(Mr Clinton in a very “straight” coat- lots of shirt visible.)
(Mr Stewart wearing a “crooked” coat- not a lot of shirt visible.)
Two rather strange tailoring terms are “straight” and “crooked” to describe a coat. I’ll try to clarify.
Obviously there are lots of details that give a suit a certain style that distinguishes it from others. This can be the cut of the silhouette, slim or relaxed. the construction of the coat, hard or soft etc. These are pretty obvious to even the untrained eye. How straight or crooked a coat is just as important and certainly makes a huge difference to how a jacket feels and looks. But is much more difficult to discern.
It’s a difficult detail to quantify and explain, so much so that I know of many trainee cutters who have struggled unsuccessfully in the past to get their head round the subject.
With the help of my drawings (please excuse the quality) I will try to show you what I’m on about. It’s all to do with the neck point position in relation to the front edge of the coat.
Basically the fit of a straight coat has less material forward of the neck point on the front edge. This gives the jacket a slimmer feel, showing more shirt, especially on a double breasted. Also another characteristic is that the collar although fitted well, sits lower around the neck. This again shows more of the shirt and gives a slimmer feel to the wearer. This cut gives the feeling of a more youthful cut simply because as we age we invariably gain a little in the front. We then obviously require more material to compensate, or less when we are slim.
A crooked coat has basically the opposite characteristics. The coat should always fit neatly around the collar, however it will generally sit higher, showing less of the shirt collar stand. Also even if the coat is slim through the side seams it will still be easy in the front. There will be less shirt showing, again especially on double breasted.
You can see classic examples of this in the photo of Jimmy Stewart above. The double breasted suits close very high, with only a few inches of shirt and tie showing.
There is nothing wrong with either of these styles. the only problem is when you have extremes. Especially if the coat is finished. A coat that’s too straight will always look tight and skimpy. Even if you let out the side seams, all that will happen is that the coat will have shapeless silhouette and still be tight at the front. It can not be easily altered as the front edges are finished. And the too crooked coat suffers from the opposite. No matter how you take in
the side seams, even too the point of being tight, it’ll still feel frumpy and big on the front. Again, if it’s finished, you’re stuck. You can’t trim the front edges because the buttonholes are in. Not very nice scenarios at all.
There are ways round this which has can be improve or cure the problem, but its way too complicated to explain. The reason why I’ve brought this matter up, is that it is another factor that makes a coat feel just right, or can make two coats that have the same measurements feel totally different.
To sum it up- a straight coat is a more youthful cut, and a crooked coat more mature.
So now, when you’re having a fitting, instead of telling your tailor, “This sleeves are a little short,” or “The shoulders are a little wide”, you can hit him with “This coat is a little crooked” or “This coat is a little straight”. He might have heart failure.
Just please don’t tell the tailor I told you all this, or I’ll never be invited for a drink on the Row ever again.
Written by Mr. Mahon – (May 2005)