Roped sleeve heads are something often mentioned on this blog. Often called a “roped shoulder”, a roped sleeve head describes the bumped shape or ridge of the sleeve’s attachment to the shoulder that can often be found on many of James Bond’s tailored jackets. Roping is a British military style, making it suitable for the naval commander that James Bond is. The Italians and other Europeans have adopted this British style, though it is almost completely absent from American tailoring.
A roped sleeve head lends a more formal and regal look to a jacket, and it is perfect for city suits, navy blazers and dinner jackets. It’s appropriate on dressier odd jackets, but a natural sleeve that follows the shape of the shoulder head is better suited for more casual jackets. Even overcoats and topcoats can take roped sleeve heads, like on Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford Crombie coat in Spectre.
Roped sleeve heads draw attention to the shoulders, making the shoulders look stronger without necessarily building up the shoulder line with padding. When there is shoulder padding, roping accentuates it. Roping punctuates the concave shape of the pagoda shoulder, which is apparent on Daniel Craig’s suits in Quantum of Solace.
Though roped sleeve heads are most associated with heavily structured jackets, they can be found on shoulders with varying degrees of padding. Pierce Brosnan’s Brioni jackets and Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford jackets have padded shoulders with roping, but Sean Connery’s Anthony Sinclair jackets and Roger Moore’s Douglas Hayward jackets have soft shoulders that also feature roping. Roping may be more defined or more easily achieved with more padding in the shoulders because the shoulder padding supports the roping. On Douglas Hayward’s soft shoulders, the roping pushes the sleeve cap outward rather than upward.
A sleeve with roping will be cut larger than a sleeve without roping. The excess eased into the armhole, along with the seams from both the armhole and the sleeve pressed towards the sleeve, creates the roping. Wadding may then be added to sleeve head for a firm shape. Most English tailors who make roped sleeve heads use wadding, and the more structured Italian tailors do the same. James Bond’s roped sleeve heads have wadding. Neapolitan tailors make a shoulder they call “con rollino” that has a roped look without the wadding, and the lack of wadding can give the sleeve head a puckered look. The amount of fullness cut in the sleeve and the amount of wadding used will vary the degree of roping.
There are different, equally valid opinions on roped sleeve heads. Some like them for their regal look, but only think they belong on jackets with more structured shoulders. Other people don’t like them on any kind of jacket because they look unnatural. Dimi Major, George Lazenby’s tailor in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, never tailored roped sleeve heads. This was likely not done for any reason other than his personal preference. Some tailors like roping and always use it, and some tailors don’t like roping and will never use it. Many tailors are flexible with roping and will tailor a sleeve head based on the style of jacket or for customer preference. Except for being out of place on casual jackets, there are no rules as to when roped sleeve heads are or are not appropriate and their presence comes down to personal preference.
I favor roped sleeve heads because I find that they have the shoulders more presence. It’s also a subtle way to distinguish one’s jackets for those of us that live in the United States given how uncommon they are here, even on custom clothing.
I can’t say for anything else, but for off-the-rack, Hart Schaffner Marx’s New York cut is heavily influenced by English tailoring. It has mild drape, a defined waist, and straight, roped shoulders.
There’s a bespoke tailor here in Cleveland who studied under Angelo Vitucci, named Giovanni Carelli, who ropes his sleeve heads as well.
Timothy Dalton’s jackets in LTK had gently roped sleeve heads. A Italian style I would say. But considering how padded the shoulders were. Prominent rope sleeve heads would be to distracting.
Unfortunately, they’re pretty poor looking suits in general.
Dimi Major made exception to his preference for an unroped shoulder when dressing Draco
Very intersting article. I learnt a lot. Thx.
I think roped sleeveHeads are fundamental on pagoda shoulder expression, and i think those are great shoulder. The Regency cut is one of my favorite, both because of the shoulder an because of the médium low stance, that creates the deep v. I think that padding helps to build the shoulders in the upper part of trapeze, while the roped part helps to build the deltoid, and make the back look larger.
I initially didn’t like pagoda shoulders, thinking they made Craig look robotic, but upon viewing the film again they look far better in motion. It’s not a style you see too much anymore. I think Ford is pretty much the only one keeping it alive in retail menswear. Not sure how many bespoke tailors still make them.
Yes, this is a sad true. I cant find anyone like that. I also think that pagoda shoulder helps to build down craigs sholders a little bit, to make him more smooth and elegant
I paid a visit to the Tom Ford shop in Manhattan after Spectre came out. I asked about the Regency suits, and was told that they have been discontinued. Turns out quite a few TF items are limited-run. I managed to pick up a few of the “McQueen” Cardigans (from QoS) before they sold out of my size.
I liked the Regency cut as well, but visiting the Tom Ford shop in NYC some months ago, they told me that it is no longer made. Their suits are primarily Windsor or O’Conner cuts now.
I would always want a shoulder with a roped sleevehead, and sufficient amount of padding. Why is it that roped shoulders are so uncommon on inexpensive suits?
They take more effort to make.
I’d never really looked at the roping before. Just out of curiosity, I took these comparison photos of the four best fitting jackets I own. I had no idea the shoulders on the Charles Tyrwhitt blazer were so… unstructured. For a company that prides itself on being very British, with endless shots in their catalogues of smiling business men marching around London, its interesting to see no roping and natural shoulders.
The Marks and Spencer jacket was £5 from a charity shop and fits like it was made for me. I’m baffled as to why they have such a naff reputation, they’ve certainly pulled their socks up in try last decade.
The older I grow, the more I favor Anthony Sinclair’s shoulder. Padding always make the suit, even in light weight fabric, heavy.
Is it possible to restructure a suit with natural shoulders (but healthy amount of padding), to have roped sleeve heads?
I’m looking at a pretty decent Hickey Freeman Tasmanian line suit for sale at my job (Nordstrom), and the shoulders have a decent amount of padding, but the sleeve heads for have any roping whatsoever. Do you think it’s possible to have the shoulders restructured so that the sleeveheads have more prominent roping?
Sorry, it’s not possible. You would need a new sleeve that is cut for roping.