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Buying a jacket’s one of the more complex wardrobe decisions a man can make. There’s the snug shoulder, the placement of the buttons, the lapel width and—to pick a recent menswear hobby horse—padded vs. reconstructed shoulders.

And while that’s all important stuff, there’s something even more crucial that’s gone almost completely unmentioned. And unlike the others, which usually work themselves out among the higher-end brands, it varies wildly depending on where you go. It’s a huge, bold statement that most men don’t even know they’re making.

We’re talking about jacket length.

The gentleman on the left is from the latest Shipley & Halmos lookbook, and if he took his hands out of his pockets, you’d see his cuffs line up almost perfectly with the bottom of the jacket. It’s just a few inches below his waistline. If he reached up to the top level of a bookshelf, you might be able to see his belt.

In traditional circles, this is simply not done. And yet, if you pick up a blazer from APC, Band of Outsiders or even nominally traddish outlets like Monitaly, that’s what you’ll get. They’re all downstream from the notoriously shrunken Thom Browne—but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to get fooled.

Compare that to these gentlemen from Esquire’s Black Book. They’re not formal, certainly not wearing suits, but in every case their jackets reach down to the split of their pants. It’s not an Italian thing either. Old school outfits like Brooks Brothers boast the same cut. (Pop quiz: is this man wearing pleated or flat-front pants?) The classic tailor’s trick is that the fabric should reach down to your second knuckle, and you should be able to curl your fingers around it. We don’t swear by the rule, but it’s a pretty good baseline for Milan’s party line.

We’re not here to bash one or the other (although our own jackets are probably on the long side), but it’s something a gentleman should know before he strides boldly into a shop—or, more importantly, a tailor’s. If you want a jacket you can wear without feeling too much like a suit, the abbreviated version’s probably your best bet. If you use the word “grownup” a lot when describing your style…you’ll want to let it hang low.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom