Q & A: Finding the Perfect Jacket Fit

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It’s time to start doing a new feature here on Street x Sprezza and that’s Q & As!  I know some of you have got some Q’s and I’ll try my best to supply the A’s.  This first one comes to me from Jacob, a reader who is concerned about finding a jacket that fits from eBay!  Since I buy a lot of my clothes online, I thought it best to tell him my process for buying these vintage pieces.  Here’s a hint: it’s all in the shoulders and length.

The Question

Hello all!

I write to you in hopes of gaining a little insight into how to buy a jacket off of eBay. I really admire all of your fits (they’re really spectacular!) and thus was hoping you could offer some advice since you’ve obviously got your measurements down. I struggle with finding jackets that have 17 3/4 inch shoulders and would fit a thirty seven inch chest. Problem is, I have no places near me or a jacket that fits that I can get proper measurements off of to cross reference. Is there any way to find that perfect fit?

Sincerely,

Jacob

The Answer

Jacob, I’ll be honest with you; buying a jacket off of eBay shouldn’t be for guys who are starting out!  It may be a great place to get some great pieces, like a 1960’s Ivy suit or a Ralph Lauren oxford shirt,  but this process can be costly and can result in true wastes of money.  There have been a few times in the past where I have purchased something too long or too big on eBay and have given it to my friends since I couldn’t possibly wear it.  If you truly want to start buying on eBay, you need to get your measurements down.  And there are two ways.

Since the first way (measuring your best fitting jacket) isn’t available to you, I’d suggest going to tailor and having him or her measure you!  You could also go to an alterationist or buy a tape measure and get your friends to measure you.  There are a bunch of online guides on how to find these measurements!  In my opinion, Indochino’s guide provides the best visuals.  Indochino’s guide provides the best visuals.  Just skip the part about the pants.

Measuring things like your shoulders and arm length will do wonders for you. Chest measurements can also help, but they’re only good for suits that are Off The Rack.  Many suits and jackets on eBay are tagged certain sizes, but remember to check the measurements before buying. Not every seller knows menswear and how to size it accordingly!  Be sure to also be aware of your height and find out what suit length works best for you.

The reason that I say shoulders and sleeve length is that these are the body measurements that matter the most; jacket length is also super important, but this can only be determined through looking at your height and trying on existing jackets (it can’t be determined by body measurements).  A typical eBay seller will have all these measurements (and more) on their listings!

Shoulders

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Smooth shoulder line and no divots in the upper sleeve.

Shoulders, as you know,  are one of the only parts of a suit that can’t be tailored.  They can sometimes be made smaller (never bigger), but that is a time-consuming process that will result in a large bill at the tailor.  Knowing your shoulder measurement is super important. In my experience, jacket shoulder size is roughly equivalent to your measured shoulder size.  My shoulders are about 17.5 inches and I buy jackets on eBay that have this detail in the description.  Since you are 17.75 inches, I’d still stick with 17.5 for safety’s sake.  Most sellers will approximate their measurements and always either list their shoulders as whole or half numbers.  You won’t get a true 17.75″ jacket shoulder unless someone is selling something bespoke.

Getting a jacket that doesn’t fit the shoulders is never a good look.  If they’re too big, they make you appear larger than you are and result in divots.  Here’s a graphic from Put This On that shows a bad shoulder.  Your goal is to have a smooth shoulder line, armhole, and upper sleeve like my picture above.

Some jackets will have padding and others will be “natural”.  If you’re familiar with the age or era of certain jackets, you can adjust your desired shoulder measurements accordingly.  For example, 1940’s jackets tend to have broad shoulders. Since I am a 17.5″, I may be able to fit into a 18″ shoulder jacket due to the padding and extended nature of the 1940’s style.  This isn’t always the case and I highly suggest to go for a jacket that matches your true shoulder size. 

Jacket Length 

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My jacket length works for my proportion and only slightly extends past the crotch of my pants.

Jacket length is also a detail that can’t be tailored.  You can always make a jacket shorter, but this can throw off the proportions of the jacket and isn’t advisable in most cases.  I’ve purchased a few jackets on eBay that were slightly too long and had them shortened; none of them were taken in more than an inch.  I have done one where it had a low button stance and I shortened it 1.5″ and it looked gross.  I never wear that suit anymore.

Unfortunately, you can’t measure your body and have a good jacket length.  Most eBay sellers measure the jacket length from the bottom of the collar to the bottom of the jacket. Thanks to having a lot of jackets, I’ve found that anywhere between a 28.5-30 inch length works best on my frame, but yours will definitely vary since everyone has different proportions!  My preferred jacket length should at least hit where my crotch is on my pants.  And always remember that a good jacket should cover your ass.

Sleeves 

Sleeves aren’t necessarily important unless they are too short, because you can always shorten and never lengthen.  In fact, that’s the entire theme of this article! You can’t work with what you can’t have!

You can always shorten sleeves unless they have functioning cuffs. Most jackets have false button holes, so a tailor can simply move the buttons when they shorten the sleeves.  A tailor can also extend a sleeve, but most jackets have less than an inch to let out.  The Ivy suit  had extremely short sleeves and I had to tell Mr. Tran to let them out as far as they could go.  I tend to roll up my sleeves under my suits, so it’s not too much of a problem for me. If you’re wondering, I tend to have my sleeves end at the wrist!

Chest 

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Chest measurement  helps a lot when you’re buying OTR from your favorite brands.  If you go to a Banana Republic or H&M and you try on some jackets, write down the size. That way you can simply search up “36R” or “40s” on eBay and find what already fits.  However, the truly great pieces don’t come from typical mall brands.

When it comes to vintage, chest measurements or jacket size don’t really matter since many of the measurements will contradict each other.  A Suit Supply 38s will have a certain jacket length, but a 38s in a 1960’s suit may be longer or have a larger chest size.  Don’t fret though, because you can always tailor the chest of a suit or jacket.

Like with the previous measurements, you can always make a jacket smaller but never bigger.  Always buy close to your true chest measurement, but don’t be discouraged if you find a jacket that fits the shoulders but seems too large or slightly small in chest.  If it is slightly small, you can always let out an inch or so (depending if there is an allowance).  If it is too large, you can get it taken in!  A lot of my vintage suits always fit the shoulders, but the chest measurement was always over an inch too big; a quick trip to the tailor and I had the jacket slimmed down!

Conclusion

You may not have a typical jacket to base your measurements on, but you can always measure yourself with a friend or at the tailor.  I always base my jacket purchases on two things : the shoulder measurement and the length.  These are the main two things that can’t be changed.  I take these measurements to heart and don’t buy a jacket unless it matches up.  Doing this takes sometime, but it also helps if you bring a tape measure and go to a store to figure out your general measurements.  If you get measured at the tailor or Menswear House, they will have trial stuff that you can wear to find out your general size.

Always look at the description of eBay listings to make sure you’re buying the right jacket or suit.  It may have typical OTR sizes in the name, but that doesn’t always match each jacket you find.  Don’t waste money.  Only buy things that match your measurements.  If they don’t have the measurements listed, ask for them!  Any seller who doesn’t provide measurements is not worth your time or money.

Once you’ve figured out your measurements and get a jacket that fits you, then you’ll be good to go!  I’ve bought lots of suits and jackets on eBay, so I know my measurements.  I never buy anything that deviates from my size. If I see a cool jacket with 18″ shoulders, I’ll avoid it.  Even though its 0.5 inches bigger than my shoulders, it isn’t worth it.  If a jacket has 17.5″ shoulders but a 31 length, I avoid it.  It’s too long and shortening is never advised!   Only buy what fits your shoulders and is in your correct length and proportions.  This way everything you own will be in that “perfect fit” you desire.

Note that this jacket from eBay did not fit well right off the rack! Here’s what it was before tailoring.

The chest was too big and sleeves too short, but the shoulders and jacket length are right on the money.  Going to the tailor resulted in the amazing garment you’ve seen in the previous images!

I hope this answered your question Jacob!

If any of you guys have more questions, feel free to email me at inquiry.streetxsprezza@gmail.com!  I’m always happy to help out with anything that you’re curious about.  If you want a faster answer, follow and DM me on my IG @ethannmwong

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza 

Photography by Jay V. 

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