Looking Good For Lots Less
Size Matters Part I
By James F. Brown
May 24, 2009 - 7:53:06 PM

VARIOUS—In order to look good, clothes need to fit well. There are several numbering systems used for clothing sizes. We’ll begin with men’s clothing sizes. (Women’s clothing sizes will be covered in a separate column.)

Keep two things in mind. First, sizes are approximations; they aren’t exact and uniform. One label’s size may fit fine, but the same size in another label may be too big or too small. Second, your body will never lie to you. If it feels too big or too small, it is! Always attempt to try on clothes before buying. This may not always be possible with shirts and is usually impossible with underwear. For pants, suits and sport coats, don’t buy if the store won’t let you try them on first.

For men’s briefs and boxer shorts, the waist size (in inches) is the number system used most often. But some labels use the Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, Extra Extra Large (S/M/L/XL/XXL, etc.) system for briefs. This can be confusing, so a range of corresponding waist sizes in parentheses are also usually shown, such as Medium (34-36).

For men’s torso underwear (T-shirts or tank-tops), sizes are generally the S/M/L system. There may also be a number range in parentheses. These numbers, such as (40-42), correspond to chest sizes in inches. For casual shirts, the S/M/L system is also used.

Dress shirts use a different system consisting of two numbers. The first number is the neck size measured in half-inch increments. The second number is the sleeve length as measured from the spine at the base of the neck, along the shoulders, and down the arm to the wrist. Nowadays, sleeve lengths are often in a two-inch range, such as 32-33. It’s done to keep inventory costs down. These are really 33-inch sleeves, and may be too long if you’re actually a 32 sleeve length. Higher quality shirts from upscale shops are available in single number sleeve lengths.

Dress shirts are also designated as portly (executive fit), regular (classic fit), or fitted (modern fit, slim fit, or contemporary fit). A dress shirt should match your torso size.

Proper shirt fit is critical to how it looks and how comfortable it is on you. Put the shirt on and button the front except for the collar button. Observe the seams where the sleeves are attached to the shirt’s body. These seams should be where your arms meet your shoulders. If they’re down on your arms, it’s a bad fit. Sleeve cuffs should end at your wrist, not down on your hand.

Next, hold your arms out like wings. The shirt should still conform to your torso, not like a pterodactyl taking flight. Now grab the shirt at your waist and pull out. Is there a lot of excess slack? If so, it’s too big in the waist for you. If it’s too tight, it will feel tight and the front will “pop” out.

Last, button the collar. You should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and neck comfortably. The collar should be a bit loose since it will shrink after washing. A tight, choking collar is no fun; your discomfort will be obvious to others.

We’ll continue with clothes sizing in the next column.  




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