Today’s quick tip from Manny over at Well Built Style will solve your billowy shirt problems.


Without a doubt, one of my favorite television shows growing up was Seinfeld.

For those of you who are die-hard fans of the show, I’m sure that just the title of this article is enough for you to recall one of the more classic episodes from the series when Jerry is cajoled into wearing a “puffy shirt” designed by Kramer’s girlfriend for his appearance on The Tonight Show.


As humorous as this episode was, my main reason in referencing it is to invite men everywhere to pay particular attention to the fit of their button-up shirts.

When it comes to men’s style, fit is one of the most important aspects to get right.

Far too often, I’ve seen men wearing shirts one to two sizes too big, giving them the much dreaded “puffy shirt” effect.

Needless to say, this is not a flattering look. First line of defense: Make sure the shirts you buy are your actual size!

However, with that said, I do understand that for a man with slim or athletic (especially athletic) builds, this can pose a challenge. I know this because I happen to be one of those men myself.

The problem with today’s clothing is that it is mass produced on an industrial scale and is based on the dimensions of the average consumer.

Unfortunately, this means that guys who spend even a modest amount of time in the gym will have trouble finding shirts that fit them well in the chest and shoulders, while still being trim and tapered in the body.

The same goes for men with slimmer builds; the bodyweight and midsections of the average American male continues to balloon amidst the ongoing obesity epidemic, making classic fits (i.e. boxy, wide) a necessary silhouette on store shelves.

To illustrate my point, take a look at the following images. For reference, I’m 5’11” (180cm), 190 lbs (86 kg), 43.5” (110.5cm) chest, 33 inch (84cm) waist, and I’m wearing a size 16 neck, 34/35 sleeve, classic cut dress shirt.


As you can see, I’m absolutely drowning in this dress shirt. Although the length of the sleeves and neck fit me well, the body of the shirt is just way too big.

As this is a classic cut shirt, it is not tapered, so it does absolutely nothing to accentuate my wide chest and narrow waist. Judging from these pictures, you wouldn’t even think that I spend any time in the gym at all!

This is a perfect example of what I consider a “puffy shirt” to be.

Men with slimmer builds suffer a similar fate with classic silhouettes. Their slim physiques simply drown in pools of excess fabric. Again, not flattering at all. Why walk around wearing clothes that make you look 10-30 lbs heavier than you actually are?

What about “Slim Fit” shirts?

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Why don’t you just wear a slim or tailored fit dress shirt instead? That would surely solve your problems.”

Sad to say, but these shirts are often hardly any better!

For example, take a look at the following images. In them, I’m wearing a medium slim fit white button up shirt.


As you can see, there is still a significant amount of “puffiness” going on here, despite the shirt being labeled as slim. The proportions are still too large and simply do not flatter an athletic physique. If I’m experiencing this problem, slim guys will definitely see the same issue.

A note on sizing down

Slim guys do have one advantage over men with beefier physiques: they can size down more effectively since they don’t carry any excess muscle through the chest and shoulders. This means that when a slim man does size down, he won’t have any pulling or tightness in those areas.

In fact, if you’re an evenly-proportioned guy and your “slim” shirt looks similar to the above photo, you should continue to size down so the shirt fits you even better, keeping in mind basic indications of good fit, such as shoulder seam orientation and lack of pull on the buttons.

If the shoulder seam is tight around your armpit, if your front placket (where the shirt buttons) is pulling apart as you move your arms, or if your nipples are showing, your shirt is probably too tight.

So what’s a guy to do?!

So what can well-built, athletic, or slim men do to rectify this puffy shirt problem?

Should they just resign themselves to a lifetime of hiding their button up shirts under sweaters and blazers? Of course not!

Fortunately, the solution to this problem is a rather simple one: Darting.

In order to ensure proper fit, men with more muscular physiques (yes, even generally athletic and slimmer guys as well) will most likely need to have their shirts darted by a tailor.

For those who don’t know what darting is, it is a simple tailoring procedure where extra fabric from your shirt is taken in at the back, thereby slimming or tapering the fit of the shirt to the contours of your body.

Still confused? Here is a visual example of what darting looks like from the back of one of my button-up shirts:


The above image is from one of my slim fit shirts (size medium) which I had darted for a better fit. I have highlighted the location where extra fabric from the shirt was folded over and sewn together, creating a fine line or a “dart” that runs down the back of the shirt.

This alteration cost me about $15 and made a dramatic improvement to the overall fit of the shirt:


There’s no question that this shirt fits my body much better than the previous two examples. The shirt has no excess fabric around the waist, it accentuates my broad chest and shoulders, and nicely highlights my V-taper. You can now actually tell that I spend some time in the gym.

As a well-built man with features that don’t always conform to standard proportions, I can’t stress enough the importance of having your clothes tailored. A good tailor can make a world of difference in how your clothing fits, especially when they’re just not fitting right directly off the rack.

Final Word

elidressshirtOne of the most important aspects of good style is the fit of your clothing. When it comes to dress shirts in particular, you want to ensure they fit snugly (but not tightly) around your torso, with no excessive fabric pooling when tucked in.

Finding button up shirts that fit well in this respect becomes particularly challenging for men with more athletic or slim builds because of our body’s proportions, plus, most off-the-rack options are designed for the “standard” consumer.

The fact is, we’re just not carrying enough extra volume around the midsection, and we tend to have a larger drop between our chest and waist measurements. This makes finding well-fitting button up shirts difficult, regardless if they are tailored or slim fit versions.

The solution to this problem relies on the relationship you have with your tailor. Since darts are now an option, you can buy a shirt based on how the chest and shoulders fit. Even if the body is slightly wider than you’d like, once darts are added, they will help you achieve that clean, polished look.

Keep in mind, you don’t ALWAYS have to add darts, but if a slim fitting shirt is still much too wide and you can’t find anything else, darting is your solution.

So as a well-built man, do yourself a favor and take that ill-fitting button up shirt to the tailor. It’s a small price to pay to avoid looking like a puffy-shirted pirate.

And as always gentlemen, stay fit and look sharp!

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PUBLISHED January 7, 2014

Manny De La Cruz is a lifelong fitness enthusiast turned style aficionado. He is the co-founder of Well Built Style, a website dedicated to helping men around the world overhaul their look through style and fitness.

  • LizReed

    Custom fit shirts are the answer!!

    • It’s ONE answer, though not everyone can shell out the money for all custom all the time.

      • I agree, custom fit shirts are awesome but can get rather expensive. Also, in my case, over the period of even a year, my waistline tends to fluctuate and I prefer knowing that the shirt I bought isn’t going to be completely useless if I put on a few pounds!
        Here’s my take on back darts by the way:

  • Turner

    On the bottom picture the tie does not meet the belt. Not to be picky but I tend to wear the tie below the belt a few inches for two reasons. One I look thinner and secondly I look a little taller as well. Plus it adds to the overall look to the outfit.

    • Jonathan

      Absolutely not, I personally much prefer this guy’s length of tie.

    • Respectfully disagree, but the small difference is certainly a stylistic choice. To me, a few inches below looks “wrong” while an inch or two above is more “on trend” or “modern”, not that I’m trying to look trendy, but I prefer of-the-moment over wrong. Rock it how you like it, though.

  • If you don’t want to make alterations to the shirt or think you may ‘grow into it’ at some point, other options for getting the shirt to behave are the military tuck (read an article on it on Lifehacker) but it doesn’t last (for me anyway) or a shirt stay (which look like garters but work throughout the day). Great post on incorporating darts. I wrote on both topics on my blog as well!

  • beardedman

    On the other side of the spectrum, I have somewhat narrow shoulders and a spare tire. I get custom made shirts online so the shoulders and sleeves are good, and the body is not terribly loose, but it still seems there is a bit of extra fabric I could do without. I thought about getting the shirts darted, but the last thing I want is to have the roll of fat around my beltline being accentuated they way your pecs are being accentuated by your tailor. Maybe a little billowing cloth is better than a sharply defined roll!

    • Have you tried just a basic slim shirt from a selection of different stores? Most I’ve tried have enough room to accommodate a bit of heft in the midsection without being too slim. It just takes a bit of legwork to try a variety of brands, but they’re out there. Of course, custom is always another option.

  • Gretchen Neels

    No one needs a puffy shirt! Custom shirts from J.Hilburn are the answer. In the DC metro area? Contact me for a free evaluation! 571-471-3600

  • Unguided

    Thanks for the information. Your measurements fit me to a T. I have the puffy shirt problem. I combat this without tailoring the same way we did it in the Marine Corps. I fold the extra material just behind my back and pull it right. Looks professional and works great.

    • Don’t you get bunching and billowing the back though? The military tuck is a good solution (linked in a comment below)

      • Unguided

        I do get bunching while sitting down but I always correct it wen I stand up. After years of doing it the fold comes naturally when I tuck in my shirt. Fixing really only takes 5 seconds.

  • Alex

    This is an awesome post. I think every guy has had this problem. So how are those New Year’s resolutions coming, everyone? I think one of the most popular ones was to save more money this year, but if you’re like me you don’t want to sacrifice looking good to do it. We’re a shaving company called Dorco and we’d love to let you know how much you could save on your razors and still look amazing. Our razors cost up to 70% less than leading brands. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the quality of your shave. Read what others think about our products and our prices at Thanks again for such a helpful post.

  • kiko

    awesome post I have the same problem.17″ neck, 40 something chest and much broader shoulders, currently 32″ waist, that’s me carrying extra weight.
    All of my shirts have been billowy and i hate it, I will be looking to try tailoring though. One other thing is the arms in my shirt are also billowy.dunno if it’s clear in the image. any suggestions for this? also i should note i’m quite poor so my funds are limited but i’m willing to pay for quality to look professional.

  • victor

    I shop at Mexx, where a lot of their shirts already have darts in them…check them out !!!
    they fit awesome…the only thing is I find their sleeves a bit long, but that’s easy to get tailored…

  • Domengnator

    You see, I’m from the Philippines and it is often that most of our relatives in the abroad give me formal shirts for my work, knowing what my work environment is. Since the weather here in our country is typically hot, we rarely use our sweaters and blazers! Sometimes I do use them but remove them before I go out of my car. I have a slim body type, but slim fit shirts that they gave me are still too big in the waist/belly part.

    To cut the story short, you solved one of my worst problems in my closet! I have around 10-15 shirts just staying in my closet because of this “puffiness” issue.

    Will definitely go to my tailor this weekend and have it altered(darting). Thanks a lot!!!! More power!

    • Tailors are cheap in the Philippines; I used to send clothes home with my parents when they’d visit, just to get my garments altered (pre-pinned, of course).

  • wordup

    As a thin guy, I pretty much need to get all my shirts taken in. Even after tailoring, and even on my made-to-measure shirts, I still get this puffiness that happens in the lower back area.
    Do you have any tips for this area?
    Thanks a lot for the article! People need to spread the word on this, too many grown men are looking like a kid at sunday school.

    • Eric

      Find a better tailor. A good tailor will take a shirt in from the back, as well as from the sides, when necessary.

    • You can ask for more to be taken in, especially if you’re getting made-to-measure shirting. You’ll have some extra fabric there (you don’t want it looking like spandex wrapped around your torso), but not so much that it looks like the first example picture above.

      It could also be related to how you’re tucking in your shirt. The tucked area needs to be evened and smoothed out after buttoning your pants and buckling your belt.

  • StylishGuy


    Great post I have always wondered how to remedy this problem! I usually just live with the billowiness, because most other guys have this problem too so I just thought thats how things are. I will try the shirt stays (even though most did comment that they look like the ever so feminine “garter”) and see how these work. Thank you for the help! As always EffortlessGent gives me the advice I need to take my wardrobe to that next level.

    • Glad to hear it helped! Yeah the shirt stays are essentially garters, though they work. I’d prefer to just have darts put in, or try the military tuck.

  • Wayne

    Thanks for the post. as a tall guy with a athletic build even at times that I have carried ten extra lbs I have the problem with large shirts. When I slim down to a medium my shoulders do not fit. Darting is defiantly the right move for someone with these problems.

  • Faisal Al-Khalidi

    ^This. Thank you so much!

  • Sirilly

    Backs darts or side pleats for ill-fitting sports shirts???

  • ac

    In the photo with the grey shirt, how do you deal with the tightness of the upper arm? The torso fits well, but I can’t imagine being comfortable with a non-stretch woven cloth fitting that closely in the area just above the elbow.

  • Carlos Medina Gallego

    One question, how would darts look in a white shirt? Wouldn’t they be too visible?

  • This is my video on how to tailor a shirt. It’s the number one how to tailor a shirt on youtube. Check it out!

  • Pretty awesome approach at finding the right dress shirt

  • Oxemberg

    Very nice pieces of information on the right fit for a shirt. A perfect fit shirt can make your look Likewise a shirt with an imperfect fit can mar the look.

  • Matt

    Great article! It also may be worth looking into e-commerce companies that are approaching fit differently, like Hugh & Crye. They create off the rack shirts with a different sizing system based on the build of the body and length of the torso/sleeves. Has worked well for me.

  • zach99zulu

    Awesome article and great information in the comments as well!!!

  • JustBeingHonest

    Does it really work

  • Gabe

    Great tips. Being a man with a similar build to you I have the same struggles and have had many of my shirts tailored to prevent them from ballooning. Like Hugh & Crye which Matt mentioned I recently discovered Batch Shirts. Their tapered fit is based off of your waist size and the length of their shirt is just right to stay tucked in. No more needing to go to the tailor.

  • KB

    I have been wondering how to tailor my hubby’s shirts. I was thinking about darts when I saw this article. I pinned up two identical shirts for him, one down the side seams, one darted. He loved the way the darted shirt felt. I have always loved his V shape. Thanks for the advice.

  • Tareq

    MANNN!! Exact problem Thanks for the solution …. My wide back and shoulders is causing too much excess fabric in the back, doesnt look nice