Making the Cut: The Most Important Suit Alterations

Bespoke may be the current buzzword among all the well-suited ranks offering exact tailoring providing nothing short of a seamless fit from top to bottom. Yet all that sartorial customization often comes with a hefty price tag — and a bit of a waiting game.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to break the bank (or wait for weeks and weeks) to fit right in with the bespoke boys — a good tailor can remedy a multitude of off-the-rack sins.

Here are some of the most important suit alterations you and your tailor will want to check the box on to ensure you’ll be stepping out with precision focus and in sharply tuned style.

1. Shorten the sleeves

A man in a well-tailored suit

A well-tailored suit | iStock.com

Sometimes the smallest details make all the difference. Such is the case with suit sleeves; improper length is a dead giveaway for a dud suit. Many off-the-rack suits have sleeves that can be up to several inches too long depending on your height and build. Ideally, you should allow 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch of shirt cuff (called “linen”) to show when your hands are down at your side.

When sleeves are tailored properly, the look is classically debonair and rakish. Plus, it gives those cufflinks their well-deserved time in the sun. While style icons such as Frank Sinatra always got the sleeve-to-cuff ratio right, unaltered sleeves are a sartorial epidemic — even the red carpets are filled with repeat offenders.

As a result, men often portray a style that is rather juvenile instead of handsomely sophisticated. You should not look as if you’re playing dress-up in dad’s suit so don’t shirk your sleeve duty!

2. Hem your pants

hemmed pants

Hemmed pants | iStock.com

It is common for pants to be unfinished with about a 38-inch inseam — too long for almost anyone except the NBA players. So, if your slam-dunks are more of off-the-court variety, then those trousers must be hemmed. However, you have a few options on how to manage the length. The first question is to cuff or not to cuff. Non-cuffed is a far more modern, sleek look and is undoubtedly superior for slim, non-pleated pants. Cuffs are better for pleated pants as they add weight to the bottom of the pant and allow the fabric to drape naturally. Done right, it’s classic. But, done wrong, cuffs are nothing short of frumpy and aging.

The other element to consider is the break of the pants. The break is the length to which a pant extends down your leg and rests atop your foot. Full, half, or no break — it’s up to your personal taste, but a medium-full break where the back of the pants hits the top of your heel and naturally breaks over the top of your shoes is recommended. This will also prevent your pants from riding up too high above your socks when you sit down.

3. Streamline your jacket

men's suit jackets hanging in a closet

Men’s suit jackets | iStock.com

A sharply fitted and well-shaped jacket is the difference between boxy and, well, James Bond. And 007 is the way to go here. Sometimes called waist suppression, the cinching and darting of a jacket’s waist accentuates the ideal “V” shape of the male torso and it should be high on your list of alterations. After all, it’s a good way to watch your figure and keep any unwanted pounds from creeping on with a baggy jacket. It goes both ways, though, as you don’t want that sport coat to be too snug either. Make sure your tailor has you do the “hug” test; once the jacket is pinned, pretend like you are hugging someone (or really hug them!). If a pin feels as if it is going to tear out, then it’s a bit too tight.

4.Let the waist in (or out)

Man in perfectly tailored suits

Perfectly tailored suits | Brooksbrothers.com

Skip the belt, which can create unnecessary bulk, and have your tailor make a few nips and tucks instead to ensure a perfect fit around your waist. Baggy is bad, but a distracting choke-hold around your midsection is even worse so don’t let your pride keep you from letting out the waistband an inch or two. You should be comfortable when you sit, stand, and walk.

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