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38L - the DEFINITIVE thread

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Sebastian_Flyte, May 30, 2009.

  1. Sebastian_Flyte

    Sebastian_Flyte Senior member

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    I started a previous thread on the mysterious 38L last year and got some good responses, but thought I would take everything I've learned and place it here. The 38L dilemma You're skinny and tall. What do you do? The problem is largely one of the American suit market. a) Americans are bigger/fatter than most other nationalities, and b) since fewer Americans wear suits compared to most everywhere else, it reduces costs to carry fewer sizes that fit 90% of American suit customers and not you. What are the measurements of a 38L? Like a 38R, the chest (pit to pit) is 40'', give or take a bit. Obviously, the 38L is long. Length (from bottom of collar) runs 31-31.5'' (sometimes as short as 30'' and as long as 32.25''). Sleeves usually 25.5-26'' (sometimes as long as 27''). Shoulders anywhere from 17.5-19 (typically around 18''). Know your measurements and know what can and can't be altered See this thread for general alteration info. Sleeves of 38R can often (although certainly not always) be lengthened sufficiently to 25-26''. Jacket length is the biggest challenge in suiting the 38L man, because jackets can't be lengthened easily. The dilemma of the 38L is basically having enough fabric to cover your ass. It is *possible* to lengthen a jacket if there is enough fabric in there, but it requires a very good tailor, lots of money, and there is a lot that can go wrong. Note that jackets can be shortened much more easily, up to an inch or so before it starts messing with the jacket proportions. That said, if you are willing to follow recent trends in short suit jackets that expose your ass, you can avoid the 38L dilemma altogether and stick to 38R. Where to buy 38Ls? 1) Europe - the 38L is a common size across Europe. It's labelled 38L in the UK, 48L in Italy and France, and 94 in Germany. See my thread on UK sites that ship to the US, many of which carry 38L. I started a similar thread on German sites that ship to the US with less success. I note that English 38Ls seem rather big in the sleeves, armhole diameter and waist. Italian suits are more slender in the sleeves and body. EDIT: Marks & Spencer - their Signature line is designed by bespoke superstar Timothy Everest and I have been EXTREMELY happy with them. Very good, rugged fabrics (Everest mentioned somewhere that since they buy fabric in bulk they can get such nice ones in an inexpensive suit), slender cut pants, and plenty of suits in 38L and even 36L (and some boys suits in 34L!). Charles Tyrwhitt - suits and even nice sport jackets in 38L. Make sure you order in £, as their own dollar prices do not reflect current exchange rates. Note that their armholes and sleeves are a notch wider/bigger than most other brands I've tried, from any country. Both M&S and Tywrhitt ship to the USA at reasonable rates. 2) The more expensive a suit, the longer its 38R is. This is clutch. Most American-brand 38Rs (most suits at Macy's, Banana Republic, etc etc) have lengths like 28-29'' and sleeves too short for us (23.5-24.5''). BUT, the more expensive and more European a suit, the longer it is in sleeve and jacket length. Often the length of a European 38R is close or identical to what we Americans consider 38L measurements (sleeves almost always 25-26'' and length of 30-31'' very common). My Boss red label 38R is 30.5'' long with 26'' sleeves. Note that I'm seeing some signs of change; some American 38Rs are getting longer and more in line with European sizing. 3) America - they don't serve your kind - almost no stores carry 38L. Forget Brooks Bros., Macy's, and most places. 4) Men's Wearhouse - Intro level 38L. Every store has a 38L section stocked with cheapish suits. The best of these are by Kenneth Cole (tagged $500 but usually on sale for $225-$275), which do quite well for basic needs, on a budget, or as a first young man's suit. 5) H&M - affordable 38Ls at respectable quality. The 38L is only sold at stores in big cities-- New York, D.C., etc. The DC Chinatown store has them at all times while my local Pittsburgh H&Ms haven't had a 38L ever. About $250. On the two I own, length = 30'' & 30.5'', sleeve = 26'' & 27''. 6) MTM. A note of caution-- avoid made-to-measure services at Brooks Bros. and even programs like Saks' Burberry MTM. These are not as customizable as you might think. They are basically sewing together bodies and arms from various sizes and chopping them all together. They will be unable to make the bodies and pieces into a true 38L. What you will end up with is a 40 with tons of waist suppression and fat arms that are the correct length. 7) MTM - look around. I have no experience with sites like Thick as Thieves, but have heard good things. 8) Bespoke - if you can afford it, congratulations. 9) Overstock.com - sometimes you get lucky. Their 38L suits are here, and 38L sport coats (when they have any) are here. Hit or miss-- mostly the same stuff you'd find at Men's Wearhouse, but occasionally better stuff like Joseph Abboud and (inexplicably) Hart Schaffner Marx (which doesn't seem to list 38L on its website or anywhere else). 10) Ebay. Caveat emptor. Know your measurements like the back of your hand before buying anything on here. Many suits labeled 38L are actually nowhere near-- 40R from the 1980s and such. That said, I've found some amazing buys. Some sellers on Ebay's European sites (Ebay.co.uk, Ebay.de, etc) ship to the US. 11) Join the even crazier quest for the 36L. If you're very skinny and tall you may find that even 38L are too big in the chest for you. If so, welcome to the unique form of hell that is being a 36L. Maybe I'll start another thread on this someday, but in short, Europe and European brands are again your best bet. 12) "Skinny" suits - it's worth knowing that certain brands run more slender than others. Ralph Lauren Black Label has a slender body and long sleeves, but its 38R jacket length is 29.5 -- a bit too short for us. Dior Homme is known for being incredibly slim-fitting, but also quite narrow-shouldered and its design is not long-bodied. More research needed. Who makes 38L? I personally own 38Ls by Kenneth Cole, H&M, Charles Tyrwhitt, Marks & Spencer, and Linus. I know for a fact that 38Ls are made and sold in Europe by Hugo Boss, Canali, Ermenegildo Zegna, Lanificio Fili Cerruti dal 1881, Ben Sherman, and undoubtedly many more. I've seen random 38Ls by Hart Schaffner Marx and Joseph Abboud online at Overstock. Thanks! I'll post more info as I get it. Please share info if you've got it: brands, measurements, 38Ls for sale, etc.
     
  2. soupcxan

    soupcxan Senior member

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    3) America - they don't serve your kind - almost no stores carry 38L. Forget Brooks Bros., Macy's, and most places.
    Beg to differ slightly - BB's Fitzgerald is available in a 39L, which has relatively narrow shoulders/waist but an extra inch or so of length. To my mind, the fit is similar to what a 38L would be from a normal American maker (assuming they made 38L).
     
  3. alexwgoody

    alexwgoody Senior member

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    Please make the 36L thread. I can NEVER find it. I always have to go to my tailor before I buy a suit to see if it has enough fabric for him to let the arms down.
     
  4. Hard2Fit

    Hard2Fit Senior member

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    FWIW, I've recently seen 38L's from PRL and PS.
     
  5. ruben

    ruben Senior member

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    How tall are you 38Ls?
    (I'm 6'3")
    I've found that many 38Rs will work alright for me, esp for sportcoats that I am alright wearing a bit shorter.

    I'll add that I've found BBs 38Rs to be long enought (all at least 30.5) though my collection of those ranges from 25-5 years old, so no idea what they offer new these days.

    I have and old 37L BB suit from the sixties, that I adore.
     
  6. nate10184

    nate10184 Senior member

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    I'm more of a 39L but could probably get into most 38L's too. RLBL 40L is a nice fit for me. At 6'3" I don't find that any R's work for me so I stick mostly to altering 40L's for the time being.

    BTW the Canali 48L EU I tried at Filene's might have been the best fit I've ever had off the rack. Too bad it was >$1k and pinstriped.
     
  7. Sebastian_Flyte

    Sebastian_Flyte Senior member

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    How tall are you 38Ls? (I'm 6'3")
    between 6'1'' and 6'2''.
     
  8. Coburn

    Coburn Senior member

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    Great post. I'm saving it as a reference.
     
  9. kjm

    kjm Senior member

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    I don't have any to contribute really. But as a 6'2" 170 lb dude, I feel compelled to show my support.
     
  10. ruben

    ruben Senior member

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    i encourage you all to wear purple armbands to show solidarity with long-suffering 38Ls.
     
  11. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos Senior member

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    Count your blessings if you're actually a true 38L, though. You could be like me -- tall and skinny, but with wide enough shoulders to need a 40L (but without the chest or waist to fill out the 40L). Since shoulders are the toughest and least advisable portion of the suit to tailor, I'm forced to buy 40L and cut down the chest and waist. On some brands, I hardly need any trimming. On others, I need major surgery. But rare is the suit I can buy straight off the rack and get away with wearing once or twice untailored.
     
  12. Sebastian_Flyte

    Sebastian_Flyte Senior member

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    I mention that UK sites are good, but particularly check out: Marks & Spencer - their Signature line is designed by bespoke superstar Timothy Everest and I have been EXTREMELY happy with them. Very good, rugged fabrics (Everest mentioned somewhere that since they buy fabric in bulk they can get such nice ones in an inexpensive suit), slender cut pants, and plenty of suits in 38L and even 36L (and some boys suits in 34L!). Charles Tyrwhitt - suits and even nice sport jackets in 38L. Make sure you order in £, as their own dollar prices do not reflect current exchange rates. Note that their armholes and sleeves are a notch wider/bigger than most other brands I've tried, from any country. If you have super scrawny arms (like me), they may not be perfect. Both of these sites ship to the US at very reasonable rates. PM if you're considering ordering-- I try to keep an eye on coupon codes for them.
     
  13. Holdfast

    Holdfast Senior member

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    Any 38L should jump on the morning suit being sold by someone (not me!) in the B&S forum right now. Looks great.
     
  14. Sebastian_Flyte

    Sebastian_Flyte Senior member

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    The J. Lindeberg sale at Gilt last week had both 36L and 38Ls...! First time I've ever seen that on Gilt.
     
  15. Deathsnapper

    Deathsnapper Well-Known Member

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    I definitely agree that being a 38L is a bit harsh. A friend of mine has been trying to find a suit on a tight budget for a while now, but his size has been by far the biggest problem. Luckily I fit in towards the upper end of R suits and don't have to deal with it as much.

    At 38L it might be worth considering hitting the gym intensely for a while and trying to knock yourself into the 40L range; tailoring yourself to the clothes rather than the clothing to you. Seems to open up a lot more options as far as suits go. Feel sorry for those at 36L (or lower) who don't really have this option as easily.
     
  16. Sebastian_Flyte

    Sebastian_Flyte Senior member

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    It 38L it might be worth considering hitting the gym intensely for a while

    The problem is that it's very difficult for most skinny guys (like myself) to gain weight. We're not 38Ls because we diet [​IMG]
     
    1 person likes this.
  17. Deathsnapper

    Deathsnapper Well-Known Member

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    The problem is that it's very difficult for most skinny guys (like myself) to gain weight. We're not 38Ls because we diet [​IMG]

    I know, I have it the same way. A leg injury for a year (minimal activity) and constantly eating stuff that people really shouldn't be eating was only able to bring me up to ~8% BF. To be honest I've often actually wished for a slightly weaker metabolism, but I'm now glad I have what I do.

    But for most it's still possible if you do some research on the subject and eat correctly to gain some muscle weight. 3 months after I joined a gym I was able to gain 20lbs, which was fairly substantial for me as I was a mere 115lbs beforehand (very skinny, small shoulders/bones etc. with almost no fat at all).

    That said I did have to spend quite a few hours at the gym. I went 4-5times weekly. Also had to always make sure I was supplying myself with more than enough protein and carbs every day. It took some time at first, but once you put the weight on it's pretty easy to sustain a lot of it.

    Of course it's not going to work for everyone. Some people won't be able to put on the weight even if they live in the gym. But I'm sure there are also people with a bit of extra time on their hands (an hour or so daily) who haven't given it a try; for these people I think it's probably worth it. I mean you'll get a better physique out of it and a larger potential wardrobe! [​IMG]

    Of course being a 38L is pretty excellent in itself. I'm sure there are also some who would never intentionally change this even if it did promise more clothing options.
     
  18. Marbles29

    Marbles29 Senior member

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    I'm generally a 38L - I'm broad enough to go with a 40L, but I prefer a trimmer fit around the chest and waist. I find that one is bound to have more success at cheaper stores. A few months ago I purchased a Navy Pinstripe Tommy Hilfiger suit from Macy's in a 38L..They had every conceivable size in that particular suit.
     
  19. overdog

    overdog Senior member

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    I'm between a 39L and 40L myself. As a 38L, you might give BB Fitzgerald suits in 39L a shot. They are tighter in the chest than just about all other 39L's I have tried on (which is not very many, but it's something).
     
  20. deveandepot1

    deveandepot1 Senior member

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    Hugo Boss always has a bunch of 36Ls and 38Ls at outlet malls.
     

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