Keep tabs on all articles from this tag: The Perfect Fit

We harp on the importance of fit all the time here at EG… but what exactly constitutes a great fit for dress and sport shirts? 

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 – with dress and sport shirts.


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 your dress and sport shirts 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 dress and sport 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 on styling your dress and sport shirts? 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!

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PUBLISHED October 12, 2012

Barron is a Lean Wardrobe Advocate and Founding Editor of Effortless Gent. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Tumblr.

  • Keep up these ‘fit’ articles! Hugely helpful.

    • Glad to hear it! I’ll keep em coming.

  • Brad

    Good work EG

  • I agree with John Pierce. This is what I need. Major help. Thanks!

  • John

    When measuring sleeve length, what is the starting point? The top of the shoulder?

  • Jules

    Could you post a full-body pic so we can see how the entire well-fitting shirt looks when worn?


  • Great points to keep in mind. However, many men will still struggle to find a good fit with something off the rack.The foolproof way to get a perfect fit is to go with a custom shirt from J.Hilburn!

  • Dfoley

    Do you have any specific recommendations of more modern fitting shirts? I have a few of the Brooks Brothers extra slim shirts and I have found that they are still slightly boxy on me.

    • Yeah, BB doesn’t really go that slim. Try more fashion-forward brands. Places like Express, H&M, Uniqlo. Shirts are typically affordable and really slim fitting, and come in a decent fabric selection.

  • Totally right about hefty guys in slim shirts. Since a dress shirt is proportional to its collar size, and a bigger dude has to wear a big collar, it means the body is going to be HUGE. The only way to get a big collar and a normal sized body is with a slim fit shirt.

    Unfortunately for me, my collar size doesn’t come in the right sleeve length either, at least not off the shelf. Collar is 1/2 a size too big to still be able to find “32-33” length sleeves.

    • Funny thing is, lots of guys don’t realize this, and they immediately dismiss slim fits, saying it would never fit them. Glad you realize that’s not the case. Sizing will never be perfect with off the rack, just do the best you can to find the closest fit possible.

  • Dan

    I’ve found that sometimes even if the closed cuff of the shirt hits your wrist bone, the shirt will feel/look to short if you stretch your arms out or extend your arm to shake a hand. I remember seeing pics on someone’s site showing the correct sleeve length to be where the bottom of an unbuttoned cuff reaches the part of your hand where your thumb connects to your hand. Then when buttoned, the cuff should be tight enough that it doesn’t extend past your wrist bone. I’ve found sleeves of this length to look/feel best. Thoughts?

    • I like this method of fitting. You’re right, it really does depend and while we want to avoid excessive pooling of fabric around the wrist area (which means your sleeve is too long), we also don’t want a cuff that rides up our forearm when we reach out to shake someone’s hand. If this method works well for you, definitely go for it.

  • RJ

    Thank you, totally appreciate the hers up on what to do and what not to do.

  • RJ

    Thanks for the heads up on what to do and not do with fit.

  • It’s important to note that in regards to shirt-fit terminology, Express brand clothing uses “modern fit” to describe their loosest-fitting
    shirts, “fitted” for their middle of the road fit, and “extra slim” for
    their tightest fit. Perhaps they mean “modern fit” in the sense that the modern American man is heavier-set than any previous generation and, thus, “modern” fits loosely for the “modern heavy-set gentlemen.” I don’t know. Regardless, just take not of the inconsistency in terminology and don’t accidentally buy the wrong fit!

    • Interesting, thanks for pointing this out. Haven’t shopped at Express in forever, so maybe they changed the style names (or maybe I’m just mistaken completely). In any case, all the more reason to go into stores yourself and try on what they have to offer.

      • I believe you were correct in stating that many stores choose “modern” to describe their slimmer fits. I was merely pointing out the fact that Express does not operate that way. I worked for them up until the beginning of this year so I am all-too-familiar with their backward ways…

  • Gazman

    I’m all in favour of slim cut shirts, suits, pants, but when you see photos in, say, GQ Magazine you’d be excused for thinking they’ve painted on the clothes the models wear. At a guess I’d say most of the clothes on the models in fashion photos are pinned so as to provide as slim a silhouette as possible. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the old airbrush is used to brush out any excess fabric. Slim is great but clothes are made to be lived in – you walk, sit down, kneel, bend over, reach, drive a car, lift things – so too slim is simply impractical as well as being uncomfortable. PS: Love your site; great advice and tips!

  • dopko

    Very informative and well done!
    I just found your blog and am really enjoying it!!

  • Michael

    Can a tailor shorten huge collar points if you have a smaller face?

  • Jim Chen

    Just to clarify. That “wrist bone” you refer to earlier is the radial styloid process.

    Just in case people aren’t sure 😉

    Great article by the way!

  • Johnny

    I found a shiny and fabulous piece of cloth in my father’s storage room
    It was silvery grey in color and cotton which shined like silk
    I got it stitched and the tailor … He sewed it perfectly except he made the collar way too big which looks like it belongs to Jimi Hendrix or somebody else from 60s
    What should I do now ? Can I get the collar shortened ?
    Note : I’m not refering to collar size , I’m refering to the width of collar or size of collar , It’s HUGE

  • Tony

    This is a great guide. I have always tried to find dress shirts that fit properly, and this will be a great help.


    • No problem. No URLs in the comments please, thanks.

  • I’d go with a light blue end-on-end English spread, French cuff shirt.
    I’m not a fan of pockets or darts, so neither of those, but a standard
    placket is great.

  • Mike

    Anyone have issues with the torso of a modern fit not being long enough that the shirt keeps coming un-tucked whenever you sit down? Or is my torso just excessively long?