Take a look at the suit jackets hanging in your closet and you’re likely to see that all, or definitely the majority, of them are single breasted. That’s because the single breasted jacket is what you’ll typically find for sale in high street stores, and something that most of us feel comfortable wearing. But the truth is that ‘the times they are a-changing’, as Bob Dylan once sung. The double breasted suit jacket is becoming increasingly popular, and especially in a slimmer, more fitted cut.

The double breasted suit jacket certainly offers something more to the sartorially adventurous than its single breasted brother; but it also has a few characteristics that instantly cause concern and turn people off. It’s for these reasons that we’ve put together this blog. One that considers the differences between single breasted and double breasted suit jackets, as well the positives and negatives that each style delivers.


The differences

The double breasted suit jacket features wide, overlapping flaps at the front which generally feature two symmetrical columns of buttons. In comparison, the single breasted suit jacket features a narrow overlap and just one column of buttons.

Typically, the column of buttons on the right-hand side of a double breasted jacket (as you look at it) are decorative. The ones on the left are the functional buttons which hold the flaps of fabric together, although it’s unusual for all of these buttons to be buttoned up. In addition, a jigger (or anchor) button is fixed to the reverse of the overlapping flap so it can be fastened to the flap that sits below it. This is to add extra strength to the fastening.

When it comes to buttons, the single breasted suit jacket usually features a column of two or three buttons (one and four-button versions are possible but not popular). The traditional way to wear a two-button jacket is to fasten the top button and leave the bottom button undone. With a three-button single breasted jacket, a good rule to remember is ‘sometimes, always, never’, which means sometimes button the top button, always button the middle button, and never button the bottom button.

In contrast, double breasted suit jackets usually feature two columns of one to four buttons, with the three-button look (ie six buttons in total) being a popular choice. Typically on a four or six-button jacket, the bottom two rows of buttons are buttoned up or just the bottom row.

The other main difference between the single breasted suit jacket and the double breasted suit jacket are the lapels they commonly feature. Usually the single breasted jacket has a notched lapel (see below), and sometimes a shawl lapel. On the double breasted jacket you’re far more likely to see a dressier peaked lapel, although, again, you may sometimes see this style of jacket featuring a streamlined shawl lapel, and especially if the jacket is a tuxedo.


The positives

Single breasted

The single breasted suit jacket offers many positives, which is why it is so popular with men of all physiques and ages.

Lots of versatility – the single breasted jacket epitomises smart-casual. That’s because the same jacket can be worn with pants for business or a formal occasion, then dressed down with jeans for a relaxed night out with friends.

Safe, timeless, simple – if understated elegance is the type of look you like then single breasted is a much better choice than its flashier double breasted brother.

Looks sharp buttoned and unbuttoned – a huge benefit of the single breasted jacket is that it can look great with its buttons fastened and left open. Perfect for when you’re going to be inside and outside during the day or evening.

Perfect for creative layering – because it’s simple and lacks any bulk, the single breasted jacket can easily be worn with a coat over the top of it and a formal shirt, T-shirt, polo shirt or even a sweater underneath it.  

An elongating look – the single line of buttons on the single breasted jacket is great for elongating the torso so you look taller and slimmer.


Double breasted

The double breasted suit jacket has been in and out of favour over the past century, with peak times being from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s, and the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. Here are what we think are its five main positives:

A bolder, more sartorial choice – the double breasted suit is definitely a bit more daring because its two columns of buttons and wide overlapping flap make it look more decorative and add character. It’s certainly a great choice if you want to make a statement.

Excellent for formal occasions – the structured, symmetrical look of the double breasted jacket exudes authority and even affluence. This makes it particularly suitable for formal occasions such as weddings and business.

Good option for men with a slighter build – the placement of the buttons and the cut of the jacket can be used to broaden the shoulders whilst keeping the waist in proper proportion.

Creates a slimming look – on a six-button double breasted jacket, the highest buttons are often placed at a wider stance than the other buttons to draw the eyes to the chest area and narrow the waist. In addition, the fastening of the middle row of buttons on a six-button jacket can help to pull in the jacket around the waist, creating a flattering V-shaped silhouette.

Plenty of button and fastening options – a six-buttoned jacket on which the two bottom rows of buttons fasten is the most popular option (called a 6 x 2 style). But you could go for a six-button jacket on which the bottom row just fastens (6 x 1). Then there’s the four-button version on which both rows of buttons or just the bottom row fasten (the 4 x 2 and the 4 x 1). The great thing is you can try on all the different combinations to see what works for you, as they all deliver a different look and feel.


The negatives

Single breasted

As well as having many plus points, the single breasted suit jacket has a few negatives that are worth considering.

A style that’s everywhere – if you do want to make a statement and show you’re a follower of fashion, the ubiquitous single breasted suit jacket may not be the right choice for you (although the color and pattern of fabric you choose could change all of this).  

Not as formal as the double breasted jacket – stand one man wearing a single breasted suit next to a man wearing a double breasted suit (in the same style and fabric) and the single breasted jacket will always look that bit more casual.

Limited button options – one, two or three buttons in a single column. That’s pretty much all of the choices when it comes to a single breasted jacket. This means you can’t play around too much to create different looks and shapes.  


Double breasted

A perfectly fitting double breasted suit jacket really can make you look like a million dollars; but there are also a few down sides to take note of.  

Not as forgiving as the single breasted – whatever your size and physique, the reality is that a double breasted suit jacket needs to be fitted correctly for it to look good. This is why a custom made double breasted jacket is definitely the way to go.

Less versatile – in comparison to the single breasted jacket, the double breasted is much less adaptable. It really is something that needs to be worn with pants for business or a formal occasion. Few people, if any, could wear a double breasted jacket with a T-shirt and pair of jeans and get away with it.

Can’t be worn unbuttoned – because of the wide flap that covers the front of the double breasted jacket, this style of jacket really does not look good if it’s left unbuttoned. So if you’re going to an event where you think you’ll want to unbutton your jacket, the right option to go for is the single breasted; or, alternatively, you could think about pairing your double breasted jacket with a matching vest to give you a bit more flexibility.


The verdict

So, going back to the original question, “Should I choose a double breasted or single breasted suit jacket?”, our overall answer is: it all depends on your character, the styles you like, where you’re going to wear your jacket, and your physique. That’s why booking a style consultation at HKT is a great next step after reading this blog. We can provide you with lots of helpful advice and give you a wide range of single breasted and double breasted jackets to try on to see what works best for you.

Something else that’s worth mentioning here is that no single breasted or double breasted jacket is ever going to look good on you unless it fits well. Having a suit jacket custom fitted and made exclusively for you is always going to create a far more flattering silhouette than any off-the-peg jacket. Certainly, our aim at HKT is to get to know you, so we can create personalized garments that reflect who you are and make you feel fantastic every time you wear them.   


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