When shopping for a new suit, you’ll probably come across the terms “single-breasted” and “double-breasted.” While they both look similar in terms of appearance, they also have their differences. For some men, spotting these differences is easy. For others, it’s not so easy. If you’re struggling to grasp the concept of single-breasted and double-breasted suits, keep reading for an in-depth explanation of these terms and their respective meanings. By familiarizing yourself with terms like single-breasted and double-breasted, you’ll have an easier time choosing the perfect suit.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that single-breasted and double-breasted refer only to a suit’s coat or jacket; it does not have any influence over the trousers or shirt. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about these terms impacting the appearance of function of your trousers. Whether you choose a single-breasted or double-breasted suit, the trousers will remain the same. The only thing these terms affect is the suit jacket or coat.
So, what in the world is a single-breasted suit? When you come across a suit that’s labeled as “single-breasted,” you can expect to see several characteristic features. Different companies may have their own definition for the term. Generally speaking, though, most single-breasted suits feature a jacket or coat with one column of buttons alongside a small and narrow piece of overlapping fabric. It’s a simple, elegant and classic look that many men prefer.
On the other side of the fence is a double-breasted suit. Unlike its single-breasted counterpart, double-breasted coats and jackets have two columns of buttons, which typically run parallel to one another. It’s important to note, however, that only one of these columns is actually functional, while the second column is used strictly for aesthetic purposes. The non-functional, decorative column of buttons is secured on the outside edge of the coat or jacket, allowing the overlapping fabric to fasten reversibly (e.g. placing the right lapel over the left lapel and vise-versa). For added strength and security, there’s also an inner button. Known as an anchor button, it’s added to parallel-fasten the overlapping fabric from the inside.
Most suit coats and jackets have between one and eight buttons. Single-breasted styles, however, generally have fewer buttons, usually between one and three. But double-breasted styles have more buttons, usually either four, six or eight. According to Wikipedia, the original double-breasted suit jacket had six buttons, consisting of two columns of three buttons. This style originated from the naval reefer jacket. For shorter men, however, the use of so many buttons can seem daunting, as it offers nothing in terms of visual style.
Which style of suit jackets is the most popular? While some men prefer the single-breasted style, others prefer the double-breasted style. However, single-breasted suit coats and jackets are far more popular today than double-breasted, at least when speaking about the U.S. When shopping at local retail and department stores, you may struggle to find a double-breasted suit coat or jacket. This is because most men in the U.S. prefer the simple and classic look of single-breasted coats and jackets.
Of course, double-breasted suit coats and jackets remain popular on the other side of the pond. Over in the U.K., they are often preferred over single-breasted styles.
Pea Coats and Trench Coats
Both pea coats and trench coats are typically made as double-breasted. So if you want either of these coats, you’ll probably have to settle for a double-breasted style. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all pea coats and trench coats are double-breasted. Rather, the majority of them are, and because of this you may struggle to find a single-breasted pea coat or trench coat.
In addition to the nuances listed above, another striking difference between single-breasted and double-breasted suits lies in their formality. While there are always exceptions to this rule, single-breasted suit jackets are typically less formal than their double-breasted counterpart.
When choosing a suit coat or jacket, consider the occasion during which you’ll wear it. If you’re attending a formal event, you may want a double-breasted coat or jacket for the added formality. But if you plan to wear it for an evening out — or any casual occasion — a single-breasted style is the better choice. With that said, you can change the formality of your look by wearing the appropriate garments, shoes and accessories. A bowtie, for instance, offers a more formal appearance than a neck tie. And sporting a pair of clean, polished oxfords will also help you achieve a more formal appearance.
Going back to the basic characteristics of a double-breasted suit jacket, it has two folds of fabric as opposed to a single fold of fabric with the single-breasted jacket. Because they have more fabric, double-breasted suit coats and jackets are typically warmer than their single-breasted counterpart. Why is this important? Well, the added warmth is particularly beneficial for the otherwise cold winter months. If you plan on staying outdoors during the winter and need a suit to wear, a double-breasted jacket will keep you warmer, more so than a single-breasted jacket.
For an added kick of warmth, try wearing a 100% wool double-breasted suit jacket. Wool is thicker than cotton, linen and similar fabrics, making it the perfect choice for the cold winter weather.
The Bottom Line
Choosing between a single-breasted and double-breasted jacket is only one of the things you need to consider when buying a new suit. See below for a list of other things to consider:
- Is it made-to-measure, ready-to-wear or bespoke? Although the cheapest of the three, ready-to-wear suits aren’t necessarily recommended due to their lack of custom sizing. A made-t0-measure or bespoke suit offers a better sit.
- What color is it? You can find suits available in just about any color. If you’re stuck and can’t seem to choose a color, consider black. There’s really no substitution for a black suit, as it offers a simple yet stylish appearance.
- What material/fabric is it it made of? Different suits are made with different materials.