The real issue is that too many guys simply can’t judge what “fit” actually means. So, what exactly does it mean to have clothes that fit properly? First, everyone is different; what fits me may not fit you. Also, when dealing with “off the rack” clothes, no one size fits two men the same way.
If you and I both wear 44 regular jackets, mine may fit like a glove yet yours leaves you feeling constrained or with sleeves that are too long. The point is, and women can easily attest to this, everyone’s body is different and designers design for a mythical ideal. Always keep that in mind and try on clothes for actual fit as opposed to what you think the label should say.
This is where the tailor enters our discussion. It really is surprising that so many men who value their appearance are intimidated by tailors, or at least hesitant to approach one. A good tailor can make your clothes fit in a way that changes how you view your wardrobe and how you see yourself. Imagine a closet filled with shirts, jackets, and pants that are all usable any day of the week. Each item will always work and always fit. It can give you a whole new outlook on dressing for the day.
Start with items that are favorites but have issues: the shirt with sleeves that are too long or the pants that never fit quite right. While you may not want to spend the extra money on clothes you already own, the outcome makes all the difference in the world. And think about it; you’ve already spent good money on clothes that you don’t even wear. Now, that’s a waste of cash.
Finding a good tailor is like finding a doctor; it’s personal and make take a few tries. I have two particular tailors with whom I deal. One is for complex jobs and for work on expensive clothes. He is a custom tailor with a deep client list. The other tailor is my fix-it guy. Though extremely competent, he is far more affordable when it comes to routine jobs like hemming pant legs, letting a waist in/out, and re-attaching buttons.
So, what should you keep in mind when it comes to making sure your clothes fit? First and foremost, be totally honest with yourself about how your clothes feel when you put them on. Here are a few more guidelines:
Pants should not be tight around your waist, but for sizing purposes they should stay put without the need of a belt. The only exception to this rule is if you are wearing braces. Then, your waistband should have a little extra room to allow the pants to hang properly. Regardless, you should never have to struggle with a button or zipper and there should be no pulling across the front or read of your pants. Another test involves your front pockets; they should always lay flat and closed and not flare open. If they do pull open, the waist needs to be let out.
Most dress or semi formal trousers should have a slight to medium break where the pant leg meets the shoe, but no more than one inch. As a general rule, your socks should remain mostly hidden when you walk down the street, so a higher break is perfectly fine as long as it doesn’t look like you’re wearing high-waters. Casual pants like khakis can sport a break or not, either look can work well. Again though, avoid the clam digger look unless you are actually strolling the beach near your summer house.
When standing still, you want your pant legs to remain proportional to the upper half of your body and the visual weight of a breaking cuff usually suffices. Speaking of cuffs; they are most appropriate with lighter fabric, to help weigh down the leg, and when you want a defined end to your leg. Cuffed pants also tend to work best with pants that have wider leg openings. Pants with narrower legs tend look better without cuffs.
Two final notes: first, casual pants like khakis should never be cuffed; the same is true for formal trousers (read tuxedos). Additionally, formal trousers should not have a break; they should just meet the tops of your shoes.
When you button a dress shirt, there should be just enough room in the collar for you to slip you index finger in and comfortably move it around. Ideally, you should not turn blue and pass out. The collar should not be so high as to make your neck disappear and the shirt’s hem should stay tucked in even when bending over.
The body of the shirt should have room that allows for movement but not so much that it billows out after five minutes. Slimmer styles are in vogue right now and after some griping, I am now a convert. They are more comfortable and allow for a fit under trimmer jackets. Aversion to trim clothing in general seems to be an American problem, but we are finally recognizing that the sartorial benefits outweigh the initial sense of discomfort.
The current trend is also toward higher arm holes that lead to a more fitted sleeve. Generally speaking shirtsleeves should end just below your wrist bone though I don’t consider it a hard and fast rule. Just don’t let them puddle around your thumbs, it looks sloppy.
In my opinion, you should always want to wear your jacket. Not that you need to of course, but a suite coat or sports jacket should feel naturally comfortable. The shoulders should be snug but not cramped and the line of your own shoulder should not be visible under the fabric. By no means should the jacket’s shoulder hang below your actual shoulder. If it does that jacket is too large and you need the next size down.
Your jacket’s collar should stay firmly in place against your shirt’s collar and not pull away or ride up. About a quarter to a half-inch of shirt cuff should be visible; any more and it looks like you’re wearing your dad’s shirt. With the “shrunken jacket” trend hitting the runways more and more, it can be hard to discern what a proper body fit entails. For real men in the real world, you should be able to easily button your jacket and when you let your arms drop, the jacket’s hem should line up with your knuckles.
Lastly, your jacket’s rear vents should not pull open when standing still, they should lay flat. If they do, head over to you tailor to have it let it out a bit. Then put down the slice of pizza in your hand. Remember, the best way to make sure your clothes always fit is to stay in shape.