11.08.2010

Shirts Bigger Than Your Jackets

Allow me to preface this with saying that I am primarily an online shopper. I mostly hate going to brick and mortar places for a number of reasons I will not explain here. I'm usually pretty good at judging sizes based upon vendor-supplied size charts on websites and have generally been very successful in getting my size right while buying online. 


While discussion around these parts seems to settle on pants most of the time, inconsistencies in shirt sizing aggravate me as well. The rest of this rant data-driven study explores just one example of the root cause of this aggravation.

As far as sport shirts in the realm of an everyday essential, I could not stop hearing about how great Brooks Brothers was (most notably the extra slim fit). Sport shirting at Brooks Brothers comes in standard, nonspecific sizing (S, M, L, XL, etc.). Consulting the size chart on the site (scroll down to MEN’S SIZE TRANSLATION CHART) and you'll see that the large (L) would be best for someone between a 42 and 44 inch chest and 35" sleeve. This is nearly perfectly describes my sizing. But ah yes, the cut of the shirt...how is that? Directly above that size translation chart, you'll see a description of all the cuts offered at Brooks Brothers. I've transposed them below (I've omitted the Luxury Fit because it is the same as the Traditional Fit only available in longer sleeve and body lengths).
  • Traditional Fit
    •  Our fullest cut sport shirt
  •  Slim Fit
    •  Measures 3” slimmer through the chest, 5” slimmer through the waist and 2” slimmer through the seat than our Traditional Fit Sport Shirt.
  •  Extra Slim Fit
    • Measures 2" slimmer through the chest, 2" slimmer through the waist and 3" slimmer through the seat than our Slim Fit Sport Shirt. Higher arm holes and narrower sleeves complement the trimmer silhouette.

So it would stand to reason that the Extra Slim is 5" slimmer through the chest, 7" slimmer through the waist, and 5" slimmer through the seat than the Traditional Fit (simple addition of SF to ESF reductions). Now, I'm not exactly a slim guy but I'm not cut like an action figure either. I was actually debating originally between the Slim Fit in large and the Extra Slim Fit in large. One of the reasons for this debate was that I saw a friend who had one of these very shirts (Brooks Brothers Extra Slim). He had one in medium and he reported to me that it was very trim through the chest and that he probably should have gotten the Slim Fit in medium on account of him having an unusually large chest for his height (shorter than me). So using this information and the information on the Brooks Brothers site, I ordered an Extra Slim Fit oxford cloth buttondown in large.

Upon receiving the shirt, I was disappointed to say the least. Not because it was too slim through the torso but because it was way, way too full. I'll let the measurements do the talking. I took measurements of the chest pit-to-pit, the waist where it would tuck into pants, and the largest part of the sleeve, pit to outer shoulder.
A: Chest : 23.5"
B: Waist : 22.5"
C: Sleeve: 9.5"

At least for me, wearing this shirt has resulted in considerably annoying bunching around the waist while tucked in and sail-like excess through the sleeves. I never realized just how large it was until I threw a Levi's trucker jacket (size large) over it. This is actually what prompted me to measure the shirt in the first place. For reference, I've included the same measurements for the jacket as well.
A: Chest : 22.5"
B: Waist : 21.5"
C: Sleeve: 8.5"

Thus, the "Extra Slim" shirt (compared to the Levi's jacket) is 2" larger through the chest, 2" larger through the waist, and 2" larger in the sleeves! This shirt is larger than an article of outerwear of the same tagged size! I understand that different brands have different guidelines and that you can't assume that a large is a large is a large, always. Having said that, why on earth is this shirt described as extra slim? It's not even slim by conventional standards. Also, the minuscule collar with rear button that prevents all but the slimmest ties from fitting through is some kind of sick punctuation mark on this bloated, adverb-laden sentence of a shirt.

I am aware that Brooks Brothers is a traditional brand with generally traditional (see: full) sizing. But when heard repeatedly from young people on the Internet championing "BB-ESF" as the gold standard for off the rack sport shirting, I figured that Brooks was trying to target a wider demographic and hey, better for everyone, right?

What is the explanation for my dissatisfaction with this shirt? Is it just me? Do I just have unreasonable standards compared to those of my peers? Did I read the size chart wrong? Is there something wrong with the Large pattern at Brooks Brothers? Did my shirt get tagged wrong at the factory? Either way, this shirt fitting me properly will require it to be entirely recut through the side seam.

11 comments:

  1. The gentleman at the Brooks store here told me not to get extra slim, because it was "just tooooo tight." All Brooks shirts fit me baggy, including that one, though I am not a skinny dude. I just gave up on off-the-rack, and I have the nice Korean lady take in all my shirts. This means that I'm buying based on fabric, not fit, and Land's End wins that price-for-performance ratio every dang day.

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  2. The ESF is a peculiar beast, it seems to be different for all those involved. My slim fit dress shirts is slimmer than my slim fit OCBD (same one as yours). Their slim fit polo is the same width as the Polo regular fit polo. Until they figure it out, I'll stick with Ralph custom fits and/or like the above commenter said, having cheaper shirts tailored.

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  3. I have also experienced this. I tried on one BB extra slim fit shirt in the store and bought 2 more in the same size to get the bulk deal. The one I tried on fits perfectly, but the others--again, same size and fit--made me look like my torso was being fumigated. I expected better consistency from a Brooks Brothers product.

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  4. omg Clutch, that sounds horrible, I am head over heels in love with my ESF oxford,

    I was excited about Lands End, but now think they are a tasteless ruse

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  5. Fellas, I agree with you all. I own one ESF OCBD and am less than impressed. It's fairly tight through the chest, but the waist is ridiculous - blousey and then some. Their shirts are beautiful though, so just wait till they go on sale and take them to the Korean lady.

    As an aside, here in Philly we have Commonwealth Proper. They are a semi-custom line, but are the only shirts I've ever bought that fit exactly right the first time. Great cut, great fabrics - everything is perfect. Reasonable at $150/per, I say. When I can afford it, I buy from them. If not, hit Goodwill and then the tailor.

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  6. I had difficulties with the ESF from Brooks Brothers too. I have broad shoulders, so finding a shirt that comes in at the waist and doesn't make me feel like one of the characters from the Office is kinda tough. Hopefully BB gets it in gear... anyone have any advice? Was thinking about trying one of those Taylor Stitch shirts...

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  7. It's because BB is designed with fat american bankers in mind, and the shirts have to be cut generously to fit over the beer bellies. All of their sizes are inflated to stroke the egos of their core customers. If you are actually in shape, you are not their target demographic.

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  8. When BB ran their "buy 4, get 40% off" shirt sale after xmas I bought 3 ESF OCBDs and 1 actual sport shirt, and I went with M because according to the size chart it should be right on the money (15.5/33). Wrong! using the same size chart, and only ordering the x-slim cut, the sport shirt was DRAMATICALLY more narrow in the chest and body than the oxfords which should have technically been the same size. This was even the case after I (intentionally) shrank the oxfords in the wash. I actually prefer the fit of the slimmer sport shirt vs. the baggier (ESF?!?) oxford but the point stands that the size chart was extremely misleading

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  9. Based on my observations over last 3+ decades: A note on BB. The traditional fit is indeed (sadly) cut for overstuffed bankers who've lost control of themselves. The slim fit just doesn't cut it, and for me, extra-slim fit would be scary because I was never extra slim. Having lost some weight for preventative health reasons, the 2 options from this maker are Black Fleece (a bit funky but good fit) and special order. Special order shirts are nearly made-to-measure and, in my case, I chose a shirt body from a slim fit 16.5 pattern and put that with a 17 neck for a near-perfect fit. BB offers decent discounts on special order shirts twice yearly with myriad fabric selections from its many vendors, including specials from Thomas Mason. Not for everyone's budget, I realize, but I highly recommend these for those important meeting/wedding/funeral wardrobe requisites. And, by important meeting, I do NOT mean interviewing for that new job since you're there to showcase YOU not your ability to dress well (but that's a whole other topic altogether). My 2¢.

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    Replies
    1. I've actually since bought a few extra slim fit linen shirts from BB and they've been much better. Thanks for the input.

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