Finding the Right Men’s Dress Shirt Size

Ordering a dress shirt online can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience. When ordering from a new brand for the first time, it can be hard to know if you’re going to get a shirt that fits you the way you want it to.

In order to make the process a bit easier we’ve put together a 2 part guide:

  1. How to take the most common (and uncommon) “on-body” measurements
  2. How to translate those “on-body” measurements into selecting the shirt that fits you the way you want.

How to take the most common (and uncommon) “on-body” measurements

Although these measurements can be attempted solo, you will have an easier time if you enlist the help of a friend. We recommend taking these measurements either without a shirt on or with a tight fitting t-shirt or shirt.


  Starting where the shirt collar will sit, on Sebastian Ward shirts this is right on the adams apple, wrap the tape measure around around your neck. Make sure that the tape measure is snug but don’t attempt to strangle yourself. We will adjust the measurement for comfort in part 2 below.


 Measuring the sleeve is difficult to do on your own so we recommend that you have a friend take the measurement for you (let us know your technique if you can do it solo!). With your arms hanging straight down, start at the center of the back of the neck and drape the tape measure over the top of your shoulder, down the outside of the arm and stop right at the wrist bone.


 Starting on the center of your sternum wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your chest. The tape measure should be snug but not tight enough to restrict your normal breathing pattern.


 Starting at the top of your left or right hip bone, wrap the tape measure around your body loosely enough that it is not restricting but tightly enough that the tape measure does not fall if you only hold it on one side.

Tail (optional):

 This measurement will be used to predict how easily your new shirt will stay tucked in or look casual. You will again find your life easier if you enlist the help of a friend.

 Starting at the center of the back of your neck (the same starting point as for the sleeve length above) measure to your tailbone. Make sure to take a breath, relax and straighten your spine when taking this measurement, hunching or arching your back can extend or shorten this measurement significantly.

Yoke / Shoulders (optional):

 This measurement will help to make sure that you get a shirt that fits your shoulders correctly. Although it is not necessary, if available from the shirt manufacturer (like this one) it can give you additional insight into the exact fit.

 Feel your shoulder for the ridge where your shoulder naturally ends and your arm socket begins. Starting at this point on the top of one shoulder, measure to the top of the other shoulder across your back.


Cuff (optional):

 This measurement may often not be provided by the manufacturer (unless it’s us) but when provided can give you insight into how the sleeves will behave when you wear them. Tighter cuffs will let you wear a longer sleeve shirt without overflow onto your hand and thus allow more mobility (as these dress shirts are designed to do).

 Starting on the inner wrist bone of one hand, wrap the tape measure around your wrist. The tape measure should be snug against your skin.

How to translate those “on-body” measurements into selecting the shirt that fits you the way you want

 Now you have your “on-body” measurements but manufacturers provide you with their “on-shirt” measurements. Although measuring “on-body” measurements is the same no matter what your style preferences are, selecting the right “on-shirt” measurements depends on how you want your shirt to fit. You can find Sebastian Ward's "on-shirt" measurements in our size guide.

Chest, Yoke and Waist:

 The three most important measurements for your body fit are chest, shoulders (or yoke) and waist. If the brand you are purchasing from does provide these measurements (guess who does!), start here before you even look at neck and sleeve. If it does not, proceed to the next section.

  If you like a tight fitting shirt, choose the smallest size where both the chest, waist and yoke are 2” greater than your on-body measurement. If you like a more comfortable fit, make sure to give yourself at least 4”.

  In the photos below, the model is a 42" chest wearing a 15.5" neck Sebastian Ward shirt (44.75" chest on-shirt measurement) on the left and a 16" neck Sebastian Ward shirt (47.25" chest on-shirt measurement) on the right.

       Tight Fit          Comfortable Fit


 If you’ve already determined a minimum size by looking at Chest and Waist, don’t go lower than that size but do check the neck size to make sure it is large enough for you to be comfortable. There are two generally accepted variations on collar size specification:

  1. Formal Fit: Take the exact size you measured and select the next largest collar size. (e.g. 15.25” becomes 15.5” or 15.5” stays 15.5”)
  2. Comfortable Fit: Take the exact size you measured, add .5 inches and then select the next largest collar size. (e.g. 15.25 + .5 = 15.75 becomes 16)

 Whichever you choose is entirely up to how you like to wear your shirt. 

In the photos below, model is a 1.5" neck wearing a 15.5" neck Sebastian Ward shirt on the left (one finger fits in the collar band) and a 16" neck Sebastian Ward shirt on the right (two fingers fit in the collar band).

        Formal Fit      Comfortable Fit

Sleeve and Wrist:

 Selecting the correct sleeve length is crucial as it will determine how comfortably you are able to move in your new shirt.

 The first thing to check is if the manufacturer provides cuff measurements. Most ready to wear manufacturers don’t, but, of course, we do. If the brand you’re looking at doesn’t provide cuff measurements go ahead and assume they’re loose cuffs.

 If the brand you’re looking at does provide cuff measurements you have a determination to make: are the cuffs loose or tight?

  1. Tight Cuffs: If the cuffs are within 1.75” of your wrist measurement they can be considered tight. We prefer tight cuffs as they allow you to wear a longer sleeve without overflowing over your wrist and the longer sleeve allows for more mobility.
    Determining Sleeve Length: With tight cuffs, you should select a sleeve length that is 2-3” longer than your actual sleeve length. This will give you extra room to bend and reach comfortably.
  2. Loose Cuffs: If the cuff is 1.75” or more greater than your wrist measurement they can be considered loose. These can be preferably if you wear a large watch. (That said, if you unbutton the cuff, a large watch can look excellent with a tight cuff as you can see here)
    Determining Sleeve Length: With loose cuffs, select the sleeve size that is immediately longer than your measured sleeve length.


 There are two main ways to wear a shirt tail and this is where the tail measurements matter:

  1. Tucked: If you plan to wear your shirt tucked in most of the time, you’ll want your shirt tail to be at least 10 inches longer than the tail measurement that you took above. The extra length will guarantee that you sit on the tail of the shirt and keep it from getting un-tucked. Our shirts are made to match this profile and stay tucked in.
  2. Un-tucked: If you plan to primarily wear your shirt un-tucked, you have more flexibility with tail length. Just remember that if you will need to tuck in your shirt at any time you it will be a struggle to keep it tucked in.

On Shrinkage:

Typical high quality woven cotton shrinks an average of 2%.  Our fabric is very stable and shrinks only 1/16th of an inch in width after laundering. To make sizing easier, we’ve already taken shrinkage into account in our sizing. The interlining in the collar and cuffs is pre-shrunk for stability.

You can effectively ignore shrinkage when ordering a Sebastian Ward shirt.

Now you should have enough information to select the perfect off-the-rack shirt for your body type and comfort preferences.

Bonus: Conversion from Inches to Metric and vice versa.

All of the measurements above are in inches (we are based in NYC) but it is very easy to convert those using Google.

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