Open any wardrobe, browse through most department stores, and single-breasted suits dominate the scene. Yet, where is the double-breasted suit? Its scarcity leaves many perplexed and hesitant to embrace its timeless charm. In this article, we embark on a journey to unravel the mystique surrounding this exquisite piece of men's clothing. From tracing its history to understanding its construction and undeniable allure, we debunk the myths and showcase why the double-breasted suit deserves its place among style-savvy gentlemen.
A Brief History of Double-Breasted SuitsThe double breasted suit originated in the late 19th century as a sporting garment. Modeled after the naval reefer jacket, which was the standard officer uniform at the time, this style of suiting became a popular choice for the British aristocracy who often wore it over casual clothes out in the countryside, or while partaking in sporting events and other leisurely activities.
It took several decades for it to be adopted by the Hollywood elite after the Prince of Wales’ signature style rubbed off on them. What was once a casual piece had transformed into a symbol of formal elegance. By the 1930s, famous stars like Humphrey Bogart and Carey Grant were seen wearing them on the silver screen. This was the golden age of Hollywood cinema, so it had quite an impact on fashion trends moving forward.
It lost its appeal during and after World War II, largely because of a massive textile shortage that saw the industry scramble to make practical garments to aid in the war effort. Because the double-breasted suit requires a greater amount of fabric to create the two overlapping front flaps, it became much harder to produce. Add to that government measures like fabric rationing, and you have a style that was almost impossible to get unless you were fairly well off.
By the time the fabric shortage came to an end in the early 50s, casual wear and single-breasted suits had already replaced the double-breasted version as the norm. Now in favor of more relaxed options, the double-breasted suit lost its appeal in the eyes of consumers, at least until the 1980s.
The ‘80s was a time of exuberance, and it showed in the larger than life personas of business executives, playboys, yuppies, and the like. A resurgence of style occurred that saw the double-breasted suit take back its mantle. However, this time it would forgo its traditional slimmer profile and subtle colors in favor of bigger and bolder aesthetics. This was, in the opinion of many, an overall negative development for the double-breasted suit, tarnishing the image of a once classic piece.
Fortunately, the double-breasted suit has made a comeback. With innovations in modern weaving technology and a rakishly slim silhouette construction, the style today has not only been revived, but improved. Instead of the stuffy, old-fashioned look of the past, the suits are form fitting and sharp. And rather than being heavy and hot, today’s double-breasted suits are lightweight and cool. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t wear one.
Double-Breasted Suit ConstructionA double-breasted suit consists of multiple rows of button pairs. This is represented in numeric form to give consumers an idea of what they’re buying. For example, a “6 on 2” or 6x2 is a classic double-breasted suit jacket. The 1st number equals the number of buttons on the jacket’s front (six) and the 2nd number equals the number of functional buttons one can fasten (two). The buttons that aren’t used are for display, but they also change the look of your attire depending on how many total buttons you prefer. Some people want two, four, or even as much as eight (though this is not as common). The six-button suit remains the standard.
A more stylish variation is a “6 on 1,” which is popular in Italy. It buttons a little lower than your classic 6x2, giving the appearance of a slimmer silhouette. This is great for shorter men who want to elongate the overall look, giving them the appearance of height.
Anatoly & Sons sells a beautiful pinstripe double-breasted suit with a slim silhouette that’s very well received among our clients. It’s made from fabric by Scabal, which is among one of the most highly respected fabric mills in England, with a heritage that goes back to 1938. Our jacket is a double-breasted 6x2 with half canvas construction. The fabric is from the Royal Collection and is made from 100% wool in an elegant navy.
How a Double-Breasted Suit Should Fit
There must be a little tension when you button it—not too much, but just enough to keep it in place against your waist. You don’t want any gaps, otherwise it will appear too big and visually unappealing. Likewise, the lapels must be flush against your shirt collar, so that nothing moves and everything is kept in place. This is how you know you have a good cut.
In general, double-breasted suits look better on slimmer and taller men because they add breadth to the torso. This is because the jacket is buttoned further across the body, creating a slightly boxy look. The peak lapels also create an added dimension of width because of the way they point outward. Thankfully, the appearance of breadth has everything to do with the button configuration, which can be adjusted to easily allow for a man of any size to rock one in style.
For example, if you want to look slimmer, get a double-breasted suit where the buttons aren’t so far apart and they are positioned a bit lower on the waist. You can try on a number of different button configurations with 4 or even 2 buttons, rather than the traditional six. This visually changes the angle of the lapel, thus lengthening it. In reality, the garment doesn’t change at all, only the position in which the fabric is secured.Though it will cost you more, it’s often best to go directly to a tailor who can properly fit you with a bespoke or made-to-measure garment. Why? Because there are a lot of moving parts involved in constructing a double-breasted suit, so that the layered front is in accord with the shape of your body.
If you tried looking for a garment off the shelf, it can be pretty hard to find one that fits these days, especially because double breasted suits are not as widespread as they once were. This is quickly changing with the rise of the sartorial movement, but as of today, it remains a challenge. This can be solved by going to a high-end tailor shop or haberdashery that specializes in luxury goods.
How to Wear a Double-Breasted SuitDouble breasted suits are great for cooler months; they keep you warmer because of the extra layer of fabric in the front. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t wear one in summer. There are plenty of lightweight summer options available, like cotton/linen blends that will beat the heat without a hitch.
Double breasted suits make you look authoritative and formal, yet stylish. It’s even better now that few people wear one, mainly because they aren’t commonly found in big retail stores, and they’re also associated with a more conservative look. But a double-breasted suit is timeless, and with today’s modern cuts, you’ll stand out in the best possible way. If you’re not yet sure whether a double-breasted suit is right for you, go to a tailor who will give you several personal fittings. He’ll know what suits you best. Remember, if you get the fit right, you’re smooth sailing.
There are ways to dress down the formality of the double-breasted suit, however, if that’s what you want to do. Generally, one should always keep a double-breasted suit buttoned. It’s not technically designed to be worn unbuttoned because of the large wing-like flaps. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. If it’s a really hot day and you feel uncomfortable, unbutton it. If you put your hands in your pockets, it can pull back the flaps in a cool way. Likewise, if you’re sitting down for a meal with friends—just unbutton it like you would a single-breasted jacket. Ignore the purists and relax a bit. No one is keeping score.
The double-breasted suit's timeless elegance and enduring appeal pave the way for a promising future. With modern innovations and a growing appreciation for classic styles, we can expect to see this dashing attire making a remarkable comeback in fashion. Embracing the past while eagerly looking ahead, the double-breasted suit is set to remain a symbol of confidence, authority, and impeccable style for generations to come.