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How should a t-shirt fit?

September 10, 2019 3 min read

How should a t-shirt fit?

T-shirts are a staple in every man's wardrobe. Big or small, tall or short, young or old...every man should own well-fitting t-shirts. They are versatile and simple, but like everything in your closet, they need to fit properly or they'll end up at the bottom of your drawer.

While this guide caters to tall, slimmer builds, most of this advice is applicable to men of all body types. 

Sleeves

One of the more difficult areas to fit, especially for tall men, are the sleeves. Sleeves should not be too tight on the arm, but they should gently hug your bicep. The sleeves also should not be too baggy on your arms. Baggy sleeves often look sloppy and will make your arms look smaller. If you prefer a looser sleeve fit, do not allow for more than 1 inch of extra fabric in the sleeves when pinched. If the sleeves are too baggy, consider sizing down or tailoring the sleeve (or getting on a curl regiment).

Sleeve length is a little easier to balance. The sleeves should hit right around the middle of your bicep. The t-shirt in the image above lands comfortably snug, right at mid-bicep.

Neck Opening

We've all seen v-necks of varying depths. I recommend erring on the side of a shallower "V" than a deeper "V". Deep v-necks can look tacky and feminine. As a general rule, the "V" should not go below your armpits.

Crew neck tees should fit comfortably around your neck, without exposing chest hair or collarbones. If you can see your chest hair, collarbones, or pecs then the neck is probably too loose. 

Shoulders

Often overlooked when trying on a t-shirt are the shoulders. If the shoulders are too wide for your frame, the t-shirt will look boxy (and thus, so will you!). The shoulder seams should fall just past where your shoulder ends and your arm begins.

Chest, Body and Torso

Men often have different preferences on torso fit. Slim, loose, tailored, athletic...all of these are different "fits" that you'll find from apparel companies. T-shirts should be slimmer fitting, even for bigger guys. Bigger guys often opt for a loose fitting t-shirt which actually ends up making you look larger. A couple general rules in regards to the torso:

  1. You should be able to pinch 1-3 inches of fabric on either side of your torso.
  2. If you can see tension lines between your pecs, the tee is probably too tight.

The chest fit often comes down to comfort. If a shirt is uncomfortable in the armpit and pulling under your armpits, it is often because the chest is too tight. Consider sizing up in this case.

Length

I've always struggled to find t-shirts in the right length, it's one the main reasons I founded Redwood Tall Outfitters. T-shirts should extend to "mid-crotch", about halfway up your zipper. I prefer to have my tees be at least this long to avoid exposing my back and stomach when lifting my arms. The image below shows, what I believe to be, a perfect length. You'll also notice that the other images in this post feature tees landing perfectly at the middle of the zipper.

 What's in your closet?

I strongly recommend you go through your tees with these guidelines in mind. Some components can be tailored to fit, however it is usually only possible to take off some length (in sleeves, or body). This doesn't really help tall men, as most need everything a little longer. Try on your tees and consider how they fit, it may be time to upgrade to a better-fitting tee from Redwood Tall


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