British vs American vs Italian suits 830x430

The Definitive Guide: British vs American vs Italian Suits

Fashion is now global and it’s impossible to imagine that any single country can ring-fence a tailoring style. But let’s not forget that men’s suits are steeped in tradition and their features developed over time, adapting to circumstances and the needs of the men that wore them. Through the years, three schools of suit tailoring emerged: the British, the American and the Italian.

In the 19th century, the Prince of Wales commissioned Henry Poole of Savile Row to design a tail-less jacket. This led to the British suit we know today, which is structured, fairly rigid and inspired by military uniforms. In the early 20th century, U.S.-based Brooks Brothers offered their customers cheaper suits that were mass-produced. This required some tailoring adjustments which gave birth to the American suit. Finally, Italy always had a distinctive style and in the 1950s a number of fashion houses emerged with a characteristic Italian style which was better suited to the Mediterranean weather and temperament.

Needless to say, successful details were eventually adopted around the world so, if you want to identify the style of a particular suit, you’ll need to look for a combination of features. To make things easier for you, we’ve gathered the main points in this table.

Differences between British, American and Italian suits

BritishAmericanItalian
Fit
Structured, narrowLoose, baggyUnstructured, slim
Canvas
StiffLight, if anyLight
Jacket
Single or double breastedSingle breasted with 2-3 buttonsSingle or double  breasted, shorter and with intense v-shape
Shoulders
Heavy paddingNatural (little or no padding)Light padding
Lapels
Low gorgeHigh gorge
Sleeves
Narrow with high armholes and functional buttonsLoose with low armholes and three non-functional buttonsHigh armholes and very slim
Vents
DoubleSingleNone or double
Jacket pockets
Slanted with flaps and a ticket pocketFlapJetted
Trousers
High waist, 2-3 pleats, quarter or half-breakFull cut, not pleated, full breakTapered waist and hips, little or no break

If some of the terms in the table are new to you, read our blogs on The Anatomy of Suit Jackets and Trousers for comprehensive explanations.

And now that you’re an expert on different suit styles, why not check out our collection of men’s suits and identify the tailoring characteristics that make them unique?