There are three main categories to focus on when deciding on suit cuts: American, British and European (a.k.a Italian). All have their pros and cons. Knowing the differences isn’t about deciding which one is better. It is more about choice. Variety is something that should always be preached with suits. So, here is a lesson on suit cuts. From one end of the world to another, there are some real gems in all cultures.
American Suit Cuts
With the extra space around the waist, the American cut suits have a lot of common with the regular suits. They’re more comfortable than the other cuts. Formal in its style yet classic enough to be recognizable from the other cuts, an American suit has roots that goes as far back as the 19th century. A lot of changes have taken place since then. Most notably, how it has expanded from its Ivy League adopters. Some of the pioneers of American suits include the Brooks Brothers, responsible for making public adoption of the suit viable. The reinvention of the American suit included improvements like natural shoulders, classic flap straight pockets, and better single breasted options.
The American suit jacket is characterized by its straight silhouette and looser fit. It usually includes flap pockets and is quite often single vented. You will notice it by its low armhole and the buttons (usually three or four) on the sleeve.
The pants are usually flat front, full cut with no pleats. In general, the manufacturers of this type of suit cuts have concentrated on mass production and saving materials.
Present day American cuts can now include shoulder padding, but are still made to be loose fitting and not tight. The most uniform body line can be had with an American cut, making one suit a universal wear for multiple people. The takeaway is that there is a smaller market for more expensive American cuts.
British Suit Cuts
The most traditional suit cut available is British (a.k.a English), and it makes a point at not being too fancy. That lack of flair is part of its charm, and a main reason to consider it. The British cut is usually slim fitted, however it gives you the solace your body needs. That comfort will go a long way in the workday, and puts it on par with Italian suits for longevity. If ever in doubt about what cut to wear for work, it will always come down to American or British. In the 19th century gentleman suits took off like never before, and the boom to the industry was more of a worldwide shock.
Characterized by its structured shoulder and tick shoulder pats, the British suit jacket cuts give you a slim look. It’s stuck closer to the body, giving you that natural silhouette. The fit is slimmer that the American cuts. It’s usually single breasted, however that is not always the case. Double breasted British cut suits are now in fashion, too. The cloth is usually heavy, including the stiff canvas.
The pants are usually flat front with high waist, and are often double pleated.
The best variety of fabric comes from British suits, and will offer some of the harder to find choices in the same colors.
European Suit Cuts
Also knows as Italian, the European cut suits are quite often extra-slim fitted. This covers a wide range of cuts, but mostly concentrates on the ultra-popular Italian cut suit. These are the cream of the crop and the most expensive for a reason. A European suit not only signals professionalism, but exudes confidence. This cut trends more than any of the others, and is the preferred way to say “I’ve arrived” in manner of fashion. Innovators in this area would be Nazareno Fonticoli, Armani and Ermenegildo Zegna. Whenever there is a change in the industry, it is always sparked by a European movement.
If there’s one thing that will feature the European jacket cut, it’s the way it’s fitted to the body. It’s extra-slim, reflecting that sleek silhouette. The fabric, cloth and the canvas are made of light material. The shoulder is unstructured, matching smoothly with the sleeves. Usually features flapless pockets and high button closures.
The Italian pants usually have no break at the bottom. They are characterized by its tight hips and tapered waist.
All of the European cuts are made to fit, so there is a trade-off with comfort. Wearers will be slightly less comfortable in a European suit and as a result will max out styling points. The tightly fitted suit uses lighter fabric, which is less durable but looks better when fitted.
If no suits have ever been purchased before, jumping into a European suit is like buying a Ferrari. It is a bit “too much too soon” for most people, and should be eased into. British or American is the way to go for beginners, with American being the more affordable choice. Although young people choose to stick with the Italian suits quite too often.
With price not being an option, British cut suits are a great starting point. They’re comfortable and still maintain a professional look no matter which fabric is used. With access to the most fabrics, there is also more variety when matching pairs up.
American suit cuts still shouldn’t be looked at as a cheap option, even if it is third best. The most expensive custom tailored suits in the business world are made by American cut. However, with more availability per store, they tend to be the go to option for anyone in a pinch. It also helps that a good percentage of the sales come from high school prom students!
For Intermediate Wearers
Wearers that already have a couple of suits in the closet can creep into European cuts. The fun thing about being an intermediate suit wearer is that it offers the best of both worlds. Now it isn’t so much about price and is more about being creative with styles. At this point in the lifecycle, there are probably only few American suit cuts in your closet, and you’re committed to stay that way.
Everything else is going to be in the British or European cut, with preference going to what users feel more comfortable in. Since European suits offer better comfort without compromising style like American suits, then this should become a consideration when buying. When the time comes to settle on the first European cut, it will turn into an entirely different world.
It’s All About The Person In The Suit
Opinions aside, suits are supposed to bring out the best in the individual. That can’t happen if there isn’t any knowledge of the actual clothing. Knowing what’s being worn is just as important as the brand being bought. This applies to American, British and even European cuts. They all have their pros and cons, yet they’re all (literally) made from the same cloth. If loose fitting suits work better for a person, then that’s what they should wear!
The world of suit cuts can be fun, but the history should only be used as a guide. Knowledge is power in any pursuit, and fashion requires a little bit of digging. So take a pick and enjoy it, no matter what suit cut is chosen.