Characteristics of Suit Types: American vs. British vs. Italian

Suit styles - American, British and Italian

I am sure all of you reading my blog are suit lovers, but do you know what suit you wear? I don’t mean what brand, I mean what style? There are three distinctive suit styles, each very different in its origins. Those styles are British, Italian and American.


These styles have been around for decades, however, these categories are not written in stone. There are lots of variations to these styles and the differences have become blurred. It is normal for American designer to cut the suits in Italian or in British style. Best example would be Ralph Laurent’s Black Label which is Italian styled and Purple Label which is more British styled.

>>Tip: At Macy’s they have great and finely priced suits

American cut suit
American suit with its characteristic straight lines. Although not baggy as it used to be, boxiness is still visible.

Let’s go through each style and talk about its characteristics.


American (Sack, Ivy League) Suit Style

This style of suit was popular in the early 19th century. First tailors were pioneers of this style were Brooks Brother and J. Press.

The rise to popularity of these suits came in 1920’s by Ivy Leaguers.

Its distinguished characteristics are single went in the back, higher armhole, straight lines, flap pockets and natural (almost no padded) shoulders giving you softer silhouette. Also these suits were very baggy.

The coat was single breasted with two or three buttons. Characteristics of the trousers are that they were not pleated and they are cut full.

In its original form this suit is the least stylish. With time American suits became more cut to the shape of the body, included shoulder padding and became more stylish.

Looser cut in these suits is very rewarding if you have to spend countless hours in them.


Suit styles - British
British cut suit is well-tailored and with double went and emphasized shoulders.

British Suit Style

Also called British Traditional. These suits are cut closer to the body. They have slightly narrower and defined shoulders with higher armhole. Coats have two side vents and they can be single or double-breasted. British cut jackets tend to use lower gorge lines which is the seam joining the collar and the lapel, heavier cloth, stiffer chest canvas, thicker shoulder pads, and more structure to the jacket.

Trousers are cut generously with high waist and two or three pleats but they have more shape than American cut trousers. British suits will give you more contour and your look will be more fitted.

It is accepted truth that the home of the traditional British suit is in Savile Row. Placed in London’s Mayfair, Savile Row is the home of custom suit makers and is the place to go when searching for highest tailoring excellence.

These type of suits are ideal for average built men since they are not too boxy nor too slim.


Suit types - Italian
Characteristic slim tailored lines of Italian suits.

Italian Suit Style

This style is known for its trendyness. It is cut very slim, the silhouette is sleek, modern and very stylish. The jackets originally did not have any vents but today two vents are common in Italian suits. They are shorter and tight-fitting and shoulders are padded while lapel notches and buttons are positioned higher than in British and American jackets. Pockets are flapless and jackets have pronounced V-shape.

Opposite of British style suits, Italians prefer to use lighter cloths, higher gorge lines, and less overall padding.

Pants have tapered waist and hips are snug to the body.

Italian style can be further divided into Roman, Neapolitan and Milanese styles. Most credible designer for the rise of the Italian style are Brioni and Giorgio Armani.

Italian cut suits fit very well to tall, slim, flat belly men.



Today you will rarely see original American style. Baggy look is not stylish while British and Italian style is more common. If you are a traditional person or if you hold some very important position you should strive to British cut. If you are younger and seek more trendiness from your suits you should look for Italian cut suits, but as mentioned before, the lines between the styles are very blurred.

Today these differences have nothing to do with geographical origins but they are more a style and preference choice.

You don’t have to bother that much about which style of suit to wear as long as the suit is cut well, it suits you well and you feel comfortable in it.


5 thoughts on “Characteristics of Suit Types: American vs. British vs. Italian”

  1. There is nothing like a good old English suit but I am also a big fan of Italian cut suits because I love dressing to the vouges the American suit just doesn’t ring to the times

  2. Italian suits are NOT padded that is the beauty of them. Just look at the pic you posted and notice that shoulder is not padded like American or British shoulders.


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