Single Breasted Suits vs. Double Breasted Suits 101

Is two better than one? For many men, even those well versed in the art of snappy dressing, the single breasted vs double breasted suit debate is a major one. Should you opt for the sleek modern lines of single breasted, or the undefeated grandeur and elegance of double breasted? Whether you’re brand new to the idea of different suit stylings or looking for some quick tips to diversify your wardrobe further, the expert tailors of the Oliver Wicks team have compiled the ultimate guide to single and double breasted suits- from what those terms really mean right through to how to wear them like a pro!

What Does Single Breasted Mean?

Navy Blue Pick&Pick suit by Oliver Wicks

For most men, what the word ‘suit’ brings to mind is, more properly, the single breasted suit style. The difference lies primarily in the button configuration and means of closing the jacket. In the single breasted suit jacket, we see the perfect blend of simplicity and stylishness. The fabric frontage meets precisely in the middle of your chest, with no extra fabric and little scope for fancy button configurations and other twists. It’s clean, powerful, and elegant. Because it’s easy to wear and requires less precision tailoring, the single breasted suit has become the de facto suit in the popular imagination and a go-to in most men’s wardrobes.

But let’s break down the anatomy of a single breasted suit further.

The Cut

As we’ve already noted, the defining cut of the single breasted jacket is clean and precise, with the two edges of the front meeting in the center of the chest without overlap or fuss. 

The Buttons

Because of this severe and strict cut, there isn’t a ton of room for embellishments like double button rows. That said, you do find different button configurations in the single breasted look. Possibly the most unacknowledged is the single button. And yes, we do mean one single, solitary button! It’s the standard configuration for black tie outfits like the tuxedo but rarely seen away from such eventing.

More commonly, you have the 2-button configuration. Now the standard for business suits, you will always wear them with only one closed, but the second adds some weight and casual elegance to the overall effect, allowing the fabric to drape beautifully.

There’s also the rare and sneaky 3 button arrangement. It has its place in the fashion catalogs, but the addition of extra buttons creates a lot of ‘frontage’ to the suit, and the wrong physique can leave you looking uncomfortable and overstuffed, so it needs a careful hand.Very tall gents may wish to consider a 3-button style, as it tends to compliment their silouette nicely and it keeps nice proportions. 

Styling Tips

Honestly, there’s almost nothing that a single breasted jacket can’t do. They’re easy to wear and versatile, so they fit seamlessly into many environments. They also fit a broad range of body types and tend to ‘fade into the background’ a little as we’re so used to seeing them around us. Perfect for occasions where you want to look great but not necessarily stand out too much. The more relaxed, modern lines also translate well to suit separates, bringing a styled but casual vibe to the table.

Buying a Single Breasted Suit

Because the single breasted look is so commonplace today, you’ll find it everywhere- from top designer labels to the cheapest and quickest fast fashion. That doesn’t mean all single breasted jackets are created alike, however! Whether you’re looking for a full suit or a casual suit separately, the minimalist cut of this style means it has to fit and fit well. Even the slightest mismatch in tailoring, and you risk looking like your buttons will pop or drowning in excess fabric.

So this is definitely a style that calls for the Oliver Wicks motto- the fit that suits you. Even if your budget is tight, finding a quality fit and tailoring it to the unique lines of your body should always be your top priority. It pays to invest in the best possible fabric and construction you can. Most men should be aiming for at least a half canvas suit, which brings a pleasing balance of structure and formality, while ensuring a delightful drape. Easy and comfortable to wear, they’re also built to last, and as long as you aren’t prone to weight fluctuations, a quality single breasted suit will last a lifetime. For a “heavy jacket” feel, step it up to a full traditional canvas for the best trade-off of wearability and looks (an especially great choice in winter for warmth). .

Not sure how to fit your suit? Never fear! Our dedicated team of tailors at Oliver Wicks knows exactly how good it feels to wear a suit built for you, so we’ve created a handy set of video tutorials that will walk you through every aspect of measuring yourself for the perfect fit. You can get instant access to these (and a ton of other helpful fashion hints) by creating an account on our website. You can do so from any page on our site, with no purchase necessary, so take a moment to invest in your fashion future. 

What Does Double Breasted Mean?

double-breasted suit by Oliver Wicks

If that’s the single breasted suit in all its glory, what then is the double breasted suit? We’ve gone in-depth into the styling and cut of the double breasted suit before. In short, however, they’re a vintage-leaning and rather militaristic style that was exceptionally popular in the 1930s and has an aura of nautical richness. 

The Cut

Instead of meeting in the middle of the chest, with the double breasted jacket there’s an extra ‘flap’ of material to the jacket which crosses over the chest. Typically, you will find the excess material on the left, folding over your chest to the right. It creates a clean, neat line that’s dignified and elegant in one, and with the militaristic vibes, it creates an instantly recognizable silhouette packed with visual interest.

The Buttons

The most notable characteristic of the double breasted jacket is the double button row centered on the lower half of the body. Typically the buttons on the non-closing side are purely there for visual balance, with all the heavy lifting being done at the closure point and typically with one button. This means artful tailoring is essential to ensure the right drape and hangs well when worn

Today, you’ll find what’s called a 4 by 2, or 4 buttons in two rows. It’s a sleeker, cleaner line than more traditional configurations, adding a touch of modernity to the vintage lines of the jacket itself. Mostly, you’ll only close the top button in order to avoid creating too boxy of a silhouette. Sometimes you’ll see this reinvented as the 4 by 1, with three decorative buttons intentionally spaced to highlight the closing button.

Traditionally, the double breasted suit jacket was a 6 by 2, with 2 columns and 3 rows of buttons. The extra row gets added above the functional buttons. You’ll find even higher button combos for outerwear like coats, but for a suit, one of the two standards is the wisest bet for the best combination of style and practicality.

Styling Tips

If you’re a larger man, especially if you carry your weight through the chest and stomach, a double breasted suit jacket can be surprisingly slimming, creating a long and elegant line for the eye. On the flip side, the extra fabric and intricate buttons can be dwarfing for slender or shorter men.

There is one critical thing to remember if you’re trying out the double breasted style- it’s eye-catching. Even the most somber and severe double breasted suit will instantly attract attention. So if you like to stand out from the crowd, this is definitely a look to consider- but if you’d rather blend in or the occasion doesn’t call for attention-grabbing, stick to the single breasted look. In the same vein, it’s best to let the flashier cut of this style speak for itself. If you love bold patterns and other visual twists, they’re best left to the single breasted cut. That said, a double breasted jacket can carry a clean and simple pinstripe or chalk stripe well in the right circumstances.

Typically, you’ll choose either a double breasted suit, or a double breasted overcoat. While you’ll find sports coats and blazers in the double breasted style, they tend to be tough to build a look around and can look overly formal unless you’re very confident in blazing your own fashion trail. Because of the overlapping front design, double breasted jackets will always be warmer than their single breasted compatriots. While you can offset this a little with a cool cotton or linen, the double breasted suit will always be a better pick for winter and transitional seasons than the heights of summer. If you’re heading to a beach wedding, pick a single breasted suit every time.

Buying a Double Breasted Suit

If you’re not already confident in sartorial styling, one of the best ways to dabble in the world of double breasted suits is to try it out as a coat. The calf-length overcoat is one of the simplest and most elegant ways to wear a double breasted look, and it is very hard to go wrong with. If you’re feeling more adventurous, however, one of the key pluses of the double breasted style is the seamless way it draws attention to the upper body without excess bulk. They will make you seem taller and broader through the shoulders, with the militaristic bearing to easily carry it off.

As with the single breasted suit, however, it pays to invest in the fit. A sloppy double breasted jacket will immediately call all the wrong attention to itself. This is a look you want to fit precisely, and you will want to let it speak for itself, too. If you like to wear bright shirts or a wealth of accessories, you can make a double breasted suit look over the top very easily. Stick to understated elegance, however, and you have the perfect tool to create a personalized, interesting style that remains elegant and classic.

Which One to Pick?

brown single breasted suit paired with an orange tie by Oliver Wicks

If you’re just starting to build yourself a fashionable, practical suit wardrobe, then building up a core of single breasted suits in practical colors like navy and charcoal will always be the best bet. It’s a cut that can go anywhere and do anything convincingly, and you will never be left looking out of place, either. 

Naturally, if you’re looking for black tie-appropriate menswear, starting with the traditional tuxedo is also the best way to go. While double breasted tuxedos can look great, they also call a lot of attention to yourself, and you don’t always want that. Unless you are the star of the show, of course!

So when should you opt for double breasted? As we’ve already mentioned, it’s a striking and elegant way to add visual interest to your outerwear, and a double breasted coat will always leave you looking your best. Carrying both powerful and romantic lines, even fighting your way through the drizzle and sludge of an overcast spring morning, will feel like an adventure.

If you decide you like the more formal-yet-eye catching lines of the double breasted style, leaning a little ‘old-fashioned’ in all the right ways, then try it out as a suit option too. You’ll turn heads without looking gauche or attention-hungry, and it’s an excellent way to add visual variety to your wardrobe with effortless style. It’s also an excellent style to offset any posture issues long nights at your PC have left you with. 

Luckily, with Oliver Wicks on your side, you never have to choose. We can recreate many of our most popular custom suit looks in the double breasted style, so you can have your cake and eat it, too!

To summarise - Most men will enjoy a wardrobe of single-breasted suits. Some may have a couple of double-breasted suits too, but they are a lot less common. 


A suit is never just a suit! While there’s a strong tendency for people to write the men’s fashion world off as ‘the same old same old’, adding some more adventurous touches with a double breasted look is the perfect way to add intrigue and variety to your wardrobe as well as showcase your ability to style yourself with a snappy sartorial elegance. While the classic single breasted look is evergreen and vibrant, throwing a few game-breaking double breasted pieces into your suit rotation may just be the fashion secret you’ve been looking for all along. And remember, whether you’re struggling to style your double breasted suits well or want to create a seamless and fashionable look that will turn heads, the Oliver Wicks team is always here to help- reach out to us at today!