The Right Fit – Choosing the Perfect Clothing Size

When it comes to buying clothes, people seem to have a great deal of trouble deciding what style, cut, and color they should get – and with good reason. There are so many options out there that a person can quickly become overwhelming. It takes a concerted effort and a lot of research to create your own style. But there’s another side of the coin as well… correct sizing.

Today I’m hoping to shed some light on a problem that has plagued humanity since we first became modest (well, some of us anyway…) and started putting on clothes. Whether you’re buying a new pair of high end Japanese jeans, or you’re picking up some jackets from Hackett – the correct size is an absolute must. Thankfully there are a few simple rules of thumb to make the job easier. When it comes to clothing, size really does matter.

Bond and Bourne have it Right

Choosing the right size clothing takes a bit of honest self reflection, and for many people that’s difficult to hear. It means being cognizant of your weight and build, and dressing appropriately. I’m a slender fellow, and it took me a very long time to figure this one out. Though I wanted to wear larger sized clothing, no amount of wishing would make it look any better on me. Instead, take a deep breath and humor me by promising to try my suggestions on just one piece of clothing, be it pants, shirts, or jackets.

The point here is to neither have you look as if you’re drowning in an ocean of fabric, or stuffed tightly into a strangling garment like a sausage. In between those two extremes is a happy medium, the place where I would like you to venture. The place where cool people like James Bond and Jason Bourne live… a place where they look stylish – not too baggy, and not too toight. In order to get there, I suggest you start by going to a physical, brick and mortar retail store (as much as it pains me to say it) and go into the change room with one style of shirt, but in “every size” you could conceivably wear. This doesn’t mean trying on an XXXL when you weigh 110lbs wet, but anything you could conceivably see fitting.

the wrong clothing size
In case you’re wondering… yes, this is way too big.

As you try on each garment, try a wide range of motions in the change room. Perhaps you’ll look like an idiot, but providing there’s no peep cam, no one is going to see you anyway. If you’re wearing a long sleeved shirt, raise your arms up… does the shirt suddenly ride up your arms transforming into a t-shirt? It’s likely too small, and it’s time to size up a bit. Do the cuffs hang well past your thumb? You most certainly need to size down. Do your jeans look more like flood pants than you’re comfortable with? Go for a pair with a longer inseam, because when it comes to pants, longer is always better. More info on jean specifics can be found here.

The Path to the Perfect Clothing Size…

Are you starting to notice a trend here? The reason people have so much trouble choosing the right size is because everyone has a different body shape, and that means that you can’t simply pick whatever strikes your fancy. As I mentioned earlier, it takes actual, good old fashioned thinking.

the perfect clothing size
Now that… is more like it. Not too tight, and not too baggy. He can still move around to shoot people.

As I’ve gone through my own personal journey of wearing nothing but baggy t-shirts and dumpy sweatpants, to dressing with intent in a style that I enjoy, I’ve swung all over the place in the style and sizing spectrum. There was even a point where most of my clothes were skin tight, an image I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Don’t be that guy… I mean, at least not unless it’s with absolute intent, and even then. Once you know the rules you can break them – that’s where styles like antifit come into play – but sometimes they aren’t worth breaking. You just have to make up your own damn mind.

[Photos by Johan Ooman and Sony Pictures Entertainment]




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I'm a co-founder and writer here at Unfinished Man. I write, manage the look and feel of the website, and make sure that nothing breaks. I also reply to the vast majority of our emails, so if you're sending one through, I suggest you be nice. Everyone says I'm the least offensive of our writers, so they gave the email jockey task to me. When I'm not improving the site, I write about fashion, video games, politics, and anything related to science and technology.

1 thought on “The Right Fit – Choosing the Perfect Clothing Size”

  1. If you’re thin or athletic, buying in a general store will only get you so far. The best trick for these shirts is to buy “slim fit” or “athletic fit” types. Put them on and raise your arms out wide; if you are a prototype for a button-down wingsuit, it’s too big; the sewing line where the arms meet the torso should be close to your actual pit, not at your elbows or at your waist.

    And always remember: tuck in the extra slack around the waist by making a fold on each side of your shirt tail; hold them in place; bring up your pants; tuck in the shirt. Your shirt now looks fitted rather than bulky. For a secure shirt, use around-the-foot shirt stays.


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