This t-shirt fit guide will show you exactly how a t-shirt should fit, regardless of your build.
Just like jeans, t-shirts are essential wardrobe items that every man needs to own.
They’re comfortable, casual and versatile, so you really need to have a few t-shirts that fit well and make you look great.
T-Shirts Need to Fit Properly
Just like any other garments, t-shirts need to fit well. Even a $500 designer t-shirt will look terrible if it doesn’t fit properly.
On one side of the spectrum, you have ill-fitting, worn out tees with obnoxious graphics on them, which make even the most handsome men among us like a sloppy teenagers.
One the other side, you have fitted, high-quality t-shirts in versatile, solid colors or tasteful patterns. These are universally flattering, regardless of age, skin tone or body type.
Needless to say, we’re going for the latter.
Timeless T-Shirt Fit
So how should a t-shirt fit? Glad you asked, let’s talk about the four most important aspects: shoulders, sleeves, torso and length.
Keep in mind, we’re going for the most timeless possible look here – not too tight, not too loose. We’ll talk about other types of t-shirt fit in a later section.
You want to make sure the shoulders aren’t too wide. The best way to do this is find where your shoulder ends and your arm begins, and make sure the shoulder seam doesn’t go too far past that.
It’s okay if it doesn’t land directly on top of your shoulder bone, but make sure the seams aren’t hanging down on your upper arm.
This is a clear sign that the shirt is too big for you.
Moving on to the sleeves, you want to pay attention to both length and width. Your sleeves should end about halfway between your armpit and elbow.
Don’t feel the need to get the measuring tape out or anything like that. Just make sure the sleeves aren’t too close to your elbow (which will make your arms look shorter).
For the width, you want to make sure your sleeves aren’t tenting out away from your arms. This can make it hard for people to appreciate your guns and give them the respect they deserve!
Instead, the sleeves should fit closely around your arm without being tight or restrictive (like a compression shirt you might wear for working out).
The torso is made up of the chest, the stomach and the hips. You’re aiming for a fitted look – not too tight but not too loose.
If you see tension lines between your pecs, the shirt is too tight, or you simply bench press too much, bruh.
You should be able to pinch about 2-3 inches of fabric on either side of your torso. Any more than that and the shirt might be too loose.
If you can’t pinch at least an inch of fabric on either side, it may be too tight.
The most problematic part clothing for shorter guys is the length. It seems like every t-shirt is made for guys who are super tall and skinny, or morbidly obese pre-teens.
Your shirt should go about two inches past your waistband (or the bottom of your belt), and it should end right around mid-fly.
If it goes all the way to the bottom of your fly, it’s too long and will make you look shorter.
At 5’6″, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a shorter man, but I think we can all agree that we don’t want to look shorter than we actually are.
T-Shirt Fit Types
Since clothing fit is extremely subject to trends, I want to acknowledge that it’s okay to experiment with different silhouettes, as long as you’re doing it intentionally.
There’s a difference between wearing a boxy fit tee because you like the look, and wearing an ill-fitting tee because you don’t know any better.
Timeless Fit Tees
This is the fit I outlined above, and it should be the default for most guys.
It’s universally flattering and won’t go out of style anytime soon. when in doubt, try to achieve this type of fit.
Boxy Fit Tees
At the time of writing, fashion designers are embracing looser fitting clothes. This is partially due to a resurgence of 90s aesthetics, which were heavily influenced by the 1970s.
So wide-leg trousers are all the rage, and boxy fit t-shirts are often seen accompanying these roomier pants.
Personally, I stay away from these trends because I like buying clothes that will look good 5+ years from now.
But, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looser clothing and boxy tees, so wear what makes you happy!
Muscle Fit Tees
This type of t-shirt fit has more to do with your build, as a slim fit tee will look like a muscle fit tee on super jacked dudes.
But any guy with a bit of muscle on his bones can buy a close-fitting shirt (just look for athletic fit t-shirts), and it’s not a bad way to show off your hard-earned physique.
How do your t-shirts fit?
Now that you know how a t-shirt is supposed to fit, it might be a good idea to do an audit of your current shirt collection. Do they fit properly?
If they’re too long, you can get the hemmed. This is a great option if you already have some that you love but that are too long.
Just make sure you go to a tailor who can handle knits (most wedding dress alteration places are safe bets).
If the sleeves are too long, you can roll them up (cuff them) once or twice.
But if the shoulders are too wide, you can’t fix that, so it’s best to replace the shirt with one that fits properly.
If you’re a shorter guy, here’s a guide to t-shirts for short men.
Unfortunately, I’ve accepted that off-the-rack shirts are a series of compromises. My dress shirts are custom-made, and as a result, they fit great. But the company I buy dress shirts from, even though they have a large selection of styles and designs, doesn’t create the fun, unique shirts of retailers like Taylor Stitch and Todd Snyder, two of my favorites at the moment. My dress shirt size is 16 1/2″ x 36″, and my suit sizing is 40L or 42L, depending on the brand. In most brands these days, a medium fits me best in the body, but the sleeves are comically short. Todd Snyder calls their medium a 42 and their large a 47! I am 6’1″, 180 lbs, and I accept that shirts that fit best are too short in the sleeves by an inch. I am 55 years old and grew up shopping in stores and buying shirts based on neck and sleeve length. Granted, back then the body was almost always too big, but now we trade off the correct neck and sleeve length for too-short sleeves and a large neck. Online shopping with alpha sizing has ruined the clothing industry. The good thing is I pay quite a bit of attention to fit and dressing nicely, so I look more put together than most guys in my community. Tee shirts are no different, and usually, the best-fitting tee has sleeves that are too short for me. Since I have heavily tattooed arms, too-short sleeves are lost in translation and not that big a deal. But I am beyond frustrated by shirt sizing for men’s long sleeve shirts that are cool and different.
Hi mate. Nice article.
Just a point of note – as a male, 5’11 who is approaching 50, although I am moderately slim build like a lot of men I have a slightly protruding tummy. And slightly pigeon chested.
Problem with a lot of T’s is that they are fitted to the point of being uncomfortable in those clingy areas.
Relaxed T’s are fine for chaps like me me, especially in the office
IMHO the fit in the shoulders in most of these pictures does not look good. If the shirt fits you properly in the shoulders you aren’t going to get those weird little triangle peaks. Just one man’s opinion.
Thanks brock, looking at you i realise how aesthetically pleasing 5’6 men are. I totally agree with what you told about oversized shirts are. You really helped me know the fitting of the shirt.
Seconding some of the comments above, as an endomorph, I have still not yet figured out how to resolve the issue of achieving a good fit in the chest and across the stomach at the same time. It would be great to see an article on this 🙂
If anybody is interested in making adjustments to their own t-shirts, then I have found the Stylish D YouTube videos really helpful.
Does the tip for rolling/cuffing the sleeves apply to polo shirts as well? Or would this look sloppy?
It would look weird on a polo because of the sleeve trim and pique material.
Looks like I’m the only one commenting… lately. To me, how a Tee should fit is how the wearer wants them to fit him/her.
How they should fit… according to whom??? I disagree with a couple of the points. Therefore, not how it should fit for me.
Note on 1950s films and some others, most/many younger guys with tees rolled their sleeves up two rolls. Showed the larger part of the arms, therefore making your “guns” look larger.
Delo Mortusen says
The majority of t shirts worn by men are too short. In all of these photos one important image is missing, one with the model with their arms right up. As if reaching for a book on a shelf, waving to someone or yawning. What you don’t want to see is an ugly bit of navel fur and belly skin. Nearly all off the shelf t shirts fail this test, if not in shop certainly after the first wash even at 30C
I don’t have this problem. Duluth Trading offers Tees with an extended 3″ of length. Too long for me. I’m 6’2″.
Anant Aggarwal says
A wonderful article here. My height is around 5’7″ and I was finding it extremely hard to ascertain the length of my tshirts for a long long Time, always ended up wearing something that ended right towards the bottom of my jeans/trousers/pants’ zips, but now finally as per this article I have decided to fix it at 2 inches below the waistband, thanks so much for this!!
I’m 6’2″/195 and I can never seem to find a T I like. I, unlike most, like a longer sleeve. One that is almost to the elbow. When I do, I’m wearing a tent. Years ago, Cabela’s had one and I’ve still got a few. Some I need to abandon:-) I’ve googled and looked but no luck. My luck, when it does come, seems to allow the T to come in tall sizes, so a Large Tall is what does it. On others, same size, sleeves too short. Thx, wk.
It sounds nice, but it doesn’t really help some of us – the short tanks. Trying to find a shirt short enough that I don’t sit on it is a challenge for those of us 5’8″ with a chest in the 48/49″ range. The Sharps top out at a 46″ chest.
Brock, great advice, per usual. It was a big moment for me when I realized, as a guy almost exactly your size, what a well-fitting t-shirt could look like.
To any other guys in the 5’6” range, Banana Republic makes some excellent XS t-shirts. I’m almost the same size as Brock, and have no complaints.
The only problem with a well-fitted t-shirt is that it reminds you that you need to hit the freaking gym!
Is there any t-shirt options you (or anyone) could recommend that would not cost $35 per shirt? I understand fit and fabric is extra costs but a normal t-shirt costs $10 I can’t imagine there is no company that can make one that would fit well for $15-20 (and have more variety of colors than black gray and blue)
Uniqlo cotton t-shirts.
Probably not a good fit for Brock, but they were perfect for me (I’m a little bit fatter than he is!). Checked off every box (for me) in terms of how they should fit per the details outlined in this article. Soft & comfy; they replaced all my oversized t-shirts, and are now my everyday, go-to pieces. Great price ($9.90/ea), but perhaps not the best quality…..? I guess time will tell, but I’m very happy with them.
Ron Krajenbrink says
Hi Brock, as per usual, excellent article and easy to follow advice , I am not so sure about your comment on ‘morbidly obese pre teens’. Your knowledge and tips can be realistically put into action. Thanks heaps.
He just meant short and wide
Skyler Robinson says
I’m a black trans man and I don’t think you should be so racist towards the morbidly obese. Check your privilege please. SMH!
William Nemecek says
Racist towards the obese makes no sense. But, good luck being a black trans man.
This is great if you’re trim! Sometimes T-shirts that fir well on the waist are too small higher, or more commonly, fit well on the chest but are too tight around the midsection. If you buy larger, you’re adjusting the shoulders and sleeves. What do “differently shaped” guys do for a better T-shirt fit?
[email protected] says
Yeah, I second this question!
Steve P. says
Yeah, I second this comment! Tight in chest, really tight in abdomen, loose in the back….
Anant Aggarwal says
Though i don’t have any credentials to prove that what’s Written below works out in almost all cases, yet i think if it can Help someone else out too, i’ll Always and Always Propagate it to Help others.
For me Personally, for the length of half-sleeved tshirts. i follow the Golden ratio, that is
My height is 5’7, or 67 inches, the length of my trousers is 40 inches. And if i wear a tshirt of height 23.25 inches untucked, somehow an almost Perfect golden ratio is maintained between the visible parts of my tshirt as well as my trousers – the visible part of my tshirt is 23.25 inches, the part of my trousers hidden behind the tshirt is around 2.4 inches while the remaining visible portion of my trousers is 37.6 inches. The golden ratio aspect to the entire scenario is
23.25 multiplied by the Golden Ratio comes out to be around 37.61. And it does look way Better than anything else by far.
So for half-sleeved tshirts, i suggest You to follow the Golden ratio.
Whilst since the sleeves of a full-sleeved tshirt are generally open, this Golden ratio seems not to work Well on a full-sleeved tshirt. And a person does not look too Good with such a short length. Personally, by the Hand of God and then through some experimentation, i found that the length of a full-sleeved tshirt that would look Perfect on me is 25 inches, but the full-sleeved tshirt experiment is still an ongoing one and i might just try for other lengths too some Time in the Future.
And just remember always get the length of Your tshirts altered from exactly besides the collar and not from anywhere towards the shoulder edges.
So in essence, Firstly try and find Your Perfect Golden Ratio, use it there and then for all Your half-sleeved tshirts. For full-sleeved tshirts try a bit of experimentation by getting a few dummy tshirts altered to varying degrees with differences of 1/2 inch.
You really can’t do much about sweaters/pullovers/jackets except for finding Your Exact Correct size.
Please also remember that in clothing and in dress designing, even a difference of just half an inch can make a difference between a person looking like a Joker or at the same Time Angelic or Godly. Its a very small number with an Extremely Large repercussions related to it. Be careful as it can be a bit too Risky.
Always take Care of Yourself,
Nothing to back it up??? That’s sure a lot of scientific math for just an opinion. If I tried that formula, I would never have time to buy one. Hahahahaha.
I really researched and measured the golden ratio of dresses that i find pleasing in men and celebrities and what you said is exactly right. Irrespective of what size man or women is those who wore to golden ratio is exactly attractive. I owe you a big thank that this was life saving. Golden ratio and perfect fit was the key to attractiveness
Dan Shive says
Tee shirts that fit too tight look cheap and and made for ballerinas. I prefer a looser fit with sleeves almost to the elbow. I’m from the South and men here have better tastes!
A lot of koreans wear loose clothing, like hip-hop style. loose t-shirts, even woman wear loose clothing unless their super fit.
Ive just wasted more money on t-shirts that don’t fit. I buy medium and it fits in width but too short. I buy large and it’s now far too wide. Seems like clothes are made for steroid users who are under 5’10. Not sure where you’ve found clothes that favour tall and skinny People.