Mafioso bosses, cocky day traders, and arrogant Maître D’s all have one thing in common: They’ve all been stereotyped as wearers of double-breasted suits. While this notoriously buttoned-up style somehow was put into a category of severe formality and rigidity, the truth is that DB suits actually started life as a piece of casual menswear that was not allowed as business attire because it was too laid back.
This style was a sporting jacket that came about in the 19th century, and it was originally called a ‘reefer jacket’ because of its nautical background, not because wearers liked to get high. Thanks to the Duke of Windsor the double-breasted jacket eventually became acceptable for wear to all occasions, and eventually was adopted in the 30’s and 40’s by crime kingpins and bankers – which are just crime kingpins with better titles.
The advantage to these reefer jackets is that they offer more mobility than their single-breasted siblings. This makes them more comfortable for active pursuits, and allow you to swing a bat into the back of your capo’s head when he rats you out to the coppers. Unfortunately, wearing this unusual cut can be a challenge. Which is why we’re making your life easier by giving you all the tips and tricks you need to know for wearing a double-breasted suit without looking like an insufferable tool failing at ‘irony.’
Related Reading: A Guide to Button Down Collar Shirts
A double-breasted suit is supposed to fit a specific way. It should be snug around the hips and wide at the shoulders. Even if you’ve never been to a tailor in your life, this is the time to start. An otherwise beautiful look can be ruined if it gets sloppy in the midsection. The more girth you have at your middle, the more you need an expert to cut it right for you.
Peak Your Lapels
A few designers have tried to experiment with notched lapels to ill effect. The point of a double-breasted jacket is to accentuate the shoulders, which wide peaks accomplish better than anything else. You’re going for a vintage look here, so it’s not the place to get experimental. Go with what works.
Never Button the Bottom
There’s only two buttons on a jacket of this type that should ever be employed: One exterior and one interior anchor button. If you’re using more, you’re wrecking the lines of the suit and making yourself look like a rube.
Keep It Simple
The double-breasted suit is a statement unto itself. There’s no need to get a bunch of heavy pinstripes or unusual patterns. Stick to thin stripes if you must, or go with a windowpane pattern if you’re really sure you know what you’re doing. For most guys: Stay with single colors that are dark and dashing. You can outfit it with accessories if you require more color or noise.
Always Go For 6 Buttons
There’s a 6×2 style of double-breasted suit that is the most timeless. It has six buttons where two are used. There’s also a 4×2 style that is almost exclusively used by yachtsmen in the 1960’s. Unless you’re Robert Redford or have a few billion to throw around, stay in your lane with a 6-button option. You might even go with a 6-button that doesn’t have an interior anchor, but the look can get sloppy fast.
Cinch It Up
Whatever the number of buttons you have on hand, the ones you need to be using should be closed at all times, or at least while standing up. The second you open up a double-breasted jacket, the illusion starts to fall apart. These go from chic to catastrophe in seconds flat, which requires you never release the Kraken.
Add Flair To Your Trousers
If your suit isn’t a single piece, or you plan on wearing the jacket with a pair of alternative pants, they should have personality to spare. While flat-front trousers are popular, reaching for something with pleats, a gathered waist, and cuffs at the end help add sartorial flash to your panache. If going with jeans, please adhere to our jeans with a jacket rules.
Put In A Pocket Square
In addition to making your pants a little on the splashy side, a pocket square is a must for when you’re donning the double-breaster. It helps the look work without a tie, and helps further accentuate the rooster appearance of the coat.
Use a French Cuff
The more the merrier when it comes to dressing up your new piece of style. A striking cuff with a pair of equally glamorous cufflinks add icing to your overall appearance. They help show that you’re out there, loud and proud, making a damn statement like Kaepernick sitting during the national anthem. Don’t do it halfway.
Wear It Like an Alpha
You’re going big and bold with a double-breasted suit, and that means carrying yourself like it. You can slump over in the corner like a schlub when you put on that ratty old blazer or go with the jeans and t-shirt. Don’t let your clothes wear you. Puff that chest and put some bass in your tone, son.
Check the Forecast
There’s a lot of fabric here and that means added weight. Even if you get the DB in a lightweight, summer cloth, it’s going to feel like wearing a wolf pelt. Prepare for this so you don’t soak through your shirt or sweat bullets all through the meeting. Cold is your friend, embrace it.
Make That Tie Bold
In accentuating your shoulders and tightening up high on you waist, a jacket with the double cut will draw eyes to your chest and neck. Here’s your chance to throw on a big double-windsor knot in an eye-grabbing shade. While the coat should be a plain tint with minimal adornment, your tie should be kicking in the door, fashionably.
Wear It Anytime
Double-breasted suits are made to get you noticed, making them ideal for first impressions. There isn’t really a bad time to rotate these into your wardrobe, but it helps if the people you’re meeting don’t know you, as they’re less likely to get snide with their commentary. The bigger an event, the better this look goes over.
Sharpen Your Tongue
Your friends, family, and co-workers are going to make note of your new look, so be prepared. You’ve got their attention, so you’d damn sure better know what to do with it. Get a little clothing-based repartee prepared for when the feedback starts to land.
To lessen the hits that come your way, you shouldn’t go from sweatpants and hoodies to a full double-breasted suit unless you’re damn certain you can shoot the moon. Begin by elevating your wardrobe with more sport coats, then slide your way up the scale. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a real man’s wardrobe.
Once you decide it’s time to play at the double-breasted leagues, go all in. Pomp, flash, and splendor are the hallmarks of this suit. You’d better have the right money clip, the right sunglasses, and even the right socks to pull it off. When you do, it’s a thing of memorable glory.
My first double breasted was tailored for me in Thailand, Indian tailors. Three trips back to the shop in a week for measurements and it’s the best $149.00 I ever spent. This included two white dress shirts and two silk ties. I wish I had more money to spend but was a low ranking sailor/USN. If you find yourself in Pattaya Beach, you won’t regret it! And for the suit too.
If the suit fits, wear it. Accentuation works best with bodies that conform to the style that suits were made to exaggerate. Some say that a suit can make a man, but I say the man makes the suit. For the larger mid section fellows, a vertical pinstripe may conceal extra pounds, but for the fit man whether large or small it’s uniformity that draws attention.
I believe the 4×2 button pattern looks better on a navy or black blazer, especially on a shorter man. I’m having one made that way. And what about wearing it with a tab collar dress shirt? That’s what I do.
How about addressing the ladies? How does a lady sit in
a double breasted blazer?
I assume your tip about “never button the bottom”
applies to the ladies, too.
Thanks for the idea. We’ll probably write a tutorial for ladies, too. Soon :)