Q. I have read your column in our Sunday paper for a long time and very much enjoy the information. Here is my question. I buy good quality dress shirts with a 32/33-inch sleeve length and they fit perfectly. Often I see casual shirts in the S-M-L sizes that I really like, but when I buy their large size that fits me well, the sleeves are about 2 inches too long. I've tried having the sleeves shortened, but that was a disaster. Do I have abnormally short arms or is this just an average length for that size?
A. Good news! Your problem has a rather easy solution.
If you had said that the sleeves on the size "large" casual shirts were too short, you would indeed have a dilemma without a solution. Luckily, sleeves that are too long can be altered, but the tailor needs to be a pro.
First, let me explain something about how dress shirts and sport shirts are sized. Casual (sport) shirts come in small, medium and large; they are manufactured with an "average" sleeve length.
Dress shirts are marked with a specific neck and sleeve size, a 15-inch neck and a 33-inch sleeve, for example.
Traditionally, dress shirt makers produced a full range of sizes in every style and color. The better manufacturers still do, running from 14 ½/32, 14 ½/33, 15/32, 15/33, 15/34, 15/35, on up through 17 ½/36. Collar sizes are in half-inch measurements; sleeve lengths are in full inches.
But many dress shirt manufacturers have hit on a way to cut corners. They call it the "adjustable" sleeve length. They eliminate the need to produce shirts in every size and make just two sleeve lengths -- designated 32/33 or 34/35. So, instead of four accurately fitting 15s, you are given a choice of two, neither of which is likely to be precisely your size.
Here is where the "adjustable" feature comes in. An additional button has been sewn on the cuff, allowing the wearer to tighten or loosen the cuff to partially compensate for the sloppiness of the fit.
Stores need to stock a lot of dress shirts in their inventory because they come in collar sizes from 14½ up to 18 and also in different sleeve sizes. But with sport shirts, manufacturers have taken this cutting back to a much greater extreme. They make shirts in only three or four sizes: small, medium, large, and sometimes extra-large.
You are lucky that the sport shirts you buy in "large" fit you well in the body, even if the sleeves are too long. Your neck probably measures 16 inches or larger and your sleeves probably measure 32 ½. Those are not abnormal measurements.
But many men with neck sizes between 16 and 18 inches need a 34-inch or longer sleeve; so sport shirt manufacturers accommodate them by making a longer sleeve length.
You say that when you have had the sleeves shortened in the past, it was a disaster. This definitely does not have to be the case. Every tailor and dressmaker knows it is difficult to make clothes bigger or longer, but making them smaller or shorter is almost always possible.
Nevertheless, many tailors are not equipped to do a perfect job of altering shirts (they don't seem able to adjust the sleeve's open placket properly). With enough searching for local quality work, you might be able to find a nearby solution.
If you don't want to bother or you cannot find one, an excellent company exists in New York that provides mail order: L. Allmeier.
They are stupendous shirt surgeons. This one-of-a-kind shop tailors shirts in the most professional manner: Shortening sleeves, cutting down over-size collars, tapering the body for a slimmer fit, replacing worn collars and cuffs, monogramming, etc.
In fact, many of Manhattan's finest clothing stores send them their shirts to have the sleeves shortened. People send them shirts from all across the country: 39 W. 32nd St., Suite 901, New York, N.Y. 10001, or call (212) 243-7390. They charge $15.50 to shorten the sleeves to your exact length.
The next time you find a sport shirt you like, you can buy it and know that you won't need to roll up the sleeves to compensate for a poor fit.
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High Profile on 08/03/2014
Print Headline: His arms aren’t oddly short; those sleeves are extra long