“Following the rules can be good, but do so for your own reasons. Question everything.”
On Sleeve Length
Over the past couple of years my sense of style has taken several distinct turns. I think this is very normal for someone who is young on their journey into men’s clothing and I imagine that my tastes will continue to develop over time. One change that I’ve noticed in particular is my opinion on jacket sleeve length.
When I was first learning about tailored clothing I was slavishly committed to “the rules.” For this reason, I was always adamant on showing a healthy amount of shirt cuff under my suits and jackets in order to “let them know” that I was a stylish man. I was quick to pass judgement on those who wore their sleeves at or past their cuffs; if only they knew the mistake they were making!
As I spent more time thinking about the topic and learned from more purchases I began to question the meaning behind my sleeve length manifesto. Why is it that we are told to “show some cuff”? After some reflection I was able to think of two reasons for this behavior. The first reason is the obvious one: shirt cuffs provide contrast. If you are wearing a shirt and suit of different colors (and I hope you are) the small slice of shirt provides some much-needed contrast, especially if the suit you’re wearing is a solid color. This is similar to the effect of a simple pocket square neatly tucked into a breast pocket with a TV fold; a small amount of contrast aids in breaking up a large canvas.
The second reason came to me after wearing tailored clothing more often. I found that the shirt cuff gave me a helpful amount of gradation between my jacket sleeves and wrist. As a textbook ectomorph I dislike the stark contrast created between my small wrists and the much larger opening of the jacket sleeve. A shirt cuff nicely splits the difference and eases the transition from suit to skin. I found this to be a very compelling reason as to why I felt the need to keep suit sleeves away from my wrists.
Once I began to think of this rule in my own terms and not as a GQ commandment I started to reevaluate the way I approached it. If the reason for showing cuffs is not to prove that “you get it” but to instead complete a holistic look then perhaps a more subtle approach would be beneficial. I experimented with different sleeve lengths and quickly found that, as with most things in life, less is more. A sliver of shirt peeking out from under a sleeve effectively succeeds in the points above, but does so in a way that does not detract from the whole look (in the way that 1/2”-1” of shirt cuff might). Discovering my own reasons for following this rule has help solidify my preferences and made me more confident in what I look for.
Following the rules can be good, but do so for your own reasons. Question everything.