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The Approach to Proper Fitting

If doesn’t fit it won’t look good. That’s worth repeating because I need you to hear it. If it doesn’t fit it won’t look good. Please, be with me on that. It has to fit.

The way clothes fit your body is more important than the actual style of clothing you’re wearing. That’s a big thing to say but it’s true. If you have on the most ghoulish pairing of yellow cargo shorts and a deep V purple shirt, in the very least if the clothes fit it will at least look like you’re doing it on purpose.

Don’t ever wear what I just described by the way.

The problem with fit is that people, men mostly but some women too, don’t understand what a good fit is. And at first I thought I’d have a hard time explaining what good fit is but then I recalled a piece of advice given by Beth from Dappered.com. She described the way things should fit in such beautifully simple terms that it stuck with me.

Clothes should skim the skin.

They should touch you. Sounds simple but a lot of people don’t get it. Classic example, look at men and they way they wear their dress shirts.

Let me help.

Look at the right side. That is the standard for how most men where there shirts. No good. Look at the waist. All that extra room distorts the body shape, there is no clear frame. The arms of the sleeves are barely touching the skin and they come off making his arms look unusually thick. Much of that has to do with the shoulder length too.

Now compare it to this.

No extra room around the waist. A clear shape to the body and the sleeves follow the shape of the body.

So now we have a good visual of what fits versus what doesn’t. Easy right? But people still get it wrong or just ignore it. I’ve talked to a few people heard the common problems and excuses they use for picking clothes with the right.

Most common is body image. They think that by picking clothes that hide the actual shape of the body they’re doing the right thing. They hope that people can’t notice what they perceive are the flaws in their appearance. That’s actually not the case. The bigger your clothes the bigger you look. Clothes bunch up and create fake love handles, excess girth to the arms and thickness to the overall trunk of the body. If you’re bigger in size there are right ways to still look good without hiding your silhouette. Doing what I described above obscures your shape with a completely false and bloated appearance. It hides the real you behind a worse looking you. Stop it. Seriously.

After body image issues is comfort. Clothes have to be baggy to be comfortable right? That’s what we believe. You only need to look at your nearest Men’s Suit Department to see it. Watch some of the men and see what’s the first thing they do when they get the jacket on. They start swinging their arms around and stretching about. Basically, they’re running through motions they probably never find themselves doing on most days let alone actions that need to be done in a suit. You don’t need to be able to run a marathon in your clothes. You don’t need to have the freedom of motion to win the playoffs while wearing your outfit. Gym clothes exist for that. Your clothes just need to look good on you while you’re at your desk, out having lunch or going through light physical activity. The right clothes are comfortable. Comfort doesn’t mean you can make your dress shirt into a tent if the need arises.

Hearing all this stuff drives me crazy. How crazy you ask? This about sums up my typical reaction. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP1-oquwoL8

Now that we’re past avoiding fit, lets look at how to make it work for us.

Shoulder Seams– These need to end where your shoulder ends. That’s right at the tip before everything dips down to your arm. The further down the seam goes the more elongated the trunk of your shirt will be. The longer the trunk the more it bunches up around the waist when you tuck it in and belt it. The more it bunches the more fake love handles you’ll have. Also, if the shirt’s a long sleeve shirt your hands vanish into the sleeve. If you are wearing a jacket about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of sleeve should hang out. If your not in a jacket the sleeve should just touch a little past the start of the wrist but before the base of the thumb.

Collar Size– Keep your collar size right and you won’t have that extra fake flab on the front of the shirt. The first thing you have to know is your collar size. Best way to do this is just to have a professional do it for you. If you happen to have measuring  tape you can do it yourself too. Measure around the neck just at the start of the Adam’s apple. Then add half an inch. No more that half an inch otherwise you end up in a dressy garbage bag sized shirt.

Here’s the basics of how to get the right shirt. These values are the best starting point you can get and frankly they are the best end point too.

Shirt Size Neck Size Sleeve Length
Small 14 – 14 ½ 32 – 33
Medium 15 – 15 ½ 32 – 33
Large 16 – 16 ½ 34 – 35
X-Large 17 – 17 ½ 34 – 35
XX-Large 18 – 18 ½ 35 – 36

Now, to put some of this into real world context I’m using old me versus newer me to illustrate the point. As some of my readers know, I was a bigger guy going back about three years ago. But in addition to being a bigger guy I was also someone that used excess cloth to hide my flaws. That and I just didn’t understand fit.

This is a suit that bought about two years ago. I wanted to have it put back together to show you a few things. First, that a great tailor is an invaluable contact to have. And two, the difference the right fit can have. The example is extreme but the point is clear to see.

Even ignoring the size of the suit, the shoulders are two low, the sleeves will cover most of my hand and the trunk of the jacket is too long.

All that stuff I said up there about the first picture… yeah, the opposite. Shoulders end at the right place, jacket terminates at the right point and the sleeves end perfectly.

So I hope this whole thing helps you gentlemen understand the importance of fit. Everything looks better when it fits you right. Style is a matter of debate, fit is not.

But that’s just my approach to getting the perfect fit. I’d love to hear yours.