The Key Differences Between British, Italian and American Suit Styles

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When choosing your next suit, you don’t just need to think about the colour, or if it’s single or double breasted, you should be thinking about the style. There are three main styles (or cuts) of men’s suits, the American (or Sack suit), Italian (or European) & British (or Savile Row).

You might be already aware of the existence of these three styles, maybe know some of the obvious differences. But by the end of this journey, you will not only know a great deal of important details about them (that will help you make more conscious choices when purchasing a new suit) but you will understand what made them the way they are.

These three main styles affect not just the details, but the whole fit and look so it pays to be able to tell the differences. Depending on where you are, you may or may not be asked what style you want. If you have a preference, you will need to speak up to avoid disappointment! Thanks to some useful advice from Dandy in The Bronx and a handy infographic provided by Real Men’s Style, here’s your new go-to guide to determining your next suit style’s country of origin:

American (Sack suit)

Made popular in the 1920’s by Ivy Leaguers it was known as the “sack suit”.  The American cut sack suit typically has natural shoulders without shoulder pads, one vent in the back, strait hanging lines and flap pockets.

Traditionally there are three buttons, but only the middle one is ever used. The top button is often concealed as part of the lapel. The proportions are more generous with a  looser fit and wider armholes which give the sack suit its boxy appearance.

“In its original form this suit is the least stylish,” say’s Danny from Dandy in the Bronx. “With time, American suits became more cut to the shape of the body and included shoulder padding to become more stylish. ”

British (Savile Row)

The classic British suit has been immortalized by the iconic Savile Row style.

“These suits are cut closer to the body,” said Danny. “British cut jackets tend to use lower gorge lines which is the seam joining the collar and the lapel, heavier cloth, stiffer chest canvas, thicker shoulder pads, and more structure to the jacket.”

And as you can even see in the infographic, he’s right on the money. The British style typically has two buttons, two vents, a tapered waist and neat slim shoulder pads. The armholes are higher than the American style; the fastened button is to the waist, making the jacket appear longer. The shoulders have more shape than the American sack style due to the padding. The British suit is the shape of most modern business suits available today, making it the go-to interview outfit.

Italian (European)

The modern Italian style suit has become very trendy in recent years, so much so that many of it’s influences are creeping into other styles of suit. Typically you will get fully padded shoulders, no vents in the back, flapless pockets and more extreme tapering (or suppressing as it’s commonly termed) of the waist for a pronounced V silhouette.

“Depending on your body shape and your dressing style you may need to try a few brands/styles to see which is best for you,” said Danny. “Although I prefer English ones more, I sometimes need extra padding on the shoulders to avoid the folds in the back. The Italian suits give me the extra padding but the fit is more Bodycon and I need to take it off at work.”

Which suit style works best for you? Share and let us know!