Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Proper Shirt Sleeve Length

This is Dario, he works at Cesare Attolini. one of the top sartorial clothiers in the world.
When I look at this photo the first thing I notice is the perfect jacket/sleeve cuff ratio but the second thing (and maybe more subtle but equally important) is the perfect length of the shirt sleeve itself.
Similar to what we do to pants, most men in America wear their shirts sleeves with way too much extra length in the arms.
If you notice Dario’s sleeves hits right at the base of his wrist without having the shirt cuff buttoned.
I know a couple of guys in New York that like to do the “cuffs unbuttoned thing” but they wear the sleeves too long so it makes them look like the shirt doesn’t fit correctly.
I also think this way of wearing your shirt sleeve gives a very subtle illusion that makes a person look taller and more lanky. Think about it, tall people with long arms rarely wear sleeves that are too long , their sleeves ride up on their arms a bit. I think it is something we see everday but don’t really notice.
Charlie Rose is a perfect example of this.
I watch his show sometimes and I think the way he wears his shirts looks great and gives him a heightened sense of lankiness.
Maybe because I am more of a muscular, square shape that I’m always on the lookout for things that might, maybe, possibly give me just one once of “lank”.
I’d kill for a little lank.

It is one thing to see a guy standing still with a perfect sleeve length but it is another to see how the sleeves should look when you are actually “in-action”.
When I was reviewing my Milan photos I found one of Dario (on the right side of the photo) working an appointment. See how the slleves ride up a bit but still looks great and is very subtle.
This must/should be a fancy watch-wearers fantasy fit for shirts.
Below is an example of another guy I shot on the street in Milan that wears his shirt to the benefit of his watch.
As a side note, notice how the back blade and front blade of his tie sit side-by-side. I have seen this too much in Milan to think it is done by accident.

Don’t be afraid to print this post and take it with you to your tailor when you are having suits jackets or shirts fitted.


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  1. Resplendato

    March 22, 2007 at 10:43 am


    I’m going to my tailor next week and I’m taking a print with me. Thank you!

  2. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 10:50 am

    A good point about how shorter sleeves (and pants) can make someone seem taller. Although then again, as a tall girl, I’m obsessive about making sure my sleeves and pants err on the side of longer, since having clothes too short gives me flashbacks to feeling awkward and gangly in middle school. (I can’t even deal with cropped jackets.) So the lankiness effect isn’t great for everyone!

  3. otilius

    March 22, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Good tips!

    I like your site and enjoyed your presentation last night at the Apple Store in SoHo. Too bad I had to go and you were just making a cell phone call as I left the after “party”, so I didn’t get to talk to you.

    Anyway, keep up the good work…

  4. TLC

    March 22, 2007 at 10:59 am

    “I’d kill for a little lank.”

    I hope this doesn’t sound gauche: I saw you speak at the Apple store last night and frankly, I don’t think you need to “kill for” anything. You’re a striking gentleman. Your wife should be proud. And I mean that in the most sincere, respectful manner.

  5. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 11:13 am

    mate u are the ultimate shirt guru. thanks for the great advice.

  6. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 11:20 am

    The sleeve length looks great, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the two blade tie look. You can definetly tell its on purpose though since he put a dimple in both blades of the tie.

  7. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Superb post, Sart! One of the best in a long time (photos of uber-babes from Europe excepted, of course). The shirt-sleeve-length thing has perplexed me for a while, trying to know what ‘just right’ should look like.

  8. hyp

    March 22, 2007 at 11:59 am

    I watched “Mean Streets” last night, so this reminded me of the scene when Harvey Keitel finds a note and a new monogrammed shirt on his bed. The note is from his mother, who wants to make sure the sleeves fit just right. The camera zooms in on his initials, he quietly slips into his suit and heads out for a crazy night.

  9. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    I think, traditionally speaking, his sleeves are a little on the short side. Normally, the sleeve is supposed to just touch the base of the thumb. That being said, everything works together in this guy’s outfit, and he looks good in slightly shorter sleeves.
    As for a good watch look, check out the late Gianni Agnelli, another natty Italian. Signor Agnelli was the head of Fiat from 1966 to 1996. He used to always wear tight, tailored cuffs with his watch fastened over them. A decidedly natty look, if you can pull it off.

  10. Butch

    March 22, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Agree, agree–and notice also the slimness of the jacket sleeves and high scyes which further the “lank” illusion.

  11. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    This is Dario … he has very short arms.

    It’s funny that you mention “lank.” At 6’5″ and 220 lbs, I have lots of “lank” and all I think when I see this is “That’s nice, it’s also a fantasy for those of use with long arms.”

    Sleeves (jacket or shirt) that short would look like they were cut to the elbow if I did anything other than constantly hang my arms by my side. Coincidentally long legs also force a few accomodations when hemming pants.

  12. nycinside

    March 22, 2007 at 2:18 pm


  13. SartoriallyAddicted

    March 22, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    I really like the higher cut armholes on Dario’s suit that shapes the body. And the tapered jacket sleeves. It gives the look so much more life.

  14. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    very good indeed

  15. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Hi Scott,

    This was a fantastic, informative article. I was wondering if you could write a little about the proper length of a jacket.

    I notice the base of Dario’s jacket hits right between the base of his wrist and start of his thumb. Is this where the base of a blazer should fall?

    I’m built similar to you, with a square muscular built and I’m a short was well– just 5 foot 8. I can’t seem to find a jacket that is short enough for me. Even a 38S seems too long. Any ideas?

    Much thanks!


  16. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Best post in months. I too have noticed Charlie Rose’s shirts, but I have always wanted to send him a nice pair of cufflinks. He also often wears cheap, digital type watches which seem out of place.

  17. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    As another side note, notice how his suit sleeves have ‘working’ buttons (“surgeon’s cuffs”), and that he has one of these undone.

    I think that the tie thing works because it is a slim tie (indeed, the front appears virtually the same width as the back), so from a distance appears simply as a wide-ish tie. Fascinating idea though, never seen it before.

  18. B.Chau

    March 22, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Very proper indeed. Haha, I’m going to make sure my sleeves are all at the proper length as I would do anything to achieve an illusion of looking taller. Great job.

  19. barsoomcore

    March 22, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    As a person perhaps overblessed with “lank” I have to take some issue with your position here. Of course I’m self-conscious about my height and the length of my arms, so maybe I over-compensate, but I prefer to NOT expose the wrist unless I’m actually reaching out for something.

  20. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Getting a tailor to do one’s sleeves like this in NYC is about as easy as getting a camel through the eye of a needle. In at least four establishments that should know better I’ve given up the argument from exhaustion.

  21. hoi polloi

    March 22, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Ha, great! I never really thought there was much to men’s fashion Sart, but your blog has really changed my mind.

  22. Kathleen

    March 22, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Sart, the thing I love about men AND women in Italy is that NOTHING is ever done by accident.

  23. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    sleeve length.

    Great blog, love the photos.

    About sleeve length, Im 195cm tall and I have loooong arms, so for me it looks better with longer sleeves. (shortens me) I have my tailor make all my sleeves (shirt and jacket) longer. Short sleeves on tall skinny guys looks odd and even more skinny then we already are..


    March 22, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Great post, I’ve had that length question forever, I’ve heard all kinds of theories. The photo tells me your right.

  25. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    About the tie worn side-by-side: another thing is that someone with those other details wouldn`t make the mistake of mis-wearing his tie… :-)

  26. Austin

    March 22, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    EXCELLENT post, sartorialist!!!

  27. Laura June

    March 22, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Thank You.

  28. Matilda

    March 22, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Please come to Stockholm, come in the end of may/beginning of june and you’ll enjoy something you’ve never done before!
    We adore you here, now we need you to adore us.
    Love from Sweden.

  29. Cut of cloth

    March 22, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    This is a really great post
    The pedantic antics of
    shirt wearing men
    A real insight into
    the short and the tall of it

  30. Anonymous

    March 22, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Say what you want, but the sleeves on the jacket are too short.

  31. Laura

    March 22, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I’m curious:

    What do you think makes “the perfect length” for shirt sleeves? What looks best to you? What looks “right” to other? What causes the best drape?

    Is the “proper” length determined by society or the current fashion or is there an underlying principle to look for?

    And, is it different for women?

  32. AnastasiaC

    March 22, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    love this post – just emailed it to my man….I think I need to introduce your blog to my dad…he works in the Men’s clothing industry and loves to point out whats wrong in men’s suits..haha

    Dario’s jacket fits him perfectly!! Impeccable!


    March 23, 2007 at 2:57 am

    Off-the-rack stuff never fits me too well since I’m a little on the small side but with very long arms. Nonetheless, in my quest for what I believe is right (when it comes to lengths) I have a bit of insight.

    1. Length is all relative.

    2. The length of your sleeve should be where your wrist ends and your hand starts. However, some people like it a little longer, a little shorter. What really matters is …

    3. … is how much of the shirt cuff shows past your jacket. With your arms hanging by your side, you should be showing about half an inch to an inch of shirt cuff below your jacket cuff. The jacket sleeve should NOT be longer than the shirt sleeve. The only exception to this is overcoats, where it’s ok to have the overcoat sleeve hide everything. Be aware that your jacket sleeves ride up quite a bit when you are moving your arms, especially at the elbow joint. The amount that they ride up can be quite different from the amount your sleeves ride up. If you err too close to a short jacket sleeve, then you can end up showing way too much cuff in certain situations.

    4. A lot of people argue about how long a jacket should be. Some people like to use the “jacket ends at first thumb knuckle rule” but I think the one universal rule that you can always trust, is that the length of your jacket should be equal to the length of trouser you are showing.

    Of course, if you like things a little longer or a little shorter for effect, that’s fine too. But if you’re looking for textbook proportion, then that is the most trustworthy measure.


    March 23, 2007 at 4:21 am

    O, and as for the tie and that look:

    Certain Italian dandies will tie their ties so both lengths of the tie show under the knot. The addition to that look, which this gentleman did not choose to do, is to fold one of the shirt collar’s tips so that the tip sticks out from under the jacket lapel. Gives a sort of schoolboy uniform feel to it. I’m serious and no I don’t really get it.

    There’s a certain store in Tokyo in Marunochi called Technosart I believe that specializes in high end Italian clothing. Despite the name, the store staff is extremely knowledgeable, and well known in Japanese sartorial circles. You will see comments from them in Japanese men’s magazines from time to time. If you see them in the store, they will all have both tie legnths separated and the collar flip as well.

    Finally, about the sleeve thing, I think watch over sleeve is pretty cool, I do it every once in a while but it can be a bit uncomfortable. Angelo Galasso’s Interno 8 has some shirts with part of the cuff cut away so that the watch face can show through. It’s pretty neat.

  35. Will

    March 23, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Dario looks as sharp as you can get…perfect, polished and dandy-looking.
    I have to admit, italian men are so into their clothes and their look that is almost obssessive…kind of always trying to go one step beyond, literally.
    Out of Italy, it could be weird. In Italy it looks amazing!!! Like the watch thing with Gianni Agnelli…

  36. motard66

    March 23, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    The cut on Dario’s jacket is sublime. Perfect fit in the shoulders – and folks, that’s highly important. The shoulder shouldn’t hang over too far past the shoulder line; when the arms are hanging straight down, the shoulder should line up with the edge of the arm – does that make sense? Also, the armhole on his jacket is cut well – close to the armpit area.
    See, with the “Dopification” (I’m talking about ultra-loose, oversized clothing) of men’s clothing in the US, no one understands that things should fit, and they buy EVERYTHING too big. And most off the rack stuff is cut so it will fit a broad variety of body shapes and sizes, so it’s usually too big. And men also complain when something fits too tightly because they are so used to things being waaaay to big. But in reality, a tighter armhole cut, like Dario has, is actually easier to wear than something that is too big or too loose or “comfortable.” Just my 2.

  37. iopine

    March 23, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    A lot of American men wear their shirts on the large side. Like XL, when they need Medium. Poor things, they seem to swim in all the surplus fabric. I’d love to tell them all that dress shirts come with lycra now, and that they could all size down. What a wonderful world it would be to see our men in lanky, lean shirts. Of course, that’s the silhouette I like, and so that’s what I want for everybody. Not everybody agrees with that.

  38. Anonymous

    March 24, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Absolute love the last picture there.

    I love men with beautiful, chiselled wrists. It allows me to imagine how emotionally brute they can be.

  39. Mathias Vestergaard (google me!)

    March 24, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    I believe I’ve seen that tie-style in some ad for Etro a season or two ago, but it doesn’t take credit from this guy.
    I had to get used to the concept at first and even tried it myself without any luck. I think it’s a great and subtle provocation that you can pull off within the accepted boundaries of a business dress-code. However, you have to be extremely good in doing your tie-knot, to make it look good.

  40. amerikajinda

    December 24, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Thank you for your pictures – they are quite inspirational. Looking forward to meeting you at your show.

  41. Mike Why

    August 6, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    hi there. This is an older post so not sure if you’ll see it or not but here goes….

    What about sleeve length for casual coats (be it a leather jacket, a cotton coat, etc, like something you might buy, from, an Armani Exchange–stylish but not formal? Should the sleeve length rule be the same? I’m of the body type that falls right in between small and medium so end up getting most things altered at some point. Medium coat sleeves are usually far too long, ending near the first knuckle of my thumb.

    Any thoughts on where to have sleeves on casual coats end?

  42. 68wisdom

    August 11, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Thanks for your article. I am so grateful to find someone who speak the same belief as me. I was so upset that people prefer the traditional way and doubt what I said, being a new image consultant. Thanks for helping me to build up the confidence and trust I always have in myself. I love your website and appreciate all your great work!

  43. Nathan

    September 6, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    I think you can pretty much forget off-the-rack if you want your jackets and shirts to fit correctly. Made-to-measure might cost a bit more, but it is WELL worth it. There is nothing like something made just for your exact proportions. Of course, you have to find a good tailor first. Also, tailor-made should mean totally hand-stitched, with a floating canvas and no glue or fusing. This means dry cleaning won’t ruin its shape by dissolving glue, and it also means a jacket that moves with you. Such a jacket should last many years and pay for itself in the confidence it should give you.

    As for jacket length, for somebody on the shorter side like me (5’6″), I think just covering your bum is the best. Anything longer starts making you look even shorter.

  44. Cleaning Service In Seattle

    September 6, 2009 at 2:58 am

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  45. ROI

    December 3, 2009 at 1:03 am

    That's one way of wearing your sleeves. I don't care for it. In Dario's case, he really doesn't have much choice. His jacket's length is creeping into the PeeWee Herman/Thom Browne range. If he wore his coat sleeves any longer, the relationship of the bottom of the coat to the sleeves would be like a pullover sweater. So, now that he has the length proportions of his coat corrected for its overall skimpiness, he has left himself no option for his shirt sleeves' length. If he wore his shirt sleeves at the conventional length, the entire cuff and some of the sleeve placket would show. If it didn't seem likely that the shirt is custom made, I'd suspect the reason he doesn't close his cuffs is because they won't reach around his forearm.

    In short, he's maintained the proportions between the elements of his tiny outfit. It just looks (again, to my eye) like his coat and shirt belong to the same person, but that person is Dario's little brother.

  46. Anonymous

    January 11, 2010 at 2:10 am

    I'm proudly copy-paste & sent it to my brother.
    He's a tall man & just couldn't find a best suit model & i'm sure this one would.

    Thanks 4 the tips&pic
    Ur fans haha..

  47. Anonymous

    April 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Great blog, great article and very right about the sleeve length: an important detail. Good example pictures with the unbuttoned cuff.


    Punto Italiano | Italian Shirting

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    February 16, 2011 at 3:01 am

    Thanks for Advice that i follow!

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  51. foong

    September 28, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Also, watch guy is using a NATO strap on his time piece, definitely making a statement

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  54. Sven Raphael Schneider

    June 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Nice picture, though I am not sure I totally agree with the sleeve length.

  55. Alex

    November 17, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    Yes, as you posit, “It is one thing to see a guy standing still with a perfect sleeve length…” engendering visual unity & a harmony in body proportion and overall composition.

    My bespoke suit clients- besides our 7″ tall NBA’er Javale McGee- all yearn to stand gloriously tallER and skinnyER.

    But it is CONTRAST that paints an even greater portrait and delights the eye of the beholder. To frame it for the eye with the light/dark, exemplified by the archetypal beauty of the tux, works even greater wonders. Seeing that perfect sleeve length for the shirt (& blazer) WITH the contrast is magical. One can easily incorporate that into non black-tie, basic day to day dressing with verve and aplomb!

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