How to Get the Right Sized T-Shirt

When did t-shirts become complicated? It used to be a simple thing: there were standard sizes and you grabbed your size and off you went. But now we have “fashion fits”, “European cuts,” “slim fits,” “boxy,” “tube,” and so on. We’re told sometimes to either order up or down from our “regular” size.

In a store we can try on t-shirts and find our size, but what about online sales? T-shirts sold online are a huge market, especially t-shirts featuring unique designs you can’t find in stores. Naturally, you want to get the right fit, so is there a secret to buying t-shirts online and getting the right size?

Well, there is. Here’s what to do: find a favorite t-shirt you normally wear and spread it out flat on a table. Take a ruler and measure across the width. Measure from about one inch beneath the bottom of the sleeves across the chest area. This measurement is your true size.

For example, my t-shirts run 22 inches across. Most of the time this represents a standard size “large” in a men’s t-shirt. But not always; I’ve had to order up and buy a size “extra large” many times. (Most often these are t-shirts made overseas, or they are t-shirts featuring a “slim cut.” These styles are about an inch narrower than what we would consider a standard size).

Since I know a 22″ measurement fits me, that’s what I look for in sizing charts. Most websites list these charts so you can cross-reference easily, but sometimes they don’t. Some sites merely list small, medium, large, and so forth, but these terms aren’t accurate any longer. If that’s all I can find for sizing information, I have to pass.

If a site lists overall chest sizes only, then you can usually safely divide that number by 2 to correspond to your measurement. For example, I know that a t-shirt listed as a chest size 44 will measure 22 inches across and therefore will fit me.

Generally speaking, I have found that classic American-made t-shirts run to a “standard” size. These feature the basic boxy-style fit. There are exceptions, such as American Apparel t-shirts which run a little tight and are more similar to the overseas made t-shirts that also run about a size smaller. These almost always feature the “fashion” or “European” cuts. And the more exotic fabrics, such as bamboo rayon, are usually cut a little smaller also.

When in doubt, or if you feel you are between sizes, always order up one size. All t-shirts shrink to some extent, even 50/50 blends and bamboo rayon, and chances are you’ll have better luck with sizing up rather than down.

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