Video: How long should a jacket be?

Monday, March 30th 2020
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This is the second in a series of videos in which we're looking at how a jacket should fit. The first one, here, was a summary of the basics on fit.

In this second one, we look at the length of a jacket.

This is the kind of thing that can seem like a relatively small aspect of a suit, but I find has a fundamental effect on the overall style. It is also one a lot of modern jackets get wrong, producing unflattering tailoring.

In all three videos, Charlie from Henry Poole has kindly offered to be our guinea pig, in his Henry Poole bespoke suit - made up in Spring Ram cloth from Harrison’s
In this, the second video, we will look specifically at how long a jacket should be.

All the other tailoring in the background of the video is also by Henry Poole, using Harrison's cloth.

 

 

The points made in the video, in summary, are:

  • There are generally three ways to consider how long a jacket should be.
  • First, half the length from the collar to the floor, so roughly half of the suit is jacket, half trouser.
  • However, that tends towards the long side for most jackets today. (Like lapels or tie widths, length varies over the years, but fortunately in decades not months).
  • Charlie's measurement is 64 inches, so a 32-inch jacket, but his is actually 31.
  • The second measurement is that the jacket should end at the second joint of your thumb.
  • Or, the same thing, that you should be able to curl your fingers underneath the hem of the jacket.
  • This is an easy one for a customer to remember and consider when they look at length in a mirror - but it does obviously depend on relative arm length
  • The third, that the jacket should cover the seat. This is probably the most fundamental one.
  • Few tailors would disagree that it’s elegant to cover your bum with the jacket, and it’s something a lot of modern brands get wrong, and is rather unflattering at the back
  • One reason it's flattering is that if the jacket covers the seat, the legs run up into the bottom of the coat, looking like they never end
  • All three ways are useful. But just as important is style.
  • A jacket will look more casual if it’s shorter, and more formal if it’s longer
  • Partly for that reason, a shorter jacket will often look better as a separate, rather than part of a suit
  • In the end, you should consider all these things and make up your own mind.
  • I tend to have sports jackets and suit jackets roughly the same length, but vary with style of the maker. For example, I have most Italian and French jackets cut shorter. But the rule I always abide by is that the seat should be covered
  • You can compare these local styles by looking at the Guide to Tailor Styles, where I give the measurements on every bespoke tailor I’ve used

The first video on suit fit can be seen here.

Other practical videos we've produced are (also all on the YouTube channel):

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Russ

Interesting video, Simon, but there’s no consideration of whether a longer jacket is needed for the man with a bigger backside. I find some tailors cut longer jackets because it’s the only way they can stop the vented section at the bottom of the jacket sticking out over the man’s bum. What adjustments could be made to the cut to avoid this, while maintaining a sensible and flattering jacket length? Some tailors seem unable to achieve the two things together.

Triskel

Hi Simon, a useful overview. One other point which occurs to me is that whether a length looks ‘right’ depends a lot on the cut, too. You did, of course, mention house style and proportions, but I think that such matters as number of buttons, lapel shape, buttoning point, open-ness of quarters/foreparts, how “waisted” the coat is and, indeed, type and pattern of cloth can have an effect. I realise, even if you agree with me on any of these, that you can’t cover everything in a short video but I think this draws attention to the fact that a good tailor is not just organised and technically good, but has an indefinable taste which accords with the customer’s.

Anonymous

Still not a fan of the shape of this coat I’m afraid, but the shot of the trousers from the back actually makes them look very good indeed.

Anonymous

I wouldn’t want to go up against Charlie in a staring contest.

Gonzague

Lol

Nicolas Stromback

Hi Simon,

Have you ever considered the weight of a fabric as a factor in how big/small a jacket appears? My own feeling over these past years is that thicker fabric makes me look bulkier and thus not as refined as a mid-weight or even light-weight fabric. I thought of this as the jacket you are wearing in this video seem a bit bulky to me, even though all the proportions are well balanced.

Best
Nicolas

Al Carmichael

Simon, please accept this observation in the positive way it is intended, and please equally do not imply any criticism of your model.

Wearing a DB well means you need a particular physique; strongish shoulders and a slim waist. It has nothing to do with build, bulk, mass, size etc. It has to do with proportion.

Your model has no relativity in his proportion. A well cut SB with a strong “X” would suit him so much better.

This is not about your model: it is about the choice if model you made to illustrate this article.

Not meant to be unkind at all in any way, but if you are hoping to make “informative/educational” videos, you need to take these basic points into account.

Al Carmichael

Thanks Simon.

Your reply makes me think that I didn’t make my point very well.

Jason

It all depends how it’s cut.
I have very broad shoulders and my sartorial desire is always to look less like a nightclub bouncer. A&S achieve this for me in both SB&DB because it’s all about the drape.

LAStyleGuy

Great video. Very informative. One micro point: you say the third way of determining (looking at the backside) is “objective;” it should have been “subjective.”

Peter O

Very good!

John

Hi Simon,
Interestingly enough, bespoke tailoring aside, British brands usually offer three options to customers who want to buy any tailoring jackets: short, regular and long. Apparently, they are the only ones to do so.
John

Jai Kharbanda

Simon, fantastic post and very insightful.

On a related note, if buying fabric to take to a tailor to make into a jacket, how many metres would typically be typically required?

Alex

Hi then, The correct length of the jacket, 1/2 of the height minus 5,.1/8″

LPS

Simon,
Ond topic that would be interesting to read your views on is the buttoning point of double breasted jackets. Does the overlap of fabric change the ideal position vs a single breasted. I know eg that some people have strong views on how the lowest row of buttons line up with the pockets (too much below making the jacket proportions look wrong). At the same time you see much variation among different tailors.
Thanks

LPS

Thanks
Yes, surprisingly consistent in the comparison. The double breasted in the video seems lower. Have also seen some others where the lowest button is 1,5-2 inches below the pocket line. I think it lengtens the lapel line nicely but can also make the jacket look a bit droopy. I guess it has to do with the placement of the pockets as well.

Rune

Hi Simon,
Interesting video! I was wondering if the vents have any influence on the appropriate length? I would imagine the a jacket with only one vent in the back will look rather strange if its cut short compared to a double-vented jacket.

Also, would you use the same measurements for tuxedos?

Peter

Judging length by the relative position to the thumb could be quite misguiding as
my arms have a good 5cm difference in length. I normally ask for length based on my existing
jackets.
Peter

ANM

Simon,

Might I suggest another way of describing “covering the seat” is that the jacket (at a minimum) should cover the pinnacle of the crotch. This again, would be another way of accounting for variances in body dimensions, arm length, etc.

Some modern styled jackets – especially from the back – allow one to see the “top of the fjord’, which I believe is a stylistic no – no.

One other thing I would ask/consider…bespoke tailoring is about many things, timelessness being one of them…Do you believe an exceptionally short jacket (no matter how well constructed) will be able to look impressive 20 years from now? Or will it have the same obviously dated look as a suit from the 1970’s does today?

Anonymous

Surely the comment about crotch/length is about where the bottom of the jacket aligns at the front, rather than what it covers?

ANM

Simon…It is amazing how many words one needs to describe something that we can visualize easily.

The “crotch” rule would apply to viewing the jacket/pants from the rear.

The rule cannot apply to the front owing to variances of lower jacket curve, buttoned/unbuttoned, etc., If the rear is cut appropriately, the front should fall into line.

I view it the same way we employ baseboards where the floor meets the wall, and we need a way to visually truncate the potential unevenness of material, etc.

As long as the rear of the jack (line) truncates the line of the inseam, and we do not get to see where the two legs meet, it looks “finished”

Oh, and on the 1970’s, I am thinking of the airliner – wing sized lapels, and dazzling and bizarre fabric patterns of my fathers’ suits…. I can’t say I remember much about the lengths of the jackets…

Frank

Simon, I miss reading your articles. Can’t wait to get going. Soon soon. Be safe and well.

Frank

Roger Cartwright

What’s your ‘distance from the bottom of the collar to the floor’ measurement Simon? And how for example does the jacket you’re wearing in this video match up to the ‘half that length’ principle? Do you generally allow yourself to be led by the tailor’s instinct in determining length or do you have a certain range you like to keep within? Many thanks, Roger

Edward W

hugely informative as always. A quick clarification – in the style breakdown series I believe you measure jacket length from the bottom of the collar to the bottom of the jacket? But here we’re talking about the top of the collar down. Presumably then for this ‘half the total distance’ indicator of jacket length you do mean that the jacket length from top of the collar to the bottom of the hem should be half the distance from top of the collar to the floor? i.e. if you were measuring Charlie’s jacket for the style breakdown series, absent of that additional collar length, it would be more like 30 inches?

Wayward

Interesting discussion… I am a tailor and I just thought I’d add my tuppance ha’penny!

If we are talking pure bespoke tailoring then really, everything should be in proportion with everything else. Tailored clothing works best when it is working with the body’s joints. A top/overcoat’s ideal length is on or just above the knee, a sleeve looks best when it is cut so the cuff sits into the crook of the wearers wrist. The scye (armhole) depth should be as close as possible to the armpit, etc, etc.

When taking a new set of measures, I would look at the customers stance, i.e. how far apart his feet are and also how big his head and how tall He is. I would be looking to balance these points and the shoulder width and coat length would be part of that balance. If a customer requires a short coat as an aesthetic consideration, I would use his required coat length as the starting point, narrow the shoulder, raise the waistline, pockets, button height and also narrow the lapels and raise the gorge. The pocket flaps and out breast welt would be shallower too… Because the shoulder is narrower the coat would need to be a closer fit through the body and the sleeve narrower. If the customer wanted a long coat the opposite of the above would be necessary. You can see the extremes of either will be unflattering because the garment will no longer be working with the wearers body. Alter just the length or any of the other parts on their own and the coat will be out of proportion with itself.

Hopefully we are through the fashion where men want coats finishing at the broadest part of their seat. That is just highlighting often the biggest horizontal measure and isn’t flattering on anybody, even if you have snake hips!

The bottom of the coat ideally will finish at the bottom of the wearers seat to make the most of his leg length and a well proportioned person’s knuckle When making a fist is a good guide to this. It’s dangerous to always use arm length as a guide though because people’s arms can be disproportionately long or short! A customer with short arms will make a coat look long and vice versa. Many times if the pattern starts off at the right length, the width of the shoulder and other considerations kind of fall into place, this is particularly true when cutting for more challenging figures.

Splitting the ground measure in half ( ‘ground’ is nape to floor with shoes on) will cut a long coat. Half ground minus an inch will be closer but only a guide. Fittings really help to fine tune this.

Coat length is perhaps more complex than at first glance…

Tahir

I feel the comment by Wayward covered many points rather well and answered some of the questions raised by other commenters. Curiously it did not get any responses!

Alex N.

Dear Simon,
I would like to point out that sometimes aspects of a jacket can further elongate the
silhouette of a jacket. My girlfriend always notices the length on my Zizolfi jacket asking me whether it’s not too long and I believe the perception comes from the relatively slim silhouette in the body, chest and shoulders and the open quarters. My Whitcomb and Shaftesbury suit is the exact same length and she thinks it’s shorter on the basis that the chest has more horizontal prominence and perhaps the eye stops earlier at the closed quarters rather than the opened Neapolitan ones. The English jacket also doesn’t have the long vertical dart in the front which I believe visually elongates the jacket. (I made no comments about jacket length).
I would like to ask about how jacket length varies. (all of this is of course conditional). If we are saying that Dege and Skinner or Richard Anderson produce a ” a long skirted coat” how should this theoretically reflect on jacket length? The distance between the nape of my neck to the floor is 64in. and my two very different stylistically jackets are both at 32in. Should I expect cutters at Dege or Richard Anderson to naturally cut a 33-34 in coat? I realise all this is conditional and highly hypothetical, but still your experience/view would be helpful as when I asked my coat at W&S to be longer, they tried to persuade me that it shouldn’t be longer.
P.S. On a Kirby Allison video with huntsman, the resident cutter in New York said that nowadays he would take a half in. off of the half distance between neck and floor, which really confused me given that they were supposed to cut the longest of the jackets on SR.
Best
Alex

Alex N.

Dear Simon,
this was a very helpful answer indeed. I have the feeling that all these are relatively short to the length of jackets in the 70s-80s and 90s. I feel jackets used to be larger in chest and definitely longer. R.A. has posted a picture of a coat when he was probably 20 years old working under Hammick and I really liked the jacket. Had drape in the chest even though it was Huntsman and was long.
Alex

Gareth

Dear Simon, I was wondering if you could reccomend some high quality London tailors who would be willing to do a bespoke suit/MTM in a more contemporary cut eg a shorter jacket as in the below photo. My budget would be around £3000. Thanks Gareth

https://www.instagram.com/p/CEgEc5mnJXi/

Gareth

Thank you for your advice. It is much appreciated!

Stephan

Dear Simon,
For shorter blokes, do you suggest that suit- and odd trousers have a little break or no break at all?
Thanks,
Stephan

Stephan

Dear Simon,

What I note missing here is a discussion on balance.

What I mean here is the relative ‘distances’ between different parts of the jacket. That is, is it important e.g. that the buttoning point is roughly half way between the shoulder/sleeve nexus and the hem of the jacket? Or that a no-flap pocket/bottom of a pocket’s flap should be a certain distance from the hem? That kind of stuff. Or are these less relevant? Could you share your views on this?

Thanks,

Stephan

Martin

Hi Simon, if the jacket should bisect the body in half, and if the jacket should at least cover the seat, would you say that the jacket length should be roughly equal to the trouser inseam? This being a starting point, of course. Since I have a long torso and short legs, I find that my jackets are 1-2″ longer than my trouser inseam.

robert luhrs

I have a bunch of sports jackets, 2 suits, a blazer. Most of them are different from each other and each one looks a little better with a different length. One long Pendleton tweed western jacket with suede shoulder and back yolk with suede sleeve patches, and is at least 2 inches longer than my thumbs, but the long length looks amazing with it. Another is a new Banana Republic slim fit white cotton seersucker jacket which is around the top of my thumb, very short for me, and it too looks great like that. My leather and suede sports jackets are all longer and look great that way. A double-breasted wide-shouldered Brioni houndstooth jacket is also long and looks great that way. Most of the rest hit the second thumb knuckle and look perfect that way. I’m 6′ 1″ 180 lbs, and wear a 42 either long or regular, depending on the style of the jacket. I like jackets that stand out and aren’t boring looking. Works for me. 🙂 Bob