A Guide to Men’s Suit Sizes

Figuring out men’s suit sizes is no piece of cake, especially when you’re not a fan of shopping for clothes. It is easy to make a mistake and end up with the wrong size, wasting time and money. It’s an especially common predicament with online shopping: there is no way of trying the suit on before every purchase, which is why men are often too frustrated for not getting what they paid for.

To make matters worse, with so many brands producing several clothing styles and different cuts, finding something that both fits you well and looks good can quickly become a nightmare. Before you know it, you feel like the man trying to squeeze his foot into Cinderella’s glass slipper— it just doesn’t fit, and you’re left with blisters, cold feet, and no hope of finding happiness.

Finding the suit of your dreams that fits like it’s tailor-made specifically for you is not just wishful thinking—it can be a reality with the right knowledge and some quick maths! Men’s suit sizes are actually pretty straightforward once you know how they work and how to go about finding the right fit. The numbers usually correspond to actual measurements that are relatively easy to understand compared with women’s clothing sizes.

A good suit will last you for years or even decades, but it can be costly. You want to be sure you’re spending your money wisely and minimising the cost of tailoring for yourself where possible. This guide is going to give you a deeper look into everything you need to know about men’s suit size.

So, What Do the Numbers Mean?

If you’re buying a suit, you want to pay attention to the sizing tag in the garment, as it will tell you a lot about how it may fit and can save time throughout your search.


Suit jacket tags can usually be found on the inside chest pocket, either left or right. For jackets, the sizes usually come with a number and a letter. The number is the chest size in inches, while the letters are the length of the jacket S (short), R (regular), and L (long). If you don’t see any letter, then it means that it’s a jacket style that was only made in one length and can be considered a regular-sized jacket.

When shopping, a 40R tag means that the jacket will fit someone who has between a 38 and 40-inch chest and an average height of 5’10”. If you’re shorter than 5’6″, then you should probably get an S; if you’re taller than 6’1″, then an L would be best for you. Most ready-made suit jackets start at a size 38 and go up to between 46 and 50, though there are specialist stores that focus on bigger men and other stores with a more slim fit emphasis that offer skinny styles.


Trouser tags are almost always found on the inside of the waistband, often at the front. Pants sizes usually come in two numbers—the first number is the waist measurement of the pants, and the second number is the length of the in-seam. The length of the in-seam can often be ignored when deciding on the right trousers, as hemming pants is the easiest and cheapest alteration, but some ready-made styles come in varying pant lengths. For example, suppose you’re buying a pair of 28/32 pants. In that case, it usually means that they have a waist measurement of 28 inches and an inseam measurement of 32 inches (or about 81 centimetres).

To find out if those are actually your size, you’ll need to figure out whether or not you can fit into them comfortably. If you can comfortably sit down in these pants without feeling like they’re going to fall off or get stuck at any point along your body (and even better: if they feel like they were made just for you), then congratulations! You’ve found yourself some perfectly fitting trousers!

Some stores may sell the jacket and the trouser as a set. The size combinations are defined by the standard “drop”—that’s the difference between chest and waist measurements. The standard drop size is 6 inches. So, if you are buying a set (jacket with trousers), most times, the difference or the drop will be 6 inches, eg. 40R/34. That’s why it’s best to get the jacket and trousers separately in case your drop measurement is more or less than 6 inches.

You can find your jacket size by measuring your chest around the widest point, in inches. Round up to the nearest even number and there you have it! For your pants, find a pair of trousers or jeans you like. Lay them out flat, do them up at the waist and measure across the waistband, doubling it for the full measurement. Then measure the inside leg seam, from the crotch to the hem. Sounds simple, right?

These standard sizes might work for some people, but not for all.

So Why Doesn’t It Fit Me?

The vast majority of people can’t find their perfect fit in the standard sizing offered by retail stores. There are some common issues you might run into with ready-made clothes, and most boil down to the difficulty in standardising clothing sizes in the first place. This is especially noticeable in tailored garments such as suits and jeans.

One major factor is fashion and the currently popular silhouette. Skinny and slim fits are in, and they are cut and fit most often to a tall and slender frame. In most retail stores, the sizes vary between brands. The main advice for all is to look at the size chart. With a size chart, you can understand what measurements they actually are, which is especially applicable when you see sizes S, M, and L garments.

You might have noticed that many times, you won’t fit in the size of the trousers you think you are. Different retailers cut pants differently, leading to different styles that may not work for you, even if the measurements match up. There are three common reasons for this:

1. Where you wear your pants (high-waist, regular, or low waist)
2. Your seat/hip measurement.
3. Larger thighs, one of the most common pants fit concerns.

Jackets are inherently more complex, but the most common fit issues arise from:

1. Shoulder breadth
2. Height and jacket length
3. A belly/fuller figure

The good news is that once you know what your specific fit issues are, they are usually relatively consistent across mainstream brands. You can use that for your clothes shopping by predicting likely alterations and buying accordingly.

How Do I Select the Right Size When Buying Off-The-Rack?

It’s best to know a little about tailoring to be able to shop for tailored garments. That way, you can know the best clothes to choose that are close to the perfect fit before you take your new clothes off to be altered, saving you both money and time.

A key thing to remember when you buy garments is that making something smaller is much easier than making it larger. When you are making something larger, you are limited by how much fabric is left in the seams, and the vast majority of mass produced clothing leaves very little, in order to cut costs. And even when you are making them smaller, there’s a limit to how much you can reduce the size before issues start to arise. It’s best to get a larger size and size it down than to start smaller. Starting with a larger size also allows it to be let back out again later.

The other golden rule is that the relative difficulty of the alteration is linked to how much time it takes, the skill level required of the tailor and, through both of those, how much it will cost.


Trouser alterations, generally speaking, are easier and cheaper than jacket alterations. There is generally less structure and complexity in their fit and construction. There are many adjustments you can make to ensure a great fit and comfort. Here are the possible alterations for trousers, from the least to the most difficult:

● Hem: This alters the length of the trousers and is one of the easiest alterations to do. It won’t cost you much.

● Leg Taper: This is the width of the trousers and how they fit around the legs. This is also a relatively simple alteration.

● Waistband: To alter the waistband measurement, you need to pay attention to the fit around the seat and the position of the pockets. It can be a little tricky, so it’s best done by a skilled tailor.

● Crotch Seam: The crotch seam of trousers can affect how high or low your pants sit on your hips, whether or not they’re too tight in the crotch, and so on. This alteration should be delegated to a skilled master tailor, as it’s a complex alteration that also affects the waist, seat, and thigh.


Colours, patterns, cuts, and fabrics play a vital role in buying the best off-the-rack jacket. Proper sizing of the jacket makes a great difference on a person. Even if the colour or style is a little bold or unfashionable, if the fit is perfect, you will look good!

Regardless of the size chart you follow, it is always best to try on the jacket. Jacket alterations are more difficult and time consuming than pants, as jackets involve much more structure and are a more prominent element of your outfit. The cut of the jacket also has a huge influence on how easy it is to alter.

It is probably easiest to start with the things that cannot be changed on a jacket. The lapel style, lapel width and pocket positions are set once the jacket is made, due to the internal structure built into the front and lapels. Any opened buttonholes cannot be moved.

Some of the alterations for a jacket, from the least to the most complex:

● Take in the body: A jacket with excess around the torso and waist can be taken in relatively easily.

● Shortening the Length: A jacket can be shortened by a little over an inch before the ratio of the buttoning point and pockets starts to look strange.

● Armhole: The opening through which your arm passes when you put on your suit affects your movement and comfort. It’s a trickier alteration, best done by a skilled tailor. .

● Shoulder seam: This is the line that runs between the top of the sleeve and the base of the neck, across the top of your shoulder. Shortening this is possible, but it’s so labour-intensive and complex that many tailors won’t perform it. It also necessitates modifying the shoulder pads, resetting the sleeve and adjusting the armhole. This alteration is the most expensive, if you can even find a tailor who will do it.

So what to do with this information? Make sure that the alterations you’ll need to get your off-the-rack clothes looking great are the ones which are easier and cheaper. Ensure that your jacket fits you to your satisfaction around the shoulders and armhole and that your pants fit you comfortably through the crotch, and you’ll save money and hassle at the tailor’s.

Using Standard Sizes in Custom Suit Making

While these tips will help you in your ready-made shopping, there’s an easier way to get your hands on a perfect-fitting suit. You’ll get a far better fit in a custom suit, than one you bought and had tailored.

At Briggins, measurements are a two-step process honed by our experienced master tailor. First, the tailor will take the body measurements, and then they will get the customer to wear a sample suit in one of the standard sizes. This helps our clients and the tailor to understand exactly what parts need to be altered and which section of the standard size does not fit well when worn. They can also give suggestions based on this. Through this two-step process and the experience of our in-house tailor, we determine the measurements for your custom suit. The best part? Any tweaks to the fit are included in the price, so there’s no need to worry about extra costs once you’ve placed your order.

Not ready to go custom? We also carry ready-made suits in a range of classic colours and styles. With the assistance of a skilled tailor and experienced stylist, you’ll receive individual service and advice and be able to discuss any fit issues or shopping woes, with all alterations costs included in the price of the suit.

We want to be able to provide you with the best suits possible because we believe in the power of a great fitting suit—we believe in what they can do for your career, for your personal life, and for your sense of self. When you put on your new suit from Briggins, you’ll feel more confident than ever before!

To know more about our products and services, you may contact us at info@briggins.com.au,. You may also give us a call during our showroom hours on 1300 452 251. to book a consultation for a made-to-measure suit or ready-to-wear suit consultation.

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