How A Shirt Should Fit

As part of our Guide To British Style, menswear stylist Daniel Johnson gives us his golden rules to how a shirt should fit. Looking at the length and shape of your shirt compared to your frame, here are a few pointers to get you started.

 Daniel Johnson

"Without a well fitted shirt the whole outfit is thrown off. Men’s shirts sit right on the skin, so an ill-fitting shirt doesn’t feel good against the body.The shirt is the salt and pepper of an outfit"

If the size is too small you’ll never feel or even sit comfortably, if too loose you’ll feel bunched up; constantly having to adjust your shirt to feel relaxed. As such there are a few golden rules to follow that will keep you at ease and comfortable.


1. Expect a few tweaks: Unless you have the perfect body for an off-the-peg shirt (who does?) you will need a minor adjustment here and there to get a great silhouette for the most comfortable fit.

2. Make sure you can move: I’ve had many a client of mine request a shirt to be fitted like a second layer of skin – this is wrong. Make sure you can move and walk around without the buttons on the shirt straining and opening. As a side note – always eat something before you go shopping for a shirt – your stomach WILL expand, so fit the shirt to your post-dining state.

3. Allow for shrinkage: I don’t care how hard a manufacturer stresses that a shirt has been pre-shrunk, always allow for minor shrinkage, around 5%. 


Here’s my checklist for a great-fitting shirt, use this list and go through visual checks when trying on;


Shoulders: This is the most crucial part of the shirt to get correct. The shoulder seam should hit the very end of your shoulder/top of arm (the humeral head). This is to make your shoulder look wide and strong.

Waist: The waist of the shirt should be narrowest at the slimmest point of your body – this will help to create shape.

Sleeve length:Too short and your cuffs will disappear under your jacket. Too long and you’ll have a shirt hanging loose under your jacket sleeves – the jacket sleeves will ruffle and be very unattractive.

Front of a shirt


Shape: To get shape on the waist you can ask for darts to be added, this brings the waist in closer and helps to prevent a ‘muffin top’ where the shirt hangs loosely over the top of the trouser waistband. Some shirts are already darted, look out for this.

Length: Always go for longer rather than shorter – I like a shirt to finish at the bottom, although it may feel long, it’s harder for the shirt to untuck.


If you’re following the tips above you might find it handy to know a few retailers that will provide you with the best fitting shirt for your shape.

Slim body: Hackett’s slim fit does a great job of providing an attractive waist shape. You might also consider Paul Smith.

Regular body: You can’t go wrong with Ted Baker here – a great all-round fit with a little more room for movement

Larger body: If you’re carrying a little around the middle then try the Engineered fit at dunhill or a regular fit at Savoy Taylor's Guild (opening in the village on 21 may).


Daniel Johnson is a personal stylist and expert on British tailoring and its history. Back in January 2016 Daniel appeared on BBC 2's Millionaires gift guide as a supplier of bespoke luxury to wearers of exclusive fabrics.