If you have an atypical body shape, a bespoke fitting may be the key to a good fit. Photo: Jim Rice
German-born designer Jil Sander once said that the only piece of clothing that will never go out of style is the white shirt. She wasn't wrong. A testament to the power of simplicity, the white dress shirt truly is the original crossover piece of a man's wardrobe. Work, weekends, weddings – whenever you're stuck for something to wear you can very rarely go wrong with a simple, clean and crisp white shirt.
That is, unless you stuff it all up by getting a shirt that doesn't fit. And as a quick trip to any local nightclub will prove, choosing a shirt that fits seems to be something that a lot of men struggle with. In particular those who seem convinced that the right way to wear a shirt is so tight it can't be done up past the navel.
So how hard is it really to find a shirt that fits?
The biggest fallacy when it comes to choosing the right shirt size is thinking it's as easy as buying either a small, medium, or large. This just doesn't work in real life and you can often end up with sleeves too short or a neck that gapes like a wizard's sleeve.
To avoid this, know your measurements - neck width, arm length, and shoulders. Most department stores now offer measuring services in case you don't know them, and this can help them select as close as possible to the right fit for you.
When it comes to shirts off the shelf, a rough guide to getting a good fit is as follows: your neck should be comfortable enough with the shirt fully buttoned up, with enough room for one finger to fit inside the collar; traditionally, your sleeve cuff should sit about half to three quarters of an inch (12 to 20 mm) out from under your jacket. This should see the shirt cuff sitting comfortably at the edge of your wrist without touching the base of your hands.
Also, don't be fooled by the bigger-is-better option to accommodate things like longer arms or taller torsos. Whilst you want to avoid the skin-tight-for-Saturdays look, you equally want to avoid looking like you're wearing a big blouse. Keeping in mind your overall measures, if you do need to accommodate for longer limbs, go for a slimmer fit in the body to avoid the tent effect. Some of the best ready-made options that provide a generous combination of sizing can be found at Herringbone, Thomas Pink, and Baubridge and Kay.
But, if you're determined to get something that doesn't just fit your frame but also flatters it and makes the most of your shape, investing in a made-to-measure shirt is the only option.
“The perfect shirt is a combination of personal preference and proportions,” says Daniel Narvaez from Sydney-based bespoke label, Mister Mister. “In a perfect world we would all be able to wear the latest pieces off the runway but unfortunately everyone is different.”
One of the key benefits of having a shirt made to measure is exactly that – they are made to your measure, with all your physical idiosyncrasies taken into account. Having unusually long arms, for example. In my own case so long that I resemble a rather awkward looking tarantula whenever I try to hug someone. And whilst this does make it easier to reach for the TV remote, it also makes it impossible to find a ready-made business shirt that fits perfectly.
“A shirt that is made specifically for you means that you are getting a shirt which fits your body perfectly,” says Narvaez. “By taking your body measurements, a pattern is developed specifically for you; shirts are then made, refitted and adjusted, if at all necessary.”
The best part is the cost of choosing a bespoke shirt can be no more than a quality pre-made one. The average starting cost for a bespoke shirt at Mister Mister is $195 which, for me, is cheaper than choosing a pre-made style that inevitably needs to be tailored to fit me properly.
What are your thoughts on investing in a bespoke shirt?