Prepare For Descent: The Shoulder Angle Alteration


Earlier this summer I met with Lee Denslow of Emerson Bespoke, a Connecticut-based clotheshorse who’s having a blast running a little side business making custom clothing. Lee was making me a tweed sportcoat (which I’ll share soon), and the measuring and finishing was done by his associates at Alterations Master, located just a few doors down from Paul Stuart on 45th Street.

I was wearing my gray suit from Tex-Teq (the tailored clothing division of Kamakura Shirts in Japan), and when I started talking shoulders with the fitter Juan, saying that I liked a natural, sloping shoulder, he took the jacket I was wearing and did something I’d never seen before. He pinched the fabric on the shoulder seam in a way that made it slope down more steeply. The term he kept using was “angle” — not being a nuts-and-bolts tailoring guy, I’d never come across the term in discussions of different shoulder styles.


Juan’s demonstration stuck with me, and eventually I decided that I should have the experiment done in order to report the findings to you guys. Now alterations in that most delicate area of a jacket are tricky, but I think the operation was a success and the suit now has a more sloping silhouette. A small wrinkle appeared on the back of the neck area, but I’ll see if that can be steamed out. Also, as a result of the alteration the gorge is slightly higher. I think a high gorge is more elegant, especially if you’re tall (or want to appear that way), but that’s a taste matter only you can decide.

Turns out I don’t have a very good “before” picture, but this one kind of shows that the shoulder angle is more horizontal:

Kamakura (617 of 1109)

And here’s an “after” photo taken Tuesday night at a party hosted by Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project at Nat Sherman, the celebrated tobacconist on 42nd Street. You should be able to note that the shoulder comes down more steeply from the back of the neck:


Now clothing alterations are one of the biggest forms of Manhattan sticker shock, not too far behind real estate. This operation is going to run you $250 or even more. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s actually a bargain. Another partygoer at Kirby’s event was none other than Len Logsdail, the renowned tailor with a growing list of movie credits (“Wall Street 2,” for example). Len’s suits start at around $6K and when we chatted about this alteration, he said if a client brought it to him he’d have to charge about $700 for it to be worth his time.

As I never tire of saying, only you can decide what your priorities are, from cost and quality to fit and style. But if you’ve got jackets in your closet that you love everything about but the shoulders, and are willing to pay up in order to have them more to your liking, here’s an option you may not have known was possible.

Alterations Master is a busy, busy place (always a good sign), with a handful of tailors (not just one), excellent service, and Juan seems to really know his stuff. They own the piece of cyber real estate, so you can head over there to book an appointment, or telephone them at 212.392.5711. Of course they’re also a fantastic resource, conveniently located in Midtown, for all your other alterations needs. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

32 Comments on "Prepare For Descent: The Shoulder Angle Alteration"

  1. Also on me: pink custom club collar oxford from Ratio with J. Press pin, black/silver bar stripe tie from Brooks, wool paisley pocket square, black/grey nailhead socks from RL, Brooks belt and engine-turned buckle, AE Cornwallis lace-ups.

  2. A Trad Confused | October 13, 2016 at 11:40 am |

    Before and after shots?

  3. I don’t have a good before shot that sufficiently communicates the change, unfortunately, only an after shot.

  4. Added a “before” picture anyway. Hope it helps.

  5. The challenge with such a maneuver takes the form of a question: after the shoulder itself has been made to “slope” more by way of the pinching, does it then progress gently and subtly to a round sleeve head–thus resulting in a truly natural shoulder? There are lots of padless jackets that feature an unnatural (even awkward) shoulder because the tailoring has rendered a roped shoulder. If a roped shoulder was intended–well, that’s a different story.

    The picture above–the fellow standing to Christian’s right is wearing a jacket with roped shoulders. And they extend beyond his own shoulders. There may be minimal or zero padding, but the effect isn’t a natural shoulder.

    Another example of a padless jacket that (humorously) results in a not-so-natural looking shoulder is the J. Keydge Ivy “slack” jacket. I totally get what they’re aiming for, but the result is a bumpy, sloppy looking shoulder.

  6. Charlottesville | October 13, 2016 at 12:29 pm |

    The rebuilt shoulders really do look great, Christian. I am surprised that it could be done. Like the height of the armhole, the shoulder is a tricky area for tailoring. I wonder if the guys at J. Press can do it on some of their square shouldered stuff from Canada, and what they would charge. I’m also a fan of the pink club collared shirt with pin. I have one that I had made by Brooks some years ago, and always enjoy wearing it. But do I see that your comment section avatar is still wearing madras so long after Labor Day? Perhaps he can pick up a tweed version somewhere. or . 🙂

  7. Bags' Groove | October 13, 2016 at 1:11 pm |

    I see no natural shoulders.

  8. I get it, but with the higher arm hole can you still get a fork to your mouth at dinner?

  9. Doesn’t feel like the armhole changed.

    And actually high armhole makes it easier to move your arms without pulling on the jacket.

    “Matt Deckard” at the Fedora Lounge used to talk my ear off about armholes. He was positively obsessed.

  10. Bags' Groove | October 13, 2016 at 3:28 pm |

    S.E., I’ve a few Keydge slack jackets, and believe me, their model does nothing for them. I’m no clothes horse, mainly on account of my age, but I look so much better in any of my jackets than that cat. The shoulders are great, and I should know; I’ve been pursuing the damn things for half a century.

  11. You're not Milt Jackson | October 13, 2016 at 4:08 pm |

    Unless you’re an octogenarian bluesman, stop using the word “cat” to refer to anything other than felidae.

  12. Are you language-policing him over vintage jazz slang?

  13. The language police, they live inside of my head | October 13, 2016 at 4:32 pm |

    If by “language-policing” you mean helping him avoid sounding like a pretentious twat, then yes.

    In other words, I’m twat-shaming him.

  14. Bags' Groove | October 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm |

    Thanks Christian. I’ve spent a lifetime walking away from his type.

  15. You can call me cat, just don’t grab me by the….

  16. I can’t recall that alteration being done at any point in my retail career, probably because it would have been prohibitively costly on any but a bespoke jacket. You mentioned a $250 charge, which speaks for itself. There certainly is no argument about the results, but I think a stocky customer might not enjoy as good a result as you did.
    Removing the sleeve as part of an alteration is to be avoided generally, much the same for shortening a jacket. That’s part what you are paying for with custom tailoring.
    Not sure I agree with Christian on the look of the high gorge or notch. Again, he looks good in it, but I never associated that proportion with quality-make clothing. We are used to seeing it because of the overly tight fit of garments on TV personalities. Thank heaven that excursion is just about over.

  17. The White Negro | October 13, 2016 at 9:22 pm |


    Can I call you “dawg?” When I cosplay as a cool black man, I prefer to pretend I live in post-civil rights USA.

  18. This is a good option. I have an Orvis jacket with more shoulder than I would like. Maybe I will try it if I have some money left over after I resole my black weejuns.


  19. Whitey:

    C-Dawg works, though I’m actually a cat person, as are most writers I think:

    ROUSSEAU. ‘Do you like cats?’

    BOSWELL. ‘No.’

    ROUSSEAU. ‘I was sure of that. It is my test of character. There you have the despotic instinct of men. They do not like cats because the cat is free and will never consent to become a slave. He will do nothing to your order, as the other animals do.’

  20. Michael Brady
    I agree.

  21. The White Negro | October 13, 2016 at 10:07 pm |

    Now that I think about it, my ideal 90’s afro-american would probably be a blood, so B-Dawg would be better. Or I could just call you Bristian.

    Bompton 4 lyfe, yo.

  22. Wow, I can think of so many more things to blow $250 on!

  23. I thought you hated lace-up shoes.

  24. Hate is a strong word. I much prefer loafers, especially as I usually wear sportcoats. But this is a suit, hence the lace-ups.

  25. @”Sacksuit”

    There must be some mistake. No black Weejuns in my closet. The only Orvis jacket I have is a perfectly fitting Barracuda. Who are you?

    The real Sacksuit


  26. @Christian

    What loafers do you like in winter for something like a tweed jacket and corduroy trousers. I’m a fan of classic Gucci loafers for most situations, but they feel too slight to pair with bulkier winter items.

  27. @Bags

    “Your not Milt…language police…white negro” sound strictly squaresville to me. Cat like to snap his cap. I think he needs to go see a wig stretcher. Strictly un-cool.


  28. @GG

    That’s when I break out my Crockett & Jones brown tassel loafers. If you like bits and want something more substantial for tweeds and cords but still want something more sleek and sophisticated, then I’d say look at the new Ralph Lauren tassel made by AE. It comes in a lovely shade not otherwise offered in AE’s version.

  29. Bags' Groove | October 16, 2016 at 9:57 am |

    Christian, having had a last minute change of heart a short while ago, I’ve now decided that my last post was my final one; the final straw, you might say.
    But before I go, I’d like to offer you a little well-meant advice:
    Don’t be lenient with the malicious forces. Mollifying them never works. Just delete them.
    Big thanks for the great banter of the good times, CC, and I wish you all that you’d wish yourself in the future.
    And to end where I came in, on a sartorial note close to my heart; good to see mention of your C&J loafers. I’ll think of you when I slip on my lovely “Bostons”.

  30. Henry Contestwinner | October 20, 2016 at 7:41 pm |

    Dag, Dawg. We’ll miss you, Bags.

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