A history of the sack cut


August 28, 2014 by Ville Raivio

The sack cut is a method of cutting jackets and coats, and it stands out from the commonplace. Most contemporary jackets have two darts from the chest to just above the pockets. These are used to taper and bring form to apparel as well as making the male waist, usually narrower than the shoulders, stand out better. Sack jackets have no darts. This style of cutting was born in the mid 1800s France, back when all men’s formal and frock jackets had backs formed from four curving panels. Yet the sack’s backside is formed from two large, straight panels. The clean front and even cleaner back of the French sacque jacket were something novel and distinguished, easier and faster to make as well. The sack-like name is either derived from the jacket’s French word or from the straight-hanging drape.


Contemporary Brooks Brothers “sacking” with a dartless chest

The sack maker must draft the pattern and cut the cloth more accurately than usual to make the clothing follow the body’s forms — or forget the thing entirely. The sack cut, you see, is one of the oldest forms of the suit, which enabled industrial clothing manufacture and dressing the American nation at the end of the 19th century. The cut is loose and fits both the lithe and plump man, but suits just about no one without alterations. When the suit was nearly everyman’s usual day garment, the navy blue serge sack was each man’s wear throughout the American continent. Indoors workers and clerks used theirs for business, artisans for Sunday and church best, the gentry for leisure — as told by Esquire’s Encyclopedia.

Ye olde Brooks Brothers #1 Sack Suit

One cannot write about sack jackets without telling the tale of BB’s Number One Sack suit. This model was born in 1901 and became the most popular American sack garment, reigning over the male dress for over six decades. It wasn’t the first of its kind, but the hundreds of stores and peerless price-quality of BB made a difference. This show-three-button-two, single-breasted, straight hanging, and natural-shouldered garment was just as American as jeans with a T-shirt is today. The full cut covered bodily forms and kept eyes on the opinions and know-how of men instead of their frames. It also fit every body type so Brooks Brothers was spared the trouble of creating dozens of cuts for their selection. The sack jacket was essential part of the Ivy League style from the very beginning.


Brooks Brothers for Japan

Today the sack jacket is a rarity, made only by a handful of stalwart American factories and artisans. For some reason the loose, mostly shapeless jacket has also been left in the shade in universities and politicians as well, though they used to be ubiquitous on both fields. Making sack-styled clothes would be easier and faster than crafting dartful, body-conscious jackets, so factories do have an incentive for returning it. The sack jacket is also nice and comfy to wear, but perhaps the vogue has parted ways with the look of the past for good. The cut does live on the shoulders of discerning Ivy League enthusiasts, and on the senior men who dressed this was already in the ’60s or before. The waning popularity is a loss because the dartless chest is very clean-looking. A jacket like this can also be altered to conform to the body-hugging look of our latter day, so there’s really no reason for doing in the sack for good. The sack jacket is the apple pie of American style, and long may it live.


Brooks Brothers for Japan

Photos: Matti Airaksinen, Brooks Brothers


  1. Greg Bellinger says:

    The traditional sack suit 3/2 roll is the easiest to wear, most comfortable, pleasing to the eye, dapper style made. It can be as dressed up or casual as it needs to be for almost every situation short of black tie formal: buttoned or unbuttoned.

  2. Ayan De says:

    I have made it from a local tailor.

  3. jake morton says:

    The BB sack jackets are only available in the Japanese branch. London, and I suspect NY know nothing about them, even thought they are a BB historic classic. The best versions though of the fifties cut are – still – from the – both original and contemporary – reproducers of the classic cut: VAN. Check out their Japanese web-site.

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