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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William

Simon – I have noticed the same thing but from the other end of the scale. I have a 40 inch chest but am 6’5″ and have the long arms which come with being tall. However even a 40 regular suit will fit nicely, without the arms being too long. If I take a 40 long the body will be a little longer, which is great, but the arms are then too long and need shortening. Only twice have I ever had the arms of a suit or jacket lengthened.

Slimness is another matter and in my experience depends on the manufacturer as much as anything. Paul Smith and Burberry, for example, give a great slim cut whereas Hugo Boss (again just an example) suits are cut much wider and are less elegant as a result.

Caldervale

What’s your feeling on wearing polo shirts with jackets? If the jacket sleeves are the right length for wearing with a long sleeved shirt (i.e. the length you describe) then wearing them with a short sleeve polo shirt risks a look where your jacket sleeves are too short.

Andreas

So true. I did shorten already two sleeves. Thanks for the advice! (and spread the word)

Suits with no visible shirt sleeve look just wrong.

Anonymous

If you can see the sleeve ever so slightly beyond the the Jacket it looks fine, smart and under controll. If not you have wasted the money you spent both on the Jacket and shirt, you are a crash. As if a woman bought a nice dress only to see, parts of a bra or slip too low, everything ruined, money wasted. Keep your look crisp and clean. Watch out for that lipstick on a pig.

Anonymous

@andreas, exactly! I just bought a suit, it fits well but it barely shows my shirt sleeves (actually it does’nt show them at all) time to alter it.

Stuart

Simon, are there any decisive guidelines you look for when assessing a good jacket length (other than covering your backside)? I also find short sizes to have a more accurate sleeve length but want to avoid ending up too short in the body. Is thumb knuckle a good point of reference? Cheers.

Disco Dancer who perspires

Dear Simon,

My jacket size cannot be R. My shirt sleeves must always be altered to 31″. In the future I’ll only buy WASHABLE jackets. Unfortunately, I know only one person who sells them: Kent Wang, and not 38S, but 38R. I asked Benson & Clegg if I buy buttons, would they also cut buttonholes and shorten jacket sleeves?

What do you say? Have you any WASHABLE jackets?

John

Hi Simon

Thank you for this article.

Would you suggest shortening the sleeves of off-the-rack jackets as well? For example, I recently tried a quilted jacket, but did not buy it because of the extra length in the sleeves. Could you please comment on how easy/expensive it is to shorten its sleeves?

Greg

Great article…sport jackets are designed not to fit….im 6-3 wit a 36 sleeve and wear a 46 long and lots of times need the sleeves shortened……some reg fit also.. Because most manufacturers… the larger size the jacket the longer they make the sleeve length…for instance a 42 long…generally is 35.5 inches long…a 46 long is 36.5 long.. .a 50 long is 37.5..and a 46 reg is 35.5 the same length as the 42 long… …going up or down 2 sizes should not throw u into a different catergory…thats why I see a 5-10 guy wearing a long and a 6-5 guy in a regular…the arm length should be the same no matter what size the jacket…a 50 long is like a 37.5…38 arm..and 50 reg is 36.5 37. A extra long is comedically long at 50 or above like 39-40….95 percent of most ppl don’t have arms that long…but lots have sizes above a 42…they are all designed to have to be altered instead of fitting properly off the rack…they should have the lengths all set as 29-30 xs.31-32short.33-34 reg…35-36 long..37-38 extra long…on all size jackets instead of increasing the sleeve length with every size larger u go… they actually only cater and size 38-42 size jackets correctly in length …above that no matter what ur size u will need alterations… I’m actually amazed a 40 reg would fit a 6-5 guy at all in the torso or sleeve….37-38 is a normal sleeve for that height…and a 40 reg is what my 5foot 9 friends wear…a 40 reg is 33-34 sleeve…

Peter watson

Im glad its not just me, off the peg jackets at 46 chest do not come in short and the sleeves are always too long making it look like your wearing your dads old suit thats too big, currently having the sleeves shortened on a jacket at 16-18 pounds sterling, so will look to have them finish at the wrist joint.
The picture on the article, nothing wrong with that, smart casual and sockes would have looked silly.