It’s been pretty well documented that Donald Trump’s suits are ill-fitting. I’ve seen several articles and videos that prescribe solutions – mostly a trimmer silhouette for the jacket and trousers.
However, I think the fit of his suits is more purposeful than many people realize. Most of the discussion seems to revolve around how to remedy the poor fit, but I think to fully understand the issue, it’s necessary to look at the potential causes.
People are sometimes slow to adapt to changed styles
Trump, like much of America, got used to the baggy fit that dominated men’s style from the late 1980s through mid-2000s and to him this fit is “normal”. In the mid-2000s, men’s clothing started a pretty abrupt transition towards a trimmer fit that continues today. For some, it’s hard to change when you've dressed a certain way for a long time. I think this is part of the equation, particularly with his baggy trousers.
Politicians have to dress conservatively
He’s a politician, and like most politicians, he purposefully doesn’t want to dress too fashion-forward and risk looking out of touch with “middle America”. This manifests itself as dressing in a manner that we’ve come to refer to as “conservative”, and this fashion ideology goes beyond fit. Those engaged in politics seldom wear a non-white shirt with a suit these days. Ties seem to come in 2½ colors: red, blue, and (sometimes) yellow. This is a non-partisan problem that plagues nearly the entire political sphere and is widely on display among those engaged in politics here in DC.
Unlike any modern president, Trump started his foray into politics at the highest office. As a non-career politician, he has not been bound to this political norm in his previous occupation as businessman and reality TV personality, yet his style has remained the same.
His interior design philosophy might be described as “gilded palatial”, a style not normally associated with public service (for a rare exception, see Aaron Schock), so it seems unlikely that he would feel obligated to dress conservatively out of deference to politics or tradition.
Additionally, it has been rumored that he wears Brioni suits. Brioni, for those who are unaware, is an ultra-luxury Italian brand who’s suits start in the $5,000 range for off-the-rack, so Trump’s presumably custom suits are costing him somewhere north of $8,000 (assuming he is paying his bills). Both the price and country of origin are atypical for politicians. Politicians buy sensibly priced American suits. End of story.
Trump’s suits are ill-fitting by design
I read an article during the campaign stating that Trump is 6’3” and weighs 236lbs - both numbers provided by his physician, according to Trump. This puts his Body Mass Index (BMI) at 29.5, which is teetering at the edge between overweight (BMI > 25) and obese (BMI > 30). However, I can’t find any evidence to support his assertion that he is 6’3”. I scoured the internet and found many pictures of Trump at the Republican debates in 2016. He didn’t look anywhere near Jeb Bush’s height in any of the photos and Bush is also reportedly 6’3”. I like the following picture because the background is a grid and everyone except Dr. Ben Carson seems to be more or less lined up on the same plane:
Before we go any further, let’s set up a few assumptions:
- Men generally don’t under-exaggerate their height
- Donald Trump has a strained relationship with the truth
- Bush is clearly the tallest here, so let’s use his height as a reference point. He might not be 6’3”, but he is probably not any taller (see assumption no. 1)
By measuring Trump's pixel height and dividing by Bush’s, Trump comes out a hair over 6 ft tall. I’m discussing height here a lot – but for a reason. If Trump is really six feet or 6’1”, then he is well into obese range on the BMI chart, and that is assuming his self-reported weight is correct. And again, there’s an overwhelming amount of data at this point to indicate a trend of exaggerating beneficial numbers on the part of the President.
My goal here is not to body shame the leader of the free world. Rather, it’s pertinent to my goal of shedding light on why I think his suits are ill-fitting: it’s a smoke and mirrors attempt to cover up his girth. This tactic seems to be pretty successful:
If you try to find a picture of Trump not in a suit, just about the only that come up are of him golfing. When I first saw these pictures, I was surprised, because he definitely seemed more rotund than I’d thought.
Let’s get technical
Men generally carry the bulk of their extra weight in their lower chest, belly, and posterior. Though some fat can be deposited on the shoulders, generally speaking, how broad you are is determined more by your frame. With excess weight, the ratio of shoulder width to chest/abdomen decreases. In technical terms, the difference between the chest and waist circumferences is referred to as the “drop”.
The average suit is cut with a 6-7” drop, so if you wear a size 40 suit, you can assume the pants will be 33”-34” (at least in regard to how pants are sized -- in actuality they will be larger, which I will explain some other time). Additionally, the assumed overarm circumference is generally around 9” larger than the chest. A total difference of 15” or more from overarm to waist gives the jacket a V shape.
As the ratio of shoulders to chest/waist decreases, the V shape becomes less defined and can actually become inverted (Ʌ). This body type is sometimes referred to as pear-shaped, as it resembles a pear.
If you are pear-shaped, but want your suits to look V-shaped, there is one option – fit the jacket to the waist and pad the hell out of the shoulders. This will make you seem broader than you actually are and hide your waistline, which is precisely the trick that Donald Trump is having his tailors employ.
The downside to this method is that he can’t really make his suits look modern at the same time. I edited a photo of him to illustrate what his suits might look like if the shoulders were at their true width and the excess fabric in the trousers was taken in:
Reducing the shoulder width makes his girth more evident and isn’t particularly flattering, so it’s understandable that he opts for the fit that he does. However, there are definitely things that he could do to help the overall look if he is dead-set on keeping the shoulder padding: trimmer sleeves, narrower/shorter tie, and more modern pant legs – but the overall silhouette can’t be both trim and hide his girth.
I also have some thoughts on his hair and makeup, but I’ll leave that to his barber and esthetician…