Finding the perfect fit for your t-shirts can be a major challenge, particularly if you’re more of an athletic build. It’s important to factor in all areas of the t-shirt when finding the right fit, as getting one wrong can throw off the whole garment.
In this article, I’ll cover exactly how a t-shirt should fit so you’ll find it easier to make a selection.
How to Tell if a Tee is Too Small
Parts of a T-Shirt
As mentioned, it’s worth breaking a t-shirt down into its main parts. You’ll need to consider each when making sure it's not too small and finding the right fit – there isn’t one that’s more important than the others (regardless of what you’re trying to show off).
When choosing a t-shirt, it obviously helps to know your measurements. Rather than going off the size of a t-shirt you already own, take a minute to measure the important areas. But if you spend a lot of time in the gym, you might already have these memorised.
Let’s dive in to the anatomy of a t-shirt, how it should fit and how to tell if a tee shirt is too small.
Generally, men’s t-shirts come with a crew neck, which is a round neckline. You’ll also find V-neck t-shirts, which are self-explanatory.
A crew neck t-shirt should lie flat and just be wide enough to expose around 1cm around your neck. Avoid ones that feel tight fitting. If it cuts in, you’ll need to go up a size.
Getting the right fit around the collar is one of the easiest parts, even with off the rack t-shirts. However, if you have a large neck and need to go up a size, the rest of the t-shirt’s proportions will be thrown off.
If choosing a V-neck, its lowest point should never be below the top of your armpits. Guys with an athletic build might opt for a V-neck because it feels more comfortable, but it's fit can be thrown off if you have a large chest.
A t-shirt’s shoulder fit is one of the major signs of whether it fits properly or not. While it’s not the only seam on the garment, it’s arguably the most obvious.
The shoulder seam should fit over your shoulder bone – it shouldn’t drop down onto your upper arm. While some oversized fits break this rule, it’s at least in keeping with the overall style.
A standard off-the-rack t-shirt will often be either too tight or too loose around the shoulders. And, considering the shoulder fit will be dictated by the overall size, it can end up being one of the worst looking parts.
For example, if you choose a larger size so it fits over your arms and chests, the shoulder seam will often be in the wrong place. At best, this will just look strange, but at worst it’ll look loose when both the arms and the chest are tight.
Opting for a muscle fit cuts the shoulder seam quite tight but remains in proportion with the rest of the t-shirt. Similarly, a good muscle fit t-shirt will use stretch fabric so you can get the extra give where it’s needed while the overall t-shirt remains close-cut.
The arms of a t-shirt are typically where most men struggle to find the right fit. If you’re muscly with large arms, you’ll need to jump up a size, which can result in the rest of it being baggy.
On the other hand, if you want a tight fit to show off your gains, you risk cutting into your arm. While this isn’t painful, it doesn’t look as good as you think it does.
The length of the arms in a t-shirt is important. They should sit roughly in the middle of your upper arm, halfway between your shoulder and elbow.
If you want a tighter fit around your biceps, choosing a muscle fit made from elasticated material is the best option. This will give you the definition you want along with a superior level of comfort. Finding this kind of combination in an off the rack t-shirt is essentially impossible.
The Body and Width
The width, the most important yet most difficult area to tackle. An athletically built man has a wide chest and narrower waist – a combination very few manufacturers take into account.
A standard fitting t-shirt will be the same width all the way down. This might be fine on your chest, but it’ll look very baggy around your waist. And, if your chest is particularly large, going up in size will only make the problem worse.
In normal circumstances, a standard fit t-shirt should have around 2.5cm of extra material on each side when pinched together. While this might be fine usually, even a small amount of extra material can make a t-shirt look ill-fitting if you’ve got an athletic build.
The ideal fit for an athletic t-shirt is a V-taper, where it’s wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. Think of it as the male equivalent of an ideal women’s fit, which flares at the bottom over the hips.
A man’s t-shirt should do the opposite and highlight the difference in width between the chest and waist. After all, if you’ve spent plenty of time in the gym, why would you want to hide it under a baggy t-shirt?
If you were to label one area of a t-shirt as the least important, it’s the length. That said, getting the length right is immediately noticeable and will set you apart from every other man wearing a t-shirt.
How long should a t shirt be? Of course, length is mainly dependent on your height and therefore isn’t influenced as greatly by your build. However, build does impact it; for example, if your chest is quite wide, it can make the t-shirt appear shorter because it has to fit differently.
The perfect place for your t-shirt to end is roughly 5cm below your waistline, which often falls around the middle of your fly. fall below this and the t-shirt length is too long.
Finding an off the rack t-shirt that has the right length is difficult because they’re designed for the masses, and there’s plenty of height variation in the population.
However, choosing an athletic fit t-shirt removes much of the challenge when it comes to length. Importantly, a good muscle fit t-shirt will be made of stretch fabric, which accommodates stretching over your chest. This helps maintain the length and keeps it much truer to the size chart.
You’ll often find the length of a t-shirt displayed as its back length. As you can imagine, the back of a t-shirt doesn’t contour as much as the front and so is a more accurate representation of its length when you’re wearing it.
Choosing a T-Shirt Based on Your Body Type
As I’ve already made clear, the problem with off the rack t-shirts is that they’re made for the masses. While you can get different t-shirt fit types, such as regular or slim fit, they’re still designed to cater for everyone.
The problem with this is that it actually caters to no one. There are very few (if any) men out there who match the proportions dreamt up by manufacturers. Sure, some might look better than others, but these guys are few and far between.
Best Fitting T Shirts for Athletic Build
Finding the right fit for your t-shirt is entirely dependent on your body shape. In our guide above, I mention how the t-shirt should fit in relation to your body, and this, of course, is different for everyone.
So, finding the right fit in a t-shirt for men of an athletic build can be very difficult. You need a t-shirt that’s wide in some places and narrow in others, which is essentially the opposite of how off the rack t-shirts fit.
We’ve built it to provide the perfect fit in all the right places. You can count on:
- V-tapered fit – narrow at the waist, wide at the chest
- Shorter sleeve perfectly placed to show off your biceps
- 4x stretch from the heavyweight cotton – helps it to retain its length
- Cut close to the body to show off all your hard work
What’s more, we offer our tapered t-shirts in 7 different sizes, which makes it even easier to find your perfect fit. The measurements are all proportional but we add a bit extra across the chest so it’ll fit you just right. Check our best seller here.
Where can I buy fitted T-Shirts?
Hopefully this guide has given you some information on how a t-shirt should fit. Of course, this all depends on your body type, but the main point is for your clothes to work for you, not against you.
So, if you’ve got a strong physique and need clothes to match, check out the range of Tapered Fit T-Shirts from Tapered Menswear. They’re designed for athletic guys like you to look as great as you feel.