A lot of my clients ask me how should a sweater fit, so I figured it was time to write down my typical answer so you can understand this, as well. These fit rules apply to any sweater, but I’ll use a v-neck sweater in my images below to demonstrate how a sweater should fit on a guy.
A quick note before we begin: Most sweaters are made of cotton, wool, cashmere or blends with other fabrics. This is a problem for tailors because the fabrics are fragile, which makes them very hard to work with, so you should find a sweater that fits you perfectly off the rack, as it’ll be very difficult, if not impossible, for a tailor to fix a majority of sweaters. The only exception are cotton crew necks. Those can easily be tailored.
What do I wear under a V-Neck Sweater or Crew New When Trying On?
It’s important you’re wearing the proper shirts when trying on your sweater so you can get the proper fit.
When you’re trying on a V-Neck sweater, you should only be wearing a Dress Shirt or Oxford Button Down Dress Shirt because these are the only two shirts that you should ever wear under a v-neck sweater. That means no t-shirts, polo shirts or any other kind of shirt. Just a collared shirt.
Crew Neck Sweater
When trying on a crew neck sweater, you should only be wearing a t-shirt or v-neck shirt because that’s all that should be worn under a crew neck. You might be able to get away with a collared shirt, but it’s not my preference to wear them with crew necks because it usually looks pretty bad.
What a Sweater Looks Like When its Too Small/Tight
I want you to see what a sweater looks like when it’s too small. See the points below for details.
- Shoulders – If he pulled the sweater shoulder up so his shirt collar was tucked under the sweater collar, the seams would be sitting on top of his shoulders, which means its way too small. You can kind of see the seam sitting way too high on his shoulder on his bent arm side.
- Arm Hole – Way too tight, you can see it bunching underneath his armpit. I guarantee it’s incredibly uncomfortable.
- Neck/Collar – If he pulled the sweater so the collar was touching his shirt’s collar, the “v” of the neck would go down past the top of his armpits.
- Sleeve Length – The sleeves are way too short, which is why he has them pulled up on his forearms in this picture. I know this because (See the next point)
- Body Length – The body length is about 2 inches too short. At the shortest point, a sweater should hit past the bottom of your belt buckle.
What a Sweater Looks Like When Its Too Big
- Shoulders – The seams are way past where his shoulder starts sloping down and are just resting on the upper part of his arms – not good.
- Arm Hole – Way too big, so it’s making his chest look super wide and baggy with all that extra fabric around the chest area.
- Neck/Collar – You can tell it’s too large because you can see his shirt on the sides of his collar. If he pulled the sweater forward, so the “v” rests better against his shirt collar, the “v” would go past the top of his armpits.
- Sleeves – They’re hard to see because his hands are in his pockets, but with everything else not fitting properly, I’m sure the sleeves are way too long and not ending at the bend of his wrist. Also, they’re way too big and baggy, which just look floppy and wrinkled in odd places.
- Body Fit and Length – I bet if he pulled his hands out of his pockets, the sweater would be way too long and go past the 2 inch mark below his belt buckle. As you can see, there’s excess fabric on both sides of his torso because the sweater is just to big.
How long should a sweater be?
A sweater should end somewhere between just past your belt buckle and no more than 2 inches past that. In a lot of my other fit guides, I usually differentiate the length based on your height, but for a sweater it doesn’t matter. It should hit between those two points for everyone. This goes for all sweaters.
While wearing the sweater – when you bend your wrist, so your palms are facing the ground, the sleeves should end where your wrist ends. So where the white shirt cuff stops in my picture below. A sweater’s sleeves shouldn’t be totally smooth and ripple-free – if it is, that usually means it’s too small. It’s impossible for a sweater to fit like that, so don’t bother trying. Just make sure it ends at the bend of the wrist and not before or after.
The sleeves should fit close to your arm, but not so tight that you can see your muscles or the ripples of the shirt underneath (like the sweater that’s too tight above) or so loose that it’s floppy and folding on itself. The model I used was very muscular, but you can’t see his biceps well-defined, or the folds of his collared shirt under the sleeves.
Quick tip: If you’re wearing a v-neck sweater, lightly tug on the sweater sleeve so your dress shirt cuff is sticking out about 1/4″. It’ll have a little bunching near the wrist, that’s fine. As you can see in my picture below, it still looks great.
Like with all your garments in the Essential Series, you want the shoulder seams to hit just where your shoulders start to slope down into your arms. I call this “the natural end of your shoulder”. See the picture below for what I’m talking about – the seam hits perfectly at the point where the shoulder turns into the upper arm.
For any sweater, you want to be able to pinch no more than 2 inches of fabric on either side of your lower rib cage. You also don’t want to be able to pinch any less than 1 inch of fabric, as that’s way too tight. You want it to lightly hug your torso, but not be so loose or tight. This goes for ALL BODY TYPES. I know some of my larger clients fight me on this, but they always come around when they see how much better and fitted it looks. A little rippling in a sweater will always happen, so it’s unavoidable.
This only applies to v-necks, as crew neck sweaters are all pretty universal. You want the bottom of the “v” to be no lower than the top of your armpits.
The opening of the v-neck should be just wide enough so that you can tuck your collar tips and they stay in place – like the image above. A wider opening than that would look terrible, as it’ll show too much shirt on the outside of the collar like the image of the too big sweater. For crew necks, they’re a pretty standard size – they shouldn’t be stretched out or show any shirt underneath.
They shouldn’t be so high that they’re cutting into your armpits like in my “too small” image or so big and low that it looks like a bunch of excess fabric is around your chest like in my “too big” image near the top of this story.
The Best Sweaters Every Man Should Own
See my V-Neck Sweater Essential Article for my favorite sweaters that every man should own.