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How Long Should My Suit Jacket Sleeves Be?

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Q: How long should my suit jacket sleeves be? And how much shirt cuff should I be showing? I’ve asked around and heard everything from no cuff showing to 1 inch of cuff showing.  – Terrance M. 

A: Your suit jacket / blazer sleeve should end right above the top of your wrist bone (or the hinge of your wrist). However, in order to show the proper amount of shirt cuff based on the correct jacket sleeve length, your shirt sleeve length must obviously fit correctly; a properly fitting shirt sleeve should end at the base of your hand. Once these two are properly fitted, you’ll notice that naturally some shirt sleeve cuff will show. The general rule of thumb is that you want to show 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of shirt cuff, so feel free to adjust your garments to achieve your desired look.

Why is a “minor” detail like this so important? Showing no sleeve may have the visual effect of making your jacket sleeves look sloppily too long on you while showing too much cuff may have the visual effect your jacket sleeves are comically too short on you – both will betray the powerful effect of the superb fit you’re going for. A proper relationship between jacket sleeve length and shirt sleeve length suggests a man who is in control of his appearance and knows that a pleasing aesthetic is comprised of these “minor” details.  So while sartorial matters such as these may seem insignificant, it is the perfection of these details that will enhance your image immediately. See below for visual examples:

A note on wearing watches: If you wear a watch, make sure you leave enough space under your cuff to accommodate the typical watch you would wear with that shirt. A shirt cuff should be able to go over and cover some of your watch when your arms are relaxed at your sides.

Got more questions about proper suit jacket sleeve length? or any other suit/style-related questions you’d like us to answer for our next “Ask a Black Lapel Stylist” post? Leave a comment below or send us your questions at concierge@blacklapel.com! 

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28 thoughts on “How Long Should My Suit Jacket Sleeves Be?”

  1. Steve Baker says:

    Is it possible to have an off the shelf suit altered in sleeve length from the shoulder rather than the cuff ?…Ive got a couple of really nice suits that are perfect in the body but the sleeves are a couple of centimetres too long..ive obviously got shorter than average arms !

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Yes, a good tailor should be able to alter sleeves from the shoulder. In fact, that’s one of the ways we suggested you check out a tailor’s skills in our article about Getting the Most Out of Your Tailor Shop.

      And for your next suit, if you want to skip the hassle, have one made to measure by Black Lapel and it’ll fit your arms perfectly.

  2. BL, my suit had been altered to show 1.5cm of cuff when I’m wearing a single cuffed shirt, but when I put on the double-cuffed shirt (with the same shirt measurements) it shows 2cm of cuff. Is this a common problem when switch from single to double barrel cuffs?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Oh man, Shaken. If we had a nickel for every guy who’s told us about this problem…we’d be broke. The difference of a half a centimeter in your shirt cuffs showing is nothing to worry about. The reason for it is quite simple, the thicker french cuff is just causing your jacket cuff to come to rest a half centimeter higher.

      A half centimeter is barely visible to anyone. Leave it be and nobody will notice, but spend all day fiddling with your sleeves to try to “fix” it and people will start to wonder “What’s wrong with that guy’s sleeve?” And that’s the last thing you want. Remember when it comes to style self-conscious = bad, self-confident = good.

  3. William Earl Glisson says:

    Do you have samples in a sport jacket A dazzling black and white with a dot of red and/gold
    Dot. president Clinton had worn that was dazzlincs

    1. We’re quite confused about what you’re asking here and by how you phrased everything. Could you please elaborate?

  4. Hello ~ My question is for Black Lapel. I am a woman and I have taken a couple of my blazers to a tailor for alterations. Firstly, the sleeves of the blazers touched almost the center of the palms of my hands. Once they were altered, they touch the beginning of my palms. I am going to take the blazers back but does your technique above apply for women’s lengths as well?

    Thanks, EJ

    1. Proportion on women’s clothes is different than men’s clothes because women’s bodies are different. Still, sleeve length is pretty universal. It sounds like you went from way too long, to slightly long sleeves on your jackets. You can go back to your tailor for another round, but you’re probably getting close to the limits of how much you can tailor those jackets. So you might just have to give up on altering the jackets any more. Sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but we wouldn’t want you dumping money into a garment that will never fit you the way you want.

      As always, though, don’t rely solely on the advice of us, people who haven’t seen the garment on you and focus on menswear. Talk through your options with a tailor you trust can do the work (or will tell you if he/she can’t) and base your decision on that.

  5. The sleeve might be right, but the jacket length it too short (LOL)

    1. Black Lapel says:

      True if you’re going by the old rule of thumb that bases jacket length on your arm length. However, that rule is not a good one to follow. Arm length and torso length are not always the same. Proportion dictates that your jacket should fit the length of your body over your arms.

      For an extreme example, imagine suiting up the NBA’s Rajon Rondo. He is 6’1″ but his wingspan (that is, the distance between the tips of his fingers when he holds his arms out horizontally) is 6’9″. In other words, dude’s arms are crazy long for his body. Should follow the old jacket length should reach your cupped hands rule? Of course not. His jackets would stretch almost to his knees and he’d look like a buffoon. The point with all of this is that getting proportion right depends on the body you’re dressing. That’s why we make clothes to measure. Everybody’s different and from these cropped photos there’s not enough information to tell if the jacket length is appropriate.

  6. easy to say, what about those with unequal length arms?

    1. As the maker of made-to-measure suits and blazers we face this question a lot, Tom. Our solution is simple, we adjust your jacket sleeves to your arms. That’s something that isn’t possible in an off-the-rack suit, but it’s just one of many ways we customize your suit to fit you flawlessly.

      If you want to join the thousands of guys with unique body types getting suits that fits them flawlessly, we’ve got you covered.

  7. And what if I have to make my sleeves shorter. Is there any “safe” way to tailor this? There is a space (I believe I need them 1 cm shorter), but it seems that in that case position of the sleeves butons will not be appropriate…

    1. Black Lapel says:

      If you’re looking to shorten the sleeves on a jacket without moving the edge of the cuffs too close to the buttons, you may be out of luck. Depending on how much you need to shorten it and the tailor, you may be able to get a tailor to shorten the jacket sleeve from the top of the sleeve at the shoulder.

      Of course, you could just order a jacket that’s made to your precise measurement from Black Lapel. Just sayin’.

  8. How much should the sleeve pull up if you’re stretching and moving? My jacket falls properly when I’m relaxed but it hikes up a lot with movement

    1. Black Lapel says:

      There is a finite amount of fabric in the jacket, so it will move when you move. If it fits properly when standing still, our advice would be not to mess with it, just adjust the sleeves if they get out of place. If you’re doing something that requires a lot of movement in a suit (i.e. getting down on the dance floor at a wedding, wildly gesticulating through a PowerPoint presentation or competing in a lunchtime, intra-office, Greco-Roman wrestling tournament), then we suggest taking off the jacket.

  9. This is so helpful. Due to financial problem, I borrowed a suit jacket from a friend to be used in my friend’s wedding. Just noticed that the sleeve is too short for my shirt sleeve. I tried other shirt sleeves but it still doesn’t look proportion to the suit jacket sleeve. I agree with you. I imagined myself in the mirror that showing the maximum of 1/2 inch of shirt cuff looks good to me. I must look for a suit jacket again. Thanks for this!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad you found it helpful, Randy! It’s the small details–sometimes as small as a quarter-to-half inch–that can make all the difference in a look.

  10. I just bought a designer jacket (on sale, the only size) thinking I’d probably have to return it ‘cos the sleeve length may be short… it’s just spot on! I’m so glad I came across to your advice. Thank you!

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad this helped Mauro! If you come across this issue again in the future, remember that you can get your sleeve length altered by a local tailor by 0.25″ to 0.50″ longer or shorter without having a significant impact on the placement of the sleeve buttons.

  11. Wow, thanks for the information. I usually alter women’s clothing and had a young man ask me to shorten his suit jacket sleeves. I was not sure of the proper length. Your information and pictures were great–just what he said he had learned at fraternity meetings.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad we could help a sister out! :)

  12. ok, so what about the womens dress coat with a dress.? i have a dress, knee length, and a jacket that matches also knee length, would it look ok, if i had my matching jacket shortened? a couple of inches above my dress length?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Hi Geri! We wish we were qualified to answer this! As our focus is on menswear, we’d be straight-up doing guesswork here. 😉 Check out newyorkimageconsultants.com or Alice Sydow at http://www.ivegotyourstyle.com who should be able to give you a much better answer than our stylists!

  13. Jeffery Roznowski says:

    I have a leather jacket and the sleeves are to long were should they be trim to. thank you so much

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Jeff, if you’re asking about the appropriate sleeve length for a typical jacket, we recommend having it end at the same place as where you would end the sleeves on a dress shirt. You can go a little longer by about 1/2″ and it should still look fine. A biker jacket on the other hand can have slightly longer sleeves (by 1/2″ to a full 1″) since you’ll be reaching for those handle bars most of the time. Hope that helps!

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