On the label of most men’s suits, you can usually find a number and a descriptive letter indicating the size. The number is your chest measurement in inches, and the letter is the length.
For instance, after the chest size such as 34, 40 or 44, there will be a letter like S, R, or L. What do they mean?
These letters stand for “short”, “regular” or “long”. They describe the overall jacket length and sleeve length.
As the suit number represents the chest size, the letter actually determines the length of the suit. As a matter of fact, the difference can be quite enormous. Even the lapel width depends on the length of the suit.
How to Find the Right Suit Size
Before shopping for your new suit, it’s vital to get a few measurements to help you find the right size, and it will save you having to try on hundreds of suits when you hit the stores.
If you have a friend to help, it will make measuring yourself a whole lot easier. If not, here’s a quick reference of how it’s supposed to look on you:
First, determine your chest size by measuring around the fullest part across your chest and under your arms. Be careful not to hold your breath. The tape should fit snugly around the torso. After that, measure your height in feet and inches.
This will determine whether you go for a jacket that’s “short,” “regular,” or “long.” For your pants, you’ll need to measure your waist (find it by bending sideways) as well as your inner leg length.
Example suit: Calvin Klein X-fit – available in short, regular and long length.
Choosing which is right for you depends on your height. If you are 5’8” or shorter, pick a jacket that says “short.” If your height is between 5’9” and 6’1”, pick “regular,” and if you’re 6’2” or more, then choose “long.”
The sleeve length is right if between a quarter and a half inch of shirt sleeve is showing under the jacket.
The overall jacket length should cover your entire butt. If you have an over-arm measurement of more than 7” bigger than your chest measurement, it’s best to choose a jacket one size larger than your chest.
Suit Fit for Short Men
There are a few smart ways that shorter men can wear their suits to give the impression of a little extra height. Try to steer clear of very dark colors like dark blues and blacks.
Pick slightly lighter shades instead. Darker colors tend to shrink the total appearance. A common mistake shorter or smaller man make is to wear clothes that are too big.
Always, no matter what size you are, wear well-fitted clothes. Loose clothes stretch your appearance horizontally, making you look shorter and wider.
Draw the eye upward with the clever use of accessories like hats, pocket squares and sunglasses. Avoid belts, which have the effect of cutting the body in half horizontally, optically shortening it.
Shorter men should also steer clear of wearing waistcoats with their suit jacket, or they’ll draw attention away from the overall vertical length.
Pick jackets with the waist button situated higher. This will elongate the legs and draw the eye upwards. Shorter men can feel free to break the old rule of wearing a jacket that completely covers the buttocks.
Instead, they should opt for a slightly shorter jacket, as this has the effect of lengthening the leg appearance.
The same can be achieved by making sure your pants have no break. In other words, they have no fold when they sit on the top of your shoes.
A shirt under your jacket which has vertical stripes will also have a lengthening effect. Try to wear monochrome colors, such as a blue shirt with a navy jacket, rather than a contrast.
Again, this has the effect of lengthening the body as it’s not being broken up into color blocks.
Go for a slim fit suit that will make you significantly taller. Match it with a striped shirt, preferably light blue. Blend them with a nice skinny tie of your choice.
Don’t forget to choose the “short” variant of the suit size. Anyway, here’s what I’ve picked for you:
Suit: Kenneth Cole slim fit brown suit.
Shirt: Slim fit blue-striped white shirt by Calvin Klein.
Ties: Striped brown with a white tie by Scott Allan or the solid foulard tie in brown color by Shlax & Wing.
Suit Fit for Large Men
Large men in particular need to have their suits custom tailored. The reason being that even if you’re carrying some extra weight across your stomach or chest, your arm size and overall height don’t change.
Ready-to-wear suits are scaled across the sizes, which means that if the chest size increase, so does the size of the armhole, the sleeve length, etc. That can make it extremely challenging to buy a suit with a good fit.
If you are a bigger man, whether short or tall, your best option is to go for made-to-measure, or even better, a bespoke suit, provided within your budget.
If you’ve decided to buy an off-the-rack suit anyway, then I advise going for a regular-fit suit. The chests and stomach are more wide open and can be easily adjusted with altering.
Suit Fit for Tall Men
Tall guys who are over six foot need to be careful that they aren’t buying off-the-rack clothes that are too big for them. In an effort to get the length right, they can end up buying something with too much width.
It’s simple enough for a good tailor to take those loose-fitting clothes in by an inch or two so that you don’t look like you’ve lost weight or borrowed someone’s clothes.
Avoid vertical stripes, as these will elongate your body even further. This means that pin-striped suits should give way to plain fabrics, and that goes for the shirts you wear under them too.
Make sure that the length of your tie is correct, too. The tip should just brush the top of your belt. And yes, tall guys should always wear belts to create the impression of a shorter torso.
To learn more about this topic, read our guide for big and tall men.
My advice is to choose clean and solid color shirts. Solid ties are fine too, and so are foulard. As for the suit, go with a cool color, such as navy.
Choosing the “long” version of the suit is mandatory. My suggestions are:
How do Pant Sizes Work?
Pants for suits are usually sold according to a calculation called the “drop,” which is usually a 6 inch. This is the difference between the pant and jacket sizes, which means that a 40R size jacket goes together with 34R pants.
Rather than settling for a suit that doesn’t fit you the way a good suit should, it’s worth having your tailor adjust the garment for you. Thus, saving you any clothing malfunctions or general embarrassment.
Suit manufacturers usually leave about an inch of fabric at the seams for them to be let out. Pants can easily be taken in as well.
Hopefully, this information has given you a little more insight into getting exactly the right fit for your next suit. A professional tailor will be happy to advise you and can create a suit to your exact requirements.
Other than that, he can also adjust a ready-made suit so that it fits you perfectly.