Home Lifestyle Fashion Continental Divide:
American, British, & Italian Suit Styles
Continental Divide: American, British, & Italian Suit Styles

Continental Divide:
American, British, & Italian Suit Styles


When choosing your next suit, you don’t just need to think about the colour, or if it’s single or double breasted, you should be thinking about the style. There are three main styles (or cuts) of men’s suits, the American (or Sack suit), Italian (or European) & British (or Savile Row). These three main styles affect not just the details, but the whole fit and look so it pays to be able to tell the differences. Depending on where you are, you may or may not be asked what style you want. If you have a preference, you will need to speak up to avoid disappointment.


Made popular in the 1920’s by Ivy Leaguers it was known as the “sack suit”.  The American cut sack suit typically has natural shoulders without shoulder pads, one vent in the back, strait hanging lines and flap pockets. Traditionally there are three buttons, but only the middle one is ever used. The top button is often concealed as part of the lapel. The proportions are more generous with a  looser fit and wider armholes which give the sack suit its boxy appearance.


The classic British suit has been imortalised by the iconic Savile Row style.

The British style typically has two buttons, two vents, a tapered waist and neat slim shoulder pads. The armholes are higher than the American style; the fastened button is to the waist, making the jacket appear longer. The shoulders have more shape than the American sack style due to the padding. The British suit is the shape of most modern business suits available today. Usually made from heavier fabrics to reflect the colder climate in GB.


The modern Italian style suit has become very trendy in recent years, so much so that many of it’s influences are creeping into other styles of suit. It owes it’s heritage to the classic Brioni & Cardin suits of the 50′s.

Typically you will get fully padded shoulders, no vents in the back, flapless pockets and more extreme tapering (or suppressing as it’s commonly termed) of the waist for a pronounced V silhouette. Usually made from lighter fabrics to reflect the warmer climates on the continent.

The Merging of Styles

As tailoring evolves, many of the traditional details are now being adopted by other styles. Both American and Italian suits are adopting the British twin vents, leaving the single vent for sport coats and those who want to be a bit different. The British and American suits are both adopting the Italian trend of more tapering in the waist. The Italian and British suits have adopted natural unpadded shoulders for many of the casual suit styles and sports or unstructured jackets. So where does this leave us? Style will always evolve, but when you are looking for your next suit, you will be able to choose better if you know what style you want or need depending on your shape.


About the Author

Steve Mitchell is a style blogger and image consultant who specializes in style and etiquette for the modern gentleman. This article was previously posted at Mr. Mitchell’s blog site – The Mitchelli.

James Nguyen
James Nguyen


Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.