A Guide to Men’s Suiting Cuts and Lengths

{how to find the right cut for your body type}

We’ve already covered the basics of men’s suiting.  The next step in achieving a properly-fitting suit is to understand your body type.  (I know that this is not everyone’s favor topic, but disregarding the body you have when buying a suit, or any clothing for that matter, is a surefire way to commit some of the worst fashion faux pas.)

Purchasing a suit that is specific to your body type, regardless of what shape that body is in, will ALWAYS make you look slimmer, more professional, and all around more put together.

Men of all Shapes in suits

Let’s start by talking about the 3 major cuts of men’s suiting:

Standard:  A standard cut suit is what most men are going to wear.  The body types that fall into this category include:  fit, average, lean, lightly muscled, etc.  If you are generally able to go out to stores and find clothes that fit you off the rack, then you wear a standard cut.

Standard body type  standard man

Athletic:  An athletic cut suit is made for men with broad shoulders and a narrow waist.  Think a triangle-shaped torso.  The major difference between a standard cut and an athletic cut has to due with “the drop.”  The drop is an industry term that notes the difference between the chest measurement of a suit jacket and waist measurement of the corresponding pants.  In a standard suit, the drop is usually around 6”.  In athletic suits, the drop is typically 8”.   If you resemble the below, then you wear an athletic cut.

Athletic body type   Athletic Man

Portly: As the name suggests, these suits are built to fit a fuller-figured man.  The major difference between the standard cut and the portly cut is the difference in the drop.  The drop in portly suits is usually 4”.  As portly suits get larger, the drop gets smaller and smaller until the chest of the jacket and the waist of the pants are the same size.  If you are a fuller figured guy or if there is not much difference between the size of your chest and the size of your waist, you wear a portly cut.

Portly body type   Portly Man

In addition to these cuts, most suits are also identified as short, regular, or long.

The most important thing to know is that these denotations have to do with your height AND the proportions of your body.   This is important because most people base this choice exclusively on their height, which leads to ill-fitting suits.

While many sources do base Short/Regular/Long on height:

  • A Short if you are between 5’5”-5’7”
  • A Regular if you are between 5’8”-5’10”
  • A Long if you are between 5’11”-6’2”
  • An Extra Long if you are taller than 6’2”

don’t be fooled, there is more to this choice.  For example, if you are taller and you have a smaller chest, you may need a long.  If you have a longer torso and shorter legs, you may need a long even if you are not particularly tall.  I am 6’0”, maybe 6’1” if I am having a good posture day, and I do not wear a long.  I find that a regular fits my torso better and still falls at an appropriate length.

The take-home point:  while height can be used as a guide, you should try multiple lengths in order to find the best fit for your body.

To finish up this post I want to say a quick word on the current shrunken suit trend.  This trend was popularized by designer Thom Browne.  It is characterized by suit jackets that are extremely short and pants that show a significant amount of ankle.  While I appreciate that this trend has a place in the fashion world…

shrunken suits

it does not have a place in the professional world.  Instead, always be thinking, classic not trendy when investing in a suit for work.


[Photos courtesy of GQ, whyoffashion.com, georgehahn.com, SuitSupply]


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16 Responses to A Guide to Men’s Suiting Cuts and Lengths

  1. Alex Edward February 9, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    Wit the suit length and cut is also quite important for a taller or bulky men to follow couple of more rules to look good. When it comes to taller guys, i suggest them to break their trouser bit extra, whereas the fat guy should avoid from extra cuff and crotch to stay from being uncomfortable!

    • marhouse February 9, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

      Great points. Thanks, Alex!

  2. EB October 7, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    I’m 5’8″ and 200lbs (out of shape). I’m not all belly tho, as I have a broad chest and sholders. In a classic suit, I’m mostly a 46S. 44S is too tight, but with the 46S, there’s extra room in my mid stomach region (but the back & sholders fit). If I went for a Portly suit (I’m looking at a big online sale so I can’t just try it on), should I go for a 44S? Will the portly cut give me the extra room in sholders, upper chest, and back? or does portly expand in the “wrong” places [for me]?
    Many thanks!

    • marhouse October 7, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

      That’s a good question, and it may vary be retailer. We recommend going with the 46S and then having a tailor take it in so that it fits just right. Although tailoring can be expensive, the final result will be well worth it. Good luck!

      • EB October 8, 2015 at 9:39 am #


  3. Lin December 17, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    Thank you for this article.

  4. Roger June 30, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    The four men in the ‘professional’ photos – and especially the first in white trousers – are wearing styles that have unfortunately been influenced by the shrunken suits. The first three are wearing trousers that are decidedly not ‘regular’, they are very slim. The trend has also affected general jacket length. A coat that previously would have been e.g. 78/76cm from back neck to hem are now routinely 74/72cm. They’re often too short. I say this from a British/European tailoring point-of-view

    I hope this trend goes away soon. This post is from 2014 and the menacing after-effects of Thom Browne are still as present as ever.

    • RC April 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

      Although perhaps being driven by similar cultural factors and preferences, shrunken suits and slimmer pants are not closely interrelated or at least shrunken suits did not directly lead to slim pants. The rise of slim pants was from casual wear through to tailored wear, so I doubt (but honestly do not know for sure) that they were being driven by people adopting the shrunken suit look.

      If anything, I would suspect that the trend towards slim pants helped with shrunken suits (shrunken suits are much more about vertical proportions than width; however, a slimmer fit goes hand-in-hand with it, so perhaps it would not have gained momentum if slim pants were not already gaining popularity.

  5. Chadwick August 2, 2016 at 12:43 am #

    This paragraph is genuinely a nice one it
    assists new internet people, who are wishing for blogging.

  6. Fred August 10, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    what is the difference between 1reg and 2short? Is that the in seam of the pants?

  7. James September 9, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

    My biggest problem with finding a suit jacket isn’t the area around my stomach, but its that most jackets “cut” into my upper arm. Instead of the seams fitting in to the armpits, they are usually and inch or two from fitting correctly. Would a portly suit fix this?

  8. dick October 6, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    James, a portly in your case may not be the right choice, depending on the maker. Some portly jackets are actually narrower in the shoulders, even as they are more expansive in the waist.

  9. john scupelliti October 24, 2016 at 8:07 am #


  10. Anonymous November 20, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    Hello I’m 5’9/5’10 but I have a shorter torso and longer legs (not gonna lie I’m mostly legs haha) and I find most suit jackets swallow me because I’m relatively lean like 120-125 pounds so should I go for a regular or short fit

  11. debra stein March 5, 2017 at 12:23 pm #


  12. James Evers April 25, 2017 at 1:13 am #

    There is no doubt that suit is one of the most essential part of mens wardrobe, I personally believe a suit should be custom made, off they rack suit simply break the tempo. Doesn’t matter whether you are slim or bulky guy, a good looking and tailored suit can certainly transform your looks

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