As much as I encourage you to grow up your wardrobe and steer you towards the world of suits and sport coats, I feel like I’ve done you a disservice by not fully diving into the subject about proper fit.

In the beginning, it’s a big step introducing suits and sport coats into your regular rotation, so the last thing I’d want to do is overwhelm you.

If you’ve been following EG for a while now, there’s a good chance you’ve acquired your first suit or sport coat, or are on the hunt for your first one.

It’s important you school yourself on the finer details, especially if you’ve taken a liking to wearing sport coats more regularly. I always stress the importance of fit, and nowhere is poor fit more obvious than in suit jackets and sport coats.

In this article, we’ll cover a few lesser-known indications of poor fit. Hopefully the next time you’re out shopping for a suit, you can recognize these problems in the mirror and either swap for a different size, or shop at a different store, if necessary.

First, the justification for bespoke

There is a reason why full bespoke suiting can cost upwards of $5000+. In addition to materials, constructing the garment itself is very, very time-consuming. It’s meticulously done by hand, requires multiple fittings, and can take a tailor anywhere from 50-100 working hours for one suit.

The benefit of this? A garment that fits like a second skin, something that masks bodily imperfections (e.g. uneven shoulders, odd shape, broad chest, large gut, etc.) and enhances your best features.

The shortcoming? An empty wallet, for one. Bespoke suiting isn’t cheap, and the option isn’t even available to everyone… not only because of prohibitive costs, but also because there just aren’t that many bespoke tailors around anymore. It’s a craft in which few still participate.

Nevertheless, going bespoke is one way to avoid the most common problems I’ve listed below. In case that isn’t an option for you, well… read on and we’ll figure out a workaround.

Two more obvious signs of bad fit

You may already know of these telltale signs. When trying on suits or sport coats in a store, stand straight with arms at your sides. If you see these, it most likely doesn’t fit you correctly.

The Dreaded X


Put on your favorite sport coat and button the top button (or the middle button if it’s a three-button).

Does the fabric pull at the fastening point, forming an X with the wrinkles? This means the jacket is too snug.

There should be no pulling where your jacket buttons. Some trendy, fashion-forward suits are slimmer and may be more snug, but from the standpoint of classic suiting, this isn’t a correct fit.

Do the test: One open hand, palm down, should fit between your buttoned jacket and your shirt. If you make a fist, the jacket should pull and become snug.


You may need to go up a size, or lose some of that belly. If you’re going up a size, the shoulders may be too big. If that’s the case, try your size at a different store, or look for a different cut of suit (e.g. “traditional” cut instead of modern cut, which tends to have less waist suppression).

Shoulder Divots


Shoulder divots form when a suit jacket’s shoulders are too big and extend past your natural shoulder. It becomes extremely visible right below the shoulder seam when you lift your arms even slightly.

Another cause of shoulder divots is when the wearer has sloping shoulders or a slightly hunched-over stance, but the jacket is constructed with more square shoulders, or designed for a man with an upright stance.

The most common test for correct shoulder pad fit: With your jacket on and arms at your side, touch a wall with your arm like you’re about to lean up against it. You should feel the padding touch the wall, followed almost immediately by your upper arm. The jacket should follow the lines of your body smoothly.


Go down a size, and / or try on other brands that have a more relaxed, less structured shoulder.

Three other signs of bad fit you may not be aware of

Here’s where things get interesting. You probably have heard of the X and shoulder divots before, but I’m about to list a few things you may not have considered. Pay attention.

Collar Gap


Also known as Prole Gap (go look that one up), collar gap refers to the gap between the back of your shirt collar and the jacket’s collar. Ideally, there should be no gap at all.

Your jacket’s collar should follow the line of your shirt collar exactly, almost as if they’re stuck together. The jacket’s collar should never move away from the back of your shirt collar, even if your arms are flailing above your head.

What causes collar gap? A few possibilities here.

  • The jacket doesn’t fit in the chest and / or back
  • The neck of the jacket is cut too big for your body shape
  • You may have forward-leaning shoulders (if you slouch a bit) and the jacket was constructed for someone with a more neutral, upright stance
  • One of your shoulders may be lower than the other (more common than you’d think)

This is why proper shoulder fit is monumentally important when it comes to suit jackets and sport coats. Take a long look at the collar area and see if there’s any gap.

In fact, check right now, with the suit hanging in your closet. Put on the jacket and see if you recognize any collar gap. It’s one of those things that once you see, you can never un-see, especially when looking at other guys in suits.


Going bespoke. Alternatively, trying on many, many different jacket models from various brands to see whose drape and general construction works best for your body.

The more I pay attention to collar gap, the more I wonder if this is ever 100% avoidable.

More on collar gap

Weird Shoulder Rumpling


This is somewhat related to the shoulder divot, but is noticeable at the top of the shoulder, from the lapel all the way to the sleeve cap. Rumpling can happen when the jacket’s shoulders are too big for the wearer, or if the jacket wasn’t constructed to accommodate the wearer’s natural stance.

It could also appear when the wearer’s actual shoulders don’t fill out the jacket’s shoulder area. This causes the fabric to dip, collapse, or display a generally wrinkled appearance.

Always remember the line that forms atop your shoulders and down your arms should be as smooth and uninterrupted as possible.


Try on a few jackets from a few different brands. Some jackets are made for men with a more upright stance or straight shoulders, while others can be more forgiving.

Keep in mind, though, that sometimes, it’s simply unavoidable when buying off-the-rack suiting.

I’ve tried on many jackets that fit perfectly in the shoulders and body, yet I still get a bit of rumpling. Do the best you can.

Also remember that the amount of padding will affect the shoulder’s smoothness. If your jacket fits well and has a really structured shoulder, you should see less rumpling. If you have an unstructured, unpadded jacket, you may see more, but that’s just the nature of the garment.

Sleeve Pitch


Sleeve pitch refers to the positioning of the jacket’s sleeve relative to your arm’s neutral position. You can expect wrinkling in the sleeves as you move your arms around, but if you find wrinkling when in a neutral stance, there’s a good chance your sleeve pitch is off.

Not everyone’s arms and shoulders have the same neutral position, and wrinkling can occur if both the sleeve’s positioning and the arms’ neutral positioning don’t sync up.

If you’re in the market for a new suit, pay attention to the fabric when you are standing straight with arms at your sides. Check out a side view, and a back view of yourself if possible. If there’s wrinkling at the arm, you should try on a different jacket, model, or brand.

If you already own a suit and noticed excessive wrinkling when your arms are in neutral position, sleeve pitch can be fixed. But, as with all a tailor’s alterations, it comes with a price.


Hopefully you can find a brand whose jacket construction has the correct pitch, but if not, you have to take it to a tailor.

More on sleeve pitch

“How can I avoid all these issues?!?”

The best solution I can suggest, other than going fully bespoke, is to simply try on many, many jackets. You’ll get the feel for correct fit and what brands and models suit you best (ha! pun.)

Another good idea: go to a high-end department store with knowledgable salespeople (Neiman Marcus, Barney’s, etc.) or a high-end specialty men’s boutique specializing in suiting. The “knowledgable salespeople” bit is important. Here’s why.

If you do this, be honest with the guy. Tell him you’re interested in learning about properly-fitting suits and what best fits your body. Ask him for his help and opinion as to what looks best. Most good sales guys will be happy to exhibit their vast knowledge of proper fit.

You can be upfront with the salesperson if that makes you feel better. Tell him that you’re not planning on buying today, but wanted to try jackets on so you know what fits you best.

If you get an asshole assisting you, don’t be discouraged. Just come back next time and ask someone else. If you have the slightest suspicion that the salesman doesn’t know what he’s talking about (or if he’s dressed poorly himself), continue to nod in agreement as you back away slowly, then run out the door as swiftly as possible.

In conclusion

I hope this helps you recognize signs of improper fit the next time you’re out and about shopping for a suit. Now that you’re aware, your shopping experience should be much better.

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, I hope it’s this: Everything should be smooth. Smooth, clean, fluid lines, from the shoulders all the way down to the hem.

If you pay attention to how the jacket drapes (i.e. lays) on your shoulders and body, it should be smooth. No crazy wrinkling, no mountains of puckering fabric, no fabric tugging at the fastening points.

Now I want to hear from you

Have you bought a suit or sport coat recently, or are you looking to buy a suit soon? Did you look for these signs of bad fit? Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments.


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66 Responses

  1. DZ on

    One other thing I would add is to make sure that the jacket fit slim around the waist. While the other parts are important, they are less noticeable and less harming than some biggies like a baggy cut suit, or sleeves goes into the palm. Things like that make suits look dorky as hell.

  2. Daniel Delgado on

    Great article an informative read. It has shown me a couple of my mistakes with my current sport coat.

    Question: Do these rules apply to all sport coats even causal coats like this one:

    or how do you find a better fit for a causal coat. Can something like this be tailored to get the correct fit?

    • Gyrofrog on

      To the best of my knowledge, its fairly difficult to tailor alter a sport coat: if they shorten the overall length, then the pockets are still where they were (but lower relative to the bottom hem). The sleeves have (fake) button holes near the cuff, and shortening the sleeves puts the hem near (or even past) the buttons. (I don’t think they can take it in at the shoulder end, because it was already cut to mate with the body of the jacket up there). That said, I did have some sleeves shortened, though now the button is right at the cuff. Another possibility is move the bottom button to the top — even though there isn’t a (fake) button hole there I doubt anyone would notice. I did this with some sport coats that I found on sale that (otherwise) fit pretty well.

      With off-the-rack suits I am guessing (don’t remember) that they leave a little wiggle-room for alterations. I don’t remember having trouble getting my suit altered, but I bought it around 14 years ago so I don’t remember much else about it, anyway.

      P.S. That sport coat (blazer) you mentioned, would seem to have “the dreaded X” at least on the person wearing it in the picture. But I am baffled by this coat at the same website, that looks awfully short, just wrong.

    • brian on

      I actually was in a JC Penny a while ago and tried on that sport coat that you linked. It’s a pretty impressive piece for the $50 or so dollars that they are asking. I would definitely consider picking one up and wearing it hard this spring/summer. It does have functional button holes on the sleeve, and a more modern cut. The arm holes are still not the highest cut, and the sleeves are fairly wide, but it has slim lapels and a slim body for a fairly modern fit. I believe they are also available in regular and long sizes, if that helps with tailoring at all… Find a store and try one on though, that’s the only way to tell for sure!

    • Barron on

      These “rules” apply to all sport coats, jackets, blazers, etc. You find a better fit by trying on a bunch of different jackets from different brands, or by going bespoke or made to measure.

      Anything can be altered, but when it comes to the shoulder area, it could cost you a significant amount.

  3. Timothy J Greeley on

    I think you missed a big one here. Always check the jacket to make sure the sleeve isn’t sewn too low below your arm pit. If it is, it will pull the entire jacket with the sleeve when you try to move your arm which looks terrible. From what I’ve heard it is quite hard for a tailor to fix this, if not impossible. I like the make of Banana Republic’s blazers but they suffer from this low cut arm hole problem which is how I learned about it.

    • themodestman on

      You sure you’re not thinking about the “V” (the shape that flatters the male figure – wide shoulders, waist suppression, etc.)?

  4. themodestman on

    The sleeve pitch issue is so tough. I’m a big fan of buying made-to-measure clothes online, but no one seems to incorporate sleeve pitch or natural arm position into their measurement system. And I haven’t found a local tailor who can (or will) fix this after the fact.


  5. Jack on

    as much i as i agree with everything stated…i gotta say…half the time i put on a blazer, its when im around people who cant tell the difference or dont care. When i put on a blazer that fits at a glance, it still looks good, even if its not perfect. hella cheaper too. although for my suits im very particular.

    • Suits and Skirts on

      People notice it subconsciously. A proper fit will project a lot more competence, professionalism, and sexiness even if people don’t comment on it verbally.

    • Barron on

      I never liked this way of thinking. It’s the the same train of thought that people use to justify walking out of the house in sweats or pajama pants.

      If you’re going to wear a blazer, why not make sure it’s the best possible fit, regardless of who can or can’t tell the difference?

      And if you’re particular about your suits, why wouldn’t you be about your blazers?

      • Jack on

        It basically comes down to how much money I have to spend. I have a lot of cheap blazers from discount stores, the most expensive of which is banan republic – and given the fact that I’m SO close in almost every blazer I wear ( envy of all my friends) , I have a lot of near perfect blazers which have a drop of shoulder rumple or something minimal like that. My suits tend to be more expensive , so they get better treatment.

    • WideEyesTWBlog on

      Just wanna share this gem from the October GQ: “Sure, the well-dressed man gets ahead at work. But the real reason to look presentable isn’t to impress your boss or your colleagues: It’s to have some self-respect….dressing well every morning acknowledges that you’re preparing for something important. It reminds you to prize your dignity and never be the kind of worker – hell the kind of *man* – who does only the bare minimum.” Just resonated with me, and seemed applicable.

      • Jack on

        It’s not valid because you’re equating doing the bare minimum with buying a jacket that has a flaw that can only be fixed with MTM or custom, ie a rolling shoulder. On an athletic body the shoulder muscles pitch forward causing the jacket to have a rumpled look on top. The average person can’t tell, so why should I invest tons of
        Money for something so minor?

        • WideEyesTWBlog on

          Hey, to each their own. That’s why I spend the extra money, not so the average person thinks I look better, but so that I know I do, and in turn I feel like I’m “preparing for something important” everyday. Haha, I hate to sound like a motivational speaker or something, but I think that it’s important to treat every day like what you’re going to do is important (minus those certain Saturdays spent on the couch watching reruns and ordering delivery), or at the very least be prepared for something important to happen.

          Like I said though, to each their own. If you have a different approach that works for you, then go for it. My other, more practical response would just come back to ‘buy once and buy better.’ When I get a piece of clothing that fits me perfect, I *know* that I won’t need to replace it or step up to something better in the future. Once again, not all that important for some people, but I appreciate the security of *knowing* this is a one time purchase.

  6. tombrokaw on

    Disagree on the X being bad. Times have changed. Bond was styled this way in his latest film and it represents a cultural shift on sartorial matters from emphasizing clothes that accentuate and cover the imperfections of the average male to clothes that flaunt the idealized, physically impressive male.

    It’s all part and parcel with the metrosexualization or increased vanity in men, whatever you want to call it. The attitude is no longer that fine clothes need to do the work in making you look better, the attitude is, get in shape and look better fatty, now you can wear some fine clothes. In that way men’s fashion is approaching a state more similar to women’s fashion.

    • Oliver Phillips on

      Craig’s suits in Skyfall were all comically tight and short, so bad example, but I agree that a very slight pull at the button is acceptable to show off a well-fitting jacket on a fit, masculing physique. If you’ve got a gut I’d avoid this though

    • Barron on

      It depends on how tight. There are varying degrees of tightness obviously, and I think anything overly snug (despite how fit one might be) still looks like the wearer doesn’t know how to purchase the correct size.

      The suits in Skyfall were too tight for my taste as well, agree Oliver Phillips.

      • Monte Letourneau on

        I want to agree here, but tombrokaw is very much right.
        If you google a phrase like “business casual”, and go to “Images”, you will see nothing but what I consider an uncomfortably tight fit, or at least what looks like one to a 50 year old who has always been stocky, even when fit and trim.
        On the other hand, I expect fashion will man down, as it were, when this really sinks in and a-“typical” (actually, typical) men react, as women who are not anorexic have already, by demanding better options, particularly as there is a shift towards men’s and women’s tastes and preferences in dress and attractiveness, reflecting our ever growing average weights and more respect for diversity in culture.

  7. TCole on

    Great article! It’s very informative. On one of my suits my jacket has the shoulder divots. Is this something that’s easily repaired?

  8. Attire Club on

    These tips are very important, and as you say, you must try many jackets before actually buying one.

    It’s important to choose them based on your lifestyle and needs overall.

    Fraquoh and Franchomme

  9. Sebastian on

    As a newbie whose considering buying their first proper fitting suit soon, this was a very helpful post, so thank you!

  10. Len Geiger on

    Great piece! But…(you knew this was coming, right?), what about a few other basics such as Regular versus Short or Long sizes, and fit killers such as collar roll, chest pop, etc? Some can be fixed, others not.

  11. Ryan Swarts on

    I may be a little late on this, but… Have you ever had a jacket brought in some (waist suppression) and now in the back it doesn’t really drape down straight? Instead of looking natural, the fabric kind of pulls diagonally from the underarm to the bottom center of the jacket, sometimes bunching or wrinkling (when worn or on the hanger). I can’t tell if this is a normal result of bringing in the waist or if it was just a poor job.

    • Barron on

      Interesting. Sounds like it wasn’t sewn back up correctly. Waist suppression should be even without any pulling after the tailoring job. I’d take it back and have them fix it.

  12. rolley bowen on

    so basically if you are a larger man and the only solution to finding a good fit is to lose weight, what are you supposed to do in the meantime? feel terrible about yourself until you can fit into clothes? your remark about losing weight is careless and unhelpful.

    • William Topping on

      Stop whining and lose some weight. Other peoples have issues that can’t be cured by diet. So get over yourself and do something about it.

      • guest on

        Your reply was, in no way, constructive. You assume Rolley Bowen is one of the “need to lose weight” category, yet failed to presume he is one of the, as you put it, other people that has “issues that can’t be cured by diet”. Next time you respond, try to say something constructive, like: “don’t get a sport coat until you’ve achieved a body that can wear one” or “try a store that specializes in big and tall mens clothing, there’s a fit for everyone!” The advice “stop whining and lose some weight” just goes to show that you didn’t read the question you attempted to respond to, especially when that question was in regards to what to wear in the meantime of losing weight.

      • Derek Bash Greene on

        If you don’t have anything CONSTRUCTIVE to say why say anything at all,everyone needs help from time to time,Thats why we should be here to HELP if we can….

    • Barron on

      You can be large and still find jackets that fit you well. It’s all about shopping for your size and finding cuts and silhouettes that work with you, not against you.

      Where did I make a remark about losing weight in order to find a good fit?

      • Wade on

        I think he’s referring to this: “You may need to go up a size, or lose some of that belly.”
        It seems like you, Barron, provided the options for larger men. If you are shopping for a new jacket, go up a size. If you have an existing jacket, lose some weight to fit into the old, small jacket.
        As a larger man, I took no offense.

    • Derek Bash Greene on

      I’m 6’2 260 and I don’t have a problem,even if the size is a little big you can always have it tailored to fit your exact body type,its not that expensive either if you really wanna look good,just make sure your shoulders have the proper fit because tailoring the shoulders can be expensive.Oh yeah you don’t have to lose any weight just keep looking and looking that’s what I do and if something needs to be tailored its a GREAT option.Best of luck to you….

  13. GTK on

    I’m curious about your take or experience with Indochino – they’re coming to my town soon, as close as to bespoke i’m likely to get right now. Have you heard good/bad about their work?

    • themodestman on

      Indochino is much better if you go to their tailoring events (which it sounds like you can). I’ve found that jackets from MTM companies are problematic. Sleeve pitch is a really tough thing to nail with self-measure.

      Make sure to ask plenty of questions and talk about any concerns about fit at the traveling tailor event. I’ve been to these, and the tailors were really good.


  14. John on

    Hi, a lot of fitting guides focus on when the person is in a neutral position. I’m trying to find advice on how a sport coat should feel with your arms extended or with your arms crossed. I tried on a jacket that according to this guide would be a perfect fit however it’s quite tight when I cross my arms, is this normal for a well-fitted sport coat?

      • Barron on

        Hey John,

        In general, nothing should be tight anywhere. If you cross your arms but you’re starting to feel your circulation is getting cut off, that might mean it’s the wrong size, or the silhouette / cut isn’t right for your body type. You need to be able to cross your arms (and move) comfortably.

  15. Maggie on

    Just wanted to know about 4 button suits. Have a friend who is rather large and just purchased a new 4 button suit. He has been wearing them and has customarily buttoned all 4 buttons. His suit sleeves are about 2-3 inches too long. I also note that he has in past bought a white suit which makes him look obviously huge. Don’t know just how to advise this young man, but he really needs some guidance.

    • ca3l007 on

      I am sorry. It may be inappropriate, but I laughed so hard…
      Ugh, I wish I knew what to say – It seems like you need to just have a chat with him and be honest!

    • Derek Bash Greene on

      If he’s a real friend let him know the proper way a suit or sport jacket is suppose to fit,if he’s a real friend he’ll really appreciate the advice,and NEVER button the last button on a suit or sport jacket.I advised a lot of guys on how to properly were a suit or sport jacket and they really appreciated the advise.

  16. Ciprian Gontea on

    i am 5’8″ and i way 173 pounds in shape. i have a 32 inch waist and my shoulders are very wide ,as well as capped off .to add to the with my latissimus muscle (the wide back muscles ) extend past my shoulder with when flexed .And with the exeption of one jacket i was never able to find another one that is wide enough at shoulders, narrow enough in the waist ,and at the same time not too long going passed my glutes . what ould you suggest?

    • Dave on

      Wish I had something to add here other than “I know that feel, bro,” but I had planned on asking almost the exact same question. Huge lats are great when you’re flexing or standing still but they’re a pain in the ass when you’re trying to dress nicely.

    • Mike on

      Sorry for the late post but have you tried the Fitzgerald or the Milano at Brooks? I have a similar problem and both of those tapered very well. You could also try Tom Ford if you have the money.

  17. Shawn on

    Hi! I just purchased my first custom suit from a high end store and im concerned about my sleeve length. O feel like to much of my wrist and forearm show when I raise my arms.
    Whats the proper on this?

  18. Kevin Vu on

    That is NOT why divots appear.

    Jeffrey: Divots have nothing to do with the width of the shoulder- we often hear people making comments about a shoulder being too wide
    because it is denting but this is not the cause. Look at old photos of
    Tommy Nutter’s work- you can’t get much wider than that and they don’t

    Second, the divots have nothing to do with the amount of shoulder
    padding; again, you can tons of it and not have dents, and you can have
    dents on an unpadded shoulder.

    THIS is what causes the divots.

    The armhole must be cut in the right shape for the body of the wearer.
    The sleeve is then cut in a very precise relationship to the armhole. In
    the figure below, the height of the armhole dictates the height of the
    sleeve cap and the width of the armhole dictates the width of the sleeve
    cap. We’ll say that distance a-b must be equal to e-f and distance c-d
    must be equal to g-h (for the super geeks, this is not the actual
    formula but we’ll say it is for simplicity).

    If you put on a jacket whose armhole has not been cut wide enough for
    you, or that the chest pulls because it is too tight (or a host of other
    reasons the armhole may distort) the armhole will contract- it will get
    wider and shorter. The sleeve cap is now too long and narrow (a-b is
    shorter than e-f and c-d is wider than g-h) so it pulls from front to
    back, and the extra length collapses. THIS is what causes the divot.

    The only way to try to remedy this is to remove the sleeve and shorten
    the cap (cut away excess length); this will, in some cases, be
    sufficient, but in many cases you also need some extra width to the
    sleeve cap, which you will not be able to gain since there is no outlet
    for it. This is neither easy nor cheap so your average dry-cleaner
    alterations tailor may not be able to do it.

    Barron, you should fix your article.

    • Barron on

      Interesting, and much more eloquently put. Thanks, Kevin. Did you mean to attach an image? Can you shoot me an email?

  19. PilatesMom on

    I was hoping that the armpit area would be addressed in the article. When lifting your arms, should the coat lift dramatically? When arms are at your sides, should the armpit of the coat be flush with your actual armpit? I had a salesguy tell me that the jacket armpit is always halfway down your upper arm when arms are at your side- and that when you lift your arms, it’s natural for the jacket sleeves to slide halfway up your forearm as the entire jacket lifts. I know this can’t be correct info! Any input?

      • PilatesMom on

        Perfect- that was precisely the problem I was describing. The salesperson should have know what I was referring to, but instead claimed that all jackets fit like that picture shows: coat and sleeves riding up with limited arm mobility. Now I know that a better fit DOES exist with the higher arm holes. Thank you!

  20. jsmith0552 on

    Yes low arm holes is definitely an issue, and can look awful when you raise your arms even a fraction, but I can see why it wasn’t mentioned, since most mid to low end suits are made that way today. To solve the problem would require one to go vintage, or bespoke.

  21. Tofi Adegbite on

    Please do an article on how to best chose the right size when shopping for a slim/modern/classic fit blazer

  22. professorclee1 . on

    Useful summary article. I wonder though about the nature of “weird shoulder rumpling.” Isn’t it sometimes merely a function of thick suiting fabric? The example you show for this looks like a flannel, which, in my experience rumples along the shoulder while a lighter wool is less inclined to do so.