Measuring the Man: How to Measure Yourself for Clothing (Plus a Bonus Personal Sizing Card)

by Brett on July 27, 2010 · 24 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Gillette, Style

This series is supported by Gillette. Learn more about Gillette and its products at Gillette.com.

The other day I walked into J.C. Penney’s to pick up a white oxford shirt. I looked down at the table crowded with shirts and took in all the different sizes available: 14 1/2, 15, 17.

Uh oh.

I forgot that you needed to know your neck size when you buy a dress shirt.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. I’ll walk into a clothing store needing to pick something out, but I don’t know what my measurements are. When you’re looking for a pair of trousers or a nice shirt, knowing that you’re a L or an XL won’t cut it. A clerk can usually give me a quick measurement, but I’d rather just be able to walk into a store, pick up what I need, and not have to bother with measuring myself every time I need a new dress shirt or a pair of new slacks.

I figure I’m not the only man out there who has had this problem. So I whipped up this article on how to measure yourself for clothing, but more importantly, I created a card that you can write your measurements on and keep in your wallet. The next time you walk into a store, you’ll have your sartorial vitals on hand so you can make your purchase quickly and get on to doing more important things!

How to Measure Yourself For Clothing

We’re going to take measurements that you can use to buy standard sized products like oxford shirts, khakis, or off-the-rack sport coats. These are general measurements. You will, of course, need to alter clothing (particularly sport coats and dress pants) to get the best fit possible. And custom clothing requires much more extensive measurements. For guidance on how to measure yourself for custom clothing, check out A Tailored Suit’s Measuring Guide.

Download the Art of Manliness Clothing Measurement Card

Print if off, cut along the dotted lines, fold in half, write down your measurements, and stick it in your wallet. Now you’ll never again have to worry about remembering your pant size.

Chest. When you go into a haberdashery looking for a sport coat, you’ll notice the sizes for jackets will have numbers like 40L or 38R. That number comes from your chest measurement. Also, when you buy a nice dress shirt, you can’t just tell the clerk you want one in a large. You’ll need to know your chest size.

How to measure your chest:

  • Wrap the tape measure under your armpits, around the fullest part of your chest.
  • The tape measure should be snug. Not so tight that it constricts breathing, but not so loose that the tape measure slides down.
  • Don’t puff out or flex your chest. Just stand normally.

The letter in off-the-rack jacket measurements corresponds to your height. If you’re between 5’7″ and and 6′ you’re a Regular(R). If you’re between 6’1″-6″3 you’re a Long(L).

Neck. You need to know your neck size lest you strangle yourself to death with a tight collar.

How to measure your neck:

  • Wrap the tape measure around the lower part of your neck. It should be about an inch below your Adam’s Apple.
  • Don’t choke yourself with the tape measure. For a comfortable fit, place 2 fingers between the tape and your neck. Round up to the next 1/2″.

Sleeve. Many off-the-shelf dress shirts come in different sleeve lengths too. Moreover, you’ll need to know your sleeve length in order to adjust the sleeve length of any off-the-rack jacket you buy.

How to measure your sleeve length:

  • Measure from the shoulder joint to the wrist bone.

Waist. For the past few decades, men have been wearing their pants lower and lower around their hips instead of around their waist. That may be fine for khakis or jeans, but it doesn’t work for trousers. We’ll be measuring our “real” waist here.

How to measure your waist:

  • Measure around your waist at about navel level.
  • Put a finger between your body and the tape measure to ensure maximum comfort.

You can use this “real waist” measurement for casual pants like khakis and jeans too. They’ll just fit a little looser. But that’s okay-that’s what belts are for.

Inseam. In addition to your waist measurement, pant sizes also come in different inseam lengths. When you look at pant sizes, it will often say something like “34×32.” The first number-34-is your waist measurement. The second number-32-is your inseam measurement.

How to measure your inseam:

  • Remove your shoes.
  • Get your girlfriend (or a friend you really trust) to measure your inner leg from the lowest part of your crotch (the bottom of your family jewels) to your foot.

One small caveat when buying off-the-rack pants, especially jeans and khakis: They’re often designed to shrink a bit, so it might be wise to buy a pair with a slightly longer length to compensate for that.

Shoe size. There are ways to measure your feet at home, but the easiest way is to use the Brannock Device (that silver and black thing you see at shoe stores). Don’t just measure the length of your foot, but also the width. Measure your feet at the end of the day when they’ll be at their biggest and most swollen.

Hat size. Every man should have at least one good hat they can wear out on the town. And you need to know your hat size when buying a fitted ball cap as well. When you go into the store (and especially if you’re buying online), knowing your hat size will save you time (and the headache of sending things back). Hat sizes come in numbers like 7 and 7 3/4. To figure out what your hat size is, you first need to measure your head in inches.

How to measure your hat size:

  • Loop the tape measure around your brain canister about an inch and a half above your ears. Write down the measurement.
  • Now convert your measurement into your appropriate hat size using this handy little chart.
Inches Cm. Hat Size
21 53 6 5/8
21 1/2 54 6 3/4
21 5/8 55 6 7/8
22 1/8 56 7
22 1/2 57 7 1/8
23 58 7 1/4
23 3/8 59 7 3/8
23 3/4 60 7 1/2
24 61 7 5/8
24 1/2 62 7 3/4
25 63 7 7/8

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Schmidty - Man Vs. Style July 27, 2010 at 1:12 am

Excellent article Brett. simplifies the measuring process very well.

It is so much easier, simplier and quicker, when shopping and buying new clothes if you know your sizes… I know a lot of men who dont bother going shopping because they have to try on 4-5 pieces of each style. this eliminates that down to one or maybe two.

Good stuff.

Cheers,

Schmidty

2 Alan P. July 27, 2010 at 1:23 am

Ah, I love the sizing card….especially with the AoM symbol on it. Very clever and useful. I just had the same experience of walking into a department store and feeling at a loss to remember my dress shirt size. Never again!

3 Alex July 27, 2010 at 3:57 am

Regarding hat sizes: If you’re buying a hat made in the UK (so this is especially important for people in the UK, but also Europeans and thanks to the internet, Americans), take care that US sizes are 1/8 larger than UK sizes (e.g. a US 7 3/8 is a UK 7 1/4, and a UK 7 3/8 is a US 7 1/2).

4 JG July 27, 2010 at 5:06 am

Great, my brain box is 7 7/8. Now how in the heck do I find a hat to fit that?

5 Gary July 27, 2010 at 7:52 am

I’m with you JG – I only have a few hats because it isn’t easy to find one that fits my mellon without looking ridiculous.

6 JS July 27, 2010 at 8:20 am

I’m amazed that anyone could not know their collar size. But then again, since I’m in the UK, I had to wear a shirt to school and thus have about a dozen.

7 Steve July 27, 2010 at 8:44 am

Thanks for the card. I’ll be filling mine in using a pencil :)

8 Jorge Vila July 27, 2010 at 9:16 am

Hello Brett, I am Jorge Vila from Argentina.
I have the same problem, my measure is to buy clothes are Extralarge or Large, but it is good to know this data as measured for sharing about clothes, as other brands of clothes they wear other measures, such as 4, 3 And when not to buy which one it is.

Regards

9 Joe Martin July 27, 2010 at 10:25 am

Shirt and jacket lengths: “If you’re between 5’7″ and and 6′ you’re a Regular(R). If you’re between 6’1″-6″3 you’re a Long(L).”

What about us 5’3″ shrimps? Is that a Short(S)?

10 Dewi July 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

That would indeed be a short, Mr. Martin.

Agreed with you, JS. Due to my British schooling, I’m never without a shirt and tie, at minimum.

11 Terry July 27, 2010 at 1:46 pm

JG -
I have been using “Hats in the Belfry” with great satisfaction for many years. http://www.hatsinthebelfry.com/
Also, check the web for one of their stores near you.

12 Playstead July 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Insanely useful post — which is really important when sponsored. The Clothing Measuring Chart is well worth the post — even without the rest of the content. Also, make sure those measurements are correct, and that you are really familiar with them.

13 Mike G July 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm

“If you’re between 5’7″ and and 6′ you’re a Regular(R). If you’re between 6’1″-6″3 you’re a Long(L).”

This is true, but what if you’re like me – 6’0 with a 35 sleeve length… Most of the time the R sleeves will be to short. Do we buy the L and ask the tailor to shorten the coat length also? Or do we buy the R since the coat sleeve will probably be tailored in slightly anyway?

14 TimW077 July 27, 2010 at 11:13 pm

While in college I was asked to participate in a friends wedding. We all went to a local tux rental shop, and got measured. The groom tipped (I don’t know how much) the tailor because we were renting the tuxes in another town, and we were there for half an hour.

I have several times gone to a tux shop to get measured since then. Be sure to go when it is slow so you aren’t keeping them from other customers.

15 Bob July 27, 2010 at 11:51 pm

I learned to use Brannock to not only measure foot length, but ARCH length. The LONGER of the two (heel to toe or heel to arch) is the proper and most comfortable shoe size to wear.

16 Philippe July 28, 2010 at 3:59 am

I have no idea about my measurements but my tailor does :-)

Nice card to put them is various units. When in the states, I always forgot the conversion between EU shoe size and US.

Great article as usual, keep them coming

17 Topher July 29, 2010 at 12:10 am

Nicely done. Being able to buy measured clothes off-the-rack based on standard measurements will greatly increase the ability of your clothes to fit well and minimize the amount of alteration you need to do.

18 Zachary July 29, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Useful post, but sleeve measurements for dress shirts aren’t from shoulder to wrist. They’re base of the neck to shoulder to wrist, since the breadth of your shoulders will affect how your sleeves fall. The sleeves of my jackets measure about 25″, but my shirts are 35s.

19 Bob July 31, 2010 at 11:35 am

I’ve always wonder where hat sizes come from. After looking at your table, it looks like if you divide the inches measurement by Pi (3.14), it gives the hat size. So that hat size is essentially an equivalent diameter (in inches) for your head.

20 deepak August 1, 2010 at 1:32 am

Isn’t it simpler to just wear it and see if it fits!

21 Steven August 6, 2010 at 11:53 am

The sleeve length as measured in this article is for a suit sleeve. Shirt sleeves are measured differently.

Place your hand on your hip (like your hand is in your pocket), and measure from the nape of your neck to your wrist bone.

My dress shirt is a 15/35. It is hard to find a shirt with longer sleeves like this. Most shirt sleeves are 32 or 33.

22 Amanda August 18, 2010 at 9:24 am

Just a comment on the shirt sleeve- most US tailors will measure you from the middle of the back of your neck, along the shoulder, and down to your wrist. There is a good diagram on WikiHow:
http://www.wikihow.com/Measure-Your-Neck-Size-and-Sleeve-Length

Also, when measuring to buy vintage- keep in mind where the pants will sit. Example- 1940s high-waisted pants will sometimes sit even higher than your belly button (and the neckties were shorter than usual to match the higher pants!)

23 melvin January 1, 2013 at 3:49 am

i was wondering if there was an article to show like for example.
34 means so and so. and a large pair of shorts would mean boys 16 or something

24 Rich February 21, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Love your site, and the many things I am learning! Just FYI, the link for your measurement card no longer works. Keep up the fabulous work!

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