This question on jacket length comes from our forums:
“What’s the difference between a 40R and 40S?”
Regular vs short jacket – which to choose, how much of a difference is there, and how to measure?
This brief guide will offer you some historical context, how to properly measure a jacket’s length, and a visual representation of the difference between a Regular and Short suit jacket.
Jacket Length Evolution:
Historically, the length of the suit jacket has run parallel to the cycles of fullness or trimness of suit cut.
The 1940s saw fuller-cut menswear. The trousers were worn at the natural waist or higher and the shoulders were significantly built up. In many cases, the jacket hem extended beyond the thumb.
This trend repeated itself, albeit to an extreme, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Look no further than the NBA players above!
Conversely, the ‘bum freezer‘ suits of the 1960s, popularized by the Beatles and British counterculture, saw a significantly trimmer silhouette. These featured slim trousers cropped around the ankle and jackets that barely covered the seat-if at all.
In the mid-to-late 2000s, the suit began to ‘shrink’ once more. It mirrored the slimmer T-shirts and ‘skinny’ jeans that dotted both the catwalk and the city crosswalk.
Somewhat infamously, the designer Thom Browne debuted suits with severely cropped trousers and jacket hems that sat high on the hips.
The 2010s have seen a gradual lengthening of the jacket to a more traditional position, with the tail resting just below the seat.
So, how should one measure a jacket?
Regular vs Short Jacket Length: Measured
To measure the rear length of a jacket, flip up the collar and run your tape measure down the center seam from the crease in the collar to the bottom hem.
This works best if the jacket is on a wooden hanger. But, it can also be done on any flat surface.
The jacket on the left is 1.5in shorter than the jacket on the right.
Now, let’s take a look at how each of these look on a model.
Off-the-Rack Regular vs Short Jacket Length: A Visual Comparison
The jacket on the top is an off-the-rack 38S. The Jacket on the bottom is an off-the-rack 38R. The Model stands 5’7.25″, or just over 170cm.
Which is the correct choice? As we have established, historical context is key. Neither the jacket on the left nor the right is ‘incorrect.’
However, the 38S jacket would be the better choice, for this particular person, for three reasons:
- From the front, the jacket cuts him, visually, in half, and elongates his shorter frame.
- At the rear, the jacket covers the seat, but does not extend so far that it curves back in down the thighs. The “Regular” length jacket has so much excess fabric for the wearing that it pools around the seat.
- And from the side, the jacket falls in the middle of thumb joint.
At this length, the jacket is visually flattering without being overly conservative or trendy.
These tips are more ‘guidelines’ than hard and fast rules.
A shorter man (under 5’8″) may consider taking a slightly shorter hemmed jacket. This, along with a higher rise on the trouser, gives the illusion of longer legs and greater height.
A very tall man with longer legs and shorter torso may consider a slightly longer jacket to ensure his silhouette is nicely proportional.
The jacket length is one of the critical components of fit. However, there are some work-arounds.
Ask Andy Standard Rule
The AskAndy Standard Rule is:
- Short: under 5’8″
- Regular: 5’8″ to 6′
- Long: 6′ to 6’4″
- Extra Long: over 6’4″
The jacket back should be long enough to cover your butt that is the lower curve of your rear with ½ inch to spare.
The “cup the fingers” method doesn’t really work since some men of equal height have arms that are longer.
Run a tape measure from the base of the collar to the bottom of the jacket in back. Then make sure that the measurement taken is the same for the measurement from the bottom of the back of the jacket to the floor.
A Final Note
If you find a jacket at an excellent bargain that is slightly too long, it can be made shorter. But, this is a risky, expensive tailoring endeavour, and it may not always work out.
This is especially if the hem of the jacket is curved. The ‘balance’ of the garment may be compromised if the hem is brought too close to the pockets.
You’ve got about an inch to work with, but we wouldn’t suggest bringing it up any more than that.
Hopefully this guide has been helpful in visualizing your decision!