Sleeve preservation society

Didn’t you know? We live in the Age of the Set-in Sleeve. Look around you: you’re lucky if one in ten of the sleeves you see are anything other than that most simple and straightforward style of sleeve, with a sleeve in two or three pieces sewn onto to the body with a tidy circular seam.

Ubiquity for good reason, no doubt — but there are more ways to cut a sleeve than there are to skin a cat. Not just in the way you might raise or lower an armhole or angle pitch this way or that. Rather, there are a great many altogether unfamiliar and exotic ways to interpret with some cloth and some thread how the humerus interacts with the scapula, such that if you were ever to innumerate them in full, you would soon realise that cats are just the start of it and you might very well need to bring other animals into the equation.

One of the more obscure of these is the Magyar sleeve. This is a sleeve worth talking about because it is the one employed by the new field jacket. It is a very old type of sleeve, and according to the pattern-cutting literature and certainly going by its name, has its origins in the bountiful seam of sartorial influence that is traditional Hungarian peasant-wear.

It is from the family of “grown on” sleeves, where the sleeve is cut together with the body in one continuous piece (the Dolman sleeve of the donkey jacket and field shirt is a distant cousin). What it looks like in practice is that the sleeve seam which we are so used to seeing run obediently around the shoulder instead takes a brazen detour right down the front of the body, all the way to the hem. (And at the back — well, don’t even start on that.)

Why bother with all this? For one, the Magyar, dredged up from the history books, is the ideal candidate for a field jacket. It gives you the sloping shoulder, the terrific forward and upward lift, plus a great deal of space in the upper arm and an equally great potential for tapering to a tight cuff. But more exciting to some is that the Magyar also presents a whole new set of seams with which to play. The seam aforementioned, running down the front of the body, thus serves as linchpin for all manner of design shenanigans. There’s a chest pocket which sits right in the middle of it, and whose inverted pleat maintains the line of the seam as it continues its way to the hem. The same seam also serves as a stopping-point for the drawstring channel which circumnavigates the waist. One seam, then, many jobs: none of which would come about without the revival of this unlikely type of construction.

This is why the field jacket looks at first glance like a standard field jacket. It has the stand collar, the four pocket front, the drawstring, and the shooting shoulder. It is albeit a short-looking one, because of the feature-stacking of chest pocket on drawstring channel which that hard-working front seam also encourages. However, the more closely it is examined it proves to be anything but a standard field jacket. Indeed, because of the way it is constructed, it has as much if not more in common with the attire of those farmers in Central Europe as overseas American military personnel. You can see it here, at time of writing, in cotton airweave — which being a faithful reproduction of military cloth from the middle of the last century is more typical of the latter uniform — in navy and in olive.