Monday, April 28, 2008

It's All in the Armholes

I was recently asked what the difference was between high and low armholes. There is much, like the difference between day and night.

Armholes can make or break a suit jacket. Unfortunately for us today most modern jackets fail when it comes to armholes. Suits today are made with low armholes. This means the armhole is larger and goes down further on the body of the jacket. Sure, low armholes make it easier to put the jacket on and take it off but try lifting your arms above your head and you're practically smothered by the jacket. The lapels bow out, the body spreads, the shoulders rise and the cuff moves down the arm. It's not very comfortable nor useful. And it's ugly.

Just take a look at this modern suit jacket with low armholes.

Unattractive and not very useful at all. Uncomfortable, infact.

Now take a look at this suit jacket from the 1920s/early 1930s with high armholes.

Vintage suits nearly always had high armholes. High armholes are cut higher under the armpit and don't deform the jacket when the arms rise. Truly high armholes might be a tad uncomfortable (tight under the armpits) at first for anyone who normally wears jackets with low armholes but they are amazed when they lift their arms and the jacket stays in place.

But high armholes are a lost art. Today practically no off-the-rack suits and very few custom jackets are made with high armholes. Perhaps this is due to the ease that low armholed jackets slip on and off (high armholed jackets are a bit more difficult, usually one arm at a time). Yet jackets are meant to be worn and if a jacket is uncomfortable or badly made (low armholes are a bad design) I do not want to wear it. I take it off. At least that part is easy thanks to the low armholes...

Low armholes are the main reason modern jackets just don't seem to fit even when they are well cut. A jacket that is perfectly shaped to your body will still feel weird and wear wrong if it has low armholes. Hopefully the pendulum will swing back to high armholes like back before armholes went bad in the 1960s.

That's why Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were able to dance around all day and still be comfortable in their suits. It's all in the armholes.


Xavier said...

Excellent Stuff! I thought I was the only one who lamented this!

You can still get high armholes in a Hong Kong suit if you ask for them. Don't go cheap though, or the tailor will make up the difference in thread.

Will said...

Cheers, X.

It's good to see someone else who knows the finer points to well fitting jackets and such. Maybe more will see too.

Thanks for the tip.

Unknown said...

Thanks for reassuring me that I'm not crazy and that armholes should fit snugly and not cavernously!

I bought a vintage suit today, and I couldn't figure out why it was so different than my Banana Republic'esque suits... of course it was the armholes!


Shane said...

Nice post! I always noticed that suit jackets bunch up as soon as you raise your arms, but never really thought about why this should be the case.

Unknown said...

Great post. Let's bring back the high armholes!

Laura said...

Is there anyone making a modern suit with high arm holes?

Unknown said...

Bonobos makes high armholes. I just got their Alma Mater Blazer and thought I got the wrong size until I called them and they explained the high armholes thing.

Dale Schaar said...

Every "Lou Myles" suit I owned featured high armholes. My preferred model was "The Blade" drape cut. Very much enjoyed pointing out this detail and its benefits to my clients, as they were choosing their next wardrobe addition. Converted many to this brand. Unfortunately, Mr.Lou Myles passed on, I think 5 years ago. Trust the family business is still carrying on with the same traditions as Mr. Lou Myles had: wonderful shoulders and high armholes, among other details.


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