Know Your Terms: Double-Breasted

The single-breasted suit has dominated men’s tailoring landscape for the past two decades. And pretty much the two decades before that. And… let’s just say it’ll always be the dominant style. The DB, on the other hand, tends to come and go, and these days it’s definitely on the uptick.

Photo: Andy Ryan.

The modern DB.

The double-breasted look originated in British naval uniforms, with what was called a “reefer jacket” — a formal coat styled after the more functional peacoat, which was worn by officers as dress uniform. The style gained popularity from the 1930s to the 1950s, worn by everybody from Al Capone to Fred Astaire, and made a comeback in the ’80s and ’90s as a way to add more power to the power suit (think: Patrick Batemen in American Psycho, or NBA Draft Day circa 1998). The style went away for a while, but it’s now officially back, with a trimmer, softer shoulder, higher armhole, and slimmer, hipper fit.

A double-breasted tuxedo is a strong, timeless look (though we wouldn’t recommend the style as your only tux), and the same goes for a rumpled cotton version and jeans at the opposite end of the formality spectrum.  The only prerequisite you need to pull off the look is the confidence to do so. And a willingness to tread lightly when it comes to brass buttons. Unless, of course, you happen to the captain of the Love Boat or editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair.

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