Does size matter? Believe me, it does. I am of course talking about shirt size. Every now and then I see an article or a TV programme which claims that most women do not know their correct bra size. Women are encouraged to go along to have a fitting because they can be wearing a bra 2 to 3 sizes away from the correct one for them. You may have seen similar articles. If you haven’t perhaps you need to read your wife or girlfriend’s magazines more frequently. Anyways, I digress….
However, that got me thinking. Unless we men are somehow more naturally attuned to our chest sizes we are just as likely to be wearing shirts that do not fit properly. (It is, of course, just possible that we are more attuned; apparently men are more likely to notice both male and female chest sizes than our female counterparts.)
If you are going to build a gentleman’s wardrobe one of the elements to address at ground zero is to make sure that you know your correct shirt size. Here’s the thing, you might think that you know your shirt size but many of us are wrong. I am a reasonably intelligent man in my mid 40s; I have 3 university degrees; I have been interested in style since my teens. Despite all this I only discovered my correct shirt size just over 4 years ago. This means that for nearly 2 decades of my adult life I was wearing incorrectly sized shirts and had no idea. How is this possible?
In my case it’s all to do with freakishly long arms. My arms, wrist to wrist, are over 6 feet in length, and apparently too long relative to the rest of my torso. Most men’s shirts are based on a set of assumptions about the proportions of the 3 basic dimensions of a shirt: collar size, chest size and sleeve length. So if you pop into virtually any clothing store men shirt sizes are described only in collar size: 16, 16½, 17, etc. The assumption is that if your collar is 16½ inches in diameter then your chest size and sleeve length will be within certain parameters. So woe betide the man who, like me, needs a 16 or 16½ inch collar shirt but whose arms are not the expected 34 inches in length or whose chest is not 44 inches. My way round this was to buy shirts which had my sleeve length, in my case 17½ inch shirts, which were up to 3 sizes too large. Here’s the crucial thing. I did not know I was buying shirts that were too large; I thought this was my size because if I bought shirts smaller than 17½ I had an unseemly gap between the end of my sleeves and the end of my wrist.
Just over four years ago I made a revolutionary discovery. (I’ll tell you how in a later blog, How I Found the Perfect Fit). First, my shirts were too big and second there are shirt makers out there who make shirts for people like me, which actually fit properly. It was a revelation and a major incentive to get on with building a wardrobe.
For many of us men there will be different reasons why we are wearing incorrectly sized shirts. You may still be wearing the size you used to buy when you were in your 20s but have put in a little weight so that your shirts are now a little too small. There is no point in building a wardrobe if it is not with clothes that fit properly. This is perhaps the most important style tip I can think of; wear clothes that fit properly and which are most readily complementary your body shape. Figure out whether you are better off wearing slim fit or classic fit shirts, narrow, wide spread, or button down collars, button or double cuffs.
So if you have not been measured recently or have never been measured get a proper measurement done sharpish and see whether you, like me, and many other men besides, have been wearing incorrectly sized shirts for years. Good shirt makers like T M Lewin, Hawes & Curtis, or Charles Tyrwhitt will be happy to offer you a quick measurement in most of their stores at no cost. Some of the larger M&S or Debenhams stores will often have a similar service. If your local dry cleaners offers an alteration service they may also be happy to take your measurements. Best of all if you have a tailor in your neighbourhood (rare I know) go see him and get yourself measured PDQ.
Size does matter gents. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.