Even though suits, in general, have gotten less popular, the double-breasted suit, even more so than a single-breasted suit, has all but vanished from offices, streets, and occasions where you could maybe wear a suit. So, why did they fall out of favor? We’ll talk about the eight reasons today.
Few articles in your wardrobe capture the essence of elegant clothing as well as a double-breasted suit. This style of suit silhouette reached its peak at the Golden Age of menswear in the 1930s, but also through the 1940s. As the years went on, it became less popular. Think about Wall Street in 1980s or Giorgio Armani suits of the 1990s, they often wore double-breasted suits, and were left in that era.
8 Reasons Why DB Suits Fell Out of Favor: 1. Dated Appearance Can Look Costume-y
Double-breasted suit jackets have a somewhat dated appearance that, to some people, may even seem costume-y. Given that the double-breasted suit was so popular during the 30s and 40s, we often associate its look with that era. Prominent historical figures, such as Winston Churchill or Al Capone, famously wore double-breasted suits, but they have been dead for quite a while.
Later, Batman villains, like The Joker or Max Shreck, were inspired by the double-breasted suit in that Gotham vintage-style movie by Tim Burton. Think about the purple double-breasted suit The Joker wore. This further cemented the double-breasted suit more in the cosplay arena, and it wasn’t associated with elegant men who wanted to wear a suit about town.
Another reason double-breasted suits started to fall out of favor, even in the 40s, was the cloth rationing. Because the war effort, cloth was rationed. So, for example, turnups or cuffs on your pants were not encouraged, sometimes, disallowed.
The full-cut pants from the 30s were slimmed down and if you think about it, a double-breasted jacket has two layers of fabric versus a single-breasted uses less fabric, so it was also encouraged to wear a single-breasted rather than a double-breasted suit.
Of course, just like with many things in fashion, things come and they go; and fashion designers typically pick up on a traditional style; change a few things, sometimes exaggerate; and there you have the latest fashion. That’s exactly what happened in the 1980s and 90s. Armani took the traditional 30s and 40s double-breasted silhouette, added a lot of shoulder padding and more drape, and voila, a new style was born. Think less Humphrey Bogart, more 90s football player.
Also, the buttoning point changed; where in the 30s, the buttoning point was close to natural waist, which is typically around your belly button.
In the 90s, that shifted quite a bit down. Just think about “Miami Vice” and their double-breasted suits, definitely became part of the Yuppie culture. “Wall Street” was a bit better because it was styled by Alan Flosser. So, Michael Douglas wore a quite nice, double-breasted suit. Nevertheless, the association of double-breasted suits with “Miami Vice” created this association with Yuppie culture, and not with an elegant man. Of course, there were other movies – just look at Patrick Bateman from American Psycho.
Even with more modern movie iterations like “The Kingsman” series, the double breasted suit has now slightly more positive connotations, but it’s still tied to more of an old spy look. All these associations have helped to perpetuate the stereotype that the double-breasted suit is not something you wear in your normal life, which brings us to our next point.
2. Old Age Associations
In a culture as youth-obsessed as ours today, who wants to look old? If you go through your grandma and grandpa’s family photo album, chances are you’ll see double-breasted suits; but if you never see them around you today, you automatically associate it with something worn in an era gone by.
The same can be said for pleated pants or high-waisted pants. A lot of people associate it with grandpa or great-grandpa clothes, but now, there are also a few fashion brands who embrace the wider, fuller cut again and like pleats. We, the Gentleman’s Gazette, believe that style shouldn’t be so dictated by the fashion of the day, but more by your personal physique and what’s flattering for you.
Ancient Madder Silk Bow Tie in Red and Buff Macclesfield Neats – Fort Belvedere
Cashmere Wool Grenadine Tie in Dark Blue, Burgundy, Light Grey Stripe – Fort Belvedere
Wool Challis Bow Tie in Burgundy Red with Yellow Polka Dots and Pointed Ends – Fort Belvedere
Orange Exotic Caribbean Boutonniere Buttonhole Flower Fort Belvedere
Dark Magenta Purple Lotus Flower Silk Boutonniere Lapel Pin Flower – Fort Belvedere
Blue Cornflower Boutonniere Buttonhole Flower Silk Fort Belvedere
Brick Red Pocket Square Art Deco Egyptian Scarab pattern in green, orange, yellow, blue with green contrast edge by Fort Belvedere
Soft-washed Dark Denim Jeans Blue Pocket Square with sunflower yellow handrolled X-stitch edges – Fort Belvedere
Charcoal, Purple and Blue Silk-Wool Pocket Square with Paisley Motifs – Fort Belvedere
Monkey Fist Knot Cufflinks – 925 Sterling Silver Platinum Plated – Fort Belvedere
Also, if you think about it, in the last 20, 25 years, the slim fit suit has been all the rage. Double-breasted suits were often cut a little bit of roomier with a bit more drape so, automatically, it was kind of a misfit. On top of that, many older men who just recently retired still wear their slacks and blazers, their double-breasted from a time in the 90s when everything was oversized. It was never a flattering look, to begin with, but with every physique change, it’s even worse.
So, a lot of young men don’t want to be associated with the almost “stigmatized” old man look. On the flip side, there has also been somewhat of a resurgence of the double-breasted sport coat – not necessarily the suit – so people like Lino Ieluzzi, who’s also isn’t the youngest guy anymore, started wearing them kind of very casually, in bold fabrics, with patch pockets; and younger people picked up that style.
So, if you go to Pitti Uomo, you see a lot more casual, double-breasted jackets, but also suits. Obviously, the double-breasted look is not something that is just associated with old age. It can also be owned by young people and quite well so, too.
3. Broader Silhouette
Double-breasted suits have fallen somewhat out of favor is that they create, naturally, a much broader silhouette, which is at odds with a slim fit suits trend that was experienced for the last two decades. By the sheer design of the double-breasted jacket, with peak lapels, you automatically get a broader shoulder. This is owed to the military influences, where you also had peak lapels, and typically, the double row of buttons.
It creates a certain sense of formality and presence. If you compare that to the skinny, single-breasted lapels that were popular in recent years, you can easily see how just the nature of the double-breasted jacket is at odds with that style.
That being said, you can definitely find very skinny lapelled, double-breasted jackets these days from fashion-forward brands, but that’s not a mainstream look that’s available to a lot of people – nor should it be. Why, you might ask? Well, if you take a double-breasted suit and you change the button stance, you slim everything down, it can very quickly look quite weird. If not weird, then definitely “hyper-trendy.”
In line with the lapel shape and paired with the fact the double-breasted jackets are, by design, meant to be buttoned, you automatically get this V-shape, which a lot of people associate with muscular men who work out a lot, so if you don’t do that, you can’t wear that suit.
Some might also argue that a double-breasted suit, more so than a single-breasted one, will hide your gut or your belly or your “dad bod.” Others will say that especially thinner men will look buried in the layers of fabric, which will make them look shrimpy. Just think of Niles Crane from Fraiser.
Though it’s worth noting that the costume designers put Niles in an oversized suit for a comedic effect, it was supposed to highlight and emphasize the Yuppie culture of the pretentious, pompous person who was wearing that suit. Again, in movies and series, clothes are often used to emphasize or stylize a message that is supposed to be portrayed in. That being said, all clothes, to some extent, have the purpose to hide certain defects or imperfections and highlight other things.
So, for example, think of shoulder pads: the only reason you have shoulder pads is not a practical one, but simply to make you look in a certain way. If you have a lot of shoulder pad, it’s supposed to look bigger, more impressive. If you have no shoulder pads, it is different. But, clothing, in general, will always help to highlight certain areas and detract from others.
4. Heightened Formality
The fourth reason double-breasted suits have fallen out of favor is that they’re associated with a very formal style, and, in general, society has gravitated toward something much more casual. It’s true that double-breasted suits are generally more formal than their single-breasted counterparts, especially when they come in darker colors or stripes. It’s often associated with a uniform worn by investment bankers, regular bankers, or maybe attorneys.
Even if you take two suits in the same fabric, the double-breasted would have, historically, always been considered to be more formal. But, why is that? They have a military background. But, a peak lapel is considered to be always more formal than in notched lapel. That’s why, for example, on a tuxedo, you typically have peaked lapels because it’s a more formal garment than a regular suit.
Also, on a White Tie tailcoat, you typically have peaked lapels for the exact same reason. By the way, if you want to learn more about Black Tie, we have the world’s most comprehensive Black Tie guide.
The other reason why a double-breasted suit is more formal is its pocket shape. Typically, a double-breasted suit will have a jetted pocket, which is the most formal, or maybe a flat pocket, which is slightly less formal. Only in recent years have you seen double-breasted suits or jackets with patch pockets, which are distinctly less formal. But, a way to learn more about formality and clothes and what influences what and how you can adjust your outfit to the formality scale you want, check out our formality scale guide.
The Formality Scale: How Clothes Rank From Formal To Informal
Another drawback of the double-breasted jacket is that you typically have to wear it buttoned if you want to avoid “bat wings.” What do I mean by that? Well, if you unbutton the double-breasted suit, you have these massive flaps of cloth there that almost look like bat wings.
Unbuttoned double-breasted suits have these massive flaps of cloth that we call “bat wings”.
Now, with a single-breasted jacket, on the other hand, you can leave it unbuttoned, and it still looks fine, especially compared to an unbuttoned double-breasted jacket.
Of course, if you wear a three-piece suit or a waistcoat underneath, oftentimes, men intentionally leave their jacket unbuttoned; though, double-breasted three-piece suits are quite rare and were something that was popular during a time when central heating was very prevalent, and having that extra layer of fabric underneath was more of a necessity than a style statement.
Plus, if you wear a three-piece suit, that’s typically always more formal than the equivalent two-piece suit.
The double-breasted suit is also much more symmetrical and much more clearly resembles formal military uniforms of the past. Yes, if you look closely, it’s not truly symmetrical; but from afar, the shape of the lapels, the double row of buttons, it’s all very clean and symmetrical. As we explain in detail in our post “The History of the Suit,” first, it was the so-called lounge suit, and it was meant to be a casual alternative to otherwise a morning coat ensemble or a frockcoat ensemble.
History of the Suit: The Evolution of Menswear from 1800 to Today
So, to that extent, a suit as we know it today used to be the equivalent of, what is today, joggers, tracksuits, and trainers.
Even today, if you see people who want to look particularly formal, they most often gravitated towards a double-breasted suit. Think about King Charles III – he definitely wears a lot of double-breasted suits and so too his brothers. His sons, on the other hand, are more often seen with single-breasted jackets, even though they also have double-breasted ones.
Even though suits, in general, in this day and age, are considered to be a very formal garment, I’d argue that dressing down and casualizing a double-breasted suit is a bit more tricky than a single-breasted suit. Why is that? First of all, a double-breasted suit often looks odd without some form of neckwear. Whether it’s a bow tie or a tie, but having that, makes your ensemble more formal. Of course, there are many ways to dress down a double-breasted suit. One of them is, for example, accessories.
So, rather than a print tie, you take a tie in shantung silk or a knit tie for example. You could also have maybe a brushed cotton shirt or a linen shirt or something that makes it less formal.
5. Confusing “Rules”
The fifth reason double-breasted suits have fallen out of favor is that they confuse a lot of men these days. Especially if you’re new to classic men’s clothing and you’re learning the ropes, you may be intimidated by it. Maybe it feels like this is not something you can quite yet wear. I think the rules around double-breasted jackets are particularly intimidating.
Double-breasted jackets should always have a peak lapel, but why? Again, it has to do with historic associations with military clothing. If you have a tuxedo or a dinner jacket, you could have a double-breasted silhouette with a shawl collar, for example.
Another area of confusion and intimidation are button configurations and buttoning rules. Most commonly, double-breasted jackets come in a six-by-two button configuration. That means there’s an overall of six buttons in the front, two of which are actually buttoned. But, there can also be a four-by-two button configuration, meaning four buttons, two of which are buttoned; or a four-by-one or an eight-by-three or a six-by-one, and the list goes on. But, honestly, there’s even a two-by-one. So, how exactly should you button a jacket? First of all, we got a whole post on that topic.
How To Button Your Suits, Jackets, Vests, Overcoats, & Tuxedo
But, ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference. Some jackets are meant to be buttoned on the higher button, which is typically closer to the waistline. Sometimes, people also leave the bottom button unbuttoned to make it a bit more casual.
If you take the same jacket and you start buttoning the lower button, you also have to make sure that the inside button is also buttoned lower; otherwise, your lapels will look asymmetrical. But, if you button both of the lower buttons, you can see how your lapels visually appear bigger than before.
The point is: all these rules can be intimidating, thus making double-breaster jackets harder to wear because it’s yet another reason to not wear them, because you may do something wrong; and the good thing about rules is: truly, they’re more like guidelines. And someone, at some point in time, thought about them and came up with that rule, but especially, if you know the rule, you can definitely break it if it works better with your style.
6. RTW Construction Changes
Another reason why double-breasted suits have fallen out of favor is the innovation in the fabric sector. Over the last 100 years, fabrics have undergone quite an innovation. Especially the finishing, it has gotten so much better. The fibers are finer, and when you touch the wool of today, it can be super smooth and just marvelous to the touch.
At the same time, along with climate change, the demand of male customers has gone towards lighter-weight fabric. Because a lot of people associate lightweight fabrics with less overheating, they don’t think about the shoddy interlining or the openness of the weave, all of which are factors that impact the way you feel when wearing a suit. That being said, lighter-weight fabrics, in general, drape less well than heavier-weight fabrics.
Double-breasted suits traditionally had more of a drape cut, and so, they benefited from heavier fabrics. Back in the day, when your grandpa’s suits were probably made in the USA, he would wear them much more frequently, and he’d have much fewer suits. So, today, you can afford more suits, and you wear them less frequently. So, fabrics don’t have to withstand or hold anymore, and so they’re not designed to be hard-wearing really anymore.
This trend towards lighter weights is especially troublesome for double-breasted suits as a lighter-weight fabric will not create the same drape effect and just lead to more wrinkles, which is not desirable in most beholder’s eyes – or at least, that’s the stereotype.
The suit I’m wearing here right now, for example, is made of extremely fine wool. It’s super soft, it’s lightweight, and it’s the equivalent of probably a Super 250s.
Frankly, in general, I personally favor heavier fabrics because they drape better, but this length was given to me by Vitale Barberis Canonico, who made it for a specific anniversary; and frankly, it changed my mind a bit about these high-twist, super fine fabrics because it is really nice to wear them, even though you see a lot more wrinkles.
After all, I don’t want to look like a wrinkly paper bag. Although, if we talk linen suits, I actually appreciate the wrinkles, but that’s stuff for another post.
7. Difficult to Fit Off-the-Rack
The seventh reason men stopped wearing double-breasted suits is that they are harder to fit off-the-rack. Obviously, 200 years ago, clothes were custom-made and expensive, but these days, the vast majority of men buy suits off-the-rack. Now, with double-breasted suits and the fact that you have to wear it buttoned, potential fit issues become much more obvious, and the general consumer today lacks the knowledge of what can and cannot be tailored at an alterations tailor without a lot of investment.
For all the reasons mentioned earlier, if you’re new to suits, and you have a choice between single-breasted and double-breasted, you probably will gravitate towards a single-breasted, especially if you see some more material bulging up and you don’t know why that is, and you may not feel comfortable wearing this double-breasted suit.
Also, the nature of the double-breasted suit is that of symmetry, and human bodies are simply not symmetrical. I mean, just look at me. My right shoulder is a lot lower than my left one, for example. And that’s the case for most people: they just don’t know it yet.
So, yes, making a double-breasted suit look good on you and doing all the proper alterations takes more effort and more money; and of course, if you buy an off-the-rack suit, ideally, you want to buy something that fits like a glove. If that’s your expectation, I think you’ll always be disappointed because there is no such thing as a perfect fit from a suit off-the-rack. And if you think it is, probably your standards for a proper fit are just too low.
In other words, I’ve never seen an off-the-rack suit that fit anyone perfectly according to my standards. That being said, in this day and age, you can wear literally whatever you want, whenever you want, so take it with a grain of salt. Of course, you can remedy all these issues by getting a double-breasted suit made custom, bespoke, or made-to-measure. But, that of course puts you in a very different price category, and a lot of people can’t afford that.
Ready-to-Wear, Made-to-Measure & Bespoke – Terminology Explained
8. Perceived Discomfort
Last but not least, the eighth reason men stopped wearing double-breasted suits is that of “perceived discomfort.” In a world that values nothing more but comfort, if you ask ten men on our street if a suit is comfortable or uncomfortable, chances are they will say “uncomfortable.” Why is that? Well, chances are they only have a suit that is made with a stiff interlining that makes them sweat, that limits their range of movement.
They probably have never experienced a suit with a soft interlining and nicely, tightly cut armhole; something that fits well, and it’s designed to move around freely. Because of the military tradition of a double-breasted suit, it was traditionally made with stiffer interlinings because it was all about the looks.
It was supposed to make the wearer look very majestic and impressive, and strong. It wasn’t really designed for comfort and, because of that, people will often associate double-breasted suits with discomfort. The suit I’m wearing here right now, for example, has an extremely soft interlining, and I intentionally went for that because I appreciate that.
There’s nothing wrong with going for a more military-inspired, structured look, but yes, that won’t be as comfortable as a soft interlining in a jacket. Off-the-rack, typically, it’s hard to find soft interlinings in a double-breasted jacket or suit. So, that’s why people think, “Oh, it’s a bit more uncomfortable. It’s too formal. I don’t like that,” especially if they’re the only person wearing a suit in the first place. On top of that, most men that I know are more prone to run hot than to run cold.
So, if you always run hot and you have the choice between two suits, one of which has a double layer of overlapping fabric in the front and the other doesn’t, you probably gravitate towards the one that keeps you cooler and more comfortable.
Of course, on the flip side, you could argue the double-breasted suits are particularly well-suited for winter because it gives you that extra layer of cloth that keeps you warmer. By the way, for the same reason, I appreciate double-breasted overcoats. Not only do they look much nicer than their single-breasted cousins, but they also keep you warmer.
Of course, I could go on about the misconceptions of why suits, in general, are uncomfortable, and it really comes down to the material, the interlining, and how breathable it is – because there’s a difference between a glute interlining and a full-layered canvas, which is much more breathable – and then on top of that, often, cheaper suits have actual lining made out of polyester, which makes you sweat a lot more than, let’s say, Bamberg or cupro, which is naturally anti-static and much more breathable and can also absorb things just to make you feel more comfortable.
Why We Think Double-Breasted Suits Deserve A Comeback
First of all, if a lot of people don’t wear them, it gives you a chance to stand out from the crowd in a positive way. It can almost be like a hallmark for you to wear double-breasted suits and people will notice. “Oh! You’re so well-dressed!” Even though they may not be able to put their finger on it right away.
Wearing a double-breasted suit can be a massive confidence boost if you wear the suit and the suit doesn’t wear you. Let’s say, if you give a presentation or you’re in a position where people look at you, or if you substitute for The Godfather.
Men’s Style Expert Reacts to “The Godfather” – Menswear Review
Even if you rarely wear a suit, nothing else can give you quite that elegance and captured personality that a double-breasted suit does; and frankly, even if you aren’t in the best shape, a double-breasted suit can help create that illusion of a broad shoulder with an attractive V-shape. This clean silhouette is incredibly masculine, timeless, and elegant. And yes, if you look at all the heroes, they typically have that V-shape, and that’s what a double-breasted suit will give you.
It also shows that you pay attention to details and don’t just grab the first best suit that comes across your way. Of course, if you’re a fan of the Golden Era of Menswear, you must wear a double-breasted suit because just the feeling of it, especially paired with the fabric, puts you in a certain mindset. And yes, while it’s true that, generally, double-breasted jackets are more formal, there’s certainly ways to deformalize your double-breasted suit or jacket.
Suit Jackets, Sport Coats, and Blazers: What’s the Difference?
For example, you can add mother-of-pearl buttons. In a bright white, it’s more casual; there’s also brown or gray for example; or if you don’t want mother-of-pearl, you can use horn buttons, but like a blonde horn button on a navy jacket. It’s definitely more casual than the tone-in-tone dark blue or dark brown. Plus, if you do that, the jacket can easily function as a standalone blazer, but also work in a suit outfit, which means matching pair and pants made from the same fabric.
Last but not least, there is a certain cachet that comes with double-breasted suits. What did Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and Carter Gable have in common? Well, they all loved wearing double-breasted suits.
So, in conclusion, while double-breasted suits have certainly fallen out of favor in the mainstream clothing world, there’s still a place for them, especially for people who appreciate clothes. Few articles of clothing can give you that much personality without being flashy or over-the-top. Despite the fact that some might consider it difficult to wear, if you follow the Gentleman’s Gazette, we’ll help you look your best in a double-breasted suit.
Cashmere Wool Grenadine Tie in Dark Blue, Burgundy, Light Grey Stripe – Fort Belvedere
White Linen Pocket Square with Blue Hand Embroidered Polka Dots Spots – Fort Belvedere
Madder Silk Tie in Bottle Green Macclesfield Neats Blue Orange Pattern – Fort Belvedere
Light Blue Linen Pocket Square with Blue Handrolled Cross X Stitch – Fort Belvedere
Wool Challis Tie in Dark Green with Blue, Yellow and Orange Pattern – Fort Belvedere
So, no matter if you make double-breasted suits your signature style or just have a one-off suit or anything in between, they’ll help you stand out from the crowd.
What’s your favorite double-breasted suit? Please share with us in the comments below.
Today, I had to choose which double-breasted suit I wanted to wear because I have quite a few ones in all different ranges of formality. I have one in a gray, windowpane flannel, which is awesome; I have one in a brown, Prince-of-Wales check; or a petrol blue Fresco; or a double-breasted, kind of 1930s, gangster-style suit from Ralph Lauren; but I opted for this very classic, solid navy, double-breasted suit. Why? Well, I wanted you to look at the silhouette of the double-breasted suit and not be distracted by the fabric.
As I mentioned, this was a very fine fabric that almost feels like cashmere from Vitale Barberis Canonico. And it’s custom-made for me, but it was on one of the earlier suits with the tailor, so I have a little bit of a gapping when I move my arm, which I’m not quite fond of; but I could have it fixed at the alterations tailor. You can see the buttoning point is rather high. It’s a six-by-two silhouette, and I like the wider lapels with nice Milanese, large buttonholes.
Orange Red Mottled Knit Tie Cri De La Soie Silk Fort Belvedere
Orange, Green, Blue, Yellow, Silk Wool Medallion Pocket Square – Fort Belvedere
Dark Blue Cornflower Boutonniere Buttonhole Flower Fort Belvedere
Monkey Fist Knot Cufflinks – 925 Sterling Silver Platinum Plated – Fort Belvedere
Shadow Stripe Ribbed Socks Dark Navy Blue and Royal Blue Fil d'Ecosse Cotton – Fort Belvedere
I’m combining it with a blue-and-white-striped shirt made from an Albini fabric and a orange, mottled silk, knit tie by Fort Belvedere, which you might find in our shop – just like the handmade silk boutonniere and the silk-wool pocket square.
For the pants, I had two, forward-facing pleats that gave me more room in my thigh; I had a turnup or a cuff; and I paired it with shadow-stripe socks in navy and royal blue, likewise by Fort Belvedere; and the shoes are from Alton. They had a custom patina in brown, and they’re an unusual monk with some broguing.
In terms of timepiece, I went with an almost Tangente blue gold in a 39-millimeter width. It’s a very elegant watch and the dial really goes perfectly with this type of a navy suit. I’m wearing it with the default black Horween leather watch strap, even though I think that could be a different one. My other metal accessories are a pinky ring with a star sapphire that looks like diamonds, as well as cufflinks, which are the monkey fist knot cufflinks in silver-platinum plating from Fort Belvedere.
Because my dress shirt is blue and white, I grabbed a pair of suspenders in blue box cloth with white leather from Edward Maya in Munich. And along with that blue color scheme, the scent of the day is the Roberto Ugolini Blue Suede Shoes scent. As you might know, Roberto Ugolini makes high-end, bespoke shoes in Florence, but he’s also a connoisseur of fragrances, which is why he lent his name to a line of scents.