How Should a Shirt Fit?

Dressing to impress is about much more than wearing formal clothes. You could have the most expensive dress shirt in the world and it would look awful if the fit isn’t right. 

Of course, balancing all the elements of a dress shirt’s fit is almost impossible when buying off-the-rack items. They’re made for the masses, meaning they fit almost no one properly.

Here at Tapered with the introduction of our own muscle fit shirts, we believe in the power of well-fitting clothes and the difference this makes to your overall look. We’re here with the key facts on how to choose the best-fitting men’s dress shirt so you can look sharp anytime, anywhere.

Let's break down how a shirt should fit. 

How Should a Dress Shirt Fit?

The easiest way to explain the best fit for a dress shirt is to break it down into its main components. Some are more important than others when choosing the right shirt and it all really depends on which areas of your body you’re trying to highlight.

So, here’s a rundown on how to choose the right fit for each area of a dress shirt. 


The Collar

We’ll start at the top of the shirt with the collar. When buying a dress shirt in a shop, this is usually how you determine size. While t-shirts come in small to large (and so on), dress shirts are measured in collar size.

You probably already know this, but we measure collar size in inches. The number refers to the length from the buttonhole to the button when you lay the shirt flat.

In a shop with a large size range, you’ll typically find shirts from 14” to 19”. Choosing the best fitting shirt should be easy then, right?

Well, unfortunately not, particularly if you’re more of an athletic fit. Often, what appears to be the right neck size will result in sleeves that are the wrong length and an ill-fitting chest.

The correct size for a shirt collar is if you can fit two fingers inside it when buttoned up. You can play around with the size a little if you’re not wearing a tie, as you’ll have a bit more room with the collar unbuttoned.


The Yoke and Chest

The yoke is the back panel on a dress shirt between the sleeves. The horizontal seam across the top of the shirt should be just longer than your shoulders so you have a bit of extra room for movement. You’ll know if it’s the wrong size because you either won’t be able to move your arms or you’ll have too much extra material.

As you can imagine, the chest is a difficult part to fit on typical shirts when you’re an athletic build. Ideally, your chest should fill the shirt out so you can see your pecs through the material. Note, we don't mean a see-through shirt but that you have a defined chest area.

The proper fit around the chest and shoulders should feel snug but should still give you a full range of movement. If the fabric pulls on the shirt’s buttons when you’re stood up or sat down, it’s too small.


The Armholes

The armholes on a dress shirt are a common sticking point for almost every man, regardless of body type. Most commercial brands cut the armholes too big to accommodate guys with bigger arms. This means it’s almost impossible to match your required arm size with the other areas on a shirt.

The best fit for the armholes of a dress shirt is as small as possible, ideally with a tapered feel under your arm. However, you should still be able to move your arms freely.

If the armholes are too small, you’ll feel restricted. Also, every time you move, you’ll pull the shirt out of your waistband (which isn’t a great look).

But, if the armholes are too big, you often end up with material puddling around your waistline – again, not a good look. You’ll also notice problems if you decide to wear a jacket. The material will bunch up in your armpit, which is both uncomfortable and unattractive.



You probably already know the difficulties associated with shirt sleeves. While you want them to be tight enough to show off your biceps, this often restricts movement and means the rest of the shirt is too small.

how should a shirt fit the biceps

But, most brands make their shirt sleeves really baggy for the same reason they make the armholes large. Baggy sleeves are undesirable regardless of your body type, as they make you look much bigger than you are (and not in a good way).

The perfect sleeve is one that hugs your arm to create definition but still allows you to reach forwards without pulling on the fabric. The cuff should sit somewhere between your wrist and the base of your thumb, depending on preference.

For example, if you wear a watch, you’ll either need sleeves that are baggy enough to cover it or sleeves short enough to sit above it.


The Body

Typical men’s dress shirts have a straight body. If you’re buying for a large chest, this means you’ll have lots of excess material around the waist. We all know how unflattering this looks.

Men (should) have a V-shaped torso with a noticeable difference between their chest and waist measurements. This is called the drop. For example, a man with a 42” chest and a 34” waist would have an 8” drop.

Good luck finding a commercial shirt that accommodates a drop. Your only real hope for an off-the-rack shirt with a drop is a slim-fitting one, but these lack in the arm and chest areas.

How a shirt should fit in waist


The ideal fit for a shirt body is one that goes in at the waist but is wide enough to be tucked in comfortably. As mentioned, most standard shirts have a straight body, which makes them look wide and billowy at the bottom.


The Length and Seat

The seat refers to the horizontal measurement across the shirt’s bottom hem. Most shirts have a rounded bottom, so you measure the seat at the straight point above this where the seam ends.

Ideally, a well-fitting men’s shirt is slightly wider in the seat than in the waist. This is to compensate for the extra material needed for when you sit down. But, as we already know, you won’t find this kind of variation in a typical commercial shirt.

So, if you want something narrow in the waist, your options are to buy a small shirt and leave the bottom buttons undone or to not tuck it in. As the latter might not be an option, you’re quite limited in getting the right fit in this area.

But what about the length? This is a difficult one and depends on several factors. While not everyone wears a dress shirt tucked in, that’s how we’ll think of them here because it’s the “correct” way to wear them.

When untucked, the bottom of the shirt should fall in line with the bottom of your trouser pockets. This is on formal trousers, as most people wear jeans lower. Basically, the shirt’s tail should cover most of your bum.


Shirt Fitting Guide - How to Find the Best Fitting Shirt

It’s great talking about the how a shirt should fit, but more importantly; how do we find this mythical item of clothing? Well, your first option is to buy a standard shirt off the rack and take it to a tailor.

A tailor can adjust it to suit your body by putting darts in the back or adjusting seams. However, they can’t make areas bigger, so you’ll usually have to buy a shirt that’s too big and basically get every measurement adjusted.

While owning a tailored shirt is great, it becomes very expensive to do this with every item you buy.

The next option is to adjust the fit you buy. For example, a slim-fitting shirt will hug where you want it to and will mean there’s less excess material. But, this isn’t a great option for athletic guys who need it wide in some places and narrow in others. 

The Tapered Shirt

The best option, of course, is to invest in a Tapered Muscle Fit Shirt. We design our shirts for slim and athletic men or bodybuilders who want to show off their hard work.

We’ve added in loads of great features that are perfect for men with more muscular builds, such as: 

  • Enhanced darts in the back
  • V-taper design – narrow waist, wide chest
  • 4-way stretch cotton

In short, our shirts fit close to the body but still allow for full movement. We chose our proportions carefully so you have space in the chest and arms but the right taper in the waist.

They look great tucked and untucked and are ideal for both formal and smart-casual looks. Whether you pair them with jeans or smart trousers, you can’t go wrong with a Tapered Dress Shirt.

Check out our best seller here 

If you’re tired of losing yourself in ill-fitting shirts or being restricted by tight-fitting options, give our Tapered Dress Shirts a try. We offer a wide range of colours and fits and it won’t take you long to find out why so many men love them.