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How a Shirt Should Fit

How a Shirt Should Fit
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 David Donahue dress shirts. Available at Harleys.

The most common dress shirt-related questions we get from customers have to do with fit. How should a shirt fit? Does this fit look good on me? What do all those fit terms—classic, contemporary, trim—even mean? So, we are here to answer your burning questions, once and for all.

In response to the last query, the truth is that they mean different things depending on the shirt’s brand. We know—that’s not very helpful. But this might be: Think of shirt fits on a continuum, one that goes from least contoured to the body to most contoured. On the roomiest end of the spectrum you have “classic,” then “contemporary,” and then “trim” on the snuggest end of the spectrum.

To make things even more complicated, there are additional terms you are likely to see, e.g. traditional, modern, slim, extra slim. In general, traditional means classic (or “roomier”), modern means contemporary and slim can either mean trim or extra trim. The reason for this Pandora’s box of terms is simply the many preferences of the many shirt brands out there. Some say classic, others say traditional. Tomayto, tomahto.

With that in mind, here are explanations of the three most common fits:

Classic
The classic fit is usually generously cut across the shoulders (also know as the “yoke,” which is the flat piece of fabric that runs from shoulder to shoulder), roomier in the chest, waist and hips, and has a long tail that stays tucked in. This cut is ideal for broader, more athletically built men.

Similar terms: traditional, athletic, straight

Contemporary
Contemporary is the standard, regular fit that suits most shapes and sizes. It features a standard yoke width, but is narrower in the waist than the classic fit. This tapering helps reduce excess fabric that may make skinnier guys look sloppy.

Similar term: modern

Trim
Trim is the sleekest cut of the three, and fits more closely to the body with extra back darts, a very tapered waist and shoulder seams that hug the shoulders. A trim fit shirt is snug, but it shouldn’t feel tight. It should fit comfortably around the chest, under the armpits, and across the upper back, giving you a full range of motion (think of the dapper guys on the television show “Mad Men”). Contrary to popular opinions, any sized guy can wear a trim shirt. It’s about appropriate contouring, not how big you are.

Similar term: slim

Universal rules
Meanwhile, there are a few rules that apply to all shirts, no matter the cut:

  • Shoulder: Seams should meet at the corner of your shoulder bone.
  • Collar: Be able to slide in two fingers when the top button is buttoned. No more, no less.
  • Armholes: Should be high but not constrict any motion
  • Sleeves: Not too tight, not too billowy, and they should end where your palm meets your wrist (or about 1” beyond your wristbone)
  • Torso: Should not give more than 3-4” of fabric when pulled lightly away from the body

We hope this answered your questions. If you have more, we’d love for you to come into Harleys in Shorewood and we can show you exactly what we’re talking about.

Find us here.

We look forward to seeing you.

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