A bit of ingenuity and some careful planning can lead you to a good fitting shirt

A bit of ingenuity and some careful planning can lead you to a good fitting shirt

Q. I am a size smaller than most men and need a source for shirts that are 13.5” neck and 33” sleeve. Can you tell me where these could be purchased?  I tried 3 vendors on the internet with no luck. Thanks. 

A. I am sorry to tell you what I’m sure you do not want to hear, but most men’s shirt manufacturers do not make dress shirts with a neck size smaller than 14½ inches. While a 33-inch sleeve length is not usually difficult to find in a man’s shirt (because manufacturers do make a 32-inch sleeve, a 33-inch sleeve, and a 32/33), the sleeve you are looking for only comes on larger neck-size shirts.

Still, this does not mean you cannot solve your problem with a bit of ingenuity and some careful planning, but perhaps a larger investment than you might hope for. You have a couple of different possible routes to follow to come up with shirts that will fit.  

Custom-Made Shirts – Your most expensive solution is to go to a company or store that makes true custom-made shirts. They will take many of your measurements, and then make an exact pattern that is exclusive to your body. These shirts require a few fittings, and they will fit you exactly; but you may be shocked by the high price you will have to pay. Another drawback is that many (but not all) companies that make true custom shirts require you to order more than one (sometimes as many as four shirts) at a time. 

Made-to-Measure Shirts – This alternative to custom-made shirts comes very close to the perfection of true custom, but it is a good deal more affordable. It, too, involves taking several crucial measurements, but then adjusting the company’s existing pattern to your body’s specifications. It gives you many custom features and options in your shirt, such as the fabric you choose, the type of collar, the exact sleeve length you need, and some specific details and flourishes that you may like to have. These shirts cost a healthy percentage more than off-the-shelf retail shirts (from 20% more to nearly twice as much as ready-mades), but you are almost getting a totally custom shirt made to your specific requirements. Important note: when ordering a made-to-measure shirt, be sure you are being measured by a knowledgeable fitter in a reputable store. For example, Brooks Brothers made-to-measure dress shirts sell for $150-$350 while their ready-made shirts cost $118-$289. And at Bauman’s (501-227-8797), their fine made-to-measure shirts cost $300-$450. Their process time for making your shirt is five weeks. Both stores do an excellent job.   

Clothes bought in the Boys’ Department of a department will not really work. The reason is: while you might find shirts designed for teenage boys (they come in boys’ sizes small, medium, and large instead of exact neck sizes) where the neck would come close to fitting you, the sleeves would be wrong. The sleeve lengths would not be longer than 30 inches . . . much too short.    

There is a very small handful of possible choices that I found on the internet (Atica Man and Van Heusen), but they are difficult to find (especially for cotton shirts) and extremely limited. I’m afraid they are not readily available.

So, my best advice is to treat yourself to one or two versatile, fine made-to-measure shirts (perhaps one white and one light blue). Rather than buying three or four ready-made shirts that don’t fit you correctly, you may need to launder these more often, but you will enjoy wearing them much more. 

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions and comments to MALE CALL:  Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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