Over the next few weeks on Permanent Style, I’ll be setting out the pieces that form the foundation of my smart/casual summer wardrobe. 

We’ve covered the smart (read tailored) side of summer dressing in quite a lot of detail over the years, but less so the casual side. 

This can be a hard to get right. 

Tailoring in the summer is fairly easy: you wear the same clothes, just in materials that have the additional aim of trying to keep cool

So cooler materials like linen and high-twist wool, shirts in linen or cotton/linen, and perhaps bare ankles or an open neck. Covering the head is important too. 

Casual clothing is also fairly easy: most men are happy in a T-shirt and shorts, even if it doesn’t necessarily suit all of them. 

It’s the areas in between that are tricky. For example, dressing up a little in what is a casual work environment; simply dressing for yourself; or trying to feel more work-like at home, without feeling silly walking around in full-on tailoring.

My foundation piece here, my go-to for starting an outfit, is a knitted polo shirt* like the one shown, from John Smedley. 

 

 

Why? Because its combination of material, style and construction make it the perfect partner for other smart or casual clothing, enabling it to be dressed up or down. 

The polo’s collar and knitted construction make it smart. Anything with a collar immediately looks more formal (as well as more flattering) and a pointed, fashioned one like this  – on the Smedley ‘Adrian’ model – particularly so. 

Shorter and more spread collars, as seen on normal polo shirts, always look rather sportier – see also the Smedley ‘Rhodes’ model. (The larger collar on the Isis is also nice and smart – but the fit is too roomy for me). 

And the knitted construction of the polo adds to this smart impression: it looks more like fine knitwear than something associated with sport. 

In fact it’s surprising how strong this impression is, given the subtlety of the actual difference. 

These smart aspects mean the polo can be happily worn with tailored trousers – perhaps a high-twist, and certainly any linen or cotton. 

 

Smedley collars: From top, Isis, Adrian and Rhodes

 

But still, the polo has a casual appearance due to soft material and lack of stiffness. And of course because it is short-sleeved. 

A navy version like this, below, could easily be worn with cream jeans instead of cream linen, and with smart sneakers or canvas tennis shoes. I wouldn’t wear it with heavy, darker denim, but cream and mid-blues seem OK. 

I’ll illustrate these combinations in the next piece in this series. 

The merino versions of these knits are also worth considering. 

Although cotton will always be cooler, a short-sleeved fine merino polo still keeps you cool, holds its shape better, and the wool is a little better at regulating body temperature. 

In a country like England, where a sunny day can feel chilly as soon as the cloud covers the sun and a breeze gets up, merino can actually be a more practical choice in the summer. 

(Unfortunately there is no Smedley short-sleeved model in merino with a fashioned collar, just the Payton with the smaller collar style.)

 

 

In terms of useful colours, a knit polo can be tricky because some standard polo colours, like white, don’t look as good as knitwear.

And they have the same problem as other collared knitwear (like a roll neck) that standard shirt colours light blue don’t look great either.

This makes finding combinations of knit, jacket and trousers a little more challenging.

Personally I’d recommend navy (largely to go with other navy) and cream (as a white replacement – though make sure it’s not too transparent), followed by black, light grey, olive and dark brown.

 

 

This argument is consciously quite narrow – supporting a very specific style and make of polo shirt. 

But I have tried other polos with this range of summer clothing over the years, and none of them work as well. The Armoury’s short-sleeved ones are great, but aren’t knitted and so look more sporty. 

And the Friday Polos are good with both tailoring and casual wear, but they are long-sleeved, and their piqué cotton is deliberately heavier – making it not that suitable to very hot weather. 

*Calling this a ‘knitted’ polo shirt isn’t really accurate, as most polo shirts (and indeed T-shirts) use knitted materials. What we mean when we use the term for a piece like ths is that the shirt is knitted together, rather than sewn. The seams are knitted. This is called ‘fully fashioned’ in the industry, but it’s a bit of a mouthful – so I’m switching previous policy and referring to them as ‘knitted’ – with the help of this footnote! 

 

 

Next week: styling for smart/casual looks in the summer, followed by a capsule smart/casual shoe range. 

Adrian polo from John Smedley (medium in navy) worn with cream-linen trousers from Jean-Manuel Moreau

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

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Niels Jensen

Thanks for an interesting and useful article. I am looking forward to the series. The Adrian is my go-to polo as well.

Julian

Simon

Really important article and yes John Smedley is very good at this with great choice but i find their cotton can be a bit heavy
Other brands you might consider is Sunspel sea island cotton which is very good although as someone said their colours can be somewhat limited Plus i think Zanone ice cotton polo is as good as it gets finally James Perse is good but hard to find in UK and they make alot of polos out of different fabrics but dont always differentiate them so hard to repeat buy what you like although the one i am wearing today say Supima cotton made in usa

An article worth going further on as this is the mainstay of any man’s summer clothing

Julian

Ben

How do you wash a knitted polo like this? Hand wash or put in washer with “hand wash” mode?

My experience is the collar would look a bit messy after washing…

Anonymous

Thanks Simon. This sort of content (and price point) is much appreciated, and no doubt many of us will be purchasing from JS tonight.

A very practical question: to tuck or not to tuck? Assuming a polo is sufficiently slim in the waist, tucking-in – with a touch of over-hang – will presumably look smarter (as is the aim of this article), but not so good for truly hot weather. Have you tucked-in in the photos, or just rolled up? If rolled, it would constantly need to be adjusted throughout the day as it inevitably un-tucks? Thanks!

Anonymous

Do you mean you never tuck in knitwear? I think it can look cleaner and smarter

Anonymous

I wear the same polos but in the Roth style. Same fit as Adrian but honeycomb texture. Lovely shirts.

Evatt

What’s your view on tucking in, either to shorts or long trousers?

Kenny

I buy John Smedley’s Isis and Finchley (long sleeved) polos and much prefer them to the Adrian. The Isis’s collar is more classic and the bit of extra room makes it more comfortable to wear in warmer weather.

For very hot weather, Sunspel’s jerseys polos (made from the same pima cotton as the classic t-shirts) are unbeatable. I have bought over a dozen in every possible colour and they are ideal on holiday. It’s hard to understand why Sunspel has cut back the choice of colours in recent years.

Sunspel’s pique polos (now a bit lighter weight again) have a similar cut to the jersey polos and are ideal for the golf course. The cut of the Riviera polos is very different and just not suitable for me.

Sunspel’s management please take note!

Jon

Thanks Simon, looking forward to the next article in this series.

I’m actually the opposite, in a sense: I prefer long sleeve pique cotton Polos combined with shorts in the summer time. First, my arms don’t get as hot (and its nice to have that extra cover in intense sun), but if I’m being honest it’s really because I don’t think I have the right body for a short sleeve Polo (5’6″ and c. 135/40 lbs) – I’ve tried near on a dozen over the years from all the usual suspects.

Personally, I think longer sleeves rolled up, either with a Polo or linen shirt, combined with shorts, is a better look (at least for me). My go to Long Sleeve Polos for the moment are from Luca Faloni, they are relatively cheap and I haven’t found a better cut (happy to hear from you about others)!

The holy grail here would be a PS Button down Polo, in a lighter pique, with a short body to be worn untucked

Peter O

John Smedley Sea Island quality knitted polo shirt are very delicate and require utmost care especially in washing, otherwise tiny holes and runs arise.
I am too brutal for this fragility.

Alex

Interesting point regarding merino vs. cotton; for anything worn against the skin and so requiring washing after every wear I always go for cotton (always wearing a t-shirt or undershirt under my thin Smedley merino knits) as I’ve long been under the impression the cotton stands up the frequent and repeated washing better than merino; am I mistaken in this belief?

Peter O

The answer to Alex’s question which requires repeated washing to determine its effect on the cloths decides if the Smedley cotton or merino survives.

Burt

Merino definitely stands repeated washing better than cotton. Not only does it keep its size, it will not fade either. On top of that you can wear merino wool many times before it needs washing.

RT

Nice article and very timely. I’ve been a fan of the knitted cotton polo for quite a while, but have found good ones difficult to get. I have an old Armani one from years ago; not a brand I’d buy these days, but it’s worn well. At 5’11” I’m hardly short, but I find the Smedley shirts a touch too long – 2 cm shorter would be perfect. I was very pleasantly surprised to find a really nice light grey knitted polo in Reiss last year, which has a great cut, a decent collar and seems to wear and wash well.

Oliver

Great series – I share Kenny’s frustration, Sunspels Jersey polos are beautiful and a nice substitute to this but they have radiclly cut down the colour choices over the last few years unfortunately. I find colour difficult in summer – all the navies, greys, browns and olives I like in winter feel too wintery when summer comes along but I am a too conservative to go for most of the extensive linen colour ranges including sky blues, pinks, oranges etc

Another great (if pricey) substitute for the Smedley are the short sleeved wool or cotton knitted polo sweaters from Caruso at the Armoury. I love the cream one.

Kenny

I have Sunspel’s jersey polos in sky blues, other blues, greens, pinks and red as well as the “wintry” navy, black and maroon. If you can get them again, go for the bright colours because the ladies absolutely love them!

Burt

It’s worth nothing the Adrian has a stand collar. Only a few Smedley shirts have that feature, thus leaving the neck line too low and open in my opinion.
I found out that Smedley’s sea island cotton wears warm and unfortunately it has a tendency to stretch. I found out I had to size down in summer but that was after I’d bought a number of shirts. Mind Smedley has 3 fits: the Italian fit (tight), standard fit (your polo Adrian) and the original “easy fit”.
All that makes finding your right size quite time consuming, so I’ve dropped their summer shirts. The merino’s are great classics though, and as you write one can wear them on a breezy sunny day in July too. Looking forward to the next episodes.

Kenny

I agree with you. Smedley’s sea island cotton does wear a bit warm. For me, it’s more suited to Spring and Autumn than the hot summer months. However, the extra room of the easy fit wears cooler than the standard fit.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,

Nice piece. But I’m a bit confused. Is the PS Friday polo knit/fully fashioned? I thought it wasn’t but your note about it at the end (vis a vis a The Armoury’s) might be read to mean that it is. Thanks.

Joseph Leftwich

I think a powder blue polo shirt with light-beige trousers and white sneakers is a dynamite combination. See Steve McQueen.

Buddy Levy

Using the now extinct SS Friday Polo in South Florida has given me the ability to go casual with polo and trousers or smart casual with a light jacket because of the collar. Would like those SS versions to return.

Scott

I have the Adrian and really like it with one exception; the sleeve length is just a bit too long. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic model with excellent fabric and design, beautiful really. So, I’ll just have to get over the sleeve length issue or continue my search.

Chris

Thanks for this Simon. This looks like it’s going to be a very useful series! Summer is so much harder to get right for casual dressing than autumn, and I love a good knitted polo.
Out of interest- which collar do you find most effective with tailoring ? And also curious to know why you think that is?
I often find knitted polos don’t work open for some reason too but have found the reasons why hard to work out.

Jack

Simon, wondering how you feel the Smedley polo compares to Drake’s knitted linen/silk offering this season (I saw on Instagram you tried it out) in terms of fit and material? Thanks!

Jan

Where did the Drake’s espadrilles go in the pictures?! I was looking for those because I love espadrilles for summer but they always end up scruffy and a bit misshapen after say 10 wears…

R Abbott

Could you clarify what a “stand collar” is?

And which characteristics make a collar on a polo shirt work under a sports coat?

Anonymous

Is there a long sleeved version of the polo with the same collar as the Adrian model?

Pyc

Hi Simon, it’s a great pity that JS doesn’t make the Isis polo in wool (or a short-sleeved Dorset). A merino short-sleeved polo with a substantial collar would be a classic.

Dachshund

Interesting article, thanks. I’ve never really got into these sorts of knitted polos, but I like the idea of them. I did have a Smedley cotton one years ago, but I found that (in common with a lot of cotton products) the colour just washed out of it so quickly (it was black) that it looked terrible after a few washes. Presumably this is going to be a problem for all cotton products in dark colours, but not an issue for merino? I also had a couple of Sunspel Riviera polos and my god they were awful – the colour washed right out of them almost immediately and they quickly looked very tatty and got relegated to gardening wear. Shame, because I really liked the cut and the look of them initially.

Tim Cooper

Hello,

I agree with you about the John Smedley merino wool, I think it’s very nice. I also think Pringles makes a very good merino short sleeve polo also.
Thank you for your articles.

Ant

Hi Simon – worth another collaboration with Umbria Verde for a short-sleeved version of the Dartmoor, perhaps? Would link nicely to the Friday Polos as being collectable/available in short and long sleeved versions. I haven’t actually ordered the Dartmoor yet, but that’s just a matter of time (and making sure I still have a job).

Gabriele

Hi Simon, thanks for your post. I’m seriously considering the Adrian: for someone 6’1”, athletic build and broad shoulders, would you go with M or L? Cheers!

R Abbott

I’m interested in getting a couple of high quality merino T-shirts that can look nice for casual wear (e.g., under a linen shacket). Most of the ones I’ve seen are marketed at minimalist travelers. There are all sorts of bizarre ads challenging people to see how many days in a row they can wear their merino T (presumably, before everybody runs away from them). Needless to say, I have no interest in that and I’m looking for something relatively dressy, with a nice looking crew neckline. Do you have any suggestions?

R Abbott

Smedley’s “Singular” line has an interesting looking weave. Have you seen or tried it in person? Hard to judge these things on a computer screen, and since I live in the US, going to the store in person is not an option!

Thanks for doing such a great job replying to everybody’s comments!

J.E.

I have a J.S. singular long sleeved top and its great. They’re a unisex range and are particularly long in the body even by J.S. standards. Very nice to wear though.

Tim Glossop

Try loow. I’ve found them superb. Not quite as dressy as the knits but lovely material at a great price.

ALAN

Thanks you Simon . It is nice article. It is really difficult to wear nice outfits during warm weather. I use to wear smedley polo in sea island coton . It is not too bad. Maybe there is other materials to feel cooler when it is going 30°C ? Looking forward to the next episodes.

Ben R

How do these compare to the Saman Amel polo collar knits? I was able to order a black polo collar sweater (long sleeve) when they were last in NYC. I also ordered a blue cotton button-through with a collar. They were able to hem the sleeves, making it a short sleeved piece. I have worn the blue piece a few times this spring, and I am loving it. Both were MTM orders so the fit was superb.

Would you mind/consider adding a few photo of the detail of the seams to further illustrate the “fully fashioned” effect?

Ben R

Thanks for the link to the detail photos!

Regarding the SA collar, it works for me under a jacket. The collar is not as tall as my dress shirts, but it extends above the jacket in the back of my neck. The collar also stays standing under my jacket. Although I don’t wear my sweater and jacket together often. So far it’s been with a linen blend jacket. I’m not sure if the texture of the jacket and sweater is assisting in keeping the collar standing. Also, the collar is more of one piece than the collar and the stand insert.

Evatt

SEH Kelly also have a nice knitted polo at the moment.

Matt H

Knitted polos have long been my standard summer tops. I find them to be very flattering and masculine, even on my not especially muscular physique.
I’ve recently bought a Smedley, but I also highly recommend Tom Ford, Cruciani and Malo, although I’ve only ever bought any of these vastly reduced in price. Tom Ford and Cruciani, especially, are very well made and use some fantastic materials, such as silk/linen blends.

R Abbott

Simon: Do you (or anyone else} have experience with the Luca Faloni silk-cashmere polos? Looks to me like an interesting hybrid, which is more suitable for warmer weather than pure cashmere (and possibly more durable as well). Do you know if it’s similar in temperature to fine merino? And does the collar work well under a sports jacket?

Thanks,

R Abbott

I guess that’s not too surprising. I couldn’t help noticing that they don’t have a single product picture with a shirt, polo, or sweater under a sports jacket. I wasn’t sure if that’s just an editorial decision rif there is some other reason. have a Brera polo in Navy and a brushed cotton shirt in blue; both are very nice but perhaps not ideal under a jacket. I also have 2 cable knit sweaters which are very nice and do work well under a jacket (as you would expect).

If there is no diffeeence in warmth, do your think there is any reason to get silk-knitwear over 100% cashmere knitwear, other than color choice? Looks the silk-cashmere has a slight sheen to it. The ice blue and oatmeal colors look nice (even if they don’t with a jacket) and aren’t available in plain cashmere.

I have noticed that none of L

Ray

Hey. Thanks for the nice article. I’m wondering what shoes suit the summer-polo-and-linen trousers style. You suggest sneakers (I guess it should be white leather ones) or tennis canvas shoes. But, i think loafers like John Lobb’s dark brown Lopez would go well. I’d appreciate it if you could suggest what leather shoes suit this style.

Kenny

The Lobbs are great but you don’t have to spend a grand. I suggest the Bradbourne penny loafers from Anglo Italian, made by Crockett & Jones on the classic 72 last. I have the Wilton penny loafer, made by C&J on the 72 last in E or G fit, in burnished brown and tobacco suede from Shipton & Heneage. The latter are often on offer with 15% or 20% off.

The C&J website offers the Boston, Grantham. Harvard, Henley, Richmond (rubber sole) penny loafers. The Selby’s butterfly design is very well executed and is worth considering. My only option was Boston but C& J has sadly dropped the G fits in recent years.

Jeff

Simon, have you ever tried Orlebar Brown polos and if so, what’s your take on them?

John

Simon, if you don’t mind me asking, what size do you wear for the Adrian? I am a very similar build to you, and usually wear the same. I would guess at an M, though the sizing for the Adrian seems to be small.
Thanks!

Alain

Hello Simon,

I really appreciate the article especially for someone like me who lives in South Florida where the heat and humidity are oppressive in the Summer. Recently, I have purchased Yeossal’s polos with the swallow collar. It is stands up very well under a jacket. Just a thought.

Thank you again,

Alain

Anonymous

Are you making another run of the lightweight Friday polos?

Jon

Hi Simon, how does the weight of the lightweight Friday polos compare to the cloth used for the Spring 2020 Button down Friday polos?

Jon

Ok thanks – very interesting – look forward to these coming back in stock then. As I commented above, I’m much happier in a long sleeve polo in summer with the sleeves rolled up. May I ask, will this reissue also be a button down collar too?

Jon

Excellent! I’ve had LA copy this style (plus a few mm) for a run of new shirts I’m doing with him, thank you for all your work developing it. You’re right a good collar certainly makes all the difference

Anonymous

I have a Smedley long sleeve polo (Belper) in Bardot grey which I like a lot. It’s a versatile shade of grey.

I’d like to a Belper in navy, but they oddly don’t come in navy; the closest option are midnight and indigo. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Karl

Hi Simon,

Articles on everyday items nearly all of us wear are a great idea !

I have the Adrian in a couple of colours but find the Sunspel Sea Island polo better, although it does cost more. Sunspel’s Riviera shirts were my polo of choice but seem to have really gone downhill in the last few years.

Either of these is a better option than the standard Lacoste/RL polo, though I have to give RL credit on their colour selection of over 70+ choices

R Abbott

I really enjoyed this article and the comments. Due to the coronavirus, my dress shirts haven’t gotten as much use recently. Long sleeve polos are a good alternative (smart but not overly dressy) and short sleeve polos can be nice as well – although long sleeve polos with buttoned cuffs that can be rolled up are more versatile.

J.E.

As someone mentioned further up the J.S. Roth is a good alternative to the adrian should you fancy a pique cotton version. It has the same collar as the adrian.

Anonymous

Does anybody know of good merino options for a short-sleeve polo, with a stand collar preferably?

shem

hi simon, i have been looking to get a knit polo to go with some shorts for the summer and came across this badass bryceland one in black (https://www.brycelandsco.com/collections/knitwear/products/brycelandscottonshortsleevepoloblack).

I have never owned a black polo and am intrigued by the idea of getting one. However, my concern is with shoes. While the black polo may go with khaki/white/grey shorts, would brown/navy loafers go with them?

Shem Teo

Hi simon how hoes very short knitted items (t-shirt or polo) pair with regular shorts?

Paul

Hi Simon,

Great article! Have you heard of, or tried on Kent Wang polo T-shirts? They are pique cotton, so not fully fashioned, but have a fairly stiff collar. And at $65, significantly more cost effective than Smedley or Sunspel. I’ve used their SS polos for years in hot weather (living in Singapore) and found them cool enough and hold up well to daily washing in the machine.

Another brand I’m thinking of trying is Son of a Tailor. They have merino polos, but without a stiff collar. However, the main selling point is the MTO service, that should result in a better fit than OTR options.

Please let me know what you think, or if you have had experience with either brand.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,

I think you missed a question I posted here asking about Liverano’s knit polos via The Armoury (https://thearmoury.com/collections/new-arrivals/products/cotton-short-sleeve-knit-polo?variant=32431640903751). What do you think of them, style-wise? Thanks!

Anonymous

No worries, and thanks. I understand your hesitation and appreciate the motives, but would also appreciate your take just based on the online depiction —particularly of the knit pattern. Is this something you would consider for yourself? In other words, would you, based on the pictures online, would be interested in going into the store and trying it for yourself? Thanks!

Anonymous

Simon, would you mind explaining why do you think white wouldn’t work on a knit polo like this? I struggle to see the difference between a white knit polo and a white cut and sewn polo, such as the Friday Polo that would counsel against the former but not the latter. Thanks.

Shem

Hi simon i have this blazer here in blue
https://thearmoury.com/products/ring-jacket-hopsack-amj07-travel-sport-coat?variant=12255047450695

Apart from the obvious white polo would a black polo work with this blue?

Stanford Chiou

May I ask why the jacket isn’t dark enough to work with a black polo, and why it would work with a light blue polo?

Is the idea to keep contrast between the jacket and the shirt to a minimum?

Anonymous

Simon, I am surprised at your recent of a black knit polo. I would have thought it wouldn’t look good. Would you mind explaining how would you wear/style it? Thank you

RSH

I recently bought a JS Bradwell in black. I believe this is the long sleeve version of the Isis but could be mistaken. The collar is far from perfect however it has the huge benefit of looking good with the jacket off.

I find the black polo is a rare tool to help modernise a sports jacket. It’s not easy to get black in the game. I guess in winter a black roll neck is also useful but that comes with baggage!

John

I have tried a few of the polos mentioned on PS over the last few years and thought I would give my thoughts. Living in hot and humid Singapore, a polo shirt is an essential item.

John Smedley, Adrian – I have to agree with Simon’s recommendation. This is the most sartorial polo I have tried, and beautifully soft with a collar that does not collapse. The cotton is extremely soft and very good in hot weather. However, it is undoubtedly expensive for what it is.

Trunk, Moxton – Trunk’s own polos are superb. They have the best collar for wearing under a jacket; it stands tall and is stiff. The fit is also quite flattering, though the cotton is quite heavy. I really hope they bring these back next year.

Sunspel, Riviera – more casual than the above two, but the collar is only suitable for casual dressing; it collapses far too easily. A good option for the beach/holiday.

Orlebar Brown, Sebastian – the slimmest fit of these four, and creates a very flattering physique. The collar is less prone to collapsing than the Sunspel. However, the quality is the poorest of these four, and it won’t last more than two seasons.

Overall, Smedley’s and Trunk’s offerings are superb. The Adrian is more refined, but the Moxton is by far the best value.

Shem

Hi simon I’m looking to get this bryceland rayon shirt in black (https://www.brycelandsco.com/collections/shirts-1/products/bryceland rayon-Black) to be worn untucked with shorts in summer. Would you say that look works given the color of the shirt? Also what casual footwear goes with this? (looking for something more casual than any gyw loafers)

P. Goh

Thank You for the recommendation! This is by far the softest knitwear I’ve ever worn, and the cut is gentlemanly. This should be in a staple part of everyone’s wardrobe. No more overpriced horse logo polos.

Victor Kernes

Hi Simon, I tried the Payton in a Large and even that was too slim. Normally I’m a Medium in knitwear, do you think I’d be a Large in the Adrian?

Victor Kernes

Not a problem! I’m going to try purchasing a Large in the Adrian to see if it fits better. Thank you. 🙂

shem

hi simon, whats your take on a short sleeve polo like this (https://www.brycelandsco.com/collections/knitwear/products/brycelandscottonshortsleevepoloblack) worn with shorts on a very hot summers day?

Richard

I’ve been looking around for light merino polos. Are there any other brands, except for the Smedley (Payton), that you’d recommend?

Anonymous

How exciting that you’re making your own. Can you provide information on the colors? Thanks

JJ

Simon, what do you think of a charcoal knit polo? I’m specifically considering the Adrian in charcoal. Thanks.

Nick

After reading this post I’ve bought John Smedley polo. Very happy with the quality, it is a much dressier version of pique standard polo. More fragile but it survived standard machine wash, otherwise should be washed on gentle program. I’m 188cm and it’s a bit short, this is min length I can accept.