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Nothing wrong with sloping shoulders

31 August 2011

Giving myself bigger shoulders has never been a priority in the buying of bespoke suits. Perhaps I’m just lucky, being relatively slim and relatively tall, that sloping shoulders have never been much of a concern. Either way, I think focusing too much on the flattering effects of a suit can distract from its style.

Some colleagues and acquaintances have a very different attitude. For them, the greatest achievement of any suit is to maximize their physical attributes, giving them bigger shoulders, a small waist and a plunging neckline to emphasise the chest. They favour shoulder padding, a one or two-button front and a high gorge.

Such a suit may well make them look sexier, and perhaps that is their main aim. They certainly seem to keep count of the number of compliments they receive from women as opposed to men. I have read critiques of the English drape cut, as practised by those trained at Anderson & Sheppard, expressing disappointment that it did not give the author an Atlas silhouette. Readers on this blog have commented similarly that it is a shame some of my suits don’t do more to pad out my shoulders.

To focus on this exclusively is to miss out on many of the glories of tailoring. A softer shoulder and chest creates a different, more casual look. For me it is more suited to the softness of moleskin trousers, old-favourite slip-ons and a dandyish pocket handkerchief.

It is also simply a different style in itself. My Anderson & Sheppard double-breasted suits do far less than other DBs to strengthen the shoulder, but it makes them distinctive and gives a unique look that no ready-made suit could emulate. There is also an argument that it goes better with the rounded lapels and thick collar, which already suggest a roundness to the chest.

I would wear a navy suit in a structured, one-button style for a job interview. Black tie should be cut to flatter, equally. These events are occasions to impress and the tailoring should be appropriate. But such padding in an unlined, cashmere blazer is out of place.

More importantly, the range of styles available through tailoring is often larger than you think. Limiting yourself through a single, narrow objective is a crying shame.

Pictured: two examples of sloping shoulders, on Mariano Rubinacci and myself