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How a Men’s Dress Shirt Should Fit

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Janine Giorgenti photoWhy Do So Many Men Look like Unmade Beds?

Wrinkled, disheveled, un-tucked, blousy...sound like someone you know?

Everywhere you look, there are men with long, dangling sleeves, bulging necks squeezed by collars that are too tight or with enough fabric billowing around their waists to sail the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Many men seem to be either drowning in their dress shirts or look like stuffed sausage links.

Renowned image consultant and men's clothing designer Janine Giorgenti has spent 20 years measuring thousands of men for dress shirts. After listening to their frustrations, she has come to the conclusion that men want to look crisp and neat, but cannot find a darn shirt that fits!

Homogenized America

With the onslaught of Walmart and the "superstores," men's specialty stores that once serviced individuals became extinct like the dodo bird.

Mass production overseas, coupled with the American drive to make products as cheaply as possible, caused men's dress shirt manufacturers to "simplify" and pare-down size options to maximize productivity.

How does this relate to you? Well, it's like, fat chance finding that once available 14 ? neck with a 35 sleeve and more like, "Tough noogies, we have a 14 ? neck with a combo 32/33 sleeve, (leaving the guy with longer than average arms looking like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz,) so take it or leave it." Wow! You just got a great bargain to look silly. What a deal!

Who is Outside of the So-called Norm?

- Guys with big necks and thinner bodies. (If the shirt fits your neck, then the body looks like a parachute.)

- Guys with small necks and long arms. (The industry now assumes that if men have a narrow neck, they are short, with short arms.)

- Guys with an athletic build. (Fuggedaboutit! If it fits your chest and shoulders, the rest of the shirt will be a tent. If it fits you from the waist down, you might as well be in a straitjacket.)

- Guy with short necks. (The collar will be up to your gills.)

- Guy with long necks. (When you speak, we expect to hear, "Gobble, gobble!")

- Guys with neck sizes over 18 ?. (If you have short arms, be prepared to have your sleeves dangling down at your sides.)

- Short guys. (The proportions of the available dress shirts will make you look like you're a kid playing dress-up in your father's shirt.)

- Tall, thin guys. (Good luck finding a long enough sleeve and shirt tail length with a body that doesn't fit two of you.)

How a Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit: Five Tips to a Great-Fitting Dress Shirt

The Neck: The shirt collar should allow you to slide two fingers down the neck-band, between your throat and collar, while buttoned, without gagging. There should be room for your head to turn and move without choking. The shirt should initially have an extra ? - ?? to allow for shrinkage.

The Shoulders and Body: You should be able to move your arms freely without the shirt pulling uncomfortably across the shoulders. The body of the shirt should not be baggy and shapeless, nor should it pull or pucker.

The Cuffs: The cuffs should be just tight enough that they do not hang over your hand and you should not be able to slip your hand through the cuffs without first unbuttoning them.

The Sleeves: When your arms are at your sides, your cuffs should end slightly below your wrist bones with just enough blouse at the cuffs to make it easy to bend your arms.

The Shirt Tail: Your shirt tail needs to be long enough for it to not come out of your pants when you raise your arms, yet not so long as to make unsightly bulges when tucked in.

For Every Action, There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction!

Newton was right!

The industry has reduced consumer options, making it impossible to buy a man's dress shirt unless it is white, blue or the "color de jour," in other than a limited size range. This extreme limitation and "dumbing-down" of the men's dress shirt market, has spawned a resurgence of the custom shirt industry.

Custom shirts were once an expensive luxury, only available to the rich. Because of the demand for a shirt that fits and is affordable, the custom shirt has come back with a vengeance, in a new form: The ultimate, convenient, at-home, online, popular-priced custom shirt...that you can order while still in your underwear.

Just Google "Men's Custom Dress Shirt," and you will see affordable options available. Has this become the counter revolution to the limited mass produced shirt? We think so.

Custom Versus Off-the-Rack

Now that you know how your shirts should fit, it is time to explore your options.

If you have had success with off-the-rack, then you are lucky, as long as you can live with limited selections.

For men who have fit challenges, a custom made shirt is a better option than having your shirts "retrofitted" by a tailor. This usually produces poor results and ends up costing more than a custom shirt, when you add in expensive alteration costs on top the price of the shirt.

Having your shirts custom made is the best and most affordable way to get a true custom fit. Believe it or not, this is not just a luxury for the rich and famous. It is much more convenient and affordable than you might think. Prices vary, but you can generally find a nice quality custom dress shirt for no more than you would pay for an off-the-rack shirt at your local department store, and turn-around time is usually about four weeks.

Whether you go to a local tailor or design your custom shirts online, the most important thing to remember is to comparison shop and go with a source that has a good guarantee, a comprehensive measurement system, and a good selection of high-quality fabrics.

Janine Giorgenti is a renowned fourth generation Italian designer, image consultant and custom clothier. Visit her website at for more style advice and fashion tips.

Published - October 2008

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