Finding the Right Size Men’s Shirt

Posted on December 24, 2010

Unlike a t-shirt, which doesn’t have to be form fitting to look passable, a men’s dress shirt must match your measurements in order to look good. Dress shirts off the shelf will typically be labeled with two numbers: neck size and sleeve length. Whether you’re buying a shirt off the rack or having one tailored to fit, the first step to finding the right size shirt is to know your measurements. Grab a flexible measuring tape and follow the directions below to determine your shirt size and measurements. 

Measuring an Existing Dress Shirt

The easiest way to get the best measurement for a new men’s shirt is to take the measurements from a shirt that you already own and fits you well. To measure an existing shirt, follow these steps:

1.    Lay your shirt on a flat surface.
2.    Measure from the base of the neck (where the collar meets the shoulders) to the end of the shirt on the bottom. Round up to the nearest full inch. This is the shirt length.
3.    Measure the width of the shirt from seam to seam where the sleeve meets the torso (i.e. the armpit). Multiply this number by two. This is your chest measurement.
4.    Measure the width of your shirt between the fifth and sixth button from the top. Multiply by two. This is your waist measurement.
5.    Measure the width between the outer edges of each shoulder seam. The shirt should be laying buttons-side down for this measurement. This is your shoulder measurement.
6.    Measure from the outer edge of the shoulder to the end of the shirt cuff. This is the tailor’s sleeve measurement. (For a retail sleeve measurement, add half of your shoulder measurement to your tailor’s sleeve measurement.)
7.    With the shirt laid flat and the collar open, measure from the middle of the neck button hole to the middle of the button. This is your neck measurement.

Measuring Yourself

If you don’t already have a well-fitting dress shirt, you can simply measure yourself. Here’s how:

•    Neck Size – Measure around your neck just below your Adam’s apple. Add about half an inch for breathing room (about 1 or 2 finger widths).
•    Sleeve Length – Leave your arm hanging straight at your side. Measure starting from the center of the back of your neck. Pull the measuring tape over the top of your shoulder and down to your wrist. (Remember: the retail measurement includes half of the shoulder. For a tailor’s sleeve length, measure from your shoulder to your wrist.)
•    Chest Size – Measure around the widest part of your chest (usually around the nipples). Again, leave about half an inch for breathing room. 

These measurements should serve as a good starting point for finding a well-fitting shirt. However, as you’ll discover, men’s shirts vary widely by brand. You may need to have your shirt tailored to get it to fit just right. But by starting with a shirt that is closest to a perfect fit as possible, you increase the chances that your tailor will be able to get it right. 

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