Correct length for cardigans and blazers depend on the wearer

Correct length for cardigans and blazers depend on the wearer

Q. I know it’s warm weather season, but I still wear a cardigan or a blazer in an over air-conditioned restaurant. I was shopping for both of these, and was surprised to see that there doesn’t seem to be a standard length. Isn’t there one, or should there be? 

A. Before I begin to answer your question, we need to clear up one point. You are lumping informal cardigan sweaters (that is, knits) and dressier tailored jackets (woven suiting fabrics) into one category. They are two very different categories, and need to be treated differently.

Cardigan sweaters can be many lengths, depending on the style. Most sweaters extend down just a few inches past the waist, but they can also be a bit longer than that. Because the length of a sweater (a cardigan as well as others) isn’t critical, you have a lot of leeway. 

This leeway allows men to make a preference. The choice may be merely what a man thinks is right, but often there are reasons for that preference. A shorter man might like a slightly shorter cardigan to avoid a tent- or dress-like look; a man with a bit of a belly might like a somewhat longer cardigan to lengthen his silhouette. 

In contrast to cardigan sweaters, tailored suit jackets, blazers, and sport coats should all be pretty close to one correct length. The question is, what is the correct length?    

Visually, a proper jacket length is long enough to cover the entire curve of your seat. Ask yourself, can you put your hands by your side and curl your hands around the bottom of your suit jacket? Using the “cupped fingers” method, you should be able to “cup” your fingers over the end of the jacket when your arms are hanging by your sides. 

Another indicator of the proper jacket length is when the jacket ends around the middle of the hand or at the second knuckle of the thumb.

For the most part, if you use the thumb as a guide or the “cupped fingers” method to determine the appropriate tailored jacket length, you’ll be fine. Some variation of these two concepts will give you your correct jacket length.

Occasionally shorter men choose the more Italian suit style so their jackets are slightly shorter, and taller men can opt for a jacket that’s a bit longer to create a sense of balance with their long legs. You might consult a knowledgeable tailor to be sure.                                                                                                               

And every once in a while, the fashion industry comes up with a reason to change the rules. After decades of following these traditional guidelines, a revolutionary men’s clothing designer, Thom Browne, arrived on the scene with a whole new approach to dressing. His attention-grabbing clothes were all a good bit shorter and a lot tighter than what well-dressed men had been wearing for years. His modern, “shrunken” look was different enough to be immediately noticed (it was referred to in print as “Browne’s sleeves are boys’-department short”). Though most traditional dressers rejected this changed/strange style, the look did have a definite influence on the entire industry. I noticed this when the top-notch gentleman’s clothing store, Paul Stuart, began cutting all of their elegant men’s jackets just a shade shorter.                        

Even so, while it may seem that, for the most part, the correct jacket length is pretty much written in stone, there really is a small amount of wiggle room for you to choose from. For the same reason that a man often prefers one clothing manufacturer over another – the clothing made by one maker more closely matches his particular style of dressing, whether it is a conservative cut or a more modern fashion-forward look – he will be drawn to one, more than to the other. 

When shopping, choose the one that suits your individual personality and taste. 

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