November 9, 2017

Suiting Basics: Shoulder Expression

Do you ever feel like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders? This is the second in a series of articles meant to be an in-depth guide to buying custom. Here we explain #SuitingBasics and everything you need to know about shoulder styles.

A suit’s shoulders are a vital component which has the power to create an unparalleled sense of impact, or detract from it. They are a true part of its DNA, and bring the suit to life by giving it dimensionality. While the collar is the foundation of a jacket when it comes to fit, the shoulder is the foundation of the jacket when it comes to style and expression. The feeling the shoulder evokes can create a message range from regal to sporty to scholarly to professional.

The construction of the shoulder must complement the build of the body. Its construction is not too big and not too small, and personal taste plays a large role. If your shoulders slope, you may need padding to lift the area. If you have a gut, you might want to extend the horizontal area to offset things a bit.

The shoulder area is one of the easiest places for a tailor to measure, but delivering the desired look of the shoulder is a true art. Many tailors create shoulders which aim to be soft and unassuming above all else, while others prefer something more casual. Some tailors even create shoulders of substantial proportions, shoulders to be noticed. They own the room and inspire confidence. These are the shoulders of power suits. However, each shoulder type has a place in the gentleman’s wardrobe.


A natural shoulder may also be called a “soft” or “unstructured” shoulder. It’s created using a thin pad, or no padding at all, and follows the body’s natural curves. Due to the lack of padding, the line of the shoulder is more sloped and transitions smoothly into the sleeve. It’s the most casual and comfortable shoulder type, and works well with sport coats. It’s often combined with a light chest canvas, or no canvas at all, for a garment that is easy to wear, flexible and versatile.

This is the shoulder type often chosen by younger clients, or your typical tech guy that’s looking for something best suited for day-to-day wear. It’s also the choice of men who are more fashion forward. A natural shoulder works well on trimmer men, and it helps to accentuate the waist. The natural shoulder was originated by early American tailors in a rebellion against traditional English styles and was later embraced by international clothiers like Brooks Brothers.


A roped shoulder is often lightly padded, and has a large sleeve head that extends up the shoulder line. It’s a very European, more specifically Italian, method of construction. Different variations of a roped shoulder may also be described as Neapolitan, Roman or Milanese, and all three have their own hallmarks. For example, in Neapolitan style you would find “shirring,” which creates subtle pleats where the sleeve fabric meets the jacket on the shoulder. It provides superior comfort and freedom of motion. Most roped shoulders also include a higher and larger armhole to enhance movement. It creates a look of broadness and keeps the fullness in a sleeve. It’s called “roped” because of the appearance of the exaggerated lip at the joint of the shoulder and the sleeve.

A roped shoulder makes a statement and is worn on men that have been wearing suits for decades. It’s the kind of detail that closes deals, the power suit of finance analysts, merger specialists and CEOs. A suit with a roped shoulder is often black, navy or gray and if patterned it’s something traditional like pinstripes or windowpanes. It emphasizes the size of the shoulders and accentuates a masculine silhouette. Many major suiting brands like Tom Ford, Brioni and Zegna feature different variations of roped shoulders.

Bad Fit

Perfect Fit

You don’t just have to have one kind of shoulder style in your wardrobe, but you do have to have a basic understanding of what each style does for your shape. It is meant to compliment the build of your body, and only a custom suit jacket can provide the perfect fit. The shoulders on your suit jacket should feel like they’re hugging you. If they are too tight, the jacket is too small. If the seams sag past the natural line of your body, it’s too big.

Made-to-Measure suiting locations typically only do one shoulder style or the other. Here at Samuel Baron Clothiers, we are focused on what is best for our clients. We walk you through what's ideal for your specific body type and learn your personal style. At the end of the day, it’s up to you how you would like to present yourself. This is why we specialize in both natural and roped shoulder styles.

To create your own custom suit and figure out your shoulder expression, make an appointment at Samuel Baron Clothiers by calling (412)-441-1144.

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