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Jacket Length: The Right Rule?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by TweedyProf, Jul 27, 2012.

  1. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    First post…I should be working, but having asked this question a lot myself and searching the various threads here, I’m struck by the fact that this comes up so often and really not enough clear, univocal advice.

    A common rule is by invoking some claim about jacket length relative to the position of your hands (thumbs, curling your fingers, etc.). As a first assessment of jacket length, this rule seems to me a bad one since, as often pointed out, arm length is different, so the position of your hand, with arm hanging down, relative to the rest of your body will differ from person to person. So, as a general rule, “at your first thumb knuckle” isn’t one you should go by if you haven’t figured out proper jacket length on your body. I wish people would stop repeating this. It confused me for a long time.

    Indeed, too many members invoke this when answering the “jacket too long” question in threads, which I suspect continues to generate confusion since the rule is so body-relative. This probably prolongs continued threads about this. I often look at pictures where a member simply comments with “an inch too short/long” where I can’t see it, especially when one doesn’t even have a whole body shot! I suspect they are applying a relative to hand rule indiscriminately across the board.

    “Cover your ass” is the most commonly heard rule, which leads to the question, how much? Several members have posted what seems to me the best rule:

    The Right Rule: cover your ass while giving the longest possible leg-line.

    OK, the name is provocative!

    This seems to me where everyone assessing jacket length for the first time should start. It gives the “lower bound” on length of the jacket (sorry, I’m really an academic”). It seems the most general rule that accommodates different body proportions, while achieving an aesthetically pleasing, classic look.

    Of course, this leads one to wonder where one’s ass really ends (I’ve seen this question too), but it seems to me a simple guideline might just so long as length is not above than your crotch, just where the inseams meet. Does that sound right? Of course, you can then use your hands as a good reference point for your own body proportions. Just don’t promote the same rule for someone of a different body type!

    One “academic question”: is there a conflict between the “right” rule and one that invokes the midway point from shoulder to the floor, e.g. Flusser’s?

    This does lead to a question for discussion: how much leeway is there once you’ve found your correct jacket length? For example, can you let your sport coats go an inch shorter (as some have suggested)?

    Once we’ve set the rules, it would be a good discussion to see how much one can play with it. I invite forum members to post well-lit, full-length shots, front and back, of themselves or others to discuss jacket length. Namely, (a) does the subject adhere to the right rule above and (b) does any deviation seem ok, given other considerations (e.g. maybe you have very short arms, and thus, maybe a slightly shorter jacket would work). The best pictures would not be from high up, but probably straight on at the midline, so no angle distortion.

    Two sample posts on the nice tailor’s thread:

    Emptym

    http://www.styleforum.net/t/265924/...dback-and-alteration-suggestions#post_4815508

    whose length looks just right by the above rule (pictures are nicely lit and at the right angle) and

    Acecow

    http://www.styleforum.net/t/265924/...ck-and-alteration-suggestions/15#post_4821631

    A Tailor comments that the jacket is short, which is consistent using the right rule. I wouldn’t have thought it was drastically short compared to jackets one’s sees nowadays. Nor do I think it looks bad at all. So maybe within the leeway of playing with the right rule?
     
  2. SkinnyGoomba

    SkinnyGoomba Senior member

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    The jackets I'm wearing now are often considered long, but when I first bought them they were considered short. Those that i've had for any length of time that is. There is no hard rule on this one, since it changes with fashion.

    I've been selecting shorter jackets, but have also considered that at some point the trend will turn and whats short now will be considered very short.
     
  3. NORE

    NORE Senior member

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    I dislike when I see any portion of a man's posterior peeking out from under his coat. Save the short jacket for womenswear.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  4. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Hi NORE
    So, less leeway on the "cover" rule for you? How's acecow's fit on length for you?
     
  5. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    @SkinnyGoomba
    So, I'm guessing you're a few inches above the "cover your ass" border?

    Alas, for those of us on an (academic) budget, I'm not sure we have the luxury to go too much with current fashion, especially if they are on the extreme end of what is deemed "classic".
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  6. MyOtherLife

    MyOtherLife Senior member

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    A guideline I have always adhered to is that the overall length completely covers the butt with a 1 inch excess being acceptable. Extend your arm as though you are about to shake hands. The cuff should rest on the wrist line -or- at rest, the jacket cuff may (arguably) reveal a sliver (1/4") of shirt cuff. The pants should break slightly above the shoes. The jacket collar should cleave to the neck and the lapels should rest without any break on the chest. A slight waist supression should be visible when the jacket is buttoned and very little pull around the buttoned area of the jacket is fine. There are different gorges available so let the gorge compliment the proportions of the man wearing the jacket. Welcome to Styleforum, TweedyProf.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  7. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I think it depends on your proportions. If you have longer legs, just covering your butt would still make the jacket look short. If you have a longer torso covering your ass will look too long. It is really case by case, imo. The best thing is to ask a tailor who has a good sense of proportion.
     
    2 people like this.
  8. ddsg

    ddsg Well-Known Member

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    I'm of this opinion as well. While arm length may vary, so does torso length.

    In my case, I have a slim, short build with a long torso and comparatively pronounced behind. Any jacket long enough to cover my ass, even the most fitted ones, makes me look like I'm wearing a too large hand me down and accentuates my shortness.

    One thing that might have an impact as well in my opinion is the height of a person relative to the observer. Different angles (for example a tall person looking at a short one) will affect the perceived length of the jacket and other proportions.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
  9. bourbonbasted

    bourbonbasted Senior member

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    Per Pat's suggestion, go talk to a tailor. Jacket length is just as subjective as button stance.
     
  10. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Well this is already helpful!

    I hadn't thought about the longer torso, shorter height possibility (@ddsg). Or the very long legs possibility (@Pat). Probably because I have neither!

    I'm the sort of person who likes to find general rules, if possible. But the "Right Rule" isn't right for some, so provocative name retracted!

    Does this mean the Flusser rule noted above is a better way to go (if I remember it correctly)? So for ddsg, it's going to be higher than the formerly right rule suggests and for longer-legged friends, it might be lower, but roughly the mid point between shoulder and floor? Maybe that's closer to the "truth".

    I still would like to think there's a little objectivity here about length. Your tailor with a good sense of proportion shouldn't be guessing, and what he or she sees should be something we can approximate in words, even if we have to add caveats...
     
  11. NORE

    NORE Senior member

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    TBH, I don't click links posted by new members. Sorry.
     
  12. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Hmmm...haven't actually tried this, but wonder if this actually won't come out a bit longer than the "cover your ass" rule...but hey, obviously this depends on anatomy! No pictures please! [​IMG]
     
  13. KObalto

    KObalto Senior member

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  14. Balfour

    Balfour Senior member

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    I agree with your 'cover your ass' rule - the emptym pic looks about right for me. I try to go no further in length than that, as I'm short-average height (but fortunate in that my proportions allow me to cover my ass!).

    My jacket lengths do not fluctuate with fashion trends (well, only if you count half-centuries!).
     
  15. sportin_life

    sportin_life Senior member

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    I typically go by the mid-thumb/cover the behind rule, but what I also noticed is that jackets tend to look best (at least to me) when they hit mid-rise on the pants, so I pay attention to where it hits on the rise.
     
  16. GusW

    GusW Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I think you need to get in front of a three way mirror and decide what is right for you. I have a long torso, I am also 6' 2". But, I don't have particularly long arms for my height. After trial and error I went from jackets ending at the bottom of my thumb in the late 90's and mid 2000's to my thumb knuckle and in a few cases, for more fashionable and casual jackets thr joint where my thumb meets my palm.

    I am more inclined to go shorter when cut trimmer and when wearing more casual. I ordered a classic solid navy and asked for it to be a bit longer. I also ordered a heavy tweed and wanted it to be a bit longer for a more relaxed look. I guess my summer suits tend to be a bit mor term and short.
     
  17. TweedyProf

    TweedyProf Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Thanks all...

    I guess where this is pushing me is to articulate less a rule of thumb and more something like an aesthetic principle. That's why I liked "cover your seat leaving as long a leg-line as possible". It made sense that one wants one's legs to look long, not stubby. But I now realize from comments that you don't want your legs to look like stilts. So maybe

    as long a leg-line as possible without having your legs look like trees, stilts etc...

    The subjectivity in this is obvious, but I would wager 5 cents that we'd probably all come to some agreement in comparing two pictures of two lengths...that's the objectivity. Pictures would help here!

    The other side, which I didn't account for, was torso length. So, there should be something we can all say about the underlying aesthetic (forget again rule of "thumb"). Is it to give some weight to the torso without making it look extended...and so we are back to some sense of balance.

    It would be great to get some clarification about this, ignoring for the moment our own personal "markers". So how do you factor in torso length?

    This leaves the arms of course (e.g. PSQ guys point about his own arm length). Maybe I can get the tailors to weigh in.

    Current version for classic (not casual): cover your ass leaving as long of a leg line as possible without looking like your on stilts, but giving enough weight to the torso without elongating it.

    This will vary from person to person in terms of where the jacket ends relative to the thumb. For many, the rule of "thumb" might achieve this. Refer back to emptym pic in my starting thread.
     
  18. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    This is the sort of thing I was aiming at in this thread:

    http://www.styleforum.net/t/306673/on-the-utility-of-rules-for-dress-and-fit

    I understand the need for some grounding in a guideline when you're getting your barings, but really, just LOOK at it. If it looks good to you, wear it and like it. If it looks too short or too long, lengthen or shorten it as you please if it's a bespoke garment at a fitting, or find a different jacket if it's RTW.
     
  19. Lord Mulberry

    Lord Mulberry Senior member

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    I assume we are talking suit jackets? My own personal opinion is that there is no hard and fast rule for jacket length. A lot can depend on the build of the person and the type/style of jacket you wear. I've had longer jackets made for a more gentlemen look from the year 1900 and shorter, bum freezer jackets. Where I live the current fashion is towards the shorter jacket, but I not really into following fashion as I like to set it. Most of the time, however, I prefer to have jackets made which just barely hang to the crotch seam of the trousers.
     

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