I guess you’ve probably seen different types of suit styles, but what is the thing that defines them?

Undoubtedly, a man’s suit is the most versatile and universally accepted clothing item in his wardrobe. There are not many occasions where a quality suit will look out of place.

The suit can easily become the cornerstone of any man’s style when worn with confidence and some fashion know-how.

Introduction to Suit Styles

The first and most important rule of men’s style is you should feel comfortable and confident in your clothes. You will need both these attributes to pull off just about any outfit successfully.

A suit that fits increases your confidence and makes you look good. Regardless of how “classy” or expensive they might be.

Well-defined suit rules explain how to wear a suit the right way. These rules should be addressed before we get into pocket flaps, fabrics, cuts, and the myriad of other suit-related details.

While these rules allow for freedom of expression, they do not give you carte blanche to simply throw an outfit together.

The most basic definition of a man’s suit is a jacket and trousers intended to be worn as an ensemble.

Therefore, they will have the same cut and be made from the same material. Often, but not always, the jacket and the trousers will be the same color.

how to wear a suit with dress shirt and tie

However, you’ll notice that this definition lacks any information on the suit’s personality.

Differences in Suit Styles

A lot of factors need to come together to produce the best suit for the man wearing it.

There’s the fabric the suit is made from, including weight and color. Then there’s the level of customization, number of buttons, lapel shape, etc.

classic-fit vs. modern-fit vs. slim-fit suits

But probably the most defining feature of any man’s suit is the cut. You will never look your best in a suit that is badly cut. No matter how much detail it has or the quality of the material.

When we talk about the cut, we need to take into account two factors:

  1. The size and shape of the man wearing the suit.
  2. The overall silhouette that’s created when the suit is worn.

Both 1 and 2 are the main reasons why a good tailor is worth their weight in gold – budget permitting.

The tailor can cut a suit to enhance the wearer’s best features while masking any flaws. Skills you just don’t get with off-the-rack or made-to-measure suits.

Single vs. Double Breasted

Your choice of wearing a single or double-breasted suit will be a matter of personal preference. The double-breasted suit can look more formal, but either is perfectly acceptable for most occasions.

single-breasted vs. double-breasted suit jacket

Single jackets are by far the most popular kind of men’s jackets worn today. It is due to their simplicity but also the versatility they offer.

Single-breasted jackets with matching pants create a comfortable suit look, but they can easily be worn with jeans or chinos for more casual events.

The original double-breasted jackets have four buttons, two on each side. However, three per side is also common nowadays.

Besides the button formation, the next thing you’ll notice with this jacket style is additional fasteners and extra fabric.

what is a double-breasted suit jacket style

The number of fasteners can also vary, from one to three, depending on the jacket. Their job is to hold the extra fabric in place as it closes over the other side of the jacket front.

Double-breasted suits are not as forgiving as the single variety and are not for everyone. That said, they are considered extremely stylish and formal.

Suit Jacket Buttons

Most men will have a one, two, or three-button suit in their wardrobe. Ideally, one of each.

Buttons may be small, but they can make a world of difference to your look. How you fasten them counts, too.

one vs. two vs. three button suits

Leaving the bottom button open is one of them. Most suits are cut to be worn with the last button undone.

A fastened bottom button will spoil the silhouette and could make you look like a fashion failure.

Your suit’s design also dictates that you should only button the jacket when you’re standing up. That will create the best shape, drape, and look.

When you’re sitting down, however, it’s time to unbutton.

unfasten the suit jacket button when sitting

Keeping your jacket buttons fastened when you’re sitting down can cause unsightly tugging and pulling. Unbuttoning will relieve the stress on the jacket fabric.

One-Button Suit

The one-button suit jacket is ideal if you’re going for the cool, hip look. The single button creates a low V from the lapels, emphasizing the lengthening/slimming effect.

One button suit

You can get away with one button at most events, formal and social. This style is great for showing off your shirt/tie combo, too.

However, you run the risk of appearing a tad raffish in overly ‘stuffy’ environments.

Two-Button Suit

This is the slightly more mature big brother of the one-button version. Two buttons create a truly classic look that has become the go-to for millions of men for any occasion.

Two-button suit

With both a heightening and slimming visual impact, it’s really difficult to get this look wrong.

A two-button jacket works well in just about every shape and size. It also provides a stylish, flattering base to build the rest of your outfit.

Three-Button Suit

While it can still come across as stylish, the three-button suit jacket is a step into a more conservative territory. The look lacks the elongated, slimming properties of its one and two-button cousins to be unforgiving on the wearer.

Three-button suit

That being said, if you’re on the slim side and over six feet tall, three-button suits could work as your signature outfit.

American vs. British vs. Italian Cut

There are three main suit-cut variations. In particular, the American versus the British versus the Italian (a.k.a European) variations. All of them have created their own space in men’s fashion.

And they each have their appeal. Knowing the difference can help you choose and define your personal suit preferences.

The British Cut

Developed from English military outfits, the British style has the longest lineage. It comes with a very structured silhouette and finely cut lines.

Several features are associated with the cut, including heavier fabrics, with well-defined shoulders, chest, and waistlines.

British cut suit style

This creates a distinctly masculine look. Typical British suit jackets will have double vents at the back, which speaks to the style’s horse-riding heritage.

Hacking (a.k.a slanted) pockets are another feature that gives this style a very particular look.

The Italian Cut

Almost the exact opposite of the British style, the Italian cut is much more casual. That is mainly because the suits are intended to be worn in warmer climates.

The style incorporates lighter-weight fabrics and unstructured jackets designed for a close fit. Tailoring is a huge factor with Italian cuts.

Italian cut suit style

The high armholes, for example, are designed to make the suit feel like a second skin. A lot of Italian styles tend to be fashion-forward with some interesting fabric choices, adventurous color combinations, and unique cuts.

Italian suits, in particular, are still considered by some to be the absolute cutting edge of men’s fashion.

The American Cut

The typical American sack suit was the first suit to be mass-produced. But that shouldn’t earn it your disrespect.

Before the sack suit arrived, everything had to be tailored by hand. The flood of cheap suits from the factories meant that the average guy could finally afford a decent-quality suit.

American cut suit style

The American cut builds up the shoulders and slims the waist. It’s also a great choice for heavier, bigger guys who can wear it as a draped square.

With low armholes and tell-tale buttons on the sleeve cuffs, it’s comfortable and appropriate for most events. The American-cut suit is one of men’s fashion’s most versatile outfits.

Notch vs. Peak vs. Shawl Lapel

The word lapel refers to the flaps on each side of the jacket right below the collar. The two flaps are folded back on either side of the front opening.

Different lapel types: notch lapel vs. peak lapel vs. shawl lapel

A lot of men can be ambivalent about lapels, but the kind of lapel you choose can say a lot about your style and confidence.

In my honest opinion, you simply can’t purchase a suit before you’ve decided on a lapel.

Notch, peak, and shawl are the three main lapel types. Each of them comes in different widths, ranging from the massive 5″ down to super slim.

Usually, though, the lapel will be somewhere between 3 to 3.5 inches.

Notch Lapel

This lapel style is called “notched” because of the sideways V shape at the point where the lapel meets the jacket collar.

The notched lapel is the most common variation found in suits because it is traditional and classic.

what is a notch lapel suit jacket

It’s versatile and fits well with both formal and casual looks. Just as a solid white shirt should be your go-to if you’re ever in doubt, the notched lapel is a safe choice.

One rule of thumb is that the notch should align with your lapel width. It means that a narrow lapel should have a smaller notch, but a wide lapel can have a larger notch.

Peak Lapel

First, let’s clear up the confusion about the name. If you’re American, you will know this variation as the ‘peak’ lapel.

If you’re British, you will probably call it “peaked.” Either way, both terms refer to the same lapel type.

what is peak lapel suit jacket

Pointing upwards, this kind of lapel “peaks” at the lapel edge and is all about being formal.

A skinny peak lapel looks out of place, so go with 3.25″ to 4.5″. But don’t go too wide, or the lapel could swallow your entire suit.

A well-cut peaked lapel can add a lot of class and style to your outfit. Unfortunately, a bad one can ruin it.

Shawl Lapel

You’ll probably only ever see this kind of lapel on a tuxedo. It has no peak and no notch but a rounded edge instead.

what is a shawl lapel suit jacket

There are no hard rules when it comes to the width of a shawl lapel.

So here again, the rule of thumb should be followed. The wider the lapel, the more formal the look. The thinner, the more trendy.

Suit Materials

Your suit is a symbol of your level of sophistication, not just something you wear because it fits comfortably. So, choosing the best fabric for your suit is important.

different suit fabrics and materials

Your budget will play a big role here. But generally speaking, it’s always good to go for the best you can afford.

But it’s not just the material to look at when you’re buying a suit. You need to take into account the fabric’s breathability and its softness, too.

Choosing the Right Suit Fabrics

When choosing the right material for your suit, you only need to consider a handful of fabrics. This makes it a lot easier when you set out to purchase the perfect outfit.

what is cotton suit

Wool, cashmere, silk, and cotton are the most common and probably the best fabrics for a suit.

Wool is a more durable fabric and good for everyday use. Velvet, on the other hand, is more “luxurious” and it’s preferable for more glamorous events and parties.

what is wool suit

There are a lot of synthetic fabrics out there (like polyester). However, almost none of them can breathe as well as a natural fabric.

Suit Weight

The weight and thread count of the fabric can also impact the comfort levels, price, and overall appearance of your suit:

  • Lightweight: 7oz – 9oz. Great for summer.
  • Light to middleweight: 9.5oz – 11oz. Perfect for the transition from spring to summer and summer to autumn.
  • Middleweight: 11oz – 12oz. Go-to fabric weight for most days. Good choice for your first suit.
  • Middle heavy: 12oz – 13oz. Satisfactory for daily wear, but maybe too hot in the peak of summer.
  • Heavy: 14oz – 19oz. Perfect for autumn and winter.

Pocket Difference

Nothing impacts a suit’s overall style and its level of formality more than the pockets on the suit jacket.

different suit jacket pocket styles

There are three main types of pockets; patch, flap, and jetted, and they run the range from casual to formal.

The Patch Pocket

The casual patch pocket first appeared on blazer-style jackets. They were originally separate pieces of fabric sewn onto the sides of the jacket.

patch suit jacket pocket style

Tailors later began sewing them on to other types of jackets as a means of keeping valuables safe from thieves and pickpockets. Fully attached flap pockets are a natural development of this security measure.

The Flap Pocket

While considered middle-of-the-road and very conservative, the flap is a highly versatile pocket style. This versatility means that the flap pocket is not automatically restricted to a particular dress code.

flap suit jacket pocket style

Flap pockets on your jacket are equally appropriate when paired with jeans and a tie, as they are with a full, formal ensemble.

The Jetted Pocket

This kind of pocket is almost the exact opposite of the patch version, in both manufacture and style. The jetted pocket is a cut in the jacket’s facing, with a pocket that hangs on the inside.

jetted suit jacket pocket style

This keeps the lines of the jacket sleek, making it the most formal pocket variant. They make the suit look clean and ideal for a smart dinner jacket or an impeccably tailored tuxedo.

Suit Jacket Sleeve Buttons

Your suit jacket will invariably come with buttons on the sleeve. Whether they have any practical function or not is a moot point.

American suits always have four buttons as standard. Sports jackets will usually have only two. The buttons on your jacket sleeve should be set close together, almost touching each other.

Generally speaking, the number of buttons on the sleeve defines the formality of the suit. The fewer buttons on the sleeve, the more casual your suit appears.

suit jacket sleeve buttons styles

Thus, four-button suit jacket sleeves tend to appear the most formal.

Suit jackets with sleeve buttons that you could open and close used to be a sign of superior design. Not anymore. These days, mass suit manufacturers are copying this style to add quality to their products.

Single vs. Double Vents vs. No-vents

Your suit jacket will probably have a slit, known as a vent, down the lower part of the back. Or it might not. This is because suit jacket vents come in three options:

single vent vs. double vents vs. no vents

No Vents

This style is preferred by Europeans, creating a more fitted look. But the is a downside. The jacket tends to crease or bunch up when you sit down or stick your hands in your pockets.

Single Vent

A single vent is the least expensive option. Wearing a single-vented jacket opens you up to what could be an unflattering risk. You’ll be exposing the seat of your pants when you put your hands in the pockets.

Double Vents

The double vent allows for greater freedom of movement. It can also improve your shape. The flap created by the two slits rises when you sit down or place your hands in the pockets. It stops the jacket from creasing and keeps your rear covered.

Full-Canvas vs. Half-Canvas vs. Uncanvassed Suit

The suit canvas is a stiff fabric sewn between the outside fabric. It’s usually made from horsehair, but synthetic materials are also used.

full canvas vs. half-canvas vs. fused suit jacket

Canvassing gives structure to the suit, allowing the jacket to shape according to the wearer’s body, thus providing additional comfort.

Full Canvas

Full canvas is a suit construction that provides complete interlining on the suit jacket, from the shoulders to the hem.

full-canvas suit jacket features

It makes the jacket highly structured, making it shape best on your body, thus providing personalized fit.

Half Canvas

The half canvas covers the top part of the jacket, which only includes the shoulders and the chest.

half-canvas suit jacket features

These suit styles are a great balance between full-canvased and fused suits in terms of quality and price.


Suits that come with no canvas interlining are usually fused. They’re cheap to produce and do not provide the same flexibility as canvassed suits.

fused (no canvassing) suit jacket features

Uncanvassed suits are easily strained, and the glue used to fold the fabric eventually loses strength.

Fully-lined vs. Half-lined vs. Unlined Suit Jackets

The jacket lining provides durability and helps to keep its shape. In fact, fully-lined jackets are best if you wear suits a lot.

what is a suit jacket lining

But not every lining is the same. A suit jacket with a natural fiber lining like silk is a mark of quality and is usually more expensive.

The suit jacket lining styles include: fully-lined, half-lined, quarter-lined, or unlined.

different types of suit jacket linings

That being said, an unlined suit jacket can cost more than a completely lined suit. This is because other factors, like canvassing, play a more indispensable role in determining high-quality craftsmanship.

The inner jacket lining will usually match the jacket color. You can go for a lining with a contrasting color, but this option is for more casual suit styles.

Suit, Shirt & Tie Combinations

Knowing how to combine a suit, shirt, and tie to enhance your look can add a whole level of elegance to your style. The hues and colors you wear are what people notice first, so it’s important to get it right.

Suits color combinations

With a few rare exceptions, the colors of your suit, shirt, and tie should blend to create a look that hasn’t simply been thrown together. This doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require some thought.

Color Harmonization

First off, it’s considered a terrible form to mix more than four colors in one outfit.

But this doesn’t mean your look has to be boring. We have enough suit colors and shades to play with without resorting to overly flamboyant color pallets.

suit color formality scale

The secret to making the colors, tones, and hues of your suit work best for you lies in color harmonization.

For example, a blue suit works well with a red or burgundy tie and a white shirt, adding an interesting contrast to your look.

Blue suit matched with a white shirt and a red tie

A navy suit, white shirt, and dark blue tie will do the trick if you’re aiming for a smoother look.

navy suit with a white shirt and dark blue tie

So too will a beige shirt, dark brown suit, and light brown or orange tie.

In fact, any similar combinations of colors and shades will give you a well-dressed appearance.

If you need help with your outfit’s color scheme, refer to the color wheel for guidance. Remember, less is more.

Suit Patterns

Suits can also come in patterns, making them look less formal but more stylish.

Pinstripes are some of the most typical suit pattern styles but are certainly not the only ones. They’re narrow and noticeable stripes, usually significantly lighter than the actual suit color.

grey pinstripe suit style

Windowpane, checks, and herringbone suits are some other common patterns. Although they all come in different styles, they’re considered informal and appropriate only for casual events.

Different Types of Suit Styles

Based on the differences we talked about above, the men’s fashion world distinguishes these types of suit styles:

The Basic Suit

Modern Fit Blue Suit by Tommy HilfigerA basic suit is often a two-piece and is made from blended or pure wool. Basic also means regular, which means you won’t wear this kind of suit to formal events.

It will usually have notched lapels, sometimes peaked, and comes in single-breasted styles. Flap pockets, a small ticket pocket, and plain sleeve cuffs finish off the look.

The basic suit jacket is best matched with flat or pleated pants. But the look is deliberately low-key, so you can also pair it with dress pants or chinos.

Complementary dress shirt colors like blue, grey, and white work well with this simplified cut. But avoid a basic suit in black, as this color is reserved for formal evenings and funerals.

Features: Single-breasted, preferably two buttoned with a notch lapel and flap pockets.

The Business Suit

Your go-to suit for the office should be dark or navy blue. Charcoal also works well in more conservative corporate environments. Go with wool or wool blend for the fabric and notched lapels rather than peaked for the ultimate classic effect.

Blue shirts and brown shoes enhance the no-nonsense business look. A lot of middle-aged men think a wild tie compliments their otherwise serious business suit. It doesn’t.

By all means, add a dash of color, but rather play with shades rather than contrast.

Single and double-breasted styles are both acceptable. However, the double will probably make more of an impact in the boardroom. And if you’re worried your new boss is detail-obsessed, opt for four buttons on the sleeve and serious, business-like pockets.

What’s great about a business suit is its versatility. After work, you can simply lose the tie, change into black shoes, and you’re ready for any social occasion.

Features: Single or double-breasted. If it’s single, it must be two or three-buttoned. It can be a classic or modern fit, usually a peak lapel, business-oriented pockets, and four-sleeve buttons.

The Formal Suit

Tomasso Black slim-fit wool blue suitThe word ‘formal’ to describe a suit is not to be confused with the same word when it applies to a dress code.

The formal dress code determines when you should wear tails, morning suits, white or black-tie outfits, etc. But that is a whole different chapter.

Here, we’re talking about that elegant, well-defined look that is a step above the basic suit. Formal suits can be worn as a wedding suit, to any occasion where casual doesn’t quite cut it, or for those semi-formal events where you deliberately want to out-style your peers.

Features: Single or double-breasted, modern and slim-fit, shawl or notched lapel, flap or jetted pockets, four-button sleeve cuffs.

The Tuxedo

Slim fit shawl lapel tuxedo by FerrecciAlso known as a dinner suit, the tuxedo is one of the most recognizable looks out there. It’s the perfect attire for wedding events and other formal occasions.

Tuxedos are always either black or navy, with grosgrain or satin shawl lapels. Pockets are jetted; if the tuxedo has flaps, they should be tucked in.

The buttons on a good tuxedo will be covered in the same fabric as the lapel. Avoid low-quality tuxedos with metal, horns, or plastic buttons.

The look works best with proper tuxedo trousers. These will have a satin strip down the outside of the legs and are sometimes cuffed.

Covering the waistband with a cummerbund and suspenders is allowed, but never wear a belt. A textured or pleated tuxedo shirt, black or white bow tie, and shiny dress shoes complete the look.

Features: Usually navy or black, with a shawl lapel and jetted pockets.

The Casual (Sports) Jacket

Light-grey sport casual jacket by CoofandyThe casual sports jacket combo is for men who are more concerned with their outfit’s breathability and comfort than the look. Sports jackets are half-lined and come in soft cotton, wool, or linen fabrics.

The lack of shoulder padding gives the sports jacket a relaxed look, and they are a great way to inject color into your wardrobe. The outfit also encourages you to play around with different types of pockets and elbow patches.

Don’t worry too much about matching pants to your sports jacket. Go with chinos or jeans for a dressed-down effect or neatly-pressed suit trousers for the office.

A pocket square can add a nice touch to this otherwise laid-back outfit.

Features: Has a notch lapel and flap or patch pockets, usually one or two-button sleeves. The suit jacket is single-breasted and can have a one or two-button closure.

The Blazer

Slim fit black blazer by Mage MaleA descendant of naval uniforms, blazers invariably look best in a dark or navy blue. Think of school uniforms here in a more mature and more structured style than a sports jacket.

Blazers come with wide, square shoulder pads, patched-on pockets, and notched lapels. The fabric is usually dense, like worsted wool, and touches of gold, such as buttons, epaulets, and stripes, are not uncommon.

You can wear your blazer with light-colored chinos, check pants, and brown loafers. While ultimately more casual than formal, the blazer should be seen as an upscale version of the sports jacket.

Features: Single-breasted, usually slim fit with notched lapels. The jacket can have a one or two-button closure and patch pockets.

Wrapping It Up

Purchasing his first suit marks a man’s initial step towards elegance via personal expression.

Therefore, you can avoid disappointment by planning ahead. Know when you want to wear it.

You might as well feel confident in your hastily mixed and matched attire. However, it doesn’t always follow that you’re scoring high in the style charts.

Also, identify your body type and the level of comfort you require in advance. This will narrow down your options and hopefully lead you to make the right purchase decision.

The most basic definition of a man’s suit is a jacket and trousers intended to be worn as an ensemble.

Therefore, they will have the same cut and be made from the same material. Again, the jacket and the trousers might not be the same color.

Different suits will come with an assortment of details that signify which category of outfit it belongs to.

These details include the suit’s cut and fabric, the type of lapel, pocket shape, the number of buttons and vents, and even the lining material.

All these details contribute to the distinctive suit style. What’s your favorite?

Alexander Stoicoff

Author: Alexander Stoicoff

Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.

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