Primer: Neapolitan Jacket Shoulder Style

In both bespoke men’s tailoring as well as prêt-à-porter, jacket shoulder and sleeve style have now become details of greater importance thanks to a worldwide increase in both knowledge and interest in menswear. A connoisseur of sartorial matters always focuses the eye (primarily) on the jacket shoulder, and will notice if it “sits” (and takes the right forms) optimally.

These days, there are various models of jacket shoulder and sleeve styles for men’s jackets, and each one of them inhabits a particular niche. When you are shopping for a suit, be sure to note the shoulder and sleeve style, and don’t be shy to ask the tailor or sales associate to describe to you the construction process – as well as why the jacket in questions sports a particular style. This is not a comprehensive review of all styles and the construction methods that create those styles, but it should serve as a quick primer and conversation starter for any man interested in shoulder style and in Neapolitan tailoring

Keep in mind that most tailoring traditions favor a particular jacket shoulder and sleeve construction, which is accompanied by details that further define that stylistic tradition. For example, the below are all Italian, and in particular Neapolitan jackets, regardless of the jacket shoulder style, and are not necessarily representative of geographic tradition. In the future, we’ll cover tailoring traditions in depth, but here are three common Neapolitan shoulder styles to get you started on your journey to Neapolitan style. 

Natural shoulder (without padding) & sleeve con rollino:

The sleeve is raised above the jacket shoulder, and possesses a sense of fullness and roundness. The effect is created by pressing the allowances in the sleevehead towards the seam, and there is sometimes wadding placed into the sleevehead to create further fullness. In my opinion, this style is ideal for a wool blazer.

For more information about the tailoring construction, and what exactly “con rollino” means, I will refer you to custom tailor and Styleforum member @Jefferyd’s incredibly informative blog, Tutto Fatto a Mano.

Neapolitan shoulder style

Neapolitan shoulder (without padding) & manica a camicia (tribute to Neapolitan tailoring):

Otherwise known as spalla camicia, or shirt-sleeve construction, in this case the sleeve is gathered in a fashion that generates a harmonious effect, and gives an interesting detail to the jacket.  Neapolitan tailoring emphasizes movement and ease, and this construction imitates that of a shirt sleeve head. The result is a jacket shoulder that is comfortable and allows for a good deal of movement. The effect is created by pressing the allowances in the sleevehead towards the body of the jacket and gathering the fabric beneath the shoulder seam.

Neapolitan shoulder style

Padded shoulder & sleeve con rollino:

This is a tribute to English tailoring. You’ll notice that it results in the most built-up shoulders and rigid shape, and is designed to be reminiscent of antique military uniforms. In my opinion it is ideal for the most formal or elegant suits, such as this pinstripe one. In most cases, especially when buying in England, the English style will be accompanied by a built-up chest and nipped waist that creates a sharp V-shaped silhouette on the wearer for a slimming, rigid, and often slightly severe effect.

Neapolitan shoulder style

Neapolitan shoulder style

You can find more of Nicola’s thoughts and writing at, where he discusses his youthful take on Neapolitan style. Nicola’s ties are available at Spacca Neapolis

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Although it is a cliche, some things they just aren’t made the way they used to be.  Heavy, vintage tailor’s shears are coveted, treasured, and passed along; true rarities because they have not been made for over 35 years.  With them, a tailor is about to cut large tranches of fabric, using the weight of the shears to steady the hand.

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What to Expect from Bespoke

So you’ve decided to “go bespoke.”  Great!  From now on, everything you commission should be perfect, right?

I decided to ask some of StyleForum’s members to elaborate on their bespoke experiences to give the “n00b” an idea of what to expect during the first (and hopefully continuing) foray into bespoke.  Their combined familiarity helps create a balanced prospective of what one should be looking for during the process.

Granted, it may take some time before finding a tailor that suits your needs.  Forum member @Slewfoot, AKA David Beckwith of Grand Cru Wine Consulting, had tried several tailors before he found his current favorite: Steed.  “A big reason I settled on them was seeing all the amazing photographs of their work online.  Additionally,  many people on StyleForum and London Lounge that I trust use them regularly.”

Once at the tailor’s shop (or at a traveling tailor’s temporary shop space), what do you ask?  Indeed, where do you even start?  David continues: 

“I think it’s a very good idea to take the long term approach to the relationship with your tailor. At the beginning you are really getting to know one another. You’re getting a feel for making sure you all are on the same page aesthetically and philosophically. The first handful of items you get from a tailor you all carefully discuss the specifics of the fit and details, but after a while much of that becomes second nature and you then just do tweaks here and there depending on the specific garment at hand.”

Andy Poupart, known as @Andy57, on StyleForum concurs:

“My first suits came out fine, but that first commission was also a learning experience for me.  What I didn’t know to ask about were the many stylistic and detailed choices that one can make when commissioning a garment. Since then, I have come to know such things as I almost always want a ticket pocket, I want at least two narrow inside breast pockets for my reading glasses, I don’t want belt loops on my trousers, nor do I want rear pockets or a coin pocket in the waistband.”

During the process, the learning curve for both client and tailor can leave certain details to chance.  What happens then?  @Manton recalls one such incident: 

“I once ordered a dinner jacket, as a double breasted shawl collar, and I thought the lapel buttonhole should be angled up, as is typical on a double breasted jacket.   In this instance the tailor angled it down, as on a single breasted jacket. I was sort of miffed at first, but I solved the problem by always wearing a flower in the lapel.”

Small tweaks are to be expected, even after the initial commission.  However, the process does get easier with time.  David explains:

“I used to overthink things too much when I was first getting into it. At first, it’s like re-doing a room in your house – you’re presented with dozens of options for paint and drapes, and  start running around in circles. These days I just let my gut take over and make much faster decisions. One thing I’ve noticed that’s a big help is physically seeing the fabric in person first. Holding it in your hands, you often suddenly get hit with how the finished garment will come out. You inherently know that patch pockets will be great for this fabric or that this suit should be a 3-piece vs a double breasted kind of thing.”

After multiple commissions, @Manton agrees: “As I’ve gained experience with bespoke, I’ve streamlined the process.  I just say, “Just say “Single or double-breasted, two piece or three,” and let them do their thing.”

Take your time to get to know your tailor. Trust them to do what they do best, and trust yourself to make the choices that are best for you. Oh, and try not to overthink it!

Understanding Fabric Weight

We all get to know cloth in different ways, and fabric weight is but one characteristic to consider. Some men caress lovingly, as if the fibers might start purring. Other men are grabbers. There’s the more visual types that care not so much for the tactile qualities, but instead the richness of color or derring-do of pattern. But this is all in the sensual beginning of a relationship with a fabric. Before settling down permanently with a new addition to their closet, the connoisseur will consider the cloth’s weight.

A cloth’s weight affects in turn three of its most important properties: how hot it is to wear, how it “drapes,” and how it holds up throughout the day and over the course of many years. Weight is not the only thing that affects any of these three, but it does affect all three. Let us consider each in turn.

Hot and Heavy

You probably don’t need me to tell you that heavier fabrics wear warmer. This is the main thing that people think of when choosing a weight. Most worsted navy suits you see at department stores are three-season weight, meaning they’re probably 8 to 10 ounce fabric. In generations past, that would be considered an extremely lightweight suit. But weaving technology has improved the performance of lighter weight fabrics, and, perhaps more importantly, indoor climate control has rendered the need for a warm-wearing suit nearly moot. If you got a closet full of navy business suits in nine ounce wool and just piled on outerwear in the winter, you’d probably get along just fine. 

But suppose you wanted something that wears cooler to wear in the summer. First of all, be aware that no fabric will magically turn your suit into an air conditioner. If it’s hot outside, you’ll be hot in your suit. But you could try a fabric even lighter than the eight-to-ten multi-season range, but this choice brings difficulties that I will get to in a bit. Better is to get a fabric with an open weave. Fabrics are made by weaving together two yarns – a warp going one way, and a weft going the other. An “open” weave is one with more space in between the yarns, which allows body heat to escape. Fresco (which means “cool” in Italian) is such a fabric, and its ability to keep the wearer cool without being too lightweight is why it is valued so highly. 

Your other option is linen. Linen wears cool because it wicks away moisture, and because the flowiness of the fabric keeps air moving through. But linen is controversial. It wrinkles on sight, which drives some people mad. It’s also less formal than wool, so might not be acceptable in some offices. And the good stuff is not even very lightweight; I have a jacket in linen that I think is 17 ounces – as heavy as many overcoats. It’s not for everyone.

Actually, it’s worth saying that none of this advice applies equally to everyone. Some guys are totally happy wearing a 15 ounce wool suit in the summertime. Other guys start sweating wearing a ten ounce suit in winter. You have to figure out where you’re comfortable.

Matching Drapes

Every tailor prefers to work with heavier cloth, because it’s easier to tailor and drapes better. Especially for trousers. A heavier fabric will be able to maintain a better line, whereas a lighter fabric will flounce all over the place. Adding cuffs to a lighter fabric will help a little, but not much. For this reason, and because you’re generally cooler in your legs anyway, I prefer odd trousers in heavier fabrics than odd jackets. Of course for suits the weights must be the same. 

Heavier fabrics make better jackets as well. The canvas inside can pick up some of the slack for a lighter fabric, but the heavier the fabric, the easier it is to make it sit nice. It’s rare that a fabric that’s lighter than eight ounces makes up into a nice jacket. 


Another problem with lighter fabrics is that they won’t last very long. Whereas a heavier fabric has a lot of fiber, and therefore can survive some pilling or wear, a lightweight fabric has no backup line of defense. Again, there are exceptions. Fresco’s high twist weave makes it more durable. Woollen flannel is made of yarns that are more frayed, and therefore has a shorter lifespan despite usually being made in heavier weights.

If you’re getting a suit that you’ll only wear a few times a year or less, then you probably don’t need to worry about this much. You’ll probably manage to ruin it by spilling some spaghetti sauce or gaining a few pounds too many before you wear down the fabric. 

But even if you’re not wearing through the fabric, less hardy fabric also requires more pressing. A good tweed suit, or a robust worsted like Lesser 13, can be worn for years without even losing the crease in the trousers. A flimsy suit might look and feel great in the morning but have you looking for an iron by lunchtime.

In the end, of course, you’ll go home with the cloth you want. But think of this as a cheat sheet to carry around in your head, like those cards people use at blackjack tables. It doesn’t stop people from hitting on 17 with the dealer showing a five, but at least you’ll know you’re not supposed to:

Less than eight ounces                   Proceed with extreme caution; suit is likely not to last long and have a hard time keeping its shape

Eight to ten ounces                          Typical multi-season weights, with warm weather suits on the bottom end and cold weather suits on the top end.

Eleven to sixteen ounces                 Unless it’s linen, suits in this range are meant for cold weather

Above sixteen ounces                     Really heavy-duty stuff, intended for really heavy tweed jackets or overcoats

Why Bespoke Clothing?

bespoke suit example

An example of a successful bespoke endeavor.

Bespoke what? The word itself has undergone changes since its first use in the 1500’s. Back then, “bespoke” was what you called your outfit.  Your one outfit, the one that smelled of Western European colonization.

“Why yes, the codpiece was bespoke. No, I don’t know why it’s so small. But the godless heathens should be impressed.”

The idea of having something made for you was nothing strange in those days, but as mass-produced items became commonplace, something made to your particular specifications (such as your particular body) became scarce.  Most ready-to-wear suits may not fit you perfectly, but a few may. Most are also made from ugly fabrics, but a handful are tastefully classic. The price range is anywhere from $300 to upwards of $3000 and higher. Something, somewhere, will fit your body, budget, and discriminating bias. So, why bespoke?

bespoke suit styleforum guidelines

All smiles throughout the process.

Indeed, in order to get something bespoke one has to do quite a bit of research, as few companies even offer such services. Fewer still are the tailoring houses that take your measurements, have various high quality fabrics to choose from, and provide fittings for adjustments. Most have to travel great distances to tailoring houses, across state lines, time zones, and oceans.  Others hope traveling tailors visit their city (or a nearby one), but such merchants visit once or perhaps twice a year, which means you may not receive the finished product for one or even two birthdays.  In contrast, off-the-rack suits can be found in any department store, ready for you to take home.  So again: why bespoke?

One word: romance.  Interestingly, a recent article from The New York Times quotes Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen, saying “bespoke” appeals to our individualism.  Which is partially true: more often than not, those who venture into bespoke have a very specific idea of how they want to appear.  What better way to materialize your distinct sense of identity by dictating your projected image?  Self-love and self-expression often go hand in hand

perfect bespoke suit

The Finished Product

But it’s more than that.  It’s the enchantment with bespoke itself – a medium which takes far more time than the alternative but, to those who appreciate it, returns far more reward.  Even if you never thread the needle, the process of discussing what environment you’ll wear the suit and how you wish to be presented, deciding which fabric you like versus how it will perform examining various technical styles, all contribute to the creation of a unique idea (yours).  You’re excited because you get to dictate the particulars.  But the courtship continues, because it’s during the fitting when you begin to see your idea turn into something tangible.  Sure, maybe a few tweaks need to be made, the tailor makes a note of it, you go out for some coffee, maybe dinner and a drink, shoot the breeze, exchange salutations, make another appointment, and part ways smiling with eager prospects of the next encounter.  Finally you see the finished product – the completed suit – and that’s it.  You try it on, and you’re smitten.  

That’s romance, and that’s the why of bespoke.  Sure, that suit makes you look great, but the process, eliciting feelings of creativity, anticipation and discovery, is the reason to choose bespoke.  Because you can’t find that in any department store.

Fit Feedback, Alteration Suggestions, And Construction Demonstration

Fit is one of the most important yet overlooked elements of style. A garment can be made of an elegant fabric and constructed with fancy details. But if it doesn’t fit, it won’t look good or feel good.

While standards of fit are influenced by personal taste and fashion, they are largely based on the way our bodies are made and move. (For example: Wide lapels may come and go, but high arm holes are timeless.) Identifying a properly-fitted garment takes a lot of knowledge. And much more is required to construct such a garment. In this thread, all are welcome, from those purchasing a first suit, to those seeking more advanced refinement.

What makes this thread special is that it will be curated by three of America’s finest tailors, representing three generations of the craft: a tailor, Despos, and jefferyd. They will teach us not simply what is wrong with a garment, but why it is wrong, and how it can be fixed, if it can be fixed. The thread will contain articles on common problems and their solutions, as well as Q&A. In exchange for such generous service, our tailors, ask only one thing–good pictures, so defined:

Please wear dress shoes and a dress shirt with the cuffs and collar buttoned. Belt/suspenders required if pants are loose. Tie optional. Feet should be even, no more than hip distance apart, with weight equally distributed on both. Arms should hang comfortably to the sides (no flapping wings). And subjects should stand naturally–avoid puffing their chest or snapping to attention for the camera. Full front, side and back shots are ideal. They should be well-lit, with the camera held straight, 10-12 feet away, about chest/ribcage high. Other positions or angles will cause distortion, as will wide-angle lenses.

Here are some examples:



We thank you in advance, a tailor, Despos, and jefferyd. And if you three want to tear apart the fit above pls. do!