How to Measure for a Suit and Other Clothes (+ 2 Hacks)

“I was brought up to be a gentleman. That means you know how to walk, talk and dress the part.” Brian McKnight

The above quote is extremely true currently. In my opinion there is nothing sadder than an adult male at a department store with no idea what size shirt they need. They have no idea if they are a 16 or an 18-inch neck, a 33 or 37-inch sleeve.  I have seen men who do not know what the size of a sportscoat mean are they a 46 Regular, Long or Short.

This article will go into explaining what you need to know about your measurements which measurements mean what and the different type of cuts for shirts pants and jackets.  So, get out your measuring tape and take notes.

Know Your Measurements

Men with a tape measure
Photo Credits

You need to know your clothes measurements, plain and simple. Keep a notebook, or better yet, memorize them. You’ll be best served by learning about your body’s quirks and needs, and how clothing needs to adapt.  You also will need to know what you are comfortable in and what looks best on you.


Make sure to keep these numbers on a Post-it, and keep it in a file on your hard drive, and shop online with confidence, armed with the knowledge of your own measurements. 


Here is how you are to measure yourself.  First grab some tailors tape.  Measuring tape will not do at all, invest in a tailor’s tape that has both metric and standard measures just in case you are ordering clothing from outside of the United States.  Keep track of both types of measures.  For most of these it is better that you have someone to measure them for you to get an accurate measurement.  It is simple to do so you can have your significant other do this with you.  You will score some brownie points and, she will know what your size is to surprise you with outfits.

It is always good to have your lady dress you sometimes.  This is for your personal measurements if you go to a tailor then your biceps and thighs will be measured, but for our purposes the following is all you will need.

Start with your neck, you measure around your neck over the Adams apple. This gives you your collar size.


Find the bone at the end of your left shoulder and measure from left to right to the other bone at the end of your shoulder.  (you will need help on this one, since you must do this from the back).  Follow the natural curve of your back.shoulder

Sleeve length

Measure from the base of the neck, across the traps to the shoulder, down the arm, to your wrist bone


Measure the widest part of your chest, usually across the nipples. Wrap the tape measure around your body (here is another time you may need some help)

Some places give you measurements that look peculiarly small. For example, you may see a garment listed as having a 20″ chest measurement. Well that just means they measured across the chest without doubling the measurement. So, your 40″ chest is 40″ because you went all the way around your body.chest


Measure from the inside of your thigh to the heel. (a lot easier with help).  This is your length of your pants.


Use the tape to circle your waist (sort of like a belt would) at your natural waistline, which is located above your belly button and below your rib cage. (If you bend to the side, the crease that forms are your natural waistline.) Don’t suck in your stomach, or you’ll get a false measurement.  Be honest with yourself if you don’t like your waist size, do something about it.


Where your pants typically sit. If you finger that area you can feel your hip bone. Your tape should come right across there, parallel to the ground.  This measurement is important since this will decide what type of cut you will have based on how you like your pants to fit and the occasion that you are attending.

Suggested reading: Cocktail Attire for Men – This is how you Impress


If you want to track changes, measure your waist monthly. This can be useful for monitoring your health or any changes to weight if you need to wear tailored clothing for a special occasion such as a wedding, a prom, a night out or if you just have your clothes tailored often.



  • When taking measurements, the tape should be held flat against the body; it should be held snug enough so not droop, but never so tight as to feel restrictive
  • All measurements should be taken to the nearest quarter (.25) inch
  • It’s important to make sure the tape is level as your significant other or friend is wrapping it around your body parts. If it isn’t straight, chances are you’ll get a skewed measurement
  • You want to feel the tape wrapped around you. If it’s too loose, most likely it’s also not straight, so you’re going to get an inaccurate measurement no matter what
  • You want to feel the tape wrapped around you, but you don’t want to cinch it so snugly that you can’t breathe. Remember you are trying to get an accurate measurement not a measurement that you wish you had

Now that you know how to measure and have your measurements let’s look at the different type of cuts of clothing.


Cool men in a suit
Photo Credits @8thlining

For dress shirts, here are the different fits:

Full Fit Dress Shirts

When laid flat, a full-fit dress shirt widens slightly from the base of the yoke to the hem of the shirt. This is more comfortable and flattering for men who carry extra weight at the abdomen or who have a solid, stocky build. This shape is sometimes called comfort fit or relaxed fit by some manufacturers.

Traditional Fit Dress Shirts

When a shirt is labeled traditional fit, or classic, it has side seams that are straight or only slightly tapered at the waist. Some manufacturers taper the waist more than others, so it is wise to try on the shirt or pay close attention to waist measurements when buying a shirt with a traditional fit. This may also be called a straight fit, natural fit, or classic fit.

Slim Fit Dress Shirts

A dress shirt with a slim fit has marked tapering at the waist and is narrower from shoulder to shoulder. It is meant to fit a slimmer body comfortably and closely. This shirt’s sides curve inward noticeably giving a more custom tailored look.

Athletic Fit Dress Shirts

Cut more broad around the shoulders and with larger armholes to fit a more muscular physique, athletic-fit men’s dress shirts have a fitted, tapered waist that differentiates them from full-cut dress shirts with the same neck size and sleeve length.

If you are at a store that does not have the neck size on the shirt the chart below is a thumbnail guide to what size shirt you should get.

Neck Size (inches)






Suit in a manequin
Photo Credits @8thlining

American Cut Suits

This type of men’s suit cuts feature natural shoulders (not padded), its distinctive features are the single vent at back, with classic flap straight pockets, higher arm whole which gives the sack suit its appealing appearance, no darts and no padded shoulders giving you softer silhouette also these suits are very baggy, the pant of the suit have no pleats the smaller padding and straighter cut makes the sack suit ideal for most men, as it creates a uniform body line.  They are perfect for important business activities and any formal occasion, it will surely make you look classic. American outfit is both classy and sophisticated

British/English Cut Suits

The British Cut Suit is slightly more shaped around the waist than the American suit.  British style suits are cut closer to the body with tight fitting sleeves ending with cuffs and a high arm hole. British style suits can give you both an elegant fit look; coat usually has two-button front along with dual rear vents. They have slightly narrower and defined shoulders which also featured thick shoulder pads.  Pants are cut generously with the high waist and two or three pleats. British suits will give you more fashionable, and stylish appearance and you will look more fitted. This modern style suit can work best in any formal parties, gatherings, business meetings or at any occasion to offer you more formal look and dashing appearance in the center of all attention.

Italian Cut Suit

The Italian suit also refers as European cut suits are the trendiest one then two previous cut. This is the cut everyone knows about and is the most popular cut of them all. It is tightly fitted to your body with tapered trousers to give you nothing but stylish look. The jacket also features padded shoulder while lapel, button is positioned the bit higher than British and American cut. The V-shape is what makes this cut distinctive. The pants have tapered waist and hips are snug to the body. You can wear Italian cut suit when you go out to a classy place or a casual event where you can be dressed up.

It is good to keep at least one of each of these cuts in your closet.

Suggested reading: Characteristics of Suit Types: American vs. British vs. Italian


Men seating wearing polo and pants
Photo Credits @uniqlo

Normal / Relaxed cut pants

Pants that have a regular cut can be worn by most body types: they are a little boxy and roomy, but still structured and fitted at the same time.

Straight cut

also, called “straight leg pants” usually stand at your natural waist and are thin through the seat and the thighs.

Skinny cut

Skinny pants feature a very tight cut. Usually, skinny pants look snug and look best on very thin men. Anyone can pull off a skinny jean, but they are generally not associated with serious men. GENTLEMEN DO NOT WEAR SKINNY PANTS


Slim pants are like skinny pants, but are not that tight altogether. They are a good alternative for those who like a very fitted pair of pants but either don’t like skinny pants.


Boot cut pants feature a cut that allows you to easily fit over boots, without having any extra fabric. These pants are perfect for the winter time or for whenever you wish to wear high boots. The more exaggerated version of boot cut pants are the so-called “flared pants”, which have dramatic, bell openings.

You also can go to to see all the different cuts of Levi pants and see how they fit per pant number.

I know this seems like a lot but once you understand the cuts and have your correct measurements the world of fashion opens to you.  For instance, to save money vintage stores small tailor shops or flea markets in larger cities like London, New York, Los Angeles or Hong Kong often provide quality clothing at a fraction of the retail price.

Of course, it usually takes a bit of time to find something good, but if you do and the fit is ok, your alterations tailor can do the rest.  You can look for these in your city.  Once you understand your body type and cuts then you can dress per your body type instead of following what looks good on someone else, and shopping takes a lot less time due to the fact you don’t have to spend a ton of time in the fitting room and you can find deals online and won’t have to worry about the fit of your clothing.

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