Buying the Right Size Formal Shirt
Getting the right size shirt is obviously important. The right size shirt means you will be comfortable, and therefore look and feel confident and relaxed. A shirt that is too tight will quickly become uncomfortable, and even unbearable to wear. A shirt that is too big will make you look untidy. There's nothing worse than a formal shirt that doesn't fit properly around the neck, making your tie look loose and ill fitting. Or when a shirt is too long, with cuffs hising your hands and shirt tails too cumbersome for you to tuck into your trousers.
In formal shirt sizes it is important to have your collar and sleeve measurements. When choosing a formal shirt, you may see sizes stated as 16" collar / 35" sleeve, or sometimes in short, 16 / 35 for example. This quickly and simply indicates what you need to measure: your neck and arm length and you can see below for more information about getting the correct measurment. Some shirts may also be sold with the chest size, although on most shirts these day the chest size is usually worked out accordingly (ie: bigger collar = bigger chest size) by the shirt maker.
Neck and Collar Size
Since a formal shirt is to be worn with a tie, the neck size is probably the most important measurement. Anything that is too tight around the neck is going to feel very uncomfortable, very quickly. The neck size of a shirt in UK sizes are in inches, so very often you will see a shirt marked "size 16 1/2 neck". Measuring your neck size is very easy. Simply use a tape measure to measure around your neck, at the point where you would have the top button of a shirt. But don't pull the tape measure too tight - you wouldn't wear a shirt that way! Instead, leave it a bit loose for comfort, or better still, place a finger between the tape measure and neck. This will ensure the shirt size won't be too tight and will give you a bit of breathing space. If the precise measurement you have falls between two shirt sizes, it is advisable to take the larger size. Collar sizes for shirts often come in half inch steps, so it is fairly easy to find the right shirt, say, if your neck measures 16.2 inches: you can simply opt for the 16 and a half size, rather than a 17 inch size, which could be a little on the big size.
If you don't find the right size shirt, the sleeves will be that little bit too long, creating a ruffled effect at the wrist, or too short, which will leave too much of your wrist exposed. But remember that it is the collar size that is by far the most important measurement. Long sleeves are fairly easy to rectify, if you can find yourself a nice pair of armbands to keep them up. If you have long arms and find that shirts with your collar size are usually too short in the arm, then find one of the more traditional shirt retailers, such as TM Lewin or Charles Tyrwhitt, who you will often find, offer special "longer sleeve" options on their shirts.
To measure your shirt sleeve length, you will probably need some help, as the measurement goes from the middle of your neck, along the shoulder, down the outside of your arm to the start of your thumb - the part nearest your wrist. Or, if you can't get help, you could split this into two steps, then add the 2 measurements together. As with the collar sizes above, should you get a half inch or quarter inch in your total measurement, it's always best to round up to the next whole number.
For some shirts, you may also need to measure your chest. Formal shirts from traditional shirt makers usually come in quite specific sizes, with collar, chest and sleeve sizes all shown. If you are more used to buying casual shirts, this might be a bit of a surprise, since less formal shirts usually just offer a small, medium and large size choice. You can find your chest size quite easily. Simply measure your chest size (in inches usually) using a tape measure, around the fullest part of your chest, ensuring the tape measure is level all the way round. Make sure you don't pull the tape measure too tight, so you leave plenty of breathing room.
Many shirt makers offer the chance to choose a shirt with precise sleeve lengths, or the chance to shorten sleeves. Alternatively, if finding the exact sleeve length isn't an option, and you find the sleeves on a shirt are too long, then consider purchasing a pair of shirt sleeve armbands to hold the sleeves up.
A Comfortable Shirt Means A Happy Wearer
There's nothing worse than having to wear a poor fitting shirt through a long working day or social event. Why feel so uncomfortable when, with just a bit of effort, you can find the right sized shirt quite easily. Imagine, a tight collar will feel ten times tighter after wearing a tie all day, and will be massively uncomfortable by the end of the night. But a loose collar will make you look as though you are drowning in cotton - like an apprentice on his first day at the office! Not a good look for business wear. It's easier to be taken seriously if you are seriously dressed. Getting the right shirt that properly fits your collar and sleeves will not only look great, but will be comfortable too. And let's face it: if you look good and feel good, you'll be more confident and ready for the working day.
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