On the label of most men’s suits, you can usually find a number and a descriptive letter indicating the size.

In short, the number is your chest measurement in inches, and the letter is the length.

For instance, after the chest size number (34, 40, 44, i.e.), 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 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 on how to fit your suit and how it’s supposed to look on you:

how to fit your suit

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.

Jacket and Sleeve Length: Short, Regular, or Long?

After that, measure your height in feet and inches. It will determine whether you go for a jacket that’s “short,” “regular,” or “long.”

Choosing which is right for you significantly 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”, select “regular,” and if you’re 6’2” or more, then choose “long.”

short vs. regular vs. long jacket length

The sleeve length is right if between a quarter and a half-inch shirt sleeve is showing under the jacket.

The suit jacket sleeve length

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.

The jacket length

For your pants, you’ll need to measure your waist (find it by bending sideways) and your inner leg length.

Suit Fit for Short Men

There are a few smart ways that shorter men can wear suits to give the impression of a little extra height. The first common mistake shorter or smaller men make is to wear clothes that are too big.

Also, 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.

Always, no matter what size you are, wear a well-fitted suit. In fact, the same holds true for all clothes. That’s because loose clothes stretch your appearance horizontally, making you look shorter and wider.

Suit fit for Short men

Draw the eye upward with the clever use of accessories like dress watches, 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 jackets or draw attention away from the overall vertical length. Pick jackets with buttons situated higher. That 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 affects 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.

no break suit pants

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.

Solid color dress shirts also affect lengthening the body as they are not being broken up into color blocks.

Best Choice

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:

Slim fit brown suit by Kenneth ColeSlim fit blue-striped white shirt by Calvin Klein
Striped browh with white tie by Scott AllanShlax & Wing foulard tie in brown color

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 Tall Men

Tall guys who are over six feet and one inch should go for the suit’s “long” version. Also, they need to be careful not to buy off-the-rack clothes that are too big for them.

To get the length right, they can buy something with a little more width. It’s simple enough for a good tailor to take those loose-fitting clothes in by an inch or two not to look like you’ve lost weight or borrowed someone’s clothes.

Avoid vertical stripes, as these will elongate your body even further. It means that pin-striped suits should give way to plain fabrics, which goes for the shirts you wear under them.

Make sure that the length of your tie is correct, too. The tip should 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.

Best Choice

My advice is to choose clean and solid color shirts, such as white. 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:

Perry Ellis slim fit suit in navy colorSlim fit white shirt by Calvin Klein
Shlax & Wing foulard tie in brown color Kissties men's striped tie in red color

Suit: Perry Ellis slim fit navy suit.
Shirt: Calvin Klein slim fit white shirt.
Ties: S&L foulard solid brown tie or the KissTies solid red tie.

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. If the chest size increases, so do the armhole’s size, the sleeve length, etc. That can make it extremely challenging to buy a suit with a good fit. 

It means that 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, I advise going for a regular fit suit. The chest and the stomach are more wide open and can be easily adjusted with altering.

How do Pant Sizes Work?

Pants for suits are usually sold according to a calculation called the “drop,” which is usually 6 inches.

The 6 inches drop difference between the pant and jacket sizes means that a 40R size jacket goes together with 34R pants. Some brands, however, offer higher drops.

Also, the standard 6-inches pants drop might not fit you. If that’s the case, you can shop for separates or consider alterations. 

Making Adjustments

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.

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 precisely 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.

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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