How It Should Fit - Men's Shirts
"A shirt shouldn't fit like a glove. It should fit like a shirt." - Topper
It may seem basic, but the modern men's shirt has over 30 measurements that constitute its fit. The discerning shopper could spend all day going cuff to collar on just a few items, but luckily, Topper has tracked down these time-saving tips.
For each part of a men's shirt, you'll find Topper's choice issues to look for, and avoid, as you browse your closet or favorite store, and for any tricky item you can't seem to shake, remember that Westport Big & Tall has all of the sizes that truly fit.
How It Should Fit: The Chest of a Men's Shirt
Topper’s take on the sometimes tricky issue of a shirt that fits properly in the chest is as simple as it is helpful: “Don’t beat your chest over this. Recognize your true proportions and celebrate them in fine fashion that fits. Don’t put a barrel in a thimble. And remember that your chest is not the only measurement that will need to be taken into account to transform an ordinary shirt into an experience.” Quite.
Topper is entirely correct. When shopping for shirts that fit just right, there are a lot of details that many men typically overlook: cuffs, arm opening sizes and nuanced differences in collar styles, for example, don’t receive a lot of attention - even though they can dramatically alter how the shirt looks when it’s put on. The fit of a shirt in the chest, however, is one of the few measurements that men often do pay attention to. So much so, in fact, that it’s common for customers to believe that a shirt’s fit starts and ends with the chest measurement.
Yet, despite this general awareness, we still see gentlemen who sport the classic signs of a poorly fitting shirt in the chest. If you notice any of the problems described below looking back at you in the mirror, don’t stress. Relax and know that Westport Big & Tall carefully tailors exclusive shirts and chooses all your favorite brands to make sure you avoid the following sad scenarios:
Help Me Topper:Whether my collar is open or closed, the second button is pulling in all directions – stressed and quite visibly holding it all together. The material around it creates a spider web of fabric, bunching around the center of the chest.
Topper’s Diagnosis:The measurement at the top of the chest is a tad too small, or your superhero alter-ego is trying to escape. (Unfortunately, we know from experience a tight fit in the chest is the more likely of the two.)
Topper’s Top Tips: Look at what you’re doing to the second button on your shirt and vow to give it some relief! (Before the strain inevitably proves irresistible.)
Help Me Topper:Excess shirt material is bunching up at the belt, spilling out and making the belt line look like it’s pinching my entire look in the middle zone.
Topper’s Diagnosis:The chest dimensions are a shade too long, causing a ‘frock effect’ of extra fabric on either side of the torso to collect.
Topper’s Top Tips: Don’t buy bigger shirts just for their length; make sure they truly fit in the chest. (Helpful hint: we often see tall men who are shopping in regular size departments and buying regular extended sizes (such as XL, XXL,XXXL) make this mistake. What they should be doing is looking for a true fitting size along the lines of LT, XLT, 2XLT, 3XLT, 4XLT instead.
Help Me Topper:My shirt ‘sticks’ around the belly and below the pectorals, despite a good fit in the upper chest and near the waistline.
Topper’s Diagnosis:Your shirt likely has a classical, athletic cut that is meant to be extra slim in the middle, but it’s been put on a modern American man who, respectfully, may not possess quite the physique of a catalog model.
Topper’s Top Tips: If you intend to achieve the ‘slim’ or ‘athletic’ look, it can be achieved in sizes that fit rather than letting your shirt be glued to your abdomen. If you’re going for a more conventional contour, be aware of the character of the brands you look at when you shop. Some will trend more to the classic look while others will embrace a more modern cut. As always, the choice is yours. But it pays to know what you’re looking for and what you’re looking at. That way, your final choice will be informed.
Arm Yourself With The Right Fit!
Topper says: “On any men’s shirt, a few inches around the arm makes a big difference. Yet, few men consider how it affects their appearance. In fact, thinking about fashion in the nineties, the arm hole may have defined the look of a decade. Distinctive? Certainly. Durable? Every man has his own view of what makes good taste.”
Topper may be a little sniffy about the arm hole dimensions of 20 years ago (can it really be that long already!) but it’s true that more modest standards have become fashionable. Topper would argue that many men buying big and tall shirts are stuck in the past.
We wouldn’t like to comment. But we can say objectively that some gentlemen are unnecessarily sacrificing a larger fit for more length in a shirt. Others can’t find their true, right size and end up with enlarged shirts to achieve what they perceive as a roomier look. There are a few things that can go wrong with arm hole size. But “The Bat Wing” is one of the most common problems for men who are big, tall or both.
Help Me Topper:Holding out an arm, an excess of fabric spreads between the abdomen and the arm around the armpit. When my arms are down, the seam in the armpit hangs far below the arm.
Topper’s Diagnosis:The measurement at the top of the chest is a tad too small, or your superhero alter-ego is trying to escape. (Unfortunately, we know from experience a tight fit in the chest is the more likely of the two.)
Topper’s Top Tips:This is definitely one of those failings that can’t be rearranged or fixed on the offending garment, so it’s best to move on. (Helpful hint: Westport Big & Tall will always make sure you can find your true size, and the fashionable brands and designers we feature will keep you up to date - whatever decade we happen to be in - and looking great.)
"The Cold Shoulder"
Help Me Topper:Fabric just past the shoulder seam clings to the arm, making the shoulder very noticeable and uncomfortable.
Topper’s Diagnosis:This less common problem is caused by narrow arm holes that restrict movement.
Topper’s Top Tips: Radical action is called for here. Do whatever you do when you get rid of a shirt: sell it, donate it or throw it away (but only if all else fails). Unfortunately, there’s no practical way to repair it. (Helpful hint: instead, find your real size with just a few measurements, with our big and tall size chart and shop assured that you’ll find what fits at Westport Big & Tall.)
Neck and Neck
Topper says: “A gentleman is neither a turtle nor a walrus. The neck of his shirt therefore should avoid resembling a cavern that swallows his neck to the chin, leaving him looking like a nervous terrapin; nor should it be a tube of such tightness that the wearer’s neck and head appear to be bulging forward like a sea lion’s.”
Topper does enjoy a vivid turn of phrase. And while an ill-fitting collar may not always have quite such a spectacular impact, it is true beyond any doubt that the fit of the collar on a man’s shirt has long been important. This is not least because many factory-produced men’s shirt dimensions are governed principally by the size of the neck and length of the sleeve. In reality, these measurements are only a part - although an important one - of the whole story of a well fitting shirt.
As one of the pioneers of men’s big and tall shirts we at Westport Big & Tall know that more than 30 measurements actually go into a shirt’s specification. Knowing that, you see immediately that two measurements alone fall somewhat short of telling you if a shirt is really going to fit or not!
Still, we must concede that the collar of a shirt can make the entire look start off wrong if it’s not done well. Conversely, a shirt with the right fitting collar can add a touch of real class - or the impact of (a good) surprise - to an otherwise traditional suit. There are several kinds of collars to choose from, but there are really only a couple of ways that their fit can go wrong.
"The Loose Noose"
Help Me Topper:A closed, loose collar is hanging off the back of my neck and there is a noticeable yawning gap between the front of the neck and the necktie.
Topper’s Diagnosis:A collar that’s too large. (That's a cut to the chase! Helpful hint: we see this a lot when gentlemen shop traditional sizes instead of true big and tall clothing; either because they’re looking for more room in the chest and torso of the shirt, or because they’re trying to get maximum length in a size that doesn’t really fit.)
Topper’s Top Tips: Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done to remedy this scenario, so you’ll have to figure out what your actual size is and then shop for clothes that fit properly. (Helpful hint: find your true dimensions with this big and tall size chart.
"The Neck Roll"
Help Me Topper:My neck, around the closed collar of the shirt, is squeezed upward, creating a “roll” above the top of the collar.
Topper’s Diagnosis:The collar size is too small. (Well, you did ask!)
Topper’s Top Tips: Fortunately, you have the option of unbuttoning the collar here. Unfortunately, it’s not always casual Friday and it may not be appropriate to do so. The best solution is to take a tape measure and get an accurate reading of your neck size. Then use the correct measurement to help find shirts that fit you properly everywhere - and not just in the neck area.
Help Me Topper:My unbuttoned collar or v-neck plunges to the depths of my belly, revealing a lot of ‘wildlife.’
Topper’s Diagnosis:You clearly possess an abundance of confidence, for one. Going ‘bear chested’ is not always advisable, even when you’re in the woods. But this plunge into the lower depths usually means that the shirt wasn’t built for your body type. The buttons aren’t allowing you to find the right level of exposure, neither too coy nor too full on.
Topper’s Top Tips: You can button up, but that may look a different kind of wrong. Or you could do nothing, brave fellow. Alternatively, how about finding big and tall shirts that offer the option of your top button resting where it should. Now wouldn’t that make everything a lot easier? (Hint: your top button should be about two inches from your collarbone.)
Help Me Topper:Fully-buttoned casual shirts or sport shirts without ties always make me look just that shade awkward. I feel “square” and I think I might be mistaken for a member of the clergy from a distance.
Topper’s Diagnosis:The shirt wasn’t meant to be buttoned all of the way up, or the wearer simply isn’t comfortable with an unbuttoned collar. (You didn't state whether you are a member of the clergy, by the way.)
Topper’s Top Tips: If you insist on buttoning all the way up, find some casual big and tall ties to wear with the shirts you like. The easier – and dare we say, more comfortable – option would be to take the plunge and let loose the top-most button on the shirt. No disasters will ensue, promise.
Off the Cuff
When talking of cuffs, Topper has pithy advice up his sleeve. He says: “So much of the secret of a successful look is understatement. Real impact is not the same as distraction. We look our best when everything is working in harmony, across the whole outfit. We look so much less than our best when there is a glitch, a niggle, or a nagging something that’s just not quite right. And one of the most irritating distractions of all is a shirt cuff that draws the wrong kind of attention - to itself and its wearer.”
Not bad for an off the cuff remark, Topper. And we agree entirely. When it comes to cuffs, it may seem that they’re all pretty much the same. But getting the cuff to fit the way it should is fundamental to finishing your ‘just right’ look.
It may also come as a surprise to learn that there are many different sizes and types of cuffs and your specific choice really can change the look of big and tall shirts. For example, the formality of a French cuff with links can dress up your look, while an elastic cuff can dress a shirt down for a casual yet smart appearance.
"The Trombone Slide"
Help Me Topper:The cuff slides down my forearm and then back to the wrist with everyday motion. It usually isn’t obvious to observers, but I’m sensing a slightly tender feeling just above my wrist, toward the forearm, around the end of the workday.
Topper’s Diagnosis:If this is happening regularly, your cuffs are a shade too big and they’re not holding your sleeves properly in place.
Topper’s Top Tips: Hopefully, you just forgot to do up a button and it’s as easy as that! However, the more likely fix will lie in finding a new shirt that has cuffs both appropriate to your desired look and that fit really well. You can measure your sleeve length and wrist size to find your true fitting cuff dimension.
Help Me Topper:Fabric around the forearms collects in front of my wrist, creating a billowing arm that looks loose and puffy. My credibility is being eroded because I always look like a table magician. Make my problem disappear!
Topper’s Diagnosis:Restrictive cuffs aren’t allowing enough motion; which will be made even worse if the sleeve is too long.
Topper’s Top Tips:First things first, always make sure you’re choosing the correct sleeve length. Then, find a shirt that has a superior fit in the cuff. You may consider a cuff with options for extending the length with additional buttons, or even a French cuff if a dressier look is what you’re after.
A discreet word from Topper on the subject of shirt hems: “The hem of a gentleman's shirt has as much impact on his appearance as the bottoms of his trouser legs - although rather less visible in normal circumstances. Too high and the shirt "rides up." Too low and an unwanted "skirt" of extra material clutters an area better kept clear and flowing. Just right and the shirt ‘sits’ as it should, providing the wearer with the combination of comfort and effortless style he always wanted.”
As ever, Topper is right. The length ofmen’s big and tall shirts is an often-overlooked detail that can make a real and important difference to the look and feel of the fit. It’s the last part of the whole shirt fitting jigsaw puzzle, top-to-bottom. Getting the length right means the difference between an elegant transition from shirt to pant, or an obvious interruption that attracts the wrong kind of attention.
Since different looks require different treatment, tucked-in or not tucked-in, more can go wrong than you might think. Here are some common problems with shirt length that we see good men enduring unnecessarily.
Help Me Topper:I have a shirt that’s un-tucked, draping off the shoulder, straight down to the waist, with the excess freely hanging off of the body - like a poncho.
Topper’s Diagnosis: You are likely the owner of shirt that has a much wider waist than the person currently wearing it.
Topper’s Top Tips: First, check the fit in the chest and in the shoulders. Ultimately, it’s probably better tucked-in. Or maybe even turned in – to the next charity collection.
Help Me Topper:The back hem of my shirt hangs down past the pockets of my pants, reaching the inseam.
Topper’s Diagnosis:It may be that the back hem of the shirt is longer than the front, or that both are too long.
Topper’s Top Tips:Tuck it in! Long back hems were actually designed to help keep shirts tucked in. The end of the hem of your shirt should end at a point corresponding to halfway down your back pocket.
"The Mushroom Cloud"
Help Me Topper:Excess fabric keeps coming un-tucked and hanging over the waist of my pants, causing a sudden billowing and mushroom-cloud-like appearance.
Topper’s Diagnosis:Maybe you traded excess length for room in the chest or purchased a low-quality fabric that doesn’t hang as it should. Either way, the shirt might be better un-tucked - or not worn at all.
Topper’s Top Tips:Find your true, right size at Westport Big & Tall and know that every time you shop here, you will find something that will properly fit you, and in every key dimension.
Topper considers the whole shirt lost if the shoulders don’t work. The reason for his uncompromising view? “The shoulders are the windows of the shirt’s soul, making the difference between definitive and disaster. Get them wrong and not only will you feel permanently uncomfortable, no matter how well made the shirt and how fine the material. You will also not look good. It’s a common problem. Yet it is so easy to avoid.”
At Westport Big & Tall, we measure big and tall shirts more than 30 different ways. Some, like the collar size and chest size, get a lot more attention from shoppers than others, like the width of a cuff.
But as ever we agree with Topper. No measurement makes or breaks the look of a shirt more than the fit in the shoulders. In fact, it’s a well-known ‘secret’ among theater wardrobe and film costume designers that, in order to make a character look sloppy, you do it with ill-fitting shoulders.
Despite their importance, there are really only a couple of ways that shoulders don’t fit. But it makes a world of difference to recognize and fix the following. So it’s time shoulder responsibility and discover how to avoid the most common pitfalls.
"The Lego Man"
Help Me Topper:Little bunches of fabric pinch up where my shoulder meets my arm, and a vertical seam appears to distinctly separate the arm from the shoulder. As a result (and one I really don’t want) I fear I look somewhat like a Lego figurine.
Topper’s Diagnosis: This happens when the shoulders on the shirt aren’t wide enough for the shoulders of the man who is wearing it.
Topper’s Top Tips: This is one of those issues that sadly can’t be easily altered or dressed differently to avoid; the shirt is just too small in a key area. It’s also likely to adversely affect other parts of the shirt and how it fits.
"The Arm Tent"
Help Me Topper:The fabric on the outside of the arm, just after the shoulder, juts out before meeting the arm, creating little flaps on the outside of the shoulder.
Topper’s Diagnosis: The shoulders on the shirt are too long. This is very common for tall, thinner men who trade fit in the shoulders and chest for the extra length afforded in larger conventional sizes.
Topper’s Top Tips: Again, unfortunately, the garment doesn’t stand much chance of being altered to fit, and you might have to part ways with it. This is very common with sizes like XXL and XXXL, that weren’t designed for big or tall body types, but instead were just ‘enlarged’ for a little more accommodating fit. Fortunately, Westport Big & Tall has sizes that will both fit your shoulders and be long enough to be comfortable.
Put Your Shirt On
Topper’s view is that nothing conveys a man at ease with his outfit more effectively than a fine and beautifully fitting shirt. He always says: “From the most formal occasion to the more relaxed scenario when jackets come off and sleeves may be rolled up, a good shirt is the very heart of a good outfit.” Absolutely.
There’s nothing like the moment you open a brand new shirt. Crisp. Professionally wrapped. Fresh and all ready to give you that special look. But what happens if the promise isn’t delivered when you come to put the shirt on? Have you ever fallen victim to the following issues? Do these scenarios ring a bell?
Let’s roll our sleeves up and, with sartorial savvy courtesy of Topper, look at some of the issues we may have been keeping at arm’s length. The ones that can ruin the look and feel of great big and tall shirts.
"The Uneasy Rider"
Help Me Topper:My cuffs are half way up my arm from the moment I put the shirt on.
Topper’s Diagnosis: Your shirtsleeves are too short! (He’s not being flip, gentlemen. Oftentimes, the real reason is the obvious one!)
Topper’s Top Tips: You need to buy shirts with longer sleeves. BUT do not simply supersize and go XXXXL in search of extra length. This is a common mistake made by both sales people and customers. The supersize route may appear to make the sleeves look longer but in reality it is just dropping the ‘way too big’ shirt off your shoulders, making the sleeves seem longer. This will only lead to the Full Sail Effect.
"The Elephant's Trunk"
Help Me Topper:My arm, wrist and entire hand disappear deep into my sleeve, leaving a strange extension of shirt material hanging in the breeze, usually bunched up in the forearm or bicep.
Topper’s Diagnosis: Apart from the obvious fact that your shirtsleeves are too long, you may well have traded ill-fitting sleeves for greater room elsewhere in the shirt, such as across the chest or midriff.
Topper’s Top Tips: You need to understand the proportions of your upper body, so that you can choose shirts that are right for you in every area. It’s time to get measuring.
Help Me Topper:My sleeve can’t move up or down my arm because it’s nailed in place by my cuff. And my cuff isn’t letting go.
Topper’s Diagnosis: The armhole is too narrow and constricting.
Topper’s Top Tips: Understand the key proportions involved. You need to get measuring. Then you need to track down some true big and tall shirts.
"The Escape Artist"
Help Me Topper:Every time I raise my arm, the tail of my shirt shoots out of my pants and heads north.
Topper’s Diagnosis: Your shirt tails are too short to properly accommodate your sleeves. You probably sacrificed room in the rest of the shirt to fit your arms.
Topper’s Top Tips: Understand the relationship between your sleeve length and your other vital statistics. When you size up the fit of the shirt based only on the chest measurement, you may miss out other important areas where it also needs to fit in proportion. (Helpful hint: the taller sizes from Westport Big & Tall are designed to our own specifications for superior fit.)
"The Full Sail Effect"
Help Me Topper:My sleeves are long enough but there’s so much material in my shirt that the front billows out like a tall ship’s sails in a stiff wind.
Topper’s Diagnosis: You have traded sleeve length for excessive material in the body of the shirt.
Topper’s Top Tips: Get up to date measurements for all your key dimensions. Then use our big or tall sizing chart to help select shirts to really fit. (Helpful hint: once you find your true ‘right size’ on Westport Big & Tall, you can finally shop freely. We carefully select each garment to meet the spec of the size you’re selecting, so that every shirt will fit consistently well.)