Shorten Your Sleeves

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I do not have short arms. In fact I’ve always thought them a little long if anything; average at the very least.

Yet every suit I buy has arms that are an inch too long. Surely the rest of the male population with a 40-inch chest can’t have arms that are that much longer?

The truth is, they don’t. Suits are just manufactured with longer arms than average because few men notice that their sleeves are too long. They’d notice if they were too short, as there would be a startling excess of cuff. But an inch or two too long goes unnoticed.

It’s the same with a jacket’s waist. Every off-the-peg jacket is made with a waist that is far bigger than the average for a man of that chest size. Because many thin men don’t notice that it’s too big about the waist. They don’t even do the jacket up most of the time. Yet fat men notice when the waist is too small. The physical discomfort ensures it.

Now I can just buy a 40 short, when the retailer offers it. The jacket will be shorter as well, but I generally prefer that style anyway. But if my arms are longer than average and I’m on the 40 short, what does everyone do that has shorter arms?

They don’t do anything. They let their sleeves be too long and as a result lose one of the joys of formal dressing – that colour combination that occurs at the end of the arm where cuff peeks out of jacket sleeve. If the sleeves are the correct length (shirt stopping at the base of the thumb, jacket at the wrist bone – when arms are at your side) there is a lovely dash of colour at the end of the arm that serves to flatter and highlight its length. It is one of the style loci (see previous post).

A sleeve that is one inch longer than it should be is just enough to cover the shirt cuff, but not enough to look wrong to the untrained eye. So men do not have it altered.

They should do. It is cheap to change, probably around £15 to £20 depending on your tailor – and assuming the jacket does not have working buttonholes. If it doesn’t have buttonholes the tailor can shorten the arm and move one button from the bottom to the top of the row. If it does, the shortening has to be done from the shoulder, with the whole sleeve being unsewn from the main body, shortened and reattached. That will be more like £35 to £40.

If you can change it cheaply, do. It’s another one of those little things that makes a big difference to how an outfit looks.


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Simon Crompton is a journalist and a style enthusiast living in London, who blogs at permanentstyle.blogspot.com. He has too many suits.