You’ve definitely seen the Double Breasted Jacket before. It’s worn by gangsters in the 1930’s, zoot suiters of the 1940’s, and on 1980’s businessmen (God’s mistake). Now, you’ll see them worn at Pitti Uomo, with wide peaks and garish patterns. It’s so popular with that bespoke scene that many “mainstream” dressers stay away from it. However, these gentlemen are missing one of the best things to come into menswear.
The Double Breasted Jacket
As the name states, the double breasted refers to the fact that the jacket is closed by two overlapping panels of fabric, creating a symmetrical look with the same amount of buttons on each side. Yes, this extra layer could mean that they are “warmer than other jackets” but DBs can be found in a variety of fabrics, from tweed to linen.
They’ve been around for a long time and were especially popular in the 1930s to early 1950’s. They definitely were NOT baggy or boxy as most people think; the double breasted suit was a well fitting staple of a suit during the time. Just look at how well it fits on Cary Grant, circa 1930.
During the 1960’s, DBs began to fall out of favor, since they were typically worn by the older generation. It wasn’t until the 1980’s did the DB come back, but only as the dying shell of what it once was; the DB was baggy, heavily shoulder padded, and had an unflattering button stance. Now, the DB has made a second appearance, favoured by gentlemen of all types, like the young and stylish Perkins Bien Aime and the seasoned Alessandro Squarzi .
Distinct types of DBs are usually called by number. The first number refers to total buttons and the second refers to the buttons that you actually fasten. Here’s some good examples:
Others like the 6×1 or 4×1 (or even 8×2) should be avoided unless you’re a dandy (and I mean that with the highest regard) and you have a great tailor that can make it look right. Usually you’ll see these variations on 80’s and 90’s jackets, which further adds to the bad view on the DB.
Picking the Right One
The main complaint of the DB is that it doesn’t look good on larger people and that people aren’t tall enough for it. My response is that those complaints could be used for anything. And just like with all forms of clothing, you need tailoring to make sure it looks good.
A double breasted jacket should fit the same way as a normal jacket should. Shoulders should fit, the jacket should be snug, and it should end right about where your crotch “ends” on your pants. Simply put, it needs to actually fit. Additionally, you need to make sure the gorge (the V that the jacket creates when it is closed) is moderate or high. A low gorge is very dated, like the 1980’s example. Your next step is to find a nice size of lapel.
Peak Lapels are an absolute must for a DB. Never get a DB with a notch lapel and save the shawl one for a dandy tuxedo. Typically a DB has large lapels, and you want to keep it that way. Anything small and skimpy will go immediately out of fashion in a few years. Stay away from slim, skinny lapels on DBs; these will definitely make you look larger (in a bad way), since it has smaller visual “V” and doesn’t cover as much space on your body. Keep it classic with a peak lapel larger than 3.5” inches, which ads to the powerful, sharp V shape that a suit gives you.
Where To Get Them
It’s hard to find DB’s with the right amount of aesthetics. Zara has no peak, H&M doesn’t carry it, and J. Crew is too small. My first suggestion is to go Made-To-Measure. I believe that Indochino has the best DB (with button stance and lapel shape) for online MTM, with the Knot Standard as a close second. I haven’t tried Knot Standard yet, but through a quick google search, they look pretty good.
The other option is to go through SuitSupply. They make half-canvassed suits and blazers in contemporary styles for a great price; its like Italian 4 less. While they have lapels with a big belly (large, rounded lapel instead of sharp), they are large enough to work!
Why It’s Great
The first noticeable thing that you get when you have a great fitting DB is that it perfectly accents your body. Large peak lapels, pointing slightly upward, accent any body type. Whether you are skinny or have a larger chest, the large lapels will cover most of your body and give a literal sharp visual V down your body, making you look broader and slimmer. It won’t matter if you’re short or tall, it all works. Nothing beats that amount of power (the single breasted peak lapel is close though).
Secondly, thanks to its almost pariah status, you will definitely stand out with a double breasted suit or jacket. It shows that you dress up for more than just work; you wear it to be yourself. It may be a while before the DB goes mainstream like the 1940’s again but until then, wearing one is the mark of a forward, stylish gent. This works especially when you start getting DBs in various colors and patterns. There’s no need to stay with just plain!
Now, you can definitely wear your DB a variety of ways. You can go full suit or just the blazer! Most guys have this image that the double breasted suit is the most formal type of jacket; this isn’t true. You’ll get all the great effects of the DB no matter what your style, whether its formal, casual, or in between. That’s the Street x Sprezza way.
Let’s look at some classic DB looks from the archives! As you can see, you can dress them up or down! People may say that you have to keep it fastened the entire time but you don’t have to follow that rule. It can still look good when it’s unfastened!
I really suggest that all you gents try the DB! It’s certainly an eye-catcher that can work for many body types.
Let me know what you think! Will you take the leap and do it? Or are you a single breasted type of guy?
Always a pleasure,