Q & Answer: Can Leather Jackets be Altered?
Jeff asks: I’ve been trying to find a leather jacket, but all the ones I’ve come across are too big in the body. Do you know if these can be altered like a sport coat, and if so, is it generally considered a safe process?
Yes, but it depends. Like with suit jackets and sport coats, you should try to make sure your leather jacket fits you well across the shoulders and chest, and that the armholes are high enough. It’s not that these parts can’t be altered; it’s that the alteration can be expensive and risky. Things such as bringing in the body and shortening the sleeves, however, are much easier. 
That said, a lot depends on the specific leather jacket you have. Details such as ribbing, zippers, and pockets can get in the way of certain alterations. If the jacket has a very unique lining or insulation system, or if the panels were cut in a strange way, these can cause other complications. Whether it’s possible to get something done really depends on the jacket at hand. 
Whatever you do, make sure you go to someone who has a lot of experience working with leather jackets. One of the problems with these alterations is that you sometimes need special machinery. Cowhide and horsehide, as mentioned yesterday, are very, very thick, so you need special equipment to sew through them. And if a tailor ever messes up, undoing a seam can reveal some ugly holes, so mistakes are costly. To find someone good, you might want to call places that sell really nice jackets - be that a fashion boutique or a place that specializes in motorcycle leathers - and see if they have any recommendations. There are also some good recommendations in StyleForum’s archives. 
If in the end, should your leather jacket get ruined, take comfort in knowing your can chop off the sleeves and turn your jacket into a leather vest, then ride around town with it shirtless. The body might still not fit well, but I’m pretty sure nobody will say anything to your face. 

Q & Answer: Can Leather Jackets be Altered?

Jeff asks: I’ve been trying to find a leather jacket, but all the ones I’ve come across are too big in the body. Do you know if these can be altered like a sport coat, and if so, is it generally considered a safe process?

Yes, but it depends. Like with suit jackets and sport coats, you should try to make sure your leather jacket fits you well across the shoulders and chest, and that the armholes are high enough. It’s not that these parts can’t be altered; it’s that the alteration can be expensive and risky. Things such as bringing in the body and shortening the sleeves, however, are much easier. 

That said, a lot depends on the specific leather jacket you have. Details such as ribbing, zippers, and pockets can get in the way of certain alterations. If the jacket has a very unique lining or insulation system, or if the panels were cut in a strange way, these can cause other complications. Whether it’s possible to get something done really depends on the jacket at hand. 

Whatever you do, make sure you go to someone who has a lot of experience working with leather jackets. One of the problems with these alterations is that you sometimes need special machinery. Cowhide and horsehide, as mentioned yesterday, are very, very thick, so you need special equipment to sew through them. And if a tailor ever messes up, undoing a seam can reveal some ugly holes, so mistakes are costly. To find someone good, you might want to call places that sell really nice jackets - be that a fashion boutique or a place that specializes in motorcycle leathers - and see if they have any recommendations. There are also some good recommendations in StyleForum’s archives. 

If in the end, should your leather jacket get ruined, take comfort in knowing your can chop off the sleeves and turn your jacket into a leather vest, then ride around town with it shirtless. The body might still not fit well, but I’m pretty sure nobody will say anything to your face. 

Q & Answer: How Do I Eliminate the Blousing on a Shirt?
Gary writes: I just got a new job and am having to wear dress shirts for the first time. I went out this weekend and tried a bunch on, but all of them seem to blouse and billow over the top of my pants. Is there any way to fix this, or do I just have to keep searching for the perfect shirt?
Ready-to-wear clothing rarely fits perfectly off the rack. Remember, garments are made with an imaginary person in mind, usually someone that’s an “average” of the demographic the company is trying to target. You’re unlikely to be that exact average, so some alterations will likely be necessary.
The less you alter a garment, however, the better. So the first step is to find a shirt that fits as well as possible. After you find one and purchase it, take it to the tailors to have the sides slimmed down. This will take out most of the billowing, but be sure to not go too slim. You want to be able to sit down and have a full meal, after all.
If you’d like, you can also have darts put in. These will help reduce the fullness in the lower back. They’re good for most men, but if you stand with a bit of a hunch, note that they’ll accentuate your less than ideal posture (as they’ll create a bit of an S curve from your side profile). You can get them put into one shirt and see how you like the effect. They can be taken out afterwards if you don’t like them, but on many cotton shirts, this will leave some faint lines where the darts used to be. The job of taking in the sides and putting in darts should probably run you something like $15.
If you find that you still have some blousing even after alterations, you can try the military tuck. That’s when you tuck your shirt in straight, but then pinch the sides and pull them back to reduce fullness. You can see a simple guide on how to do it here.
A good alterations tailor and military tuck will solve most of the billowing, but if you’re striving for perfection, you’ll likely need to go custom. I’ve written a seven-part series on custom shirts, which you can read here.
This is one area where I find bespoke makers to be a bit better than most made-to-measure services. With a good bespoke tailor, you’re getting a custom pattern drafted from scratch. With made-to-measure, the company is usually altering an existing pattern through some computer program. The first, from my experience, allows you to more easily account things that might not be easily captured by simple measurements. For example, my tailor (Ascot Chang) lowered the waist point on my first pattern, so that narrowest part of the shirt aligned with the narrowest point of my torso. This allowed the shirt to better transition as it moved down to my hips, thus distributing the fullness perfectly when my shirt is tucked (like this). That kind of adjustment is often not possible through made-to-measure, and isn’t something an alterations tailor can do for you. 
Bespoke shirts are expensive, however. If you don’t mind the cost, I think they’re worth it. For most men though, a $15 alterations job and military tuck will deliver most of what they need. 
(Photo via GQ)

Q & Answer: How Do I Eliminate the Blousing on a Shirt?

Gary writes: I just got a new job and am having to wear dress shirts for the first time. I went out this weekend and tried a bunch on, but all of them seem to blouse and billow over the top of my pants. Is there any way to fix this, or do I just have to keep searching for the perfect shirt?

Ready-to-wear clothing rarely fits perfectly off the rack. Remember, garments are made with an imaginary person in mind, usually someone that’s an “average” of the demographic the company is trying to target. You’re unlikely to be that exact average, so some alterations will likely be necessary.

The less you alter a garment, however, the better. So the first step is to find a shirt that fits as well as possible. After you find one and purchase it, take it to the tailors to have the sides slimmed down. This will take out most of the billowing, but be sure to not go too slim. You want to be able to sit down and have a full meal, after all.

If you’d like, you can also have darts put in. These will help reduce the fullness in the lower back. They’re good for most men, but if you stand with a bit of a hunch, note that they’ll accentuate your less than ideal posture (as they’ll create a bit of an S curve from your side profile). You can get them put into one shirt and see how you like the effect. They can be taken out afterwards if you don’t like them, but on many cotton shirts, this will leave some faint lines where the darts used to be. The job of taking in the sides and putting in darts should probably run you something like $15.

If you find that you still have some blousing even after alterations, you can try the military tuck. That’s when you tuck your shirt in straight, but then pinch the sides and pull them back to reduce fullness. You can see a simple guide on how to do it here.

A good alterations tailor and military tuck will solve most of the billowing, but if you’re striving for perfection, you’ll likely need to go custom. I’ve written a seven-part series on custom shirts, which you can read here.

This is one area where I find bespoke makers to be a bit better than most made-to-measure services. With a good bespoke tailor, you’re getting a custom pattern drafted from scratch. With made-to-measure, the company is usually altering an existing pattern through some computer program. The first, from my experience, allows you to more easily account things that might not be easily captured by simple measurements. For example, my tailor (Ascot Chang) lowered the waist point on my first pattern, so that narrowest part of the shirt aligned with the narrowest point of my torso. This allowed the shirt to better transition as it moved down to my hips, thus distributing the fullness perfectly when my shirt is tucked (like this). That kind of adjustment is often not possible through made-to-measure, and isn’t something an alterations tailor can do for you. 

Bespoke shirts are expensive, however. If you don’t mind the cost, I think they’re worth it. For most men though, a $15 alterations job and military tuck will deliver most of what they need. 

(Photo via GQ)

Should I Cuff My Trousers?
Cuffs (called turnups by the Brits) are a curious phenomenon. They seem to have emerged from country clothing - an innovation to keep one’s trousers out of the much and mire. They grew popular, though, for entirely different reasons. Cuffs add a bit of visual interest to the end of your trousers, but perhaps most importantly they also add some physical weight, which helps your pants hang attractively. They even help your trousers hold their crease.
To Cuff Or Not To Cuff?
So: should you cuff your pants? It’s really a matter of personal choice. The traditional answer is that cuffs go with pleated trousers, and plain hems with flat fronts. To some extent, that’s true. I think a pleated pant really cries out for cuffs. The American traditionalists, though, have long cuffed their flat-front pants. I say cuff pleated trousers, and decide whether to cuff flat-fronts based on personal taste.
What Should I Cuff? When Should I Cuff?
There’s also the matter of formality and aesthetics. A cuffless pant is generally more modern and sleeker. A cuffed pant is more traditional and a bit fuddy-duddy. (That gets mixed up a bit when the avant-gardists are also pseudo-traditionalists, like Thom Browne.) Thanks in no small part to Mr. Browne, fashion has swung towards cuffs. I personally prefer cuffs - for the weight and visual reasons listed above - so I’m happy with that turn of events. I’d just caution against cuffs on casual pants. They fit on what Derek has called “dress chinos,” but on run-of-the-mill chinos, they look out of place.
What’s Height Got To Do With It?
Traditionally, alterationists have advised taller men to wear cuffs, and shorter ones to avoid them. I’d say that while shorter men might do well to avoid a large break when they’re chosing their trouser length, they should feel fine wearing cuffs. Traditionally, cuffs are worn with at least a small break, but recent fashion has allowed for cuffs worn without break. Our friend MistahWong, pictured above, is 5’7” and wears breakless two inch cuffs as a matter of course. He always looks great.
How Big Should My Cuffs Be?
If you chose cuffs, what size should they be? The boldest fashion-y types are proclaiming to the world their two inch cuffs. I’m fine with that (I like cuffs, after all), but two inches is really a sign around your ankles that says “I AM TRENDY, SEE?” If you’re cool with that, I won’t stop you from wearing two inchers.
Traditionally, the size of the cuff is determined by the size of the man. This is reasonable, I think. I personally wear 1 3/4” cuffs, and I’m a long-legged 6’3”. I think they look strong but not outrageous. 1 1/2” is also a very reasonable choice. I’m not personally a huge fan of cuffs smaller than that, but it’s your choice - some choose 1 1/4” cuffs. Look and see what looks like it fits your body and your sensibilities. After all, the very short (and very sharply dressed) Matthew Fan wears two inchers, and he looks great, but he’s self-assured enough to carry off a statement.
So, Let’s Summarize!
Cuffs are a personal choice.
I prefer cuffs on pleated trousers - they help the trouser hang better. On flat fronts, it’s your call.
Don’t cuff your most casual pants.
Shorter men should be careful not to wear their pants too long, but shouldn’t worry too much about wearing cuffs.
There was a time when all cuffed pants had a full break; that’s no longer requisite.
2” is huge, 1 3/4” is big, 1 1/2” is moderate, 1 1/4” is small. Wear what looks and feels right.
Photo: Most Exerent

Should I Cuff My Trousers?

Cuffs (called turnups by the Brits) are a curious phenomenon. They seem to have emerged from country clothing - an innovation to keep one’s trousers out of the much and mire. They grew popular, though, for entirely different reasons. Cuffs add a bit of visual interest to the end of your trousers, but perhaps most importantly they also add some physical weight, which helps your pants hang attractively. They even help your trousers hold their crease.

To Cuff Or Not To Cuff?

So: should you cuff your pants? It’s really a matter of personal choice. The traditional answer is that cuffs go with pleated trousers, and plain hems with flat fronts. To some extent, that’s true. I think a pleated pant really cries out for cuffs. The American traditionalists, though, have long cuffed their flat-front pants. I say cuff pleated trousers, and decide whether to cuff flat-fronts based on personal taste.

What Should I Cuff? When Should I Cuff?

There’s also the matter of formality and aesthetics. A cuffless pant is generally more modern and sleeker. A cuffed pant is more traditional and a bit fuddy-duddy. (That gets mixed up a bit when the avant-gardists are also pseudo-traditionalists, like Thom Browne.) Thanks in no small part to Mr. Browne, fashion has swung towards cuffs. I personally prefer cuffs - for the weight and visual reasons listed above - so I’m happy with that turn of events. I’d just caution against cuffs on casual pants. They fit on what Derek has called “dress chinos,” but on run-of-the-mill chinos, they look out of place.

What’s Height Got To Do With It?

Traditionally, alterationists have advised taller men to wear cuffs, and shorter ones to avoid them. I’d say that while shorter men might do well to avoid a large break when they’re chosing their trouser length, they should feel fine wearing cuffs. Traditionally, cuffs are worn with at least a small break, but recent fashion has allowed for cuffs worn without break. Our friend MistahWong, pictured above, is 5’7” and wears breakless two inch cuffs as a matter of course. He always looks great.

How Big Should My Cuffs Be?

If you chose cuffs, what size should they be? The boldest fashion-y types are proclaiming to the world their two inch cuffs. I’m fine with that (I like cuffs, after all), but two inches is really a sign around your ankles that says “I AM TRENDY, SEE?” If you’re cool with that, I won’t stop you from wearing two inchers.

Traditionally, the size of the cuff is determined by the size of the man. This is reasonable, I think. I personally wear 1 3/4” cuffs, and I’m a long-legged 6’3”. I think they look strong but not outrageous. 1 1/2” is also a very reasonable choice. I’m not personally a huge fan of cuffs smaller than that, but it’s your choice - some choose 1 1/4” cuffs. Look and see what looks like it fits your body and your sensibilities. After all, the very short (and very sharply dressed) Matthew Fan wears two inchers, and he looks great, but he’s self-assured enough to carry off a statement.

So, Let’s Summarize!

  • Cuffs are a personal choice.
  • I prefer cuffs on pleated trousers - they help the trouser hang better. On flat fronts, it’s your call.
  • Don’t cuff your most casual pants.
  • Shorter men should be careful not to wear their pants too long, but shouldn’t worry too much about wearing cuffs.
  • There was a time when all cuffed pants had a full break; that’s no longer requisite.
  • 2” is huge, 1 3/4” is big, 1 1/2” is moderate, 1 1/4” is small. Wear what looks and feels right.

Photo: Most Exerent

Getting Your Buttons Down
Knowing how to properly sew on a button is perhaps one of the most useful clothes-related skills you can pick up. Buttons occasionally fall off even the best of garments, and need replacing, or sometimes we wish to swap out the manufacturer’s buttons for something else. A mid-tier cardigan, for example, can be made much better looking if you change out the plastic buttons for some horn ones.
There are many good instructional guides online that’ll show you how to sew on a button. I like these by Nicola Donati and Savile Row tailor Matthew Farnes. Valet also has a nice "toothpick trick" for coats. The things you’ll need before practicing with these guides are quite basic: some button thread, a sewing needle, some scissors, and, of course, your new buttons. You may also want to have a seam ripper to take off your old buttons, and a thimble if you’re trying to sew through tough cloth. All these things should be available at your local supermarket for two or three bucks each. Once you have what you need, it takes about ten minutes to learn how to sew on your first button, and maybe a few tries before you get the technique down.
As to where you can score some nice buttons, I recommend Britex if you’re in San Francisco. They hold sales twice a year, which you can find out about by signing up for their newsletter in-store. In Los Angeles, there’s B. Black & Sons, and in New York City there’s Tender Buttons (arguably the most famous button store in America). For online sources, you can turn to Isles Textile Group, Hwa Seng Textile, and MJ Trimming. I personally prefer buying things in a brick-and-mortar store, especially with things that can have so much visual variation such as horn or mother-of-pearl buttons, but if you don’t have a good button store near you, you still have options.
For something truly affordable, try checking thrift stores. Something made by a reputable company such as Oxxford, for example, might be damaged and can be had for under $20. These will have all the manufacturer’s original buttons, which should be made from high-quality horn or metal. A smart way to pick up nice buttons for a fraction of the cost you’d spend otherwise. 

Getting Your Buttons Down

Knowing how to properly sew on a button is perhaps one of the most useful clothes-related skills you can pick up. Buttons occasionally fall off even the best of garments, and need replacing, or sometimes we wish to swap out the manufacturer’s buttons for something else. A mid-tier cardigan, for example, can be made much better looking if you change out the plastic buttons for some horn ones.

There are many good instructional guides online that’ll show you how to sew on a button. I like these by Nicola Donati and Savile Row tailor Matthew Farnes. Valet also has a nice "toothpick trick" for coats. The things you’ll need before practicing with these guides are quite basic: some button thread, a sewing needle, some scissors, and, of course, your new buttons. You may also want to have a seam ripper to take off your old buttons, and a thimble if you’re trying to sew through tough cloth. All these things should be available at your local supermarket for two or three bucks each. Once you have what you need, it takes about ten minutes to learn how to sew on your first button, and maybe a few tries before you get the technique down.

As to where you can score some nice buttons, I recommend Britex if you’re in San Francisco. They hold sales twice a year, which you can find out about by signing up for their newsletter in-store. In Los Angeles, there’s B. Black & Sons, and in New York City there’s Tender Buttons (arguably the most famous button store in America). For online sources, you can turn to Isles Textile Group, Hwa Seng Textile, and MJ Trimming. I personally prefer buying things in a brick-and-mortar store, especially with things that can have so much visual variation such as horn or mother-of-pearl buttons, but if you don’t have a good button store near you, you still have options.

For something truly affordable, try checking thrift stores. Something made by a reputable company such as Oxxford, for example, might be damaged and can be had for under $20. These will have all the manufacturer’s original buttons, which should be made from high-quality horn or metal. A smart way to pick up nice buttons for a fraction of the cost you’d spend otherwise. 

Sleeve Pitch

StyleForum member tailorgod has a nice animation to illustrate what is meant when someone says that a jacket’s sleeve pitch is off. Sleeve pitch refers to the angle at which a sleeve is inserted into an armhole. If the curve and angle of the sleeve don’t harmonize with the way the wearer’s arms naturally hang, you’ll get unsightly bagging at the front or back of the sleeve (usually the back). There’s an angle that fits most men, but some people have slightly unusual posture. Military men, for example, often stand more erect, and older gentlemen can have a bit of a stoop. One tailor told me that he’s seeing younger people these days with the same curved shoulders, which he suspects is from being at a computer all day. In any case, if you have such posture issues, you may need to have your sleeves rehung.

To see if your sleeves hang correctly, just put your jacket on and stand sideways next to a mirror. If your sleeves look like this in the third photo, they’re perfect. If they hang like this, you may need to have them adjusted. How easy or complicated (read: cheap or expensive) this job will be depends on a number of issues, which are best addressed through your local tailor.

To be sure, sleeve pitch is probably the last thing one needs to worry about with off-the-rack clothing. Most men’s problems aren’t due to an incorrectly set sleeve, but rather a jacket that is too baggy or too slim. Or there are stylistic issues, such as the gorge or buttoning point being too high, or jacket being too short. Any of these are more likely to make you look bad in a suit or sport coat than an incorrectly pitched sleeve.

Still when trying on a jacket, it may be good to pay attention to yet another aspect of fit: whether or not the sleeves harmonize with the way your arms naturally hang. 

(Illustrations by tailorgod. Thank you tailorgod)

Q and Answer: How Should I Wear Suspenders?
Joe asks: I really want to start wearing suspenders for work. It is a shirt and tie shop but not necessarily the suit crowd. I have one pair of pants in my closet of 20 that actually has buttons. Do I really have to replace the other 19 pair of pants or can I get the clip on suspenders?
We’re big proponents of suspenders here at Put This On. As a general rule, they’re more comfortable than a belt, reduce the amount that you have to mess with your pants, and pretty much keep your shirt tucked. They’re not for everyone, but I certainly wear them as frequently as reasonably possible. Suspenders are particularly comfortable if you carry a bit of weight in the middle, since your gut (be it small or large) doesn’t push down your trousers. (One note: generally in the UK, what Americans call suspenders are called braces. Typically “braces” is a bit of a fancier way of saying it, but generally, they’re interchangeable.)
There is a catch, though: suspenders are generally underwear, not outerwear. Nobody wants to be a Larry King. Suspenders are best hidden under a coat, or at the very least a sweater. Some say no one but you and your beloved should see your suspenders. I’m not that dogmatic - I take off my coat when I sit down to work - but I think they should be worn in a situation where you can reasonably expect that they’ll mostly be covered by your jacket.
Furthermore, suspenders work best with higher-waisted trousers that fit a bit more loosely around the waist than their belted counterparts. Belted pants must grip your hips with sheer friction. Pants with braces hang cleanly from the shoulders. The best pants for suspenders, of course, are fish-tailed pants. They’re designed to take the back central buttons a bit higher than the waistline, which gives a clean line to the back of the trousers. You probably won’t find those, though, unless you’re buying custom clothes.
As a result of this convergence of small reasons, most ready-to-wear clothing simply isn’t prepared to accept braces.
So where does that leave you?
First of all, clip-on suspenders are only appropriate if you’re on a work site. Even then, you can get a pair of Carharrts with metal fasteners for your suspenders that’ll hold those pants steadier than any clip. In an office environment, do not wear clip-on suspenders.
Second, you can convert non-suspender-supporting pants into ones that will work with your choice of holder-upper by having a tailor or alterationist add a few buttons. Again, this is more appropriate for pants with a longer rise and higher waist, but it’ll work on pretty much any pants. It’ll also be cheap - maybe $5 or $10. You can even have them remove the belt loops while they’re at it if you like.
Most likely, your best bet will be to wear a mix of belts and braces for the time being, as you add buttons to your trousers and add trousers designed for braces.
(Photo by Akeg)

Q and Answer: How Should I Wear Suspenders?

Joe asks: I really want to start wearing suspenders for work. It is a shirt and tie shop but not necessarily the suit crowd. I have one pair of pants in my closet of 20 that actually has buttons. Do I really have to replace the other 19 pair of pants or can I get the clip on suspenders?


We’re big proponents of suspenders here at Put This On. As a general rule, they’re more comfortable than a belt, reduce the amount that you have to mess with your pants, and pretty much keep your shirt tucked. They’re not for everyone, but I certainly wear them as frequently as reasonably possible. Suspenders are particularly comfortable if you carry a bit of weight in the middle, since your gut (be it small or large) doesn’t push down your trousers. (One note: generally in the UK, what Americans call suspenders are called braces. Typically “braces” is a bit of a fancier way of saying it, but generally, they’re interchangeable.)

There is a catch, though: suspenders are generally underwear, not outerwear. Nobody wants to be a Larry King. Suspenders are best hidden under a coat, or at the very least a sweater. Some say no one but you and your beloved should see your suspenders. I’m not that dogmatic - I take off my coat when I sit down to work - but I think they should be worn in a situation where you can reasonably expect that they’ll mostly be covered by your jacket.

Furthermore, suspenders work best with higher-waisted trousers that fit a bit more loosely around the waist than their belted counterparts. Belted pants must grip your hips with sheer friction. Pants with braces hang cleanly from the shoulders. The best pants for suspenders, of course, are fish-tailed pants. They’re designed to take the back central buttons a bit higher than the waistline, which gives a clean line to the back of the trousers. You probably won’t find those, though, unless you’re buying custom clothes.

As a result of this convergence of small reasons, most ready-to-wear clothing simply isn’t prepared to accept braces.

So where does that leave you?

First of all, clip-on suspenders are only appropriate if you’re on a work site. Even then, you can get a pair of Carharrts with metal fasteners for your suspenders that’ll hold those pants steadier than any clip. In an office environment, do not wear clip-on suspenders.

Second, you can convert non-suspender-supporting pants into ones that will work with your choice of holder-upper by having a tailor or alterationist add a few buttons. Again, this is more appropriate for pants with a longer rise and higher waist, but it’ll work on pretty much any pants. It’ll also be cheap - maybe $5 or $10. You can even have them remove the belt loops while they’re at it if you like.

Most likely, your best bet will be to wear a mix of belts and braces for the time being, as you add buttons to your trousers and add trousers designed for braces.

(Photo by Akeg)

Q and Answer: Elbow Patches
Shane asks:  I would love to hear some discussion on blazers / sports coats and the use of elbow patches.  Yes or no?
Several folks have written me about elbow patches lately, so I thought I’d offer an answer.
Traditionally, elbow patches patched the elbows of coats. After all, the elbow, being both a flex point and a point likely to be abraded, is the part of a coat that wears out quickest. Elbow getting thin? Want to keep the coat? Patch it. There’s no doubt that patching a worn elbow is kosher. My favorite cashmere sweater has patched elbows, and I’ve got an old herringbone tweed coat that’s going to need some soon.
Add elbow patches to an old coat, and it instantly becomes more casual. Indeed, it’s a maneuver that only works on coats that are inherently casual to begin with - you see patches on tweed, corduroy and the occasional flannel blazer, but you’d never seen them on a pinstriped business suit. The patched elbow is suitable for the man who lives in a casual sportcoat but values thrift. Hence the professorial associations.
In the last few years, patched elbows have been seen on ready-to-wear more frequently. Brands like Brunello Cucinelli have added patches to blazers and sportcoats with great abandon. It’s part of the re-casualization of tailored clothing, a specialty of the Italians of late. At its best, it can be a nice color and textural contrast to the primary fabric. Some folks have gone a bit crazy with the idea.
Adding patches to an existing coat is an inexpensive alteration, but be careful not to go too wild, or it can look affected.
(photo by Garry Knight)

Q and Answer: Elbow Patches

Shane asks:  I would love to hear some discussion on blazers / sports coats and the use of elbow patches.  Yes or no?

Several folks have written me about elbow patches lately, so I thought I’d offer an answer.

Traditionally, elbow patches patched the elbows of coats. After all, the elbow, being both a flex point and a point likely to be abraded, is the part of a coat that wears out quickest. Elbow getting thin? Want to keep the coat? Patch it. There’s no doubt that patching a worn elbow is kosher. My favorite cashmere sweater has patched elbows, and I’ve got an old herringbone tweed coat that’s going to need some soon.

Add elbow patches to an old coat, and it instantly becomes more casual. Indeed, it’s a maneuver that only works on coats that are inherently casual to begin with - you see patches on tweed, corduroy and the occasional flannel blazer, but you’d never seen them on a pinstriped business suit. The patched elbow is suitable for the man who lives in a casual sportcoat but values thrift. Hence the professorial associations.

In the last few years, patched elbows have been seen on ready-to-wear more frequently. Brands like Brunello Cucinelli have added patches to blazers and sportcoats with great abandon. It’s part of the re-casualization of tailored clothing, a specialty of the Italians of late. At its best, it can be a nice color and textural contrast to the primary fabric. Some folks have gone a bit crazy with the idea.

Adding patches to an existing coat is an inexpensive alteration, but be careful not to go too wild, or it can look affected.

(photo by Garry Knight)

Un-Lining A Jacket
A week or so ago, I picked up this jacket at a thrift store. It didn’t need too much adjustment to fit well, and it filled a hole in my wardrobe - a linen blazer. Since I live in Los Angeles, staying comfortable in the summer is a priority, and linen does the trick.
There was only one problem: the jacket was fully lined. Linen is cool and breathes well. The same cannot be said of the materials used to line coats, like bemberg, an early plant-based synthetic. Lining fabrics are designed to be slick and lightweight, but they’re not designed to be cool in warm weather. Lined linen is fine when the temperature’s 75 or 80, but I wanted a coat I could wear when it was 85 or 90, so I took the coat to my tailor for some alteration.
The lining in the shoulders and sleeves is functional. Without lining there, your coat can hang up on your shirt, causing rumpling, bumps and other unsightly malformations. It’s also functional in the chest, where it performs the same duties, and also covers up the structure of the chestpiece and pockets. There are totally unstructured coats that have almost none of this extra stuff in the chest, but this wasn’t one of them, so I wanted to retain that lining.
The one place where the lining isn’t functional at all is on the back. Manufacturers use lining there for a uniform look, and because it’s cheaper to line the back fully than to clean up the insides to look presentable. Luckily, I’d bought the coat for $25, and wasn’t averse to putting a bit more money into it to make it summer-friendly.
I had my tailor remove the lining along most of the back. This involved cutting away the lining, but also “taping” the now-visible seams. This keeps them from catching on the shirt and makes them look finished. He left a strap across the lower back to help the coat retain its shape, but that’s optional. The result was a coat with dramatically less lining that will keep me much cooler in the summer.
This isn’t just a great option for summer, either. Less lining in a jacket means you can wear heavier fabrics in warmer temperatures. Heavier fabrics almost always look and drape better than lighter, finer ones. Unless it’s winter and you’re trying to maximize warmth, a less-lined coat is more versatile and comfortable. That’s why jackets were rarely fully lined until mass manufacturing prevailed over traditional tailoring in the 60s.
My tailor charged me a bargain price for the service - $35. Since it’s not a frequent request, prices vary, but generally cutting out the back and taping the seams will run you somewhere around $50. When the mercury climbs here in LA, I’m sure I’ll be glad I spent the money.

Un-Lining A Jacket

A week or so ago, I picked up this jacket at a thrift store. It didn’t need too much adjustment to fit well, and it filled a hole in my wardrobe - a linen blazer. Since I live in Los Angeles, staying comfortable in the summer is a priority, and linen does the trick.

There was only one problem: the jacket was fully lined. Linen is cool and breathes well. The same cannot be said of the materials used to line coats, like bemberg, an early plant-based synthetic. Lining fabrics are designed to be slick and lightweight, but they’re not designed to be cool in warm weather. Lined linen is fine when the temperature’s 75 or 80, but I wanted a coat I could wear when it was 85 or 90, so I took the coat to my tailor for some alteration.

The lining in the shoulders and sleeves is functional. Without lining there, your coat can hang up on your shirt, causing rumpling, bumps and other unsightly malformations. It’s also functional in the chest, where it performs the same duties, and also covers up the structure of the chestpiece and pockets. There are totally unstructured coats that have almost none of this extra stuff in the chest, but this wasn’t one of them, so I wanted to retain that lining.

The one place where the lining isn’t functional at all is on the back. Manufacturers use lining there for a uniform look, and because it’s cheaper to line the back fully than to clean up the insides to look presentable. Luckily, I’d bought the coat for $25, and wasn’t averse to putting a bit more money into it to make it summer-friendly.

I had my tailor remove the lining along most of the back. This involved cutting away the lining, but also “taping” the now-visible seams. This keeps them from catching on the shirt and makes them look finished. He left a strap across the lower back to help the coat retain its shape, but that’s optional. The result was a coat with dramatically less lining that will keep me much cooler in the summer.

This isn’t just a great option for summer, either. Less lining in a jacket means you can wear heavier fabrics in warmer temperatures. Heavier fabrics almost always look and drape better than lighter, finer ones. Unless it’s winter and you’re trying to maximize warmth, a less-lined coat is more versatile and comfortable. That’s why jackets were rarely fully lined until mass manufacturing prevailed over traditional tailoring in the 60s.

My tailor charged me a bargain price for the service - $35. Since it’s not a frequent request, prices vary, but generally cutting out the back and taping the seams will run you somewhere around $50. When the mercury climbs here in LA, I’m sure I’ll be glad I spent the money.

Boys Becoming Men, Men Becoming Wolves, Pants Becoming Shorts
If you’re having a hard time finding just the right shorts for this summer’s hottest days, remember: shorts are generally just pants with shorter legs. You can transform pants into shorts pretty simply, for about ten bucks.
First, pick the pants. You can use pants that aren’t the right length or have a stain below the knee for maximum efficiency, or you can just pick something that fits right around the waist and thigh but isn’t available in shorts form.
Then, cut them off (regular scissors are fine) two inches or so below thelowest point you think you might want them “shortsified.” At the bottom of your knee should work.
With pins (safety or straight), pin them to the inseam length you like by folding the excess fabric under. We made the first cut and use pins so that it’s easy to play around and see what looks best.
Once you’ve got them pinned, take them to your tailor or alterationist, and ask him to hem them at that point. A plain hem should cost you about ten or twelve bucks. If you prefer a cuff - which is a trendy on shorts that are a bit less casual - that’ll cost a bit more, and you should make sure to have a couple extra inches of fabric. For a cuff, you’ll need a little more than double the length of the cuff (like 5” for a 2” cuff.)
Suddenly, as if by magic, your pants have become shorts.
(Illustration via StyleGirlfriend - who advocates shorter shorts if you’ve got the legs.)

Boys Becoming Men, Men Becoming Wolves, Pants Becoming Shorts

If you’re having a hard time finding just the right shorts for this summer’s hottest days, remember: shorts are generally just pants with shorter legs. You can transform pants into shorts pretty simply, for about ten bucks.

  1. First, pick the pants. You can use pants that aren’t the right length or have a stain below the knee for maximum efficiency, or you can just pick something that fits right around the waist and thigh but isn’t available in shorts form.
  2. Then, cut them off (regular scissors are fine) two inches or so below thelowest point you think you might want them “shortsified.” At the bottom of your knee should work.
  3. With pins (safety or straight), pin them to the inseam length you like by folding the excess fabric under. We made the first cut and use pins so that it’s easy to play around and see what looks best.
  4. Once you’ve got them pinned, take them to your tailor or alterationist, and ask him to hem them at that point. A plain hem should cost you about ten or twelve bucks. If you prefer a cuff - which is a trendy on shorts that are a bit less casual - that’ll cost a bit more, and you should make sure to have a couple extra inches of fabric. For a cuff, you’ll need a little more than double the length of the cuff (like 5” for a 2” cuff.)

Suddenly, as if by magic, your pants have become shorts.

(Illustration via StyleGirlfriend - who advocates shorter shorts if you’ve got the legs.)