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Try this on for size

No matter how much money you spend (or save), nothing will ruin the aesthetic of your look as quickly as an ill-fitting piece of clothing. A well-tailored shirt by Zara will fit better than an oversized one by Tom Ford. Every day. Every time.

While shopping in stores can often mitigate this problem, the time and energy consumed by retail shopping is its own form of grind. Online is infinitely more convenient, offering access to near-infinite brands, cuts, and styles with which to fill your closet. You’re no longer stuck with whatever is in stock at the local mall.

But despite the generous return policies and free two-way shipping offered by most online retailers, determining your size in a new brand via the interwebs can make the most confident of men shrivel in fear. And while most brands provide specific measurements in sizing charts, how do you pick between the slim fit large or the standard fit regular if you don’t know if you’re a 39” or a 41” chest?

We consulted professional clothier and stylist TJ Bacewich on how to mitigate your fit problems, one inch at a time.

Dress Shirts

“When looking for a properly fitting dress shirt, the three keys of fit are neck, sleeve length, and overall width. Slim, modern, or tapered shirts are the new norm, but with retailers pushing slim as the cure all for the baggy shirt, knowing the difference between loose, overly tight, and just right will keep your closet consistent and your morning efficient.”

“To begin with, start with neck size. Every shirt is made from the collar down, so buying the proper neck size is key. Have a friend help you wrap a soft tape measure around your neck, with one finger tucked under the tape for some room to breath. This is your shirt collar measurement.”

“Then ask them to place the tape from the bottom center of your neck, (along your spine) stretching it over one shoulder and down to the wrist. The tape should extend to the pocket created between your thumb and wrist when you make an L with your thumb and pointer finger. This is your arm length.”

“Finally, take the tape around your chest and upper back (under your armpit) and then do so again at the waist (at your belly button). While most brands don’t display these numbers in their standard shirting measurements (normally just neck and sleeve), most will publish chest and waist measurements in their sizing charts to help you choose between slim or regular shirt styles. Having these on hand will prove invaluable when you’re hovering over that “Buy Now” button – you’ll have that much more comfort in pulling the trigger. And remember, if you’re not planning on wearing a tie or ever buttoning all the way up, you can always cheat and go down an inch or so in the neck for a slimmer fit.”

“Note to customers over 6’ 2”: Shirting brands tend to stock for guys shorter than you. Specialty stores will have options, though many of them will have more limited selections. If you want to fill your closet with well-fitting shirts, you may have to go up a size, then visit a tailor.”

Denim and Chinos

“Unless you like to experiment wildly with the drape and shape of your garments (in which case you probably already run your own style blog and are attending Pitti Uomo next month), “slim” should be your fit adjective of choice. By slim, we mean a contouring shirt that doesn’t show all of your curves or pull marks at the chest. For pants, this means you should shoot for a slim but moveable shape, through your seat and thighs, with a tailored taper from the knee to ankle. From body type to body type, the dimensions of legs can vary widely, so start by taking measurements, and just know that you may want to take your items to the tailor for adjustments. The extra $15 is worth having a perfectly tailored pant.”

“For measurements, start by taking the measuring tape and wrap it around your waist. This is your waist measurement for pants. For denim, you’ll likely want to take off one inch, as most jeans needs to be purchased snug, as they’ll naturally stretch and loosen after the first several wears. You want to be able to breath, but if you need a belt to wear them, they’re too big.”

“Note that the rise of a pant and the back pocket positioning will affect how it shapes your seat. By wearing a pant with a shorter rise, it will round out your seat and fit nicely in the waist without looking baggy.”

“You can take an inseam measurement (from the crotch down to the bottom of the ankle) but most guys are familiar with this already. Further, your preferred length really depends on how you like your jeans to break (how much the denim folds fold at your ankle when the jean hits the top of your shoe) and whether or not you like to cuff.”

“For a nice, narrow leg opening, you want the jean to taper from knee to ankle. If you’re a waist size of 31-34, look for those with a leg opening measurement in the 6” – 7.25” range (across when laid flat). Add or subtract if your waist size is greater or lesser.”