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Dress shirt collar size woes

All right, gents, I need some advice here. I've just moved to DC for work, and the dress code around here is infinitely more conservative and formal than I am used to. (Until now, my professional life has been as a college professor, so the bar was set pretty low.) Historically, I wore a suit no more than four times a year, but now it seems I must get accustomed to wearing a suit and tie on an everyday basis. And thereby hangs my (shirt) tale.

I suspect I am an unusual fit in dress shirts. After a lot of misery, I have discovered that, when I don't have to bother buttoning the collar for a necktie, I look best in slim-fit shirts with a 16" collar and a 32" sleeve. (Jos. A. Bank shirts work particularly well for me.) However, 16" feels awfully tight when I button the collar and cinch up a tie. I have to sort of pull at the buttoned collar a bit just to make sure it's not so tight that it constricts my Adam's apple and I start to gag. I experienced this in my apartment, taking a photo of myself in business dress for self-promotion purposes, so I haven't even learned yet what happens when I get duded up and try to move around town.

I went to Jos. A. Bank yesterday to size shirts, and saw for myself that a 16 1/2 collar is just too large — a lot of empty space between my neck and the collar, which just doesn't look right. The brand-new 16" that I tried, though, brought on the same gag reflex.

I cannot reasonably contemplate getting shirts custom-made, so for the time being I'm stuck trying to navigate the right off-the-rack size. Am I just unused to the feel of anything sitting that close to my throat? Will this be less of a problem as I break in my shirts? Or is this a sign that I need a different shirt size? (I presume that higher-end brands than JAB offer 16 1/4 collars, which I suspect would be ideal.)
 

Doc4

Moderator Emeritus
You should be able to comfortably fit two fingers between your neck and your buttoned-up collar (both up against your neck, not a "two finger distance". Like this:



IF that's what a 16.5" shirt collar at Jos A B. fits like, then it fits just fine and you don't have anything to worry about. Whatever you do, don't wear a shirt collar that is too small. By the sounds of your "gag reflex" comment, 16" is too small. Try other brands too, as each maker has his own idea of what a certain size is.
 
You should be able to comfortably fit two fingers between your neck and your buttoned-up collar (both up against your neck, not a "two finger distance". Like this:



IF that's what a 16.5" shirt collar at Jos A B. fits like, then it fits just fine and you don't have anything to worry about. Whatever you do, don't wear a shirt collar that is too small. By the sounds of your "gag reflex" comment, 16" is too small. Try other brands too, as each maker has his own idea of what a certain size is.
Oh, if only it fit that well! I was swimming in the 16.5, and just now, when I tried to button my 16, I gagged so badly that I'm still feeling it, ten minutes later. I don't even care now, I think, if I'm being a baby about this; I need a larger collar. Looks like I need to do some haberdashery research. Sigh.
 
My neck is 17.5" and those shirts are like wearing a circus tent. Whoever decided shirts should be sized by necks was an idiot and I wish them a special place in he**. If custom shirts aren't an option, having them tailored mught be.
 

Doc4

Moderator Emeritus
I would blame "shrinkage over time and multiple washings" for the difference between the swimming-16.5 and your old too-tight-16, but ...

I went to Jos. A. Bank yesterday to size shirts, and saw for myself that a 16 1/2 collar is just too large — a lot of empty space between my neck and the collar, which just doesn't look right. The brand-new 16" that I tried, though, brought on the same gag reflex.
... it looks like the new 16s are just as bad.

Try a different brand in a 16 and 16.5
 
My neck is 17.5" and those shirts are like wearing a circus tent. Whoever decided shirts should be sized by necks was an idiot and I wish them a special place in he**. If custom shirts aren't an option, having them tailored mught be.
wait till you're an 18 1/2 x 35, 46" chest, 36" waist.... "Slim/athletic" fits are even harder to find.
 
You might want to look at getting custom tailored shirts. Its honestly the only way to get anything that ACTUALLY fits these days. Lucky for me, my wife is a great seamstress. It might sound absurd at first, but when you get a shirt (or any piece of clothing) that truly fits you, it changes your life.
 
I have the same issue & I hate to tell you this but the only real answer is custom made shirts. That is a costly endeavor. You may find a tailor to alter them but I have had no good luck going that route.
 
Also, have you tried stores with a more modern cut shirt? J Crew, Express etc? You should still be able to find "conservative" in those types of stores.

I did a quick google search and found an online custom shirt maker called iTailor. No idea how good they are, or the quality of the shirts, but at ~$30 for a basic shirt it wouldn't be that bad to try out. I just went through the design process on the site. PRetty easy You get to design all aspects of the shirt. At the end you can either pick common sizes, or enter all of your measurements. It even has a little picture and video tutorial on how to take all of the measurements yourself. I'd recommend having someone else (your wife or a friend) do the actual measurements. Its pretty hard to measure yourself.
 
You're definitely not alone with neck size problems... I have a 21 and 1/2" neck size...those are fun to find. Granted I rarely wear ties, since even the long ones seem to be a bit short by the time the knot is tied. Definitely no full Windsor for me.
 
wait till you're an 18 1/2 x 35, 46" chest, 36" waist.... "Slim/athletic" fits are even harder to find.
That is almost exactly what I am, just the smaller neck!
How about a 17 1/2" x 38", 50" chest, 36" waist, and 28" thighs...good luck finding anything, athletic fit or not... :) (basketball shorts are easy though, ha)

OP, I'm not sure how the 1/2" difference is that extreme. Are you really "gagging" on a 16" and "swimming" in a 16.5"? That half inch should not go from choke-swim. maybe from 16-18" or something.

I'm with the others, try a new store. Or even multiple shirts from the same store, I've found that many clothing retailers have some wildly varying lengths/sizes between individual garments (36" inseams are not created equal)
 
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Ok, sorry for the delay in responding, gents. I was in a rush to find a suit-suitable dress shirt, so I ran out and bought a few 16.5 collars. Here's the one I wore yesterday. You can see that it has a bit more than the two fingers' worth of room, but I have to say that this shirt, at least, doesn't look terrible when I'm not exaggerating the looseness. Should I just stop bellyaching about this and be happy with the wider collar?

Oh, and I take your points, friends, about getting tailor-made shirts in the long. I'll get to that someday, but for the moment, he who is looking for a job does not custom-made shirts buy.
 

strop

Moderator Emeritus
I don't think that looks bad. Try tightening the tie just a bit so that there is less of a gap at the top, between the two sides of the collar. That also takes away the gap at the top of the tie, which IMO, looks neater.

I'm with Pozzska on the 1/2 inch size difference. I can barely tell the difference between the two sizes.
 
It's hard to say from that photo but it looks like the collar is the right size but tilted forward a bit, creating that gap. Might be a problem with the way that particular cut is sitting on your body.

Either way it's acceptable. If you want a "perfect" look, most people have to go to custom shirts anyway. However, simple tailoring of off the rack stuff is always an option as well.
 
How about a 17 1/2" x 38", 50" chest, 36" waist, and 28" thighs...good luck finding anything, athletic fit or not... :) (basketball shorts are easy though, ha)
may I suggest putting down the heavy things, and stop picking them up and putting them down. after than may I suggest picking up the rope and swinging it around you repeatedly while stepping over it. or just run down a road a good ways, and then back. :thumbup:
 
You might try to leave the button on the tighter shirt unbuttoned and either get a tie made from thicker material, or using a larger knot to fill in the space.

By playing with different tensions when making a knot, you can often fluff-up the "top flap(?)" and give it a fuller look.


Try a double Windsor knot and while tying it, add a bit more tension on the base side of the knot while tying it (hope that makes sense).
 
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