by S. Charlie Weyman

Most people think of suits as being British, Italian, or American - the first being “structured,” the second “softly tailored,” and the third a "sack cut." But what a suit looks like can be much more complicated than that. There can be curves and lines throughout the jacket that give the wearer a certain look. Here are some of the main details that make up a suit's silhouette.

Shoulders: Every jacket hangs from the shoulders. The more padded the shoulders are, the more horizontal they'll be; the less padded, the rounder and more sloped (relative to the wearer's natural shoulders). The shoulders then meet at the sleeve at what's called the "sleevehead." This area can have a prominent ridge running along the crown of the sleeve (making it a roped shoulder); a light ridge, but still generally running flat (a natural shoulder); or be knocked down and have a low profile (a bald shoulder).

Chest: A jacket’s chest can be made lean or full. A lean jacket sits closer to the body to give a trimmer, younger look. A full chest is more sculpted to create a more muscular profile. Full chests sometimes have excess cloth “drape” near the armholes, although this feature is usually reserved for bespoke tailoring.

Waist and skirt: The waist of a jacket can be nipped or left loose. The skirt - the area just below the buttoning point - can hug the hips or kick out. These elements combine with the chest style to create an alphabet of shapes: As, Vs, Xs, and columnar Is.

Long or wide: Finally, by playing with the lines of a jacket, the cut can be said to be lengthening or widening. A lengthening jacket may have a lower buttoning point and a higher notch on the lapel to create a long vertical line from shoulder to buttoning point. A widening jacket, on the other hand, can have wider lapels and extended shoulders.

These aspects can be combined in any number of ways to create the jacket's silhouette. As you look at pictures of well-dressed men, notice each element and how it contributes to the overall effect. By understanding each piece of the puzzle, you’ll better understand which ones fit together to make a look that works for you.