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How a smart shirt should fit

How a smart shirt should fit

Photographed: Reiss slim-fit shirt (£80)T.M. Lewin tie (£39.95)Reiss trousers (£550 for the full suit)


A great-fitting shirt makes you feel like a superhero. When you find one that sits right in all the right places, it’s as though you swapped your Clark Kent clothes for the everyday equivalent of a cape. A great shirt is flattering, it’s comfortable and it pulls your entire outfit together. And it’s easier to get right than most men think. Below, Thread stylist Alice Watt breaks down exactly what to look for every time you slip one on.


1. Collar

“It should be snug, but not strangling you. If you can’t fit two fingers in when it’s buttoned up, then it’s too tight. If you can fit a third in, or can see a visible gap between your skin and the fabric, it’s too loose.”

Can a tailor fix it? Yes, but they have to replace the entire collar, which is expensive.


2. Shoulder

“This is the most important part of getting great shirt fit. The seam should sit exactly where your shoulder meets your arm. Nearer your neck means it’s too small, and if overhangs, it's too big. Once it’s tucked in, lift your arms up – if you can’t get them above your head comfortably, the shirt’s too small.”

Can a tailor fix it? Nope.


3. Sleeves

“A formal shirt’s sleeves should be slightly longer than a casual shirt, so that you see some cuff when you’ve got a blazer or suit jacket on. With your arms at your side, it should hit a half-inch past your wrist bone.”

Can a tailor fix it? Shorter, easily. Longer, no.


4. Chest

“Just like the shoulder, you want the fabric flush with your skin, without pulling or creasing. If your buttons are pulled off-centre, size up.”

Can a tailor fix it? Afraid not.


5. Hem

“A formal shirt is designed to be tucked in, so they’re longer than casual shirts. The best have more fabric at the back than the front, which gets pinched between your buttocks and trousers so it doesn’t untuck when you sit down.”

Can a tailor fix it? He can shorten it, but there’s not really any need.


6. Waist

“If you get the chest and shoulders right, the waist will sort itself out; it should sit flat against your stomach without any bunching or pulling. If you’re wider at the shoulders than your waist, you can end up with excess fabric. Tailored or darted shirts help avoid this, but you can also get the shirt taken in at the seams. If you don’t have time, try the military tuck, which gives you a tailored look without the tailor.”

Can a tailor fix it? Yes, easily.