It's interesting to me that whenever I give a presentation to men in a corporate setting or work one-on-one with a male client I get a lot of questions about what kind of suit to wear for their body type and what the correct "button-rule" is for suits and jackets.

As a professional image consultant I always advise my male clients to be sure to dress to accentuate their attributes and downplay any challenging areas. A lot of men have the impression that dressing for your body type only applies to women - but that's not true.
Here are my answers to some recently asked questions that will help any top level professional dress more powerfully for his particular body type while following the perplexing button rule:

Suit-Up with Power and Strong, Silent Messages
Many men in high-powered positions or aspiring mid-level executives who want to get promoted to the C-suite need to understand the power messages of the suit. Whether you are interviewing for a senior level position or attending an evening philanthropic event, chances are you need to be wearing a suit that commands authority. The suit is considered the professional corporate uniform, but today every man needs a suit from time to time - to attend an evening event, a wedding, a funeral, or to make an appearance in court. But regardless of where or why you put on a suit, the key silent messages that the suit conveys are power, sophistication, and elegance.

A Suit Style for Every Man's Physique
Every body type has its challenges and that is true for men, just as it is for women. There are tall men, short men, slender men, and heavy men. But if you dress correctly for your current body architecture you can use the illusion of correctly chosen clothing to look handsome and commanding. If you work with an image consultant, we will show you how to utilize the lines of suit design details to make you appear taller, thinner, or even heavier - if you happen to be a tall, slender fellow who needs to add some visual pounds.

Below I have listed all styles of men's suits - and I've also included the double-breasted style, because it is a high fashion suit that goes in and out of fashion from time to time. So here are the highlights of the recommended styles of suits that work well with different kinds of body types:

The Heavy Man
Goal: With this body type, you want to create an illusion of appearing taller and thinner.

This man will want to wear vertical lines that draw the eye up and down his silhouette, but also attract the eye away from the waist area. The best suits for this body type are single-breasted, 2-button styles with a medium V stance. They provide slimming lines by creating a longer V in the upper chest section.

Avoid: 3-button coats or jackets with short, rolled collars. They make you look shorter and heavier.

The Slender Man
Goal: The slender man needs to increase breadth across his shoulder and chest area to add some weight on his narrow frame.

This physique will look best in single-breasted 2-button jackets. If you are on the shorter side, a 3-button jacket can give you some vertical lines to make you appear taller. You can also wear a double-breasted suit with lapels that roll below the waist to elongate your torso and give you some added fabric across the midsection.

Avoid: Pinstripe suits that can make you appear too thin.

The Tall Man
Goal: If you are over 6 feet tall you already have a tall, vertical frame, which means you can add some horizontal lines.

The man with this body type is very fortunate, because he can wear all styles of suits, but he will definitely need to wear a longer cut of jacket. You will look great in a 3-button single-breasted style jacket. A double-breasted coat works on the tall man, too, because he can look good with the horizontal lines of the buttons and front opening.

The Athletic Man
Goal: With your exaggerated V-shaped frame, you have the desired ideal shape. Your shoulders are broad but your waist is slim, creating an inverted triangle.

With this athletic build you will look best in single-breasted 2-button styles that will deemphasize a bit of your shoulder width. You may also need to look for "athletic cut" suits that provide a larger drop, which is the difference between your chest measurement and your waist size.

What's the button-rule?
There is a rule to buttoning a man's coat in order to project sophistication and elegance. But it is amazing to me to see sportscasters, TV reporters, and celebrities who don't follow this rule because not doing so can sabotage their image immediately.

Here is a quick history of how the button rule came into existence:

Back years ago King Edward VII became so heavy that he was unable to button the bottom button of his vest. His followers did not want to embarrass him by buttoning their last button, so they began to take his lead and imitate his style - and that started a new fashion trend to leave the last button open. Today suits are designed to leave the bottom button open, and so are vests and sport coats. Here is a quick reference guide to when to button which button of your jacket:

On a single-breasted 2-button jacket - button the top button only.
On a single-breasted 3-button jacket - button the top two buttons only, unless the suit lapels tend to roll to the middle button. In that case you would not button the top button because of how the lapel would lay against your torso.
A trendy, single-breasted 4-button jacket is often designed so that you wear all buttons closed or only the bottom button open. I always encourage my clients to button the last button unless they see a pull in the fabric around the 4th button. In that case you would leave it unbuttoned.

Here's the button bottom line: Most jackets are designed to leave the bottom button undone. So if you button it then the fabric pulls and shows if you have a few extra pounds, which can undermine your great presence. We realize that when men gain weight, you tend to put the pounds in your lower midsection. So coats are made so that you have some ease for the coat to lay straight with no pulling or tugging - as long as you don't use that bottom or last button.

I hope that regardless of your physique or title, you will find the right suit that fits you correctly and can emphasize your positive features. When you know the rules of buttoning the coat, it appears that you are a sharp, well-dressed man who understands how to get the most from his wardrobe.

Every man needs at least one modern suit in his wardrobe to wear when the situation calls for a formal, sophisticated look. So next time you shop for suit, remember the importance that lines make in helping you create an illusion to appear more powerful, commanding, and elegant.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author.
Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.
Blog, Ezine & Website:
Phone: 678-528-1239 Email:
Copyright © 2010, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS
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