Your Simple Guide to Complicated Dress Shirt Sizes

Don't let confusing sizing get in the way of your perfect wedding fit. With a few quick measurements, you'll know which shirt is right for you.
tres dean Associate Menswear Editor
Tres Dean
tres dean Associate Menswear Editor
Tres Dean
Associate Menswear Editor
  • Tres writes and edits articles for The Knot, with a specialty in menswear and suiting.
  • He brings over a decade of expertise in the field garnered as a writer, editor, copywriter, and trend specialist.
  • Before joining The Knot he covered menswear for publications including GQ, AskMen, Men’s Health, Sharp Magazine, Highsnobiety, and Spy.
Updated Aug 30, 2023

Men's dress shirts are the bedrock of a great wedding look. They should fit you as well as your suit does, but many, well, don't. Men's dress shirt sizes aren't quite as simple as small, medium, and large. In fact, trying to figure out the right dress shirt size can be complicated enough for the uninitiated that it can serve as a deterrent. It can be tough to "add to cart" if you don't the difference between a 14 and 16 size neck for example. Nine times out of ten, when you're wearing a suit you'll have a dress shirt on underneath it (and probably a tie as well). It's important to learn how to measure yourself for one and how to make sure it fits well. The good news: it's nowhere near as complicated as it may seem. Give us just a few minutes of your time and you'll be an expert in how to measure men's dress shirts.

In this article:

What's the Deal with Dress Shirt Sizes?

Need the TL;DR answer to this question? Here it is: men's dress shirt sizes generally aren't measured in traditional S/M/L/XL ranges. They consist of a few measurements, but most are tagged with a number correlating to the shirt's neck size. A size 14 dress shirt indicates a 14-inch neck circumference, with the rest of the shirt being sized proportionately to this.

Dress Shirt Sizing 101

In most cases, the secret to measuring men's dress shirt sizes comes in your neck measurement. The rest of the shirt's measurements are scaled from there. Whether or not the rest of the shirt fits you well is a bit of a question until you've tried a couple out. , Of all the individual measurements that go into shirting, neck circumference is perhaps the most important–you do, after all, have to be able to button up to the neck if you are wearing a tie.

Now, here are some dress shirt sizes that utilize alphabetic sizing (S/M/L) rather than numeric. In those cases, it's always best to check the manufacturer's size chart on their website to determine which size is best for you. However, as a general rule, small runs from a neck size of 14-14.5, medium is 15 and 15.5, large is 16-16.5 and so on. These sizes are generally going to fall within that one-inch range, with larger sizes scaling up in measurement accordingly.

How to Measure for a Dress Shirt

Measuring for a dress shirt can be an in-depth process that requires a second set of hands, or even the help of a tailor. It can also be as simple as a DIY neck measurement and taking notes at home. We're going to meet somewhere in the middle here as we walk through the steps, though. All of the following measurements are possible to take by yourself, though it's always helpful to have a second person (be it a tailor, a fiancé, or a roommate) to help with some of the trickier ones for the sake of accuracy.

Take your neck measurement

This is the one you can't skip. It'll require a tape measure. Start by placing one end at your Adam's apple and hold it in place with one or two fingers. Using your other hand, wrap the tape measure around your neck until it meets the other end. That measurement, in inches, is your neck size. When taking your neck measurement it's crucial to always round up. If you're coming in at 15 ¾" you should round up to at least a 16.

Measure your sleeves

There are a ton of different angles from which you could measure your sleeves. The way to get the most accurate measurements is to start from the shoulder, placing one end of the tape measure at the base of your neck. Stop the measurement where your wrist joins your hand. Make sure to measure each sleeve individually to account for differences–for example, my left arm is a hair of an inch longer than my right arm. It's a small difference but taking it into consideration has been helpful.

Get your chest measurement

Your chest measurement is fairly simple–just wrap a tape measure around your upper chest right beneath your underarms.

Don't forget your waist

The last measurement you should take is the circumference of your waist. You can get this measurement by wrapping a tape measure just above your hips, right around the point where your pants usually sit.

How to Nail Dress Shirt Sizing

Sometimes it isn't enough just to know your own measurements. Men's dress shirt sizing can be such a nebulous thing to navigate–make sure you're ahead of any potential issues with these helpful tips, lest you end up having to make an emergency department store run the day before the wedding.

Always round up

When it comes to neck sizing, it's generally pertinent to go up about half a size when picking out your dress shirt. If your neck is, for example, a perfect 15, a dress shirt with a 15" collar is going to be awfully snug–we don't want you gasping for air while reciting your vows or giving your best man speech, after all. If you're an even neck measurement, consider going up half a size. If your neck is an uneven measurement, always round up to the nearest half-inch.

Read the size chart

In a perfect world, there'd be some uniformity in dress shirt sizing. Unfortunately, there's a tremendous amount of variance between different brands. The best way to know what you can expect from the shirt you have your eye on is to read the corresponding size chart.

Be prepared for alterations

Did that size 16 dress shirt you ordered have a boxier fit than you'd hoped? Not to worry–if you aren't happy with your shirt's size or the way it fits, you can always take it to a tailor and get it altered. For a small fee you can not only get the sizing of your dress shirt more in line with what you're after but also in some cases, you can adjust the fit of it. You can slim the fit or adjust the hem, allowing for a more casual look. As with all clothing, just remember that it's very easy to make something smaller or slimmer. It's harder (if not impossible) to make a dress shirt larger–so when in doubt, size up.

If you need your shirt in time for a wedding, be sure to factor in about a weeklong turnaround for your garment. Most tailors can alter a shirt quicker than that but I find it pertinent to always assume that the person fixing your shirt is busier than usual and may need more time. Worst case scenario, you get your dress shirt back a little bit earlier than expected.

Dress Shirt Size Guides From Your Favorite Brands

When in doubt, go straight to the source. Any brand that sells dress shirts is going to have some sort of size guide on their website that can answer any questions you have regarding proportions as they relate to neck size. Here are how some of the most popular brands in the menswear world size their dress shirts.

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