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Is the Double-breasted Jacket Back?

By Tim Jarvis

The last time the double-breasted look was en vogue, Ronald Regan was the man in the White House, and Gordon Gekko was on the big screen telling a room full of investors that “Greed is good.” But with every designer from Roberto Cavalli to Ermenegildo Zegna reinvestigating the long-dormant staple on the runway this year, it seems the double breast is making a comeback.

Like many other resurgent fashion trends, the new double breast incorporates a mix of both traditional and contemporary styling cues. But the differences are less than subtle. Today’s garments are cut shorter, making them feel and look younger and fresher. And unlike the bulky ’80s styles, fashion designers have made the newer jackets slimmer. This last detail is key, according to Matt Harpalani, a men’s style consultant and the general manager of New York City–based Imparali Custom Tailors. The fit of the modern double-breasted jacket has been reinvented to showcase a sleeker look -- one that, while still holding its own during a boardroom showdown, can just as easily turn admiring heads at a trendy New York City nightclub. The jacket should skim the body, not hug it. And to make sure the silhouette looks modern, the shoulders should be soft and tailored, not too sharp.

Some of the recent looks also include vents and are paired with flat-front pants instead of the pleated variety. They will also often have longer lapels that extend toward the waist.

“Older double-breasted suits were also typically three-to-button with six buttons showing after the flap over,” says Harpalani. “Nowadays, you’ll find two-to-button or even one-to-button jackets, with some having four -- or as few as two -- buttons on the front.”

Wearing the New Double Breast

Harpalani cautions that not everyone can pull off the modern double-breasted look. “Today’s designs are geared toward men with slimmer, more athletic builds,” he says. “They accomplish a better-fitting, trimmer look -- especially around the midsection -- by using a slightly different pattern, less material and a higher armhole.”

But even if you possess one of those tight, rippling bods that look like they’ve been Photoshopped, wearing a new double breast comes with some drawbacks. Harpalani advises that the jacket should remain buttoned at all times -- yep, even when seated. And to truly look your best, you’ll really need to make sure the fit is outstanding. Nevertheless, if Harpalani is right, the extra time and effort will be worth the payoff. The effect will be stylish and refined, and you’ll attract a lot of attention for all the right reasons.

Another thing worth noting is, in the past, double-breasted suits were primarily used for office wear, but today you can feel just as comfortable wearing this classic look at social occasions such as wedding receptions, the theater or cocktail parties. “The double-breasted suit is much more versatile than it used to be,” adds Harpalani. “But if you’re going to wear one for an informal event, pick out a suit in a lighter shade and try wearing an open-neck shirt instead of a tie.”

What It’s Likely to Cost You

If you’re truly set on buying a double-breasted suit, you’ll get the best fit by purchasing it from a custom tailor. At Imparali’s in New York City, Harpalani charges an average of $1,000 for a custom-made double-breasted suit. But if you’re more of an off-the-rack kind of guy, you can start to get an idea of prices and styling by checking out this budget double-breasted ensemble at Sears, $153. Then step it up a notch and take a look at the Calvin Klein double-breasted suit at Men’s Warehouse, $599. If you’re feeling really flush, the Dolce & Gabbana “Martini” double-breasted with flat-front pants, $1,437, may be worth trying.

Shopping for the Right Suit

Purchasing any decent suit usually means making a considerable investment, and hunting down the perfect double-breasted suit can be time-consuming and expensive. If you’re thinking about buying something from a chain store, Harpalani recommends trying several manufactures before making a decision. “It takes time to hone in on what’s exactly right for you,” he concludes. “And because everybody’s needs are slightly different, you’ll need plenty of patience while shopping.”

Photo: Getty Images

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