The Perfect Fit: Dress and Sport Shirts

October 12, 2012 · 28 comments

in The Perfect Fit

Hey gents,

We harp on the importance of fit all the time here at EG… but what exactly constitutes a great fit? I’ll attempt to explain this in a series of articles. Let’s call them “The Perfect Fit”. How appropriate!

Dress and Sport Shirts

I want to touch on every piece of clothing (eventually), from suits, to denim, to sweaters, to outerwear. Good fit can be interpreted in many ways (plenty of which are wrong, I’m sure), so why not set the record straight here?

For the first installment of this impromptu series, let’s start off simple.


The body of the shirt should be trim throughout the torso. Not necessarily snug or cutting off oxygen flow, but not so billowy and blouse-like that you can fit a pack of corgis in there.

You want to make sure that the body is tapered down to the hip; that will prevent the extra muffin-top fabric that spills outside of your waistband when you try to tuck in your shirt, like the guy in this photo.

Your dress shirt will be longer than your sport shirts, since dress shirts are meant to be tucked in, while sport shirts are designed so you can wear them untucked. We covered the differences more thoroughly in this Back to Basics article, so feel free to check that out.


The best way to measure your neck is with tailor’s tape.

The second best way is to guesstimate, and then take a few shirts with you into the fitting room and try them on.

Rule of thumb: You want one to two fingers’ worth of space between your shirt collar and your neck. – click to tweet this

Here’s what I mean. Simply place your middle finger on top of your index finger (like you’re about to cross your fingers, but you didn’t go all the way), and with your shirt buttoned all the way up (yes, even your collar), see if you can fit that finger stack between your neck and shirt collar.

For some guys, one finger will work just fine. You have to see what you’re comfortable with.

Can’t fit your finger or finger stack in there? Your shirt collar is too tight. Go with 1/2 size larger, and keep sizing up until you can get your finger in there. If you can button your collar but can’t fit a finger, you most likely will only have to go 1/2 size up.

On the opposite end, can you fit your whole fist in there? Your shirt is too big, my friend. Size down until you find the sweet spot.

Sleeve width

If you’re picking up a more modern dress shirt (stores can use “modern”, “tailored”, and “slim” interchangeably), you shouldn’t have to worry too much about shirt sleeve width. Since the rest of the shirt is trim, your sleeves will be as well.

Watch out for shirts with a lot of extra fabric in the sleeves; you don’t want a shirt like that.

Side Note: For you more hefty gents carrying a bit more girth (whether that’s fat or muscle), don’t immediately dismiss modern- or slim-fit dress shirts as only for skinny dudes. Find your size and try one on; I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Start at Brooks Brothers, and check out the Extra Slim Fit shirts. They also have Slim Fit, and then traditional. Their Extra Slim Fit isn’t as slim as it sounds, which might be a good thing for you meaty guys, since they’ll be accommodating to your size but not boxy.

Modern fit simply takes the unnecessary fabric out of the shirt; you’re still left with enough to accommodate your size, but you will appear more trim.

The more fabric you have, the more hefty you look.

Sleeve length

With your arms at your sides and cuff buttoned, make sure your sleeve cuff hits your wrist bone. Sorry, I don’t know the proper name, but the bone that juts out of your wrist, where your arm ends and your hand begins. Haha, I should be an anatomy professor.

That’s the ideal sleeve length. As far as cuff width, use any of the buttons provided for you, as long as it’s comfortable and not too tight.

Shirt sleeve (underneath suit jacket sleeve)

Here’s a little bonus for you extra credit types.

When wearing a suit jacket or sport coat over your dress shirt, ideally you’d have 1/4″ – 1/2″ of your shirt cuff showing. Sure, the actual length you decide on is your personal preference, but I’d stick to a bare minimum of 1/4″. I personally like a little more shirt cuff showing, so I go 1/2″.

If your jacket sleeve completely covers your shirt sleeve, either your jacket sleeve is too long, or your shirt sleeve is too short. Get that fixed, pronto.


Well there ya have it! Some things to keep in mind when checking out the fit of your shirts.

This is just the first in a series of fit-related articles. I know we discuss fit a lot on EG (it IS paramount, after all), but I’ve never gotten into the details of how each piece of clothing should actually fit. Hopefully this series will solve that issue. Look out for more in the near future.

Questions? Need further clarification? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

By the way, I’ve started this new semi-regular video series, called EG Sundays. We go into a bit of detail about style-related topics I’ve found interesting throughout the week, or further explanations about some of EG’s style tenets (i.e. Lean Wardrobe, buying fewer but better quality clothing, etc.)

Really riveting, entertaining stuff, I promise!

Here’s the thing: It’s only available to my email subscribers. So if you wanted access, make sure to get on the list. You can sign up here.

Have a great weekend!


Barron is the founder and editor of Effortless Gent, a site dedicated to helping guys figure out what looks best on them. He's based in San Francisco. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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