How Do Men's Dress Shirt Sizes Work

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A dress shirt gives you instant style, and they are required in most professional business environments. Choosing the right dress shirt is essential to making sure that you look and feel your best. It isn't difficult to take your dress shirt measurements. It is, however, important to consider fit as well as measurements to ensure that you get a shirt you'll love. Here's how to measure your dress shirt size, and some considerations in choosing the right one for you. 

Dress Shirt Measurements

There are two important measurements for off-the-rack dress shirts: Neck size and sleeve length. When the size is listed, the neck size is the first number and the sleeve length is the second number. For a measurement of 16.5 x 34, the neck is 16.5" and the sleeves are 34". Neck sizes generally increase by half inches. 

Every shirt has two sleeve measurements, depending on which buttons on the cuff you are using. Occasionally, chest or waist measurements are also given, but most manufacturers of quality dress shirts don't list the chest or waist size. Here is how to find your dress shirt measurements. 

*You will need a cloth tape measure at least long enough to measure the length of your arms.

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Neck Measurement

Wrap the tape measure around the thickest part of your neck. This is generally where you wear a buttoned-up shirt collar. If you aren't quite at a ½ marker, move up to the next one on the measuring tape. You don't want your collar to be too tight when fully buttoned. 

Those who are very bothered by tight collars may want to go up a full inch, but remember that a collar that does not fit snugly may make you look disheveled. Furthermore, since the collar size also correlates with the size of the chest and overall fit of the shirt, an overly high estimate in the collar can result in a shirt that is too big through the body. 

Measure Your Arms

Hang your arm at your side and bend it slightly at the elbow. It is best to have help measuring the arms, as it can be difficult to keep your arm positioned properly while using the other arm to measure. 

  • Have your helper place one end of the measuring tape at the very center back of your neck between your shoulder blades. 
  • Measure across the shoulder and down the arm length. 
  • Follow the curve of the arm and shoulder to account for the bends. Don't just draw a straight line from the neck to the wrist. 
  • Mark your endpoint at the end of the wrist bone, just below the base of your thumb, or wherever you prefer your sleeve lengths to end. 

Dress Shirt Types

Body measurements aren’t all that matter when choosing the perfect dress shirt fit for your needs. Modern dress shirts are generally cut into one of three fits to accommodate different body types. Knowing which fit works for your body type is important in choosing the best cut for you. 


Tailored shirts offer a slim fit that gently tapers from the shoulders to the waist, accentuating the lines of your body. These shirts still offer room to move for athletically built men, but they aren't the best choice for the most solidly built guys. 

If you like a slimmer fit but worry that it'll be too tight for your build, consider a tailored shirt that offers a dynamic 4-way stretch like those made by Twillory. Such shirts offer a lean fit while still providing a lot of flexibility so that you'll be comfortable whether you are active or sitting for long periods. Tailored shirts that are made entirely from cotton or another less flexible material may be uncomfortable for any but the most slender men. 

Extra Trim

Men with slender builds and men who are quite tall often benefit from an extra trim cut. These shirts are cut to be fairly tight, especially in the elbow and wrist. Men with thicker arms or a broader build will probably not be comfortable in an extra trim, but men that often feel like their dress shirts are hanging on them even when they order smaller sizes will find this fit to be perfect. 

Like with the tailored cut, it may be well worth your while to invest in a shirt that has a dynamic stretch to make the fit more comfortable for you as you move around. 

Traditional or Classic Fit

Traditional dress shirts have some taper from the shoulders to the waist, but the taper is much less dramatic than with either the tailored or the extra trim cut. This is a better choice for a man with a broader build from the shoulders down to the waist. 

Traditional fit dress shirts also tend to give more fabric on the arms and around the elbows than other cuts, which make them a good pick for men with thick arms. 

Picking the Right Shirt for You

The right dress shirt for one man won't be the right for another, even if the size and fit is the same. You need to pick a shirt that fits your needs, whether you'll mostly be wearing your dress shirts for long days of work or are picking the perfect shirt for an important meeting. 

For some men, wearing a shirt from the office to after-work drinks is important. Here are some features that you can keep in mind as you are shopping for a shirt that will meet your needs. 

  • Wrinkle-free. A shirt that looks great right out of the closet doesn't just save you time when you're getting ready in the morning. Wrinkle-free dress shirts look great all day, allowing you to go from sitting at your desk to performing in a meeting seamlessly.
  • Moisture-wicking.  You'll be more comfortable throughout your day if your dress shirt stays cool and dry. Dress shirts that effectively wick moisture can enable you to go without an undershirt, which is cooler and more comfortable. If you'd like to avoid the embarrassment of wet stains, go with a moisture wicking dress shirt.
  • Breathable.  Breathable shirts are more comfortable, and they help you to adjust more easily between temperatures, which can be essential when you are moving from a cool office to a hot outdoors climate or from the cold outdoors to a heated office. Adjusting your temperature more quickly keeps you more comfortable.
  • Collar ring shield. A collar shield can protect collars from dirt and sweat stains. This is especially important for white and other lightly colored shirts. It also helps to give a shirt a look of substance and quality.
  • Extras. A high-quality dress shirt may also include an extra gift to make your shirt look its best,  like these shirts by Twillory that come with brushed nickel collar stays. Quality, attractive, removable collar stays like these are a valuable addition and a much better option than built-in collar stays offered by lower-quality shirts. 
  • Personal style. Just because you're wearing a dress shirt doesn't mean that you can't express some style. Dress shirts with contrast like this skull contrast shirt look professional with the sleeves rolled down. However, they offer a fun skull pattern contrast in the color shield and the sleeve lining when the sleeves are rolled up. 

Choose Quality

Whatever size dress shirt you decide on and whatever style and fit works best for you, make sure that quality is the first qualification. A quality dress shirt will make you look your best and earn you respect in your workplace. 

Furthermore, dress shirts of high-quality are much more comfortable and durable over the years. You'll keep loving your well-fitted dress shirt for a long time to come, provided you measure carefully, follow the size chart, and make a high-quality choice.

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