It’s trickier than a simple distinction of none at all, some and a lot.

I like unpadded shoulders in my jackets. No wadding in the sleevehead either. Soft construction like this is extremely comfortable, the nice, round sleevehead adds a touch of casual feel to the jacket, and I find it suits my body type quite well.

Not perfectly though. Have a look at the picture here, where I’m wearing a jacket with unpadded shoulders:
shoulders1

You can see how the shoulder line is not really a straight line, it has a bump about two-thirds of the way from the neck to the sleeve – but that’s fine, that’s just anatomy. If not corrected with some padding, it will usually be there in most people. The problem is a soft-shouldered jacket quite easily shows off asymmetry in my shoulders, and that is generally something one wants to avoid. Look at how one shoulder is sloped more than the other.

This is, however, something I can live with – a small aesthetic price to pay for the feeling of comfort this kind of garment provides.

Especially that getting the padding right is tricky as well.

shoulders3

This is a cheap jacket with quite thick shoulder pads. Their thickness is distributed in a way that makes the shoulder line straight, but not parallel to the ground. Tall collar makes it look surprisingly OK. The problem is, of course, the comfort, and the fact that this kind of structured look doesn’t work that well with the casual fabric used here.

shoulders2

But this jacket, despite being generally a way better-made garment, looks more boxy, and the shoulders look more square, even though there is actually less padding here than in the double-breasted jacket above. The problem is, the padding is noticeably thicker towards the sleeve, and the collar of the jacket is not as tall – all of which contributes to the square look. So as you can see you can get a less satisfying result when thinner padding is used, even if your preference is towards softer shoulders. The cut of the collar, the way the sleeves are set, this is also very important, not just the padding itself.

It’s not that padding is bad in and of itself – which should come as no surprise, seeing as it is widely used throughout the tailoring history. It is a matter of preference, mostly. Your view on what the garment should do with your body: should it correct the imperfections, or embrace them, harmoniously working them in the overall silhouette.

It is also a matter of the shape of your body. I would imagine padding is easier to do when someone has actually really sloped shoulders. The risk of making them look boxy and square is smaller, so it’s easier to experiment – and the final effect may very well look very natural. For such people soft-shouldered jackets may actually not be the best choice even if the garment is supposed to be informal.

The conclusion would be: there’s no point fetishising any one way of construction over others. It’s important to consider several things, the details of how the garment is made, how it works with your body, and finally how comfortable you feel in it.

About me

Szymon Jeziorko

My name's Szymon Jeziorko. I wear ties and write about it compulsively. More...

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