Sleeve Pitch

Sleeve Pitch [the way a sleeve hangs], now what’s all that about?

Natural pitch, where the sleeve wants to hang

Natural pitch, where the sleeve wants to hang

It may only be two small words describing a small detail, but it causes its fair share of panic and disappointment, both to customers and novice cutters alike.

You can try your best from start to finish when producing bespoke. The best materials, skilled craftsmen and years of experience. And yet even after all the diligence of checking again and again, things can go wrong. And pitch is often where disaster strikes.

When a suit is shipped to the far corners of the world or even dropped off at a customers hotel just around the corner, any cutter worth his salt will try, if physically possible, to slip the jacket on before the day of the fitting, just to see how it looks. Yes, a big chap’s jacket is going to look a bit daft on Skinny Me, but I can still see how it hangs. Which to an experienced eye will give a good idea of the final outcome.

This is where sleeve pitch can catch you out. Often when the customer or even some cutters think the sleeve is too big or tight, the problem may not be that at all, but the problem is with the angle the of pitch that the sleeve has been inserted.

Is it a tad high or low? The thing is you can’t tell, not unless it’s being worn by its intended owner. I know this sounds obvious, but we do a lot of tweaking with bespoke. So if I meet a man who’s suit looks super, apart from the fact we’ve got a little too much width in the shoulders, because they’re often about to literally to catch an aeroplane, I say, “No problem Sir, I’ll fix that and courier it to you”.

Trickier than it looks.

If I take the jacket and do this simple alteration, the sleeves will often be removed. This is also done when we need to clear the scye (armholes). This is normally not a big deal, but unless the sleeve is returned to the same pitch as it was fitted, then we can get problems. With a changing scye shape or similar alteration, it’s easy for the tailor to re-fit the sleeve a little high or lower than before.

move the arm back, pitch now too high, hence the big furrow at the back

move the arm back, pitch now too high, hence the big furrow at the back

It only takes a quarter of an inch to change this. And this is the problem- it’s very difficult to notice it when you look at the coat on yourself. And it’s nigh on impossible to measure for in a fluid bespoke.

So what can happen is that the customer who’s jacket was almost perfect, apart from the shoulder width or suffering from a little too much chest fullness, now has an unsightly bagging and collapsing at the back of his sleeve, or certainly as bad, a diagonal strain line at the front. Right where everyone can see it. Something that will definitely make you grind your teeth and curse the tailor.

There is an average position of pitch which will work for most people. But there are extremes, such as a military man who’s always standing to attention i.e. with his shoulders and arms well back. He will than need the sleeves to be pitched low. Conversely an older gentleman with a stoop for instance will need to have his sleeves pitched high i.e. forward.

The pictures are just an average gentleman’s fitting on me. However you can easily see what happens if I move my arm forward or back a little. It can make the sleeve seem big or tight. Then if I move my arm to match the sleeve it’s as clean as can be.

move the arm forward, pitch too low, hence the furrow at the front

move the arm forward, pitch too low, hence the furrow at the front

So if it happens to you, don’t worry, it’s not as disastrous as it looks. Stand sideways on to a mirror in your favourite suit and see if the pitch matches where your arm naturally hangs when relaxed. Just move your arm back or forward a little and you’ll see what I mean.

In the old days if a cutter got a job from a tailor which was obviously too high or low, the tailor would be scolded and told the job is either “scratching its *****” or “picking its ****”.

I know, not very English Cut or PC these days. But that’s the way it was.

So now you know. Simple, really.

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About Thomas Mahon

Thomas Mahon is one of the most experienced tailors on Savile Row with a list of clients including royalty, celebrities and business icons. Tom has almost thirty years experience of hand tailoring in Savile Row including five years at Savile Row’s most famous and respected tailor, Anderson & Sheppard. His clients experience the traditions and expertise of the finest bespoke tailoring available today using a soft and unstructured style typical of Anderson & Sheppard. His workshop is based at Warwick Hall in Cumbria and also meets clients at his office in London, Tom also makes regular trips to visit his growing international client base in Europe, the USA and further afield. When not creating beautiful bespoke suits, travelling to see clients or sharing his sartorial advice with his internet followers, Tom enjoys teaching sailing and is the boats officer for the Sea Cadet Corps near his Cumbria home. For the full story visit
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