There is all of this fanfare around functioning sleeve buttonholes. Understandably so. They do often signify some level of quality and attention to detail. And then there are those who like to keep one or more of the buttons unbuttoned, that damned ‘sprezzatura’ thing that is so often taken too far. Don’t get me wrong here, I love functioning sleeve buttonholes as much as the next men’s style enthusiast, however, they are something that has to be done right. And by done right I mean they have to be positioned the correct distance from the sleeve cuff, 1.25-1.5″ (as pictured above); which is sometimes not the case.
There are two sources that cause a variance from that prescribed distance. The first is mis-measured custom garments (as pictured below). Whether it is the maker that mis-measures or the consumer, the result is the same. The second source is more pervasive, it is the advent of functioning sleeve buttonholes (or stitching imitating them) on ready to wear garments. As is the case with any ready to wear garment, if you are not of the size the garment is made to fit you will inevitably have to have it tailored in hopes that it will eventually fit you.
So what to do if the sleeves need to be altered? Well, functioning sleeve buttonholes are not something that can be moved without adjusting from the shoulder, which is neither easy or recommended by most tailors I have dealt with.
Obviously, you can adjust the sleeve length from the cuff but then you end up with the situation in the photo below where the buttons are 2+” from the end of the sleeve, which is not the best look (or the buttons could be less than 1″ which is also not a good look). For those sleeves that have the imitation stitching that stitching can often be removed and once the jacket is laundered it will look much better, at least is true from my experience. But do this at your own risk.
So the question still remains. What is a man to do when he needs the sleeves altered on a jacket that has functioning sleeve buttonholes? I suggest targeting the root of the problem. For ready to wear jackets; don’t buy them if they have functioning buttonholes and the sleeves are not the right length. For custom jackets only have functioning buttonholes sewn if you are absolutely sure you have the right sleeve length. Or do not have them sewn on at all (which I highly recommend for a first jacket from any given tailor). You can always have buttonholes added later on or not at all.