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Know Your Size: A Five-Step Guide to Buying Shirts Online

  • Najib Benouar

Shirt sizing

To even the most hardscrabble gentleman of style, online shopping can be unsettling—like rowing in a vast ocean filled with “slim-fit" shirts, cryptic neck-to-sleeve ratios and hard-to-translate European conversions that might end up hanging like burlap sacks from your shoulders.

But we’re here to tell you that with a little preparation and study, there’s no reason to be scared of filling your cart with all that Italian linen and Scottish tweed that’s been tempting you from afar for so long.

It’s finally here: the definitive guide to buying clothes online that actually fit.

Know Your Measurements: On your next (or first) trip to the tailor, have him take your measurements. Write them on a business card and put them in your wallet, snap a shot of them on your phone, or type them up and email them to yourself—so they’re right where you need them most.

Alternatively, if you’ve got a tape measure and a companion you’ve deemed worthy of seeing you in a T-shirt and boxer shorts, have them snug the tape under your pits to take your chest circumference and around the neck at your Adam’s apple. To get your arms, measure from the back of your wrist over the shoulder to the midpoint on the nape of your neck, where your spine is.

In a Pinch, Measure Something That Fits Well: You’re looking for more shirts that fit like that one shirt you love. Option A: just buy more of those shirts. Option B: Measure the shirt. Go from pit to pit, collar to hem, neck circumference and (here’s the tricky one) for the sleeve, measure the length from the yoke (at the exact midpoint between the shoulders—often, there will be a seam there) to the end of the cuff—don’t just go from the shoulder seam to cuff.

Study Up on the Sizing: With a few clicks, you should be able to find any label’s sizing chart. (Gitman’s, for example, is here.) You should know what to do next (match your numbers to theirs). When in doubt, round up to the next quarter-inch—you don’t want to walk around feeling like you’re wearing a second layer of skin.

Don’t Trust Models: Some sites try to be helpful by explaining that the guy with the uniquely proportioned body they hired to wear their clothing has got a medium on. That’s good for him. But that probably doesn’t help you out much, unless you’re also a model. In which case, good for you, too.

Stick with What Works: Let’s say you’ve finally nailed down that you’re somehow the perfect candidate for sample-sizing Brooks Brothers’ extra-slim-fit dress shirts. You’re in luck, because they make a lot of shirts—and your woes are officially over.

Until you feel the urge to mix it up, at which point, check the return policy.