Buying a new suit or picking up some new golf polos and pants is fun, but determining what size to order and buy can be confusing and difficult. Below you’ll find a quick numbered list that explains how to measure yourself so you know what size you really are. From there you can use that information to purchase clothes and sporting apparel with confidence, or skip the awkward sessions at the tailor and go straight to the checkout counter!
What Size Am I?
If you’re like most guys you have a pretty good idea of your measurements. The problem is that we usually base those numbers off the most recent pair of jeans that fit well or the shirt we like the best. But your favorite clothes aren’t the same size as new ones, and each manufacturer varies a bit with their sizes — even within product lines. So you need to get out the measuring tape (maybe recruit a helper, too) and get to work! Knowing your real sizes are crucial to looking good and shopping with confidence.
Remember, you won’t get a good fit unless you take accurate and precise measurements with a consistent method for marking. For simplicity take measurements using inches, the standard unit of measure for American clothes.
How-to: Measuring Your Body
- Chest: Run the tape around the widest part of the chest, usually well up into the armpits.
- Collar/Neck: Measure around the neck, on a slight downward angle (that includes the Adam’s apple) to mimic a shirt. Add a half-inch for a bit of extra room, or even more if you sweat a lot and get flushed frequently or are concerned about the collar shrinking.
- Waist: Measure around your waistline, keeping in mind the type of pant you’ll be wearing and the desired location for the waist of the pant. For example, casual shorts are usually worn lower than dress slacks. On trim guys the waist will be the smallest point between ribs and hips whereas heavier guys will need to include any excess body material.
- Hips: Loosely measure around the widest part of the seat.
- Front: Measure from one armhole to the other, basically the gap between the front of each shoulder. Slightly higher than where the chest measurement is taken.
- Length (tops): This is done on a particular piece of clothing, and measures from the lower collar seam to the bottom — or whatever length is desired. This measurement is useful for determining coat lengths based or favorite tops.
- Full Shoulders: Measure the back from shoulder to shoulder at the widest point, typically between the top of the shoulder blade and hairline on the neck.
- Half Shoulder: Measure from the top shoulder seam (under the collar usually) to the shoulder/sleeve seam.
- Sleeves: Measure sleeves from the shoulder seam to the hem or desired length — near the wrist for long sleeves and the inside elbow crease for short sleeves.
- Back: Just like “front” only on the back, from one armhole to the other. Tape will be over the shoulder blades.
- Length (bottoms): Measure from the top of the waist to the bottom of the cuff, the height of your pants/shorts.
- Inseam: Measure from crotch to bottom of cuff. Don’t be scared now, you gotta get an accurate measurement!
- Cuff: Measure the width around the cuff, the circumference of the leg opening at its bottom-most point.
- Length (vest): Measure from top of the shoulder seam to the bottom of the vest or desired length.
Remember your mom snapping at you to sit up straight? Well, that’s because it makes you look good, and if you slouch, you’ll lose muscle definition, exaggerate the size of your gut and will seem less confident to others. It also affects measurements — sometimes substantially. If you always slouch or have some habit or physical condition then standing up straight just to get measured will yield bad results, so stand as you typically do. Just keep in mind that if you’re being fitted for a tux or suit, you’ll probably act and stand differently when dressed up, probably without thinking about it. Likewise, casual apparel will be worn with relaxed stances, so stand appropriately!
There are five main postures, determined by evaluating an individual standing with his back against a vertical wall.
- Normal Posture: The top of the butt and shoulder blades barely touch the wall, with the head centered squarely over the chest.
- Erect Posture: Think of this as the “butler” stance, with the butt touching the wall, chest puffed out and head back close to the wall.
- Stooped Posture: Back and butt touch the wall, but the head is out over the chest with a slight downward tilt. A vertical line from heel to top of head would lean forward.
- Forward Stomach Posture: The head and stomach are both far forward, creating a strong S-curve shape if viewed from the side. The shoulders usually hang lower and may roll slightly forward.
- Stout Posture: The stomach juts out a bit, but the head and shoulders are straight and tight.
Now that you’ve got all that figured out and written down, note the type of shoulders you have. This will help determine if your shirts will need a slimmer or fuller cut. The three types below are pretty standard, but you may be different so break from the pairs if you need to.
- Normal Shoulders/Normal Neck
- Sloping Shoulders/Long Neck
- Square Shoulders/Short Neck
Knowing how to properly measure your body is important because you’ll have to be fitted for suits or have the chance to buy custom shirts and pants. But it’s also handy because clothes — even though they may have the same letter size — are all slightly different. If you know your sizes you can check the tags and get what actually fits, instead of trying a bunch of stuff on or having alterations made. And with more shopping done online (like this site!) it’s important to know because you’ll have to do size conversions using sizing charts, which rely on numerical dimensions for specificity.