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Dress Shirt Sleeves Too Short | What To Have in Mind When Measuring

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Dress Shirt Sleeves Too Short

Are your dress shirt sleeves too short? In menswear, one of the most confusing topics is the correct sleeve length of dress shirts, jackets, and suits. How can you avoid sleeves that are too short? Having the right dress shirt sleeve length is a subtle mark of a menswear expert. 

Moreover, it reflects the attention to detail and dedication to getting the look just right. This is not an area where you can avoid paying attention, as too-short sleeve lengths will make your clothing look woefully ill-fitted. I’m here to fill you in on this essential aspect so that your attire looks neat and tidy.


The Importance of Sleeve Length

Unfortunately, sleeve length seems to be a gray area where anyone can claim to be an expert, no matter their expertise on dressing or lack thereof.

Usually, rules are quoted, and absolute measurements are provided, but most people forget that the appearance of the sleeve-to-cuff ratio is not just related to length. It is also about the harmony of the correct fit and the interaction between the two pieces of clothing.

Not only will your dress shirts fit you better, but you will have a noticeably sharper appearance. And when it comes to formal attire like dress shirts, each of these points is paramount. Of course, this doesn’t apply solely to dress shirts. 

If you’re sporting a jacket or an entire suit, sleeve length is equally important. As such, it’s important to get your dress shirt sleeve length correct before focusing your attention on other articles of clothing.

So to ensure that your sleeve length is suitable for you, we will look at how you can achieve the proper length. Interestingly, the cuff plays a significant role in this. So let’s look at a couple of cuff styles and discuss how to get the proper sleeve length.

Sounds good? All right, let’s get on with it.


Proper Dress Shirt Sleeve Length

What do you do if your dress shirt sleeves are too short? What if they are too long? What is the proper length? The best answer is that your shirt cuffs should fall at the base of your thumb, but this requires a lot of consideration to get it right. 

Basically, every feature of a formal dress shirt, from its tailoring and armhole size to cufflink position and cuff width, will affect the length of the shirt sleeve. So let’s review how each element affects the sleeve length of a dress shirt.

French Cuff Dress Shirts

Ideally, a French cuff shirt should always reach the base of your thumb, even when you’re moving. If your cuffs move when you raise your arms, there is a problem with your armholes or the length of your shirt. 

Your shirt sleeve holes may be too large, or they may be larger than your sleeves. Therefore, you should pull up the shirt sleeves when you move. To avoid this, choose shirt sleeves that are large enough to make you comfortable but small enough to maintain the correct length of shirt cuffs.

Let’s take a moment to observe a few considerations for French cuffs or double-cuff shirts in obtaining proper sleeve length.


Horseshoe Shape

French cuffs or double-cuff shirts should neither be too tight nor too loose. It should fit snugly so that the cuff forms a horseshoe shape around the wrist without straining or slipping over the thumb. This way, even if your sleeves are a bit long, the cuffs will not move up and down.


Proper Buttonhole Positioning

The buttonhole should be located in the middle of the cuff and close to the edge, otherwise, it’ll be too tight, and the extra folded fabric will form a strange wing on the cuff. In the UK, buttonholes are sometimes located in front of the cuffs to show more cufflinks. 

In continental Europe, especially in Germany, this feature usually only appears on evening shirts or morning dresses, rather than general daytime shirts. It’s entirely up to you what you prefer the most.

Of course, if you wear a watch, it’s important to make sure that you leave enough space under your cuffs for the largest watch you will wear with that particular shirt. 

Making the cuffs a little larger is a function that only custom shirts can achieve. Even so, there are sometimes huge differences in watch sizes, which means that some watches can only match some of your shirts.


Maintain Proper Cuff Width

If you have dress shirt cuffs that are so wide that you can slide your entire hands in with cufflinks, the cuffs will slip down and on your hands. This makes your dress shirt look way too big and often leaves unattractive wrinkles.

And if your shirt cuffs are too tight and narrow, it may make your jacket sleeves look too large (even if they are not) and lose their proportion to the shirt sleeves.

Barrel Cuff Dress Shirts

Narrower than French cuffs, button cuffs have fabric that wraps around the wrist and overlaps the button point. No jewelry is needed to close the cuffs, as the cuffs are already equipped with buttons. 

Ideally, you want a barrel cuff to fit your wrist tightly. With that said, most men underestimate this, which is why we see so many ill-fitted cuffs. If your barrel cuff is fitted correctly, however, you should only be able to fit one to two fingers between your wrist and the cuff. 

This tight fit helps to hold them in place while maintaining the trimmer contour that is essential for barrel cuffs. Shirt cuffs that are too wide will not cling to your wrists, and they will slide up and down on your arms, causing them to hang far from your hand or curl up under your jacket sleeves.

If you wear a watch, you will need some extra space. However, the fit should still be nicely trimmed. In fact, if you order custom, tailor-made dress shirts, they should be able to slightly widen the cuffs of the sleeve where you wear a watch.

This may be the best option for you if you have trouble with your dress shirt sleeve length. Custom dress shirts will help you avoid maintaining the steps outlined above, and your attire will look its best.


In Closing

By following the cuff style rules I discuss above, you will have a much easier time getting the perfect sleeve length in your dress shirts. And in doing so, you can avoid looking mismatched when sporting a jacket or suit.

If you don’t want to bother with your cuffs and would rather leave your dress shirt sleeve length in the hands of a qualified professional, you have many options for doing just that. Whether it’s through a local tailor in your area or an online service, you can be sure to look your best.

Yes, it’s an added expense. But if you don’t have the time or patience to achieve proper dress shirt sleeve length on your own, custom-made clothing is an excellent solution.



1. How do you fix shirt sleeves too short?

An effective way to lengthen the sleeves of an excessively short shirt is to use the bottom end of another shirt sleeve. In the winter, I wear white shirts underneath sweaters. They look great. Each shirt is made of similar material.

2. Can you lengthen dress shirt sleeves?

No. The jacket's sleeves have been reinforced with extra material. On the other hand, shirt sleeves do not. If you are one of those guys who is on the lanky side, you will need to buy tall sizes or order bespoke, since no one can extend your sleeves for you.

3. How do you know if your sleeves are too short?

The sleeves of your jacket are too short if you can see the seam between the shirt cuff and the sleeve. The sleeves of your jacket are excessively long if there is no visible shirt cuff. Certain clothing colleagues will ask about your height and adjust the sleeve length accordingly.