THE RETURN OF THE DOUBLE BREASTED

For years the double breasted suit was considered a fashion sin as dire as flared trousers or the piano necktie! However in the last few seasons we have seen the reemergence of this classic style re-imagined for today’s style savvy man in a great new array of patterns and uses we would have cringed at merely 4 years ago. The DB has always been one of my personal favourite styles, and my first bespoke suit was a light grey pinstriped DB back in 2005. The style, when worn well, highlights the breadth of shoulder and slims the waist. There are multiple looks and styles to the DB both as a jacket and suit.

STYLES

Double breasted jackets originated before the became suits and are still the more classic of the style. However double breasted suits in my opinion are the height of elegance and style, providing a level of sophistication only challenged by a 3 piece suit. There is an air to double breasted garments that for some reason just exudes style.

There are several types of DB, as shown below varying in their form of closure.

The Carnaby St high closure.

The Carnaby St high closure.

This style is classic English Carnaby st of the 60’s in style fastening very high, and usually requires a bold colour as a tie to add some contrast. This style is almost exclusively a suit.

denzel-washington_l

The classic “6 by 4” closure

This is the “classic” double breasted in style with 6 buttons visible and 4 appearing to close (although only 2 do, the others are decorative”. This version is great both as a suit as shown here by Denzel in American Gangster, but also as a sports coat as below.

Double Breasted sports coat done to perfection.

Double Breasted sports coat done to perfection.

The low closure is the one often seen as the DB of the 90’s due to its use in that time, but in recent times has been refreshed by the likes of Rubinacci and can look good but is fraught with danger

The single closure, often worn in a baggier style with pleated trouser in the Dark days

The single closure, often worn in a baggier style with pleated trouser in the Dark days. Not my favourite look!!!

ORIGINS

The double breasted jacket traces its origins back to the imperial British Navy as a way of ensuring warmth on the cold decks of ships by way of the overlapping closure. Even today the classic navy blazer is rich with the Navy heritage from the name of the colour, to the “anchor” button on the inside of the jacket to prevent its flapping open. This then found it’s way into the army trenches then into hunting attire before making its appearance in the classic suit iteration in the 1920’s and 30’s.

An original Navy Double breasted

An original Navy Double breasted

THE DARK DAYS

After it’s heydays in the 1920’s and 30’s and a re-emergence in the 1950’s the double breasted was reinvented for the 1980’s and 90’s in a way the ruined its elegance for years. These versions of the style were oversized at the shoulders, minimal shaping at the waist and a low single closure that added very little of elegance to a man’s shape. this was magnified by many wearing this style un-buttoned, eliminating any semblance of fit to the style.

The stereotypical 80's or 90's styled DB.

The stereotypical 80’s or 90’s style, as Jordan Belfort would have worn.

THE NEW BREED

The renaissance of this style by today’s cognoscenti has developed many bold new styles and interpretations of this great piece. One only has to look back at many of the photos from Pitti Uomo to see how prevalent DB’s have become!

HOW TO WEAR:THE RULES

To wear the double breasted well, a few simple rules should be followed. The single most important being; it must always be done up, at least by the anchor button. Due to the additional fabric from the overlapping closure, even the most fitted DB looks like a sack if not done up, ruining the lines it should create.

This leads to point two, wear this garment as fitted as you can. If you don’t like fitted garments, don’t wear DB’s. The elegance of the modern DB is how it slims at the waist and adds gravitas to the wearer by highlighting broad shoulders and slim waist lines, so wearing them loose defeats the purpose.

Never wear it too long, a DB should just cover the seat and no more in order to avoid the “too much fabric” look

If wearing as a suit, always wear a tie. This rule is much more flexible than the others, but until you have a handle on wearing a DB suit, wearing a tie always sets off a DB perfectly.

WHERE TO BUY

As a huge part of the look is based on the fit, I am a huge advocate of having your double breasted garments tailor made for you. Not only will this garment fit perfectly, but you are able to specify the small details such as buttons and more importantly have access to 1000’s of fabric choices.

As far as off the rack goes, MJ Bale in Australia have a great selection of DB jackets, while Harrolds stock some amazing DB’s from international labels like Kiton, Brioni and Caruso. Zegna and Canali always offer high quality options too. Ralph Lauren has always been a champion of the DB and still has some of the best OTR options as do Brooks Brothers.

Although they haven’t been included in this piece, double breasted coats of different styles have always been a huge part of men’s wardrobes, from trench coats to chesterfields and peacoats and should also be embraced for colder times

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About themaninasuit

I have been involved in the menswear business since university in1997. Have gradually fallen in love with men's suiting and more recently tailor made garments. I am perpetually asked for style advise and things to wear so decided to get some of my thoughts and passions out and about

2 responses to “THE RETURN OF THE DOUBLE BREASTED”

  1. Antome says :

    Hi, what do you think about matching socks with the dress shirt? I saw that it works out great in many case, it looks a bit different but equally elegant. :).

    • themaninasuit says :

      I love some bold socks, but have to say have never tried to match them to my shirt per se!! Could be a great look, maybe a style signature for you!!
      As long as the sock’s colours and texture (very important cashmere socks look very strange under a linen suit!!) go well with the look and theme of an outfit you are in the clear!!

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