For Lesson 1 I’m going to borrow an image from the most recent Johnston & Murphy catalog to help punctuate my point about how a shirt should fit (for now, ignore the ugliness of the shirt). Now, this isn’t me bashing J&M. I actually think some of their shoes are fantastic. But, their clothing line is consistently unpleasant.
Check your seams. They should extend right up to where your deltoids end (where the shoulder begins to slope). Any less and you’ll notice the buttons pulling. Any more and the shirt will just drape on you, as it is doing on this guy. The rule applies to your tshirts as well. If you have a smaller upper body, this is an especially important rule for you to follow. You will over-emphasize your narrow upper body width if your shoulder seams are too wide.
For all types of long-sleeve shirts, you don’t want a lot of bunching near your wrists. If you get that, you obviously have purchased too long of shirts. You want a slight break in the sleeve so that it is comfortable, but not too short where your arm hair is sprouting out. For shirts you’ve already purchased, a good tailor can remedy sleeves that are too long.
Also, notice in the image how there appears to be 3-4” of fabric hanging down from the bottom of his arm. It’s the fabric equivalent of old-woman arm flab and is even uglier in my book (at least old women have an excuse). This creates an unflattering and sloppy look on anybody. Most modern fit dress shirts have slightly higher arm holes to help with this problem.
This is a biggie. Make sure there is not a lot of excess fabric around your midsection (classic, traditional American brands tend to exhibit this in alarming fashion (think Brooks Brothers)). This bunching can make your shirt look like a woman’s blouse. This is especially noticeable when the shirt is tucked in and excess fabric starts to billow out around your waist and back.
Notice how the shirt above makes the model look like a box. The shirt’s lines go straight down from his shoulders to his waist. There is no precision there.
Guys with more athletic builds who purchase a shirt that fits well in the shoulders, as mentioned above, will most likely encounter this on a regular basis, as the shirt will fit too large around your midsection.
There is an easy solution – buy shirts with a tailored fit (look for words like: “Slim fit”, “Tailored Fit”, and/or “Custom Fit”). Or, buy a shirt that fits well in the neck and shoulders, then take it to a tailor to get the torso taken in. It’s a simple job, and most tailors should do it for <$20.
If you’re going to wear your shirt untucked, at least make sure that it isn’t this long. Regardless of your height, this just doesn’t look right.
This should be obvious. Get a neck size that fits. Don’t get it too large so your neck is like a pencil inside your collar, and don’t get it too tight that you’re getting a muffin-top of the neck. If you have some older shirts that are just slightly too tight or too loose, your tailor can move the button for you.
Summarizing the effect this all has, by body type:
Smaller upper body: prevents you from looking like you’re swimming in your shirt which gives the illusion that you’re actually smaller than you are. A slimmer fitting shirt will help to accentuate your shoulder width slightly, while proving that lean is good.
Athletic build: more precision in your shirts allows the body that you’ve undoubtedly spent long hours attempting to perfect to show through. Anything less, and you’ll appear as though you’re carrying around more pounds, and less muscle, than you actually are.
Bigger guys: prevents you from looking like a caricature of your body type. You immediately look more put-together and cleaner.
Now, look at these candids from the most recent Bond film from Iconology. Notice the general theme by which his clothing fits his body with respect to the above rules. Precise fit around the shoulders, slim sleeve arms, and perfect fit for his torso (no billowing). This is how clothing should look on a man, even if you’re not built like 007.