British Suit Style Guide

Ah, the allure of a well-fitted, stylish suit! There’s nothing that quite compares, is there? Suits are more than just pieces of fabric stitched together; they are the epitome of class and taste, and they often convey the values you hold dear. Now, when it comes to sartorial elegance, the British suit style has long stood on a podium of its own.

This article aims to be your definitive guide to understanding British suit styles—focusing on the perfect fit, the quintessential fabric, and those elusive patterns that make a British suit a timeless investment.

Historical Overview of the British Suit Style

The British suit symbolises timeless elegance, embodying a style and a distinctly British form of artistry, craftsmanship, and tradition. From the military uniforms of the 17th century to the quintessential three-piece suits that are a staple of British fashion today, the journey of the British suit has been one of innovation, adaptation, and refinement.

The Origins: From Military to Menswear

The history of the British suit can be traced back to the early 17th century when King Charles II ordered his courtiers to don a new kind of uniform that was inspired by the military. This early iteration was a far cry from the contemporary suit but laid the foundations for the future. The classic components, such as waistcoats and full trousers, would not emerge until later.

18th and 19th Century: Industrialisation and Standardisation

By the 18th century, the suit began to take a form closer to what we are familiar with today. The Industrial Revolution significantly influenced fashion, as mass production and standardisation allowed for a wider range of fabrics and styles. The suit became a status symbol and was primarily seen in the more affluent classes, especially in London. Around this time, Savile Row emerged as the epicentre for bespoke tailoring.

In the 19th century, the lounge suit became the everyday outfit for men. With Queen Victoria’s Prince Consort, Albert, adopting this style, the trend solidified its place in British history. Tailcoat suits for formal occasions, and lounge suits for casual settings became the norm.

Early 20th Century: The Emergence of the Three-Piece Suit

The first few decades of the 20th century saw the crystallisation of the modern British suit into its current form, namely the three-piece suit comprising trousers, a waistcoat, and a jacket. Worn with a shirt and tie, this became the staple business attire. This period also saw innovations like the two-button jacket and slimmer trousers.

Post-War Period: Ready-to-Wear and Youth Culture

The post-World War II period saw the emergence of ready-to-wear suits. The rationing during and after the war led to simpler suit designs, often made of less luxurious materials.

Contemporary Times: Diversity in Design

A man wearing a British suit

In today’s fashion landscape, the British suit style continues to evolve. While traditional tailoring houses on Savile Row still uphold the highest standards of craftsmanship, younger brands, and designers are injecting contemporary flair into this classic attire.

Features of the British Suit Style

The British suit is distinguishable by its unique features, which set it apart from American or Italian styles. Here, the emphasis is on a tailored fit, understated elegance, and meticulous craftsmanship. Below are some of the most defining characteristics that encapsulate the quintessence of British suit style.

1. Structure and Details

The British suit is admired for its structural integrity, achieved through layers of canvassing and padding. Details such as roped shoulders, double vents at the back of the jacket, and high armholes contribute to its distinctive look.

2. Lapels and Buttons

The lapels are generally of moderate width and can be either notched or peaked, depending on the formality of the occasion. British jackets frequently feature two or three-button configurations, with the top button sometimes left undone to facilitate ease of movement.

3. Pockets

Flap pockets are a standard feature, often accompanied by a ticket pocket — a smaller pocket above the right flap pocket, initially designed to hold train tickets. This feature has become more of a stylistic element rather than a functional one in contemporary times.

4. The Waistcoat

The three-piece suit is a significant aspect of the British suit style, with the waistcoat offering an additional layer of sophistication. Waistcoats are designed to cover the waist, often featuring lapels and a six-button configuration, making them a distinguished component of formal attire.

5. The Trousers

British trousers typically offer a higher rise and are cut to sit at the waist rather than the hips. They may feature pleats for added comfort and are often worn with cuffs (turn-ups), especially when made from heavier fabrics.

6. Versatility

One of the enduring qualities of the British suit is its versatility. It can be worn in various settings, from business meetings to formal dinners, and can be easily dressed up or down with the appropriate choice of shirts, ties, and accessories.

How to Choose the Right Suit Style

Let’s talk about variety for a moment. Not every suit style will flatter every body type. While the British suit style is universal in its appeal, Italian and American suit styles have their merits as well. The Italian suit style is generally lighter and more fitted, suitable for those looking for a bit more flair. The American suit style, on the other hand, tends to be more relaxed in fit. Knowing the subtleties can significantly impact your choice and how you carry your suit.


And there we have it—a comprehensive dive into the world of British suit styles. From the iconic cuts and luxurious fabrics to the nuanced patterns that define the British style, understanding these elements is key to finding a suit uniquely you. Add the right accessories and maintain your suit well, and what you have is not just an outfit but a statement, a testament to the elegance of the British suit style.

Are you ready to elevate your sartorial game with the epitome of British craftsmanship? Don’t settle for anything less than perfection. At Hidalgo Brothers, we offer you the unparalleled experience of bespoke tailoring, handed down through generations. From the initial consultation to the final fitting, our master tailors ensure that every stitch and detail encapsulates your unique style and personality.

Isn’t it time you invested in a suit that’s as remarkable as you are? Get in touch with us and discover the art of true elegance only at Hidalgo Brothers on Savile Row.

Common Questions

1. What makes the British suit style unique compared to other styles like American or Italian?

British suit styles are often characterised by their structured look, which includes padded shoulders and a tapered waist. The suits are generally made from classic British fabrics like worsted wool and tweed, and they often feature traditional patterns such as pinstripes, herringbone, or checks. These elements collectively lend a sense of timeless elegance and understated sophistication to British suits.

2. Can British suits be worn for all occasions?

While British suits are often considered more formal due to their structured cut and classic fabric choices, they are indeed versatile and can be suitable for various occasions. A bespoke Savile Row suit is ideal for high-profile events, whereas the more casual ‘Weekend’ British suits are perfect for less formal settings. The adaptability of the British suit makes it a valuable addition to any wardrobe.

3. How should I care for my British suit to ensure its longevity?

Proper care and maintenance are crucial for extending the lifespan of your British suit. Always hang your suits on cedarwood hangers to maintain their form. Opt for spot-cleaning and pressing over frequent dry cleaning to preserve the fabric quality. Proper storage and occasional airing can also contribute to the longevity of your suit.