This may be the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to the appearance of a suit. A suit can fit the wearer perfectly but if it does not have pleasing proportions then it fails at its main goal: to make the wearer presentable and attractive to the eye.
Throughout history humankind has been trying different styles and pieces of clothing in an attempt to create the most balanced, pleasing look.
click images to enlarge
If you ask me, humanity reached the pinnacle of proportionality during the 1930s and into the 1940s. There's a reason it's called the 'Golden Era' of men's style.
The human mind is programmed to identify and be attracted to harmonized shapes. One such complex yet ultimate simply proportional shape is the human body. If one is to study its proportions, the shape of the human body, like many other things found in nature, follows elemental natural laws. The Golden Ratio
, also known as the "Divine Proportion", has informed artists for centuries as to the ideal attractive proportions to create in their work. Derived from Fibonacci numbers, the Golden Ratio can be found throughout different parts of the human body.
Through the ages the human body has changed very little. Sure, in recent years men tend to be slightly taller and a larger number of men are heavier weight, but the basics are still the same. Check out Vitruvian Man from 1487 below:
The Vitruvian Man was meant to depict ideal male proportions and it is just as useful a tool today as it was so many centuries ago. Notice the vertical half-way point is roughly at the crotch. Above that mark are the hips, torso, and the head. Below that mark are the legs and feet.
Using the Golden Ratio we find that the proportionally attractive separation point of the human body is roughly the navel/waist area. This is an important factor and should be remembered for later.
Other parts of the human body, including the arms and face, are based upon the Golden Ratio.
So, why is the navel/waist area such an important item when it comes to dressing? Because our goal in dressing well should be to present ourselves in an as aesthetically pleasing manner as possible and what better way to do that than to put the Golden Ratio to work?
For example, look at the two photos below.
The photo on the left is of a typical 1930s 3-piece suit while the one on the right is of a typical modern 3-piece suit. The 1930s suit on the left is very well proportioned and attractive to the eye while the modern suit on the right is not.
Let's look at why.
Below is the same photo of the two men with vest, jacket and trouser length and position emphasized. Blue
indicates the vest, red
the jacket, and yellow
Notice how the 1930s suit on the left is based around the navel/waist area: the trousers sit at or about the waist while the vest skirt comes down to just below the waist. The modern suit on the right, however, is based around the crotch area: the trousers hang right on the hips and the vest skirt comes down to just below the hips. In other words, the 1930s suit on the left is based upon the Golden Ratio, giving the wearer the appearance of long legs and an athletic build, while the modern suit on the right is based around the physical halfway point, giving the wearer the appearance of a longer torso and shorter legs: a top-heavy silhouette that is not very flattering on any man.
Also note that the 1930s jacket has stronger shoulders and is slightly shorter in the skirt (a typical vintage drape jacket
) than the modern jacket, which is slightly longer and has weaker shoulders. The modern longer jacket length does not help the top-heavy silhouette of the modern suit.
Compare these suits to the Vitruvian Man and the differences become apparent.
In order to have a more attractive appearance when wearing a suit, base your proportions around the Golden Ratio point: the navel/waist. Choose high-waisted trousers that sit at the natural waist, a short vest that comes down to meet the trouser waistband and doesn't let any shirt show between the two, and a suit jacket that's slightly shorter than usual. Meeting these requirements today when most suits are made to be 'hip', fashionable, and/or ironic is a difficult task but not impossible.
It is important for a man to know how to wear a suit and wear it well. A man knows what looks right and how a garment should fit, as he's either been taught how or has come to realize it for himself. He knows and follows the code of timeless style, not fashion. A boy can throw on his father's overly large suit and think himself handsome. That same boy can also slip into one of his own old and much too small suits and perceive himself as being fashionable. The latter of the two seems to be the current fashion trend.
Hopefully soon men will again understand how important proportionality is to appearance and go back to the Golden Ratio Point that was so common during the Golden Era. I'll never understand why we moved away from it.