You try on this jacket at the mall.
It’s just the right size.
The color is perfect too.
What’s with all these buttons at the front?
That’s a double-breasted jacket you’re wearing, not single-breasted.
There’s a difference.
You’ll want to learn about both jacket types – one is more formal while the other’s more flexible.
As a stylish man…it’s good to know your options.
It’s quite simple comparing the single- and double-breasted jacket. Two main details separate one from the other: (A) the buttons at the front and (B) amount of overlapping material.
As you can see, a single-breasted jacket
doesn’t have as many buttons or as much overlap as a double-breasted jacket. It usually has just 1-3 working buttons (aligned vertically) and a clean design. It’s not meant to look flashy unless you get it in a bright color instead of gray or navy.
A double-breasted jacket
is more complex. It typically comes in 4, 6 or 8 buttons (2, 3 or 4 on either side symmetrically) and the topmost buttons are non-functional. The 4-button version isn’t as common these days even though the Duke of Kent has been credited for making it stylish. The classic type of double-breast jacket has 6 buttons. You’re most likely going to find this version before the others.
Another key detail about double-breasted jackets is the extra fabric – as in excess material around the flap – which is folded over again from left to right. That’s the reason for multiple rows of buttons as opposed to one straight line of buttons. The additional fabric requires more buttons needed to tighten things up.
The jacket will also have one or two fasteners. With one fastener, you can let the lapel descend lower to create more of a vertical line…which helps slim you down. There’s also the anchor button providing the jacket with more support so it stays durable.
Which is more formal? It’s definitely the double-breasted jacket. It has a structure that’s less appropriate for bars or casual parties. It should always be worn with neckwear (either a necktie or bow tie) and can’t be dressed down. That’s why double-breasted jackets are considered fashion-forward. The single-breasted by comparison is more conventional – and more flexible.
Part 2: Tips For Buying A Single Breasted Jacket
Bear in mind that 1-, 2- and 3-button single-breasted jackets make up the majority (almost 95%) of all men’s jackets available nowadays.
The 2- and 3-button specifically are more common. Here’s what to think about if you’re not sure which of these styles to go for:
• Pick the 3-button if you’re well-built and want to show it off a little more
• Settle for the 2-button if you’d rather play it safe; the 2-button is where it’s at for the average guy
• You may want to get a custom-made single-breasted jacket with 1 button if you’re a shorter guy
The next part to consider is the type of lapel for your jacket. It’s an easy decision for single-breasted jackets: go with notched lapels
. They create a wide V-shaped opening where the collar joins with the straight-edged lapels (shaped like identical triangles). Hence they’re perfect.
Part 3: Tips For Buying A Double Breasted Jacket
The first rule to buying double-breast jackets is there must be a distinct “y
” formation when it’s buttoned up. Notice I’ve indicated a small letter y.
That means the innermost lapel (normally the right-hand side) should partly be covered by the tail end of the outermost lapel. Without this “y” you get an awkward V-formation – where the buttons start farther out and then come in slowly. That’s not a classic jacket design…so beware of those options.
As for the number of buttons:
- Choose the 6- or 8-button if you’re a bigger guy or have a large torso (the overlapping fabric can help downplay your tummy shape)
- Go custom-made with the 4-button version if you’re relatively small so that it matches your proportions better
Then you’ll have to pay attention to the lapels. I’d recommend that you stick with peak lapels
as they flare out in sharp points creating a narrow V-shape…which can help emphasize a taller and slimmer body. But you can also be adventurous with shawl lapels
that curve all the way without a break in the silhouette. Just note that shawl lapels are predominantly used in tuxedos and jackets for black tie events.
Regarding the jacket vent – your best bet is either a double vent or no vent. Avoid the single vent at all costs since it doesn’t look very flattering when you sit down or put your hand in your pocket.
You also want to be careful about the side pockets. Limit your options to flap
pockets. It’s these styles in which the pockets were sewn into the jacket lining to reveal narrow horizontal openings. Flap pockets have a flap sewn into the top to cover the opening, while jetted pockets are almost completely invisible.
The best way to figure out whether to choose a single-breasted or double-breasted jacket is by remembering your need. Only then can you start thinking about the color, buttons or fasteners, the style of the lapels, etc.
If You Need Something More Affordable…
Go for the single-breasted jacket because it’s more commonly sold, easier to find in different sizes, and comes at better prices. It has globally become so popular since the end of World War II that double-breasted jackets make up a tiny fraction of the market. That might be why many people aren’t aware of the differences between the two types.
If You Need Something More Versatile…
Get a single-breasted jacket. It doesn’t matter if you want a blazer, suit (with matching trousers) or sports jacket. You’re guaranteed to find a single-breasted version for all categories.
The problem with a double-breasted blazer or sports jacket? It’s like mixing oil in water. The “y” formation and extra buttons basically has strong connotations of high-end, super formal wear. Double-breasted jackets force you to pair them with dressier trousers and not jeans. Plus you’ll also need a tie since these jackets look incomplete without neckwear.
If You Need Something That’s Flattering To Your Body…
Choose a single-breasted jacket if you’re shopping at stores. It’s way more forgiving than its double-breasted counterpart because there’s less fabric all over to deal with. No matter how high-quality a double-breasted jacket is…a poor fit or some tightness at the front does you no good.
But if you can get something custom-made, work with a local tailor to get your measurements right…and they’ll produce a jacket that’s amazing for your physique and proportions.
If You Need Something That Makes You Stand Out Better…
That’s a no-brainer. Take a chance on the double-breasted jacket so you can draw more attention at informal events whether it’s a party, a wedding reception, or even a job interview in the creative industries.
Verdict: Which Type Of Jacket Is Better?
It ultimately depends on you. I personally don’t own a double-breasted jacket since I know wouldn’t get much out of it. I have all I need with the classic suits and single-breasted jackets inside my closet. But it could be a different case for you.
Maybe you own half a dozen suits and they all look similar. If you can afford it, why not add a bit more variety with a double-breasted jacket? Try buying a solid-colored version. If you get to wear it even just once a month…it’s worth it. Imagine how good you’ll feel when people give you compliments and ask about the jacket. You’ll come off as more interesting. So why not give it a shot?
There’s so much to learn about jackets, suits, and blazers beyond this post. Do you need advice on how to buy the perfect suit for you? Do you know all the important details of a jacket you should check while shopping?
That’s where it helps to browse this website. You’d be surprised by all the knowledge you can gain from my free eBooks, courses, podcasts & infographics (accessible here and through the RMRS app). So always value education on style. Style can make you feel more powerful, act more powerful…and become well in control of things.