How Should A Dress Shirt Fit?

This article is part of my Men’s Clothing Fit Guide.
After being asked “How should a suit should fit?“, the next question I get is how should a dress shirt fit. So I put together this dress shirt fit guide for you. My friend Andrew, over at PrimerMagazine put together a great graphic for the proper dress shirt fit below.

Shirt_Diagram

Collar

The collar should just graze your neck without constricting it when buttoned. If turning your head causes the collar to turn with it, it’s too tight. You should be able to comfortably fit 1 finger inside of your buttoned collar without it choking you. Two fingers is too much (even though the image says otherwise) and looks a little sloppy to me.

Shoulders

The shoulder seam should be right where your shoulder starts sloping down to your arm. Somewhere above the armpit, basically. If the seam starts creeping past where your shoulder slopes down, its too big. If it lands before your shoulder slopes, it’s too small.

Armholes

Armholes should be comfortable in motion – they should not be so tight that they cut into the underarm. However, they shouldn’t be so loose that there’s a bunch of excess fabric around the armpit. An easy way to check this is to tuck your shirt into your pants – if lifting your arms 45 degrees lifts your shirt out of your pants more than an inch or so, your armholes are probably too low.

Sleeves

They should not be so tight that you can see the details of your arms, but they should also not be so loose as to billow and bunch at the wrist. When you bend your arm, your cuff should not move more than an inch up your wrist. If it does, it’s likely too tight.

The sleeve/cuff should end right at the bend of your wrist.

Cuffs

When speaking of cuffs, there’s two major types: French and Barrel. They should both fit about the same.

With the cuffs buttoned, and your arms at your side, when you bend your wrist so your palms are facing the ground, the sleeves should barely touch the top of your hand (see the video above for details). Ideally, they should be able ¼” above the top of your hand, but if it’s just lightly grazing, that’s OK. Anything more than that and the sleeves need to be hemmed. You want this length so your shirt sleeve slightly peeks out from under your blazer or suit jacket sleeve.

Your cuffs should be tight enough to not restrict movement, but not so loose that your thumb notch at your wrist doesn’t stop the cuff from moving up your hand. It should be a bit looser than a properly fitting watch.

Torso/Body

You shouldn’t be able to pinch more than 2-3” of fabric on either side of the waist. The body of the shirt should fit closely around your torso, no matter what your shape or size. A billowy shirt is no excuse, especially if you’re a larger man.

Length

Untucked

If you’ll wear the shirt untucked (not really what I’d recommend with a dress shirt) but either way, it should end around the mid-crotch area. Any longer than that and it’s too long and should only be worn tucked in. Shorter than that just doesn’t look good.

Tucked In

If you’ll always be wearing the shirt tucked in, which I recommend for dress shirts, then the longer the better. Traditionally, dress shirts were made very long – usually ending at the bottom or past the crotch. If you have this type of shirt, NEVER, EVER wear the shirt untucked. I can’t tell you how many times I see older guys wearing these types of shirts untucked and I vomit a little inside my mouth whenever I see it. It looks horrible.

My Dress Shirt Recommendations

Check out my Semi-Spread Collar Dress Shirt article for my favorite dress shirts.

How Should A Suit Fit?

In this article, I want to talk about and show you how should a suit fit if you’re going for the perfect fit. These fit rules are for every single guy, no matter your age or body type. A lot of my older clients say, “I don’t want to look like an older guy trying to look young and hip in a suit.” and my younger clients say, “I don’t want to look like some old stuffy guy in a suit.” I always reassure them that I’d never fit them to look younger or older than they are.

Well here’s my dirtly little secret – no matter their age or body shape – I fit their suits exactly the same. A well-fitting suit looks good on everybody. Can you guess how many times they’ve complained after we got them fitted in a suit?

0 times.

The below items are everything I look at and adjust to ensure my clients look razor sharp in suits.

Have questions? Curious what others think?

Join us in the comments section of the video above.

Note: The model used for these shots is around 6 feet tall. Just so you have some frame of reference.

How should a suit jacket fit?

Length

The suit jacket length will dictate how “balanced” your upper body is to your lower body. Mess up the length of the jacket and the whole suit will look off. The jacket should end around mid-crotch if you’re under 5’9”. Mid to lower if you’re any taller than that.

Crotch Measurements

The model’s jacket below is perfectly in the “mid-to-lower crotch” area.  A tailor can shorten your jacket up to an inch without messing up it’s proportions, but they can never really let much out because there’s no fabric there. Overall, you generally want this part to already be perfect when you’re buying a suit, even off the rack.

Shoulders

You want the shoulder seams of the jacket to end at the end of your shoulders – where they start curving down to your arm, basically. You should see no divots or wrinkles in the shoulders anywhere. The shoulders should lay perfectly flat, with no divots or rumpling or pulling on the shoulders. If you have more rounded shoulders, the seam should still end in the same place, you would just need a little more padding in the shoulders to make them appear less rounded. If the shoulders are too big or small, a tailor will have a very hard time fixing this, and it would be very expensive – if it was even possible. So ensure these fit properly when buying a suit from anywhere, as well. 

RealMenRealStyle has this awesome graphic showing the proper shoulder fit.

shoulder fit graphic

Sleeves

When you bend your wrist so your palms are facing the ground, the jacket sleeves should be about ¼” above the top of your hand. A lot of people recommend that it hits the top of your hand, but that’s BS – then none of your shirt sleeves will be showing, like in the picture below. This length allows for a little bit (¼”) of your shirt sleeve to peek through. If your sleeves are longer, a tailor can easily fix that. If they’re shorter by more than an 1.5″, ditch the jacket because there’s probably not enough fabric in the sleeves for your tailor to let out.

Sleeve-Length-Ashely-Weston-How-Your-Suit-Should-Fit

Body

With the top button fastened (never the bottom button), the jacket should lightly hug your midsection, but not feel tight or constricting. The jacket shouldn’t be pulling at the button, creating an ugly “X”. The X mean’s it’s too tight. If it’s roomy around your stomach/waist area, you can (and should!) have a tailor take in the sides of the jacket so it fits properly. This is a very easy and common fix for a tailor to do. Remember: For tailoring purposes, it’s better to have a jacket that’s slightly too big in the body than too small.

Suit-Jacket-Length-Ashley-Weston-Mens-Clothing-Fit-Guide

For details about the items in this exact outfit, see here.

Collar

The collar should rest against your shirt collar, which in turn should rest against the back of your neck. All of these should touch lightly, without significant gaps in between. If there’s a gap, it’s too loose. If there’s bunching just under the back of the jacket collar, it’s too tight or the stance of the jacket is off.

Collar-Fit-Ashley-Weston

Armholes

They should be high, but not so high that they’re cutting into your armpit. The picture below shows where the armholes should be on your jacket. Notice it’s not cutting into his armpit? They should be large enough that you don’t notice them, but not so big that you have a few extra inches between your armpit and the bottom of the hole. The arms should be able to move somewhat independently of the jacket’s body during normal motion, but not excessively.

While I’m speaking about suits and motion, a lot of guys who are new to wearing suits usually complain that they should be able to move their arms more while wearing a suit. Let me tell you that a suit is not activewear, so don’t think you should be able to do everything you normally do while wearing a suit. It’s just not built for that purpose.

Armholes-Ashley-Weston-Mens-Clothing-Fit-Guide

Button Stance

The jacket’s second button from the bottom (aka the top button) should lie just above your belly-button, never below. My rule of thumb is no more than an inch above and never, ever below. Otherwise it’ll throw off your body’s proportions and you’ll look really odd in the suit.

Button-Stance-Ashley-Weston-Mens-Clothing-Fit-Guide

How should suit pants fit?

Waist and Seat

Suit pants should fit perfectly around your waist with no need for a belt to hold them up. They should hit around the high hipbone area, or even slightly higher. You do not wear suit pants at the same waist as jeans – which are usually designed to sit lower. Saggy dress pants is a big no no.

The seat, or butt area, should lightly hug your tokhis (Yiddish for butt – I just love the word) and not be saggy or super tight. If it feels like you’re going to split your pants, they’re way too tight. If you’ve got a bunch of extra fabric around the butt, they’re much too loose. A tailor can fix this, it won’t be easy or cheap, but if everything else on the pants fits, definitely get it done.

RealMenRealStyle has the perfect illustration of how the seat of your pants should fit

Seat-Suit-Pants-Fit-Ashley-Weston

Legs

You want to be able to pinch around 1 inch of fabric on either side of your thigh. If it’s less than that, your pants are too tight. If it’s more, have your tailor slim the legs with a slight taper so that it gets narrower towards the ankle. This will look great on every body type/size.

Legs-Ashley-Weston-Mens-Clothing-Fit-Guide

Hem & Cuff

Always default to having your suit pants hemmed to leave a slight break. It looks more polished and sharper than a full break and no break at the hem is a time & place kind of thing, and not generally for everyday wear. A slight break works for everyone.

If you’re not familiar with the different type of pant breaks, PrimerMag has some great images to help you understand:

PantsFit_Breaks-2

A trick I do with all my clients is to have the tailor hem the pants so that it’s slightly longer at the back of the hem. That way, when you’re walking, you’ll show less sock and when standing still, it’ll lay nicer on the top and back of your shoe.

There are very few times, I’d argue almost never, when you’d cuff your suit pants. I’ve never cuffed suit pants for a single client because it’s not necessary, no matter their body type.

Hem-Break-Ashley-Weston-Mens-Clothing-Fit-Guide

My Suit Recommendations

Check out my post about the Gray 2 Button Notch Lapel Suit for my favorite suits that’ll fit any budget and look amazing on every body type.

Keith Olbermann & the Importance of Proportions

I was lucky enough to style the massive, in personality and stature, Keith Olbermann for a recent GQ spread. (My hands also make their modeling debut in the spread, as you can see in the above pic.)

Olbermann is (for lack of a better word) HUGE. When I was on set with him, and now seeing these pictures, I was reminded how important proportions are. If you’ve never seen him in person, you won’t understand just how big he is. Even the article touched upon it:

“Keith Olbermann is a large man. Conventional wisdom says TV adds ten pounds to people. Maybe. But conventional wisdom rarely applies to Olbermann. And seeing him in person, you realize TV makes the man appear smaller. In life—life outside the electronic box—he’s a good six feet three, with a chest that suggests a retired football player.”

The Importance of Proportions

When the magazine first sent me Keith’s sizes, I couldn’t believe it. Clearly these weren’t right. From all the pictures and videos I’d seen of him, I assumed he was average-sized. Upon confirmation that the measurements were accurate, I realized that Olbermann was a master of proportions.

Keith has consistently worn perfectly fitted suits for his stature. Couple that with appropriate-sized lapels, dress shirts with spread collars, and perfect tie widths and you’ll fool even a professional, like myself, into thinking you’re average-sized.

Example: The image below shows Eric Stonestreet (L) and Olbermann (R). Would you guess that they’re about the same size? I’ve met them both and they’re closer in size than you’d think.

This highlights exactly what I’m saying.

Eric is wearing a suit with regular width lapels and a skinny tie. Notice how he looks way larger than Keith?

To overcome Keith’s size, and what I would’ve done with Eric, I went with wide lapels, which have an amazing slimming effect on larger builds. One thing Eric did correctly was wear a dress shirt with a spread collar. Unfortunately, he should’ve chosen a wide tie (3.5″ at it’s widest point) and tied an equally substantial full Windsor knot to finish off his look, which is great for guys who are tall and/or have large torsos.

Golden Rules For Proportions

The width and knot of your tie should ALWAYS be in proportion with the lapels of your suit and the spread of your collar.

Here’s a quick breakdown for your height and build:

Tall & Slim: Regular width suit lapels, spread collar, 3″ wide tie, and half-windsor knot
Tall & Broad: Wide suit lapels, spread collar, 3.5″ tie, and full windsor knot
Average & Slim: Slim suit lapels, semi-spread collar, 2.5″ skinny tie, and half-windsor knot
Average & Broad: Wide suit lapels, spread collar, 3-3.5″ tie, and full windsor knot
Short & Slim: Slim suit lapels, semi-spread or point collar, 2.5″ skinny tie, and half-windsor knot
Short & Broad: Regular width suit lapels, spread collar, 3″ tie, and full windsor knot

Keith says: “Get your damn proportions in order!”  (Not really. But that’s what I imagine him saying in this picture.)