August 19, 2012

The Art of Fit Pt 7 – The Sport Jacket

A sport jacket is the companion piece to the trouser in that it is a tailored piece that is not part of a suit. It is very similar in construction to a suit jacket but because it is (often) worn more casually, the fit considerations are a bit different.

There are a few things that carry throughout that can help narrow down the choices right off the bat. You should usually stick to a two-button jacket and the lapels should be about 2.5” – 3.5” to stay in the safe zone and keep that timeless look. You can always stray from this, but you risk investing in a piece that may eventually look dated.

Depending on who is making them, a sport jacket will either come in lettered sizes (S, M, L, etc) or suiting sizes (38, 40, 42, etc). Now obviously suiting sizes will give you a closer fit, but knowing your size for either system starts in the same place – with a chest measurement. If you have a measuring tape, have a friend (or the salesperson in the suiting department) wrap it around the widest part of your chest. This will be your base measurement, but also where it starts to get a little confusing.

With pants, if your waist measures 34, you can pick up a pair of pants and if they measure 34, they will most likely fit regardless of vanity sizing. With tailored jackets, if your chest measures 40, you will still pick up a size 40, but the jacket itself will actually measure closer to 42 to accommodate the layers you will be wearing underneath. Most companies base their lettered samples on a Medium, which for a jacket is usually right around a 40. Once you have a general idea of what your sizing is, you can start to get into the details.

The most important thing to consider when buying a tailored jacket of any kind is the shoulder. There are a lot of really incredible things that a tailor can do to make your jacket fit perfectly, but fixing the shoulders is not one of them. Though possible, it is difficult, time-consuming, and thus costly, and basically means reconstructing the jacket so I would recommend making sure this area fits you well before purchasing. When shopping for a jacket, you also want to keep the amount of padding in the shoulders to a minimum. Not only will this help with a more natural and less boxy look, but it will also help give you a classically timeless piece.

When the jacket is on and buttoned, the shoulder seam should hit right at the bone on the edge of your shoulder. Too far off and your jacket will just look ill fitting, too tight and it will restrict your movement even if the body fits fine. If you are in between sizes, try on as many different labels as you can until you find one that hits your shoulders right because each one will fit slightly different.

Once you have the shoulders taken care of, it is time to move on to cuff. Since sport jackets are intended for more casual wear than a suit jacket, the length of the cuff tends to be a little longer. While the exact length depends on your own style, there are a few good guidelines to follow. If you feel your wrist, you should feel the bone, then a slight dip, and then the flare of where your hand starts.

This dip is the ideal length of the jacket sleeve when your arm is down at your side because it gives you the most versatility of what you can wear the jacket with. Any shorter and you risk showing a lot of wrist if you throw it on with a short sleeved knit or tee; any longer and it starts looking oversized. If the sleeve is close but not exactly where you want it, don’t worry, a good tailor can take care of that.

The next big thing is the jacket length. Sport coats are often cut a little shorter than suit jackets, again, because they are a little more casual. A good general rule to follow is this – with your arms at your side the hem for a sport jacket should fall between the first knuckle and tip of your thumb. Anything within that range is pretty classic and going outside of it is making more of a statement. Whether that is good or bad depends on your style and how you wear it.

Jacket by Ted Baker; Shirt by Uniqlo; Pants by Marc by Marc Jacobs;
Boat shoes by Timberland; Belt by Brooks Brothers

Lastly is the body, and this is surprisingly pretty simple. You generally want to look for a slim (sometimes called tailored) fit just so that there is a little definition to the body. Like with most pieces, avoid the extremes. Too boxy or too skinny usually end up looking dated and trendy, respectively, which is never a good look. When buttoned, there should be about a fist’s worth of space between the jacket and your body to make sure you have a good range of motion.

As I have said countless times, clothing should be an investment. Know how your clothes should fit to make sure it is a worthwhile one.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

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