Custom vs. Off the Rack Suits


If you are used to wearing off the rack suits, a custom suit will feel quite different. The suit will be tighter in the armhole, waist and shoulders. Do not be alarmed by this, as this is how a suit should actually fit. Off the rack clothing is made for the masses and for the “average” size. Everyone is uniquely proportioned so it is rare to find someone that fits an off the rack size. Many style options are preference, always stick to what you are used to such as:

– length of the jacket
– 2 button or 3 button jacket
– centre or side vents
– overall tighter fit or looser fit in chest

Another important factor in custom suits is measurements. Each tailor has his/her own way of taking measurements and this is also based on what type of cut is being made.

Photos from

Fabric Weights





“Super” is an industry term, it is a measure of how finely the wool is spun together. The lower the Super number, the more heavier and durable the fabric. The higher the Super number, the softer and finer the fabric. “Sheen” is created when small amounts of silk or cashmere are added to the wool.

Jacket Structure – Non Fused (Canvas)












Fused (Glued)


One of the features of a custom suit that make it so different than an off the rack suit is its inner core. The suit skeleton (between the lining and fabric) is a handsewn canvas that is made up of material that resembles the brittleness of horse hair as well another cotton layer called melton. The canvas is a tad heavier and conforms to the movement of the fabric. In off the rack suits, this middle layer is a synthetic material that acts like a glue and “fuses” itself to the lining and fabric. In most cases, depending on the price and brand – it is a high quality synthetic glue that is activated through heating.

The true benefit of a floating canvas is not seen by the naked eye in the short term. In the long term, the hand stitching will stretch with the canvas through wear and tear and remain smooth on the outside. For a fused canvas, after frequent dry cleaning, the suit may begin to pucker as the glue loses adhesiveness.



The peaked lapel is more of a formal look while the notched lapel is more of an everyday look. There is also a more formal “shawl” lapel that is most appropriate on tuxedo jackets. Both the peaked and notched lapels are suitable on any suit and is based on preference.

2 button vs. 3 button

buttons on jacket

A 2-button jacket has a longer lapel, while the 3-button jacket has a shorter lapel. Currently, the 2-button jacket is in style but either look is based on preference and body type.

Jacket Vents



Choice of vent is based on body type. A centre vent may suit someone who is tall and slender, while a double vent may suit someone who has a wider lower body. However, in the sartorial scheme of things, a single vent arises from equastrian origin. A blazer worn while wearing a horse is called a hacking jacket, this is when a single vent just makes sense. In most cases, a single vent on a non-horse riding jacket may look a tad awkward, but again this is dependent on body type and of course, preference

Working Button Cuffs


In the past, gentlemen wore suits everyday for all occasions, even when having to deliver babies. This is where the term “surgeon’s cuffs” originated from. The cuffs have buttons that can unbutton allowing one to roll up the jacket sleeves. In today’s age, this is a bit unnecessary, and so there is no real use to having surgeon’s cuffs, other than the fact that it shows onlookers that the suit is indeed custom made. It is much easier to machine sew the button holes closed, rather than take the time to hand sew up to 4 button holes on the cuff. Therefore, this luxury may sometimes cost extra as well.

Pick Stitching on Lapel


The detail on the edges of the lapel is created through hand stitching (in a colour of your choice) along the edges. This is an optional detail which has no real purpose other than creating a decorative touch to a otherwise plain lapel.

Inside Piping & Stitching

pick stitching

Inside piping is located in the inside of the jacket and acts as a decorative barrier between the suit lining and the jacket fabric. Sometimes, there is pick stitching beside the piping which can also be in a different colour thread than the lining and piping. Again, there is no real purpose to these details except that they make the suit look very unique.Since it is more or less hidden from view,these details are more for the enjoyment of the wearer. It is at the wearer’s discretion to figure out tactics and strategies of how to show the details to onlookers.

Occasionally you will see these details in off the rack suits, however keep in mind that the pick stitching is not hand stitched. It is merely done by a sewing machine setting that will allow the stitching to appear to be uneven indicating that it is “done by hand”.

Ticket Pocket








The ticket pocket was traditionally used to hold Opera tickets as they are generally long and narrow and don’t fit into normal pockets. As you can imagine, nowadays this pocket is generally useless as it is a rare occasion for one to go to the Opera. Like the surgeon cuff, the ticket pocket is a sign of prestige and tradition. It is also currently in style.

Trouser Widths


There are three main trouser styles: tapered, straight or wide. Currently, the tapered or “skinny” trouser is in style, however this look does not compliment all body types. The straight leg trouser is standard and looks good on any body type. The wide leg trouser only suits those with a heavier/wider lower body and is of average height.

Trouser Pockets


Other then having no pockets, the above picture shows three general styles of pockets that are suitable for trousers. For those that have a heavier/wider lower body, a straight pocket may be better suited as a slant pocket may have a tendency to puff out and appear bulky. However,the slant pocket is fairly common and traditional so it depends largely on individual preference. The seam pocket may suit any body type and still allow for a laissez-faire/hands-in-my-pockets pose.

Trouser Pleats








Pleats are very traditional and utterly out of style. They are often seen on senior gentlemen out of habit. Pleats are made for men that are larger than normal around the stomach AND as a result wear their trouser at their natural waist (around the belly button). For a person that is of average build and wears their trousers a little lower (usually around the hip bone), a flat front is generally more attractive and stylish. When pleated trousers are worn at the hip bone it creates the illusion of balloon-sized thighs, and flood-ready cuffs.

Trouser Cuffs


Like many suits details such as surgeon cuffs and the ticket pocket, cuffs were invented out of necessity and now have no purpose other than for style. In the olden days, when gentlemen had to walk through rain and mud, their pants would get all dirty. In an effort to salvage their trousers, they started to roll them up and hence forward it became fashionable to do so. Cuffs can look good on any pant style and are dependent on personal style and sometimes body type.


14 Responses to “Beginner’s Guide to Suits – Complete Guide”

  1. […] from the beginner’s guide to suits into intermediate learning. The complete beginners guide is here and also on the right side panel for your […]

  2. I dont know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    …..Frank Scurley

  3. Savannah Says:

    Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.

  4. schristman Says:

    Quite a few errors here. Dress trousers should always be worn at the natural waist, regardless of body type. Super numbers have nothing to do with formality. Side vents flatter most body types better than a center vent. And while pleats may not be in fashion, they are always in style.

  5. savillian Says:

    Schristman – Thank you for your comment!

    I do agree with you – trousers should be worn at the natural waist which is ususally higher than regular jeans or casual wear..

    The reason I feel that (higher) Super numbers have to do with formality is because it is not only more expensive but finer material that can wear out easily especially in the knees and elbows.

    From our experience of fitting all body types, we learned that a single vent looks better on slender individuals while double vents allow for easier movement for larger body types.

    Lastly, pleats being in style is subject to opinion, and you are entitled to yours – but I stick to my original post of them not being in style right now.

  6. […] from the beginner’s guide to suits into intermediate learning. The complete beginners guide is here and also on the right side panel for your […]

  7. This was an excellent overview. We really think that men have lost touch with what makes a great suit. I hope that this is taken to heart.

    If anyone is looking for a wardrobe upgrade, we’re having a Kickstarter campaign which may be of interest.

  8. KDR1 Says:

    There was a time when I wore suits to work routinely. But then the “business casual” phenomenon hit, resulting in khakis and polos for all. I personal feel that dressing down was harder and wish we could go back to more formal business attire.

    Even though I still work in a business casual environment, I’m going to start wearing suites more often (dinners, balls, shows, holidays, etc). I still have a good number of suits in my closet, but many of them are out of style or no longer fit. Your blog contains very helpful information that I will use to rebuild my suit wardrobe.

    Many thanks!

  9. Michael Says:

    Very informative.good tutorial for a beginner and facts reminder to the learned.

  10. Yashraj Says:

    great site ….
    usefull information… 🙂

  11. Colin London Says:

    You can’t beat bespoke. Thanks for the heads up!

  12. Jonathan Garcia Says:

    Great article, would have super if you had included a what to wear and when to wear guide for these suit styles.

  13. Craig Says:

    “A blazer worn while wearing a horse is called a hacking jacket” this made me laugh.

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