To shorten a sleeve from the shoulder or not the shoulder (cuffs) - that is the question!

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One of the questions men often don't know they need to worry about is whether to have their jacket sleeves shortened from the cuff or from the shoulder.

As a tailor who trained making men's jackets here is my overview of the benefits and potential drawbacks of shortening the sleeves of a suit jacket from the shoulder versus the sleeve: 

Shortening sleeves from the shoulder:


Maintains the proportions: Altering the sleeves from the shoulder helps maintain the original proportions of the suit jacket. The sleeve pitch, shape, and buttonhole placement remain unchanged, resulting in a more balanced and natural appearance.

Preserves functional buttonholes: If your suit jacket has functional buttonholes (working buttonholes), shortening the sleeves from the shoulder allows you to keep them intact. Preserving the functionality of the buttonholes adds a touch of authenticity and craftsmanship to the jacket.

Seam alignment: Altering the shoulder ensures that the sleeve seams remain aligned with the original jacket design, providing a more professional and refined finish.


Complex alteration: Shortening sleeves from the shoulder is a more complex alteration process compared to shortening from the sleeve. It requires advanced tailoring skills and expertise to achieve a seamless result.

Higher cost: Due to the complexity involved, altering the sleeves from the shoulder is generally more expensive than shortening from the sleeve. The additional labour and precision required contribute to the higher cost.

Limit to alteration: It's generally recommended to avoid shortening the sleeve length from the shoulder by more than 1 to 1.5 inches. The maximum amount by which a sleeve can be shortened from the shoulder depends on several factors, including the construction of the suit jacket, the available seam allowance, and the desired final appearance.

Shortening sleeves from the cuff:


Simpler alteration: Shortening the sleeves from the sleeve is a relatively straightforward alteration process. It involves trimming the excess fabric and hemming the sleeve, making it less intricate compared to altering the shoulder.

Cost-effective: Shortening the sleeves from the sleeve is typically less expensive than altering the shoulder since it requires less time and labour.


Potential sleeve shape alteration: When the sleeves are shortened from the sleeve, the shape of the sleeve can be slightly affected. It may result in a slightly different angle and pitch, which can alter the overall appearance of the jacket, though the impact is usually minimal.

Faux buttonhole removal: Shortening the sleeves from the sleeve usually involves removing the excess fabric, including the faux buttonholes. If you prefer to keep the faux buttonholes intact, shortening from the sleeve may not be the ideal option.

It's important to consider these factors and consult with your tailor to determine the best approach based on your specific jacket and preferences.