Proper Sleeve Length – Style Q&A


I recently bought a suit and it fits great, but the cuff of my shirt is completely hidden by the jacket sleeve. What is the right shirt sleeve length? Is the arm of the jacket too long or is my shirt sleeve too short?

Hard to say which is the culprit without seeing the suit and shirt in question, but that’s definitely a mystery you’ll want to get to the bottom of. The wrong shirt sleeve length can make an expensive suit look like a hand-me-down.

A good jacket sleeve will hit somewhere around the wrist bone, but precisely where depends on how much cuff you like to show. Since that, in turn, depends on the length of your shirt sleeves, it’s paramount to set those before letting a tailor near your jacket.

Off-the-Cuff Advice

Before we even broach the subject of sleeves, its important that your cuffs are fitted properly. If they’re too tight, it won’t matter how long your sleeves are, because they’ll sit high on your arms and blouse out awkwardly. Similarly, you’ll want to avoid loose, one-size-fits-all cuffs that slink around without rhyme or reason. If you can take off your shirt without unbuttoning the cuffs, they’re too loose. A well sized cuff shouldn’t slide past the base of your wrist. Any reputable custom clothier should also account for whether you wear a watch, and size the appropriate cuff to fit snugly over it.

Shirt Sleeve Length – The Sweet Spot

proper shirt sleeve length

From L to R: Too short, just right, too long

The easiest way to determine whether your shirt sleeve length is right is to unbutton them, and rest your arms at your sides. All of the sleeves pictured above will sit at the same place on the wrist when buttoned. But the shorter one will ride up your forearm the moment you raise an arm to answer a call or check the time, and the sleeve that extends past the V-shaped crevice of the thumb will bunch up in spectacularly unsavory fashion. A correctly cut sleeve should fall naturally between the first knuckle of your thumb, and the base of your wrist where the palm begins.

Having your sleeves made at the sweet spot in the middle should give you a little slack, while keeping a trim shape throughout. From there, your suit jacket can be tailored to reveal somewhere between a quarter to a half an inch of cuff, according to your tastes.

With that said, don’t be afraid to stray a bit from these rules. They aren’t set in stone, and you’ll get slight variations on them depending on whom you ask – from Savile Row tailors, to stylists, to stylish older gents who have worn a suit every day of their lives. So, as with all things pertaining to personal style, if it feels wrong to you, then it is.

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  1. […] SLEEVE: The end of the sleeve should fall in the space between the base of your wrist (or that bone that sticks out) and the bottom knuckle of your […]

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