Navigating clothing size charts can be tricky, and dress shirt sizes are no expception. When buying clothes, we are used to „alpha“ sizing – S (small), M (medium), L (large), etc. These tend to differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, hence the same sized T-shirt from 2 different sellers may fit differently. Good news is that with dress shirt sizes we do not have this particular problem. When you are selecting a size, you will see a number (or several numbers). How should you interpret them?
Dress shirt collar size
The main size measurement for a dress shirt is collar size (circumference). It is measured from the dress shirt‘s centre of the button to the centre of the buttonhole on the other side of the collar. The collar sizes can be showed in centimeters or inches, depending on what system is used in the country. Hence, a European dress shirt size 42 means, that the collar circumference of this dress shirt is 42 centimeters. Alternatively, a US / UK dress shirt size 16.5 means that the collar circumference is 16.5 inches. 1 inch is ~2,5 cm, so you can easily convert the size to your prefered system: 42 EU size will be 17 UK/US, and 16.5 UK/US will be 41 EU dress shirt size.
How to measure?
In order to take your own neck circumference measurement, place a cloth tape measure around the base of your neck, and measure where your shirt collar would normally sit. Add ~1 cm / 0,5 inch to that measurement so that the dress shirt collar is not too tight. You should be able to fit a finger between the collar and your neck.
Dress shirt sleeve length
Additionally, you may need to select sleeve length when picking your dress shirts. The basic idea behind the number is the same as with collars – it shows the sleeve length in centimeters or inches. However, you must pay attention to how your retailer measures the sleeve length. A proper way to measure dress shirt sleeve length is take the measurement from centre back of the shirt to your wrist. This way a shoulder length is included, which is important for the fit. Some retailers present both back measurement and sleeve length from the shoulder, and others will show only the latter.
Many retailers (including us) do not offer custom sleeve lengths, as the standard lengths fit perfectly in 90% of the cases. However, unlike collar size, it is fairly easy and cheap to adjust the sleeve length at your local tailor if you fall under the 10% category.
Collar size and sleeve length are the main dress shirt measurements to determine size, but it is important to keep an eye on chest and waist sizes. Usually, these are standardized and you will not have to select them yourself. At least select them directly: the cut type – regular, tailored, slim, etc, determines waist / chest size among other things. You can check out our post on what does different fit mean.