in the body.

This is important because the jacket should go in from the chest to the waist to form a flattering shape or silhouette. If you have excess material, the silhouette is less flattering.

A high street tailor can adjust the side seams to reduce the excess, add darts to the back or adjust the back seam. Work on jackets is more expensive as there are several layers involved in the alteration, but the results are well worth the spend.

Over-sized Shoulders

The jacket shoulders should end where your own shoulders end. Over-padded shoulders are a style throwback to the 1980s or are used by men who want to look powerful. This rarely works since the excessive size is obvious and it makes the wearer look like he is compensating for something.

If your jacket shoulders are wrong then you have the wrong jacket. There is no simple fix. The shoulders are the basis of the suit’s structure and shape. With the amount of work required to fix ill-fitting shoulders, you would be better just starting again with a new suit.

Sleeves Too Long

Your jacket sleeves should end at your wrist bones and allow for around a half an inch of shirt cuff to show. The over-sized jacket will always produce a sleeve that is too long and it is the hallmark of a bad suit.

The cause of this is usually that you need a larger jacket to accommodate a larger tummy. The larger jackets have larger shoulders and longer sleeves. So to get a jacket that will fasten you end up with sleeves that overhang the hands. This makes your arms look shorter and is not a flattering look.

Suit sleeves can be shortened but it is never going to look quite right. This is all to do with the position of the buttons. By shortening the sleeve from the cuff end, the buttons are moved closer to the edge which can look odd. It is possible to remove the sleeves and shorten from the top but this again requires a lot of work and the results are never perfect.

Final Thoughts

Men, and forgive my bluntness in saying but, short, fat men in particular, look the worst in off-the-peg suits as they usually suffer from at least three of the above issues. A large waist makes standard size trousers longer and a large tummy requires a larger jacket. But without arms of proportionately the same size, the jacket is never going to fit.

My advice would be try a made to measure suit. Not necessarily going to the expense of a bespoke suit. A made to measure suit is made to a standard template that is adjusted to your sizes. So you would start with a jacket that fits in the shoulders as the basis and your tailor will work out what adjustments need to be made to the pattern to get it to fit your torso properly and give the correct sleeve length. He will also discuss the trouser style with you to give you the best comfort and the most flattering shape.

The beauty of going made to measure is that the quality of the cloth will give you many years of wear out of your suit and it will have several inches of extra cloth built in for alteration should your shape change.

For men who buy and largely fit an off the peg suit, I would always still advise visiting a tailor to get it altered for you. Those fine adjustments to the trouser length or to the fit of the jacket can make all the difference in your overall appearance.

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