Put Your Hands Up

Masculine Style February 6, 2013 Style 5 Comments on Put Your Hands Up

Last week I talked about how to wear a blazer with a pair of jeans. There’s a key element in making both a blazer and an actual suit jacket look good that I failed to mention because it deserves its own post – the armholes.

Most men will see that and think I’m being overly picky. Why would something so trivial as the shape and positioning of the armholes make a difference? Check this out.

Now, if you ignore the other factors in these two suits and how the top one fits so much better than the bottom, what’s the biggest difference you see? When Mr Modern Dork Suit lifts his arms the whole body of the jacket moves up with him. His shoulders don’t just dimple, they divot. The lapels spread and the chest pivots around the top button. It looks awful.

This happens because lower armholes have an oval shape and are attached further down the chest than their higher counterparts – which doesn’t allow for any separation of movement and creates the effect you see above. The irony is that lower armholes were created to make it easier and more comfortable for a man to put on and remove his jacket – a process that requires a total of 30 seconds per day. While lower armholes accomplish this goal, they actually make wearing the jacket for the subsequent eight hours much more uncomfortable.

Unfortunately low armholes are the current industry standard. You go into any department store to try on a suit or sport coat and all you will be able to find (unless you’re willing to drop a couple grand) are low, oval armholes. Thankfully though, a cultural resurgence of quality menswear is happening and more and more companies are starting to take notice. Places like J Crew are offering jackets with higher-than-average armholes to help lessen the disaster above.

The best way to get the ideal armhole position is to go custom. Made-to-measure companies like Suit Supply and Indochino don’t offer armhole choices as part of their ordering process, but they are happy to oblige higher armholes if you stipulate so when placing your order. Custom and bespoke clothiers however will almost exclusively make high armholes because it’s a symbol of their quality and craftsmanship.

The last alternative is the cheapest and easiest for the average man – shop vintage. If you’re lucky enough to find a pre-1960’s jacket in good condition, it’s most likely going to have higher armholes. Unlike waist suppression, sleeve length, sleeve circumference, etc. the position and shape of the armholes on a jacket cannot be altered by a tailor. So it’s better to find a vintage piece that doesn’t fit in alterable areas with high armholes than to find one that fits everywhere else with the lower monstrosities.

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About The Author

Tanner is the author of the manosphere's most popular style blog - Masculine Style and runs his own style consulting agency. His focus is helping slobs dress better and metrosexuals look like actual men.


  1. Virgle Kent February 6, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Should guys about that swole life go for lower arm holes though or should they get a bigger suit jacket with high arm holes and have them tailor it down. I recently tore my blue Benetton suit arm hole.

  2. Vincent February 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Great point. Too often I’ve tried on what looked like a nice blazer only to give it the old hands up and have the whole thing come up with them. Not pretty…

  3. K February 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    For any guys looking to order a custom suit, I’ve found moderntailor to be very good. They make shirts as well and have a wider selection of fabrics than I’ve found anywhere else online.

  4. Tanner February 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    VK – you want to work with your suit maker on it. The ideal is getting it as small as you can while still being able fit your arm in. If your sleeve ripped though, it’s probably because the yoke of the jacket is too small, not the armhole.

  5. Manel February 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Thank you very much for the enlightenment.
    Just bought my first suit and only now noticed about this inconvenient feature. Thought perhaps was bad quality of my suit, but now I see it was culture who’s taken the best of me one more time.

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