The Return of the Double Breasted Suit

The double breasted suit has taken something of a hiatus for the past few decades. Often seen as something out of the 80’s the suit has been out of main stream menswear for some time. The reason for this recess may well stem from the fact that menswear in general has changed since that time and our memories of this suit goes hand in hand with our memories of the style of that decade. Yet the beast is back and is arguably the most regal and attractive suit on the market today.

A Brief History- The Rise and Fall

Since the fashion revolution brought about by, among others, Beau Brummell in the 1800’s menswear has had a popular following for both single breasted and double breasted jacketing. The frock coat was traditionally double breasted and it remained the most popular style for decades. However due to the jackets being designed to be worn open the single breasted jackets grew in popularity. By the turn of the century the single breasted jacket had solidified its reputation as the preferred suit style for men across Europe and in the United States. Through the 1900’s the single breasted suit remained king with the second breasted suit seen as a respectable alternative and finding itself in the wardrobes of most men. As fashion developed through the 1960’s and 70’s the double breasted suit grew more obscure until the 1980’s saw a major resurgence in its popularity.

This brings us to the dreaded decade. 10 years that can be characterised by the mental image of baggy suits and irrational hair cuts. During this time menswear in general became fuller and fuller fitting. The baggy look was very much ‘in’. Double breasted suits followed, excuse the term, suit and suffered from having lower and lower break points (the button that was worn fastened was positioned lower and lower on the jacket). The final blow was that these baggy suits were often worn unbuttoned. Meaning that the best memory of these suits looks something like this:

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When fashion once more trended toward slim fitting and tapered cuts the entire look of the 1980’s was cast off and with it the double breasted suit. Making the image you see above the last image most of us remember for this, once proud, sartorial giant.

The New D.B.

The contemporary double breasted suit is nothing like it’s predecessor. Fitting much like the modern single breasted jacked, slim cut and light on the shoulder and designed predominantly as the more traditional show six, button two style jacket (thus giving it a higher break point) the D.B. is possibly the most fashionable style of suit available today.

Showing less shirt and accentuating the waist line of the gentlemen who deigns to wear it this style is often seen (and rightly so) as the most formal tied with the three piece suit. Unlike the common two button two piece single breasted suit the D.B. is unmistakably regal. Whilst the former is often worn open showing the shirt and belt line, cutting the wearer in half, the latter creates the illusion of a single line from shoulder to ankle and can make a gentleman look taller. In my opinion it is the sharpest looking suit style there is.

It has been growing in popularity for a number of years now in the fashion world. Making appearances in places like Pitti Uomo and the success of the film Kingsmen:The Secret Service can only have helped cement its new look in the minds of the young. Finally we are starting to see more of these suits on the high street and in the media. This can only be a good thing. It appears the sartorial great is finally shedding the image it inherited from decades ago and being seen as the success that it is.

Final Word

My advise is to try one. Or at least to be less hesitant about putting one on when next in a menswear store. Whilst you may not be used to seeing the item and may feel that it is a bit too fashion forward try to remember that it has been around for as long as any other suit style you can think of.

by Nathan Perry