Ticknors Science of Fit Series: Button Down Shirts

“Does this fit?” is a question we ask ourselves way too often, so Ticknors decided to work at answering all of your fit and style questions with our newest series: Ticknors Science of Fit Series. 

We want to help you make sure your clothes are stylish and create a statement all while fitting you perfectly. 

In our first Ticknors Science of Style and Fit Series, we’ll answer this question: how should a button down shirt really fit?

The question of how a button-down (or oxford) should fit appears simple at first glance: not so fluffy that you’re mistaken for a pirate or so tight that you’re in danger of ripping through your shirt, and you’re good to go, right?

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Follow our simple button-down guide to flatter your frame and exude confidence- whether you’re donning a freshly-pressed dress shirt or a more casual sport shirt.


The Collar

Like all the best things in life, the button-down collar is a delicate balance. Too loose will look sloppy; too tight and you are compromising comfort.

Luckily, there’s an easy test that you (or your tailor) can easily perform: button your shirt all the way up through the collar and slide two side-by-side fingers into the collar. A well-fitting collar will allow the two fingers in easily, but without much room for more.

Generally-speaking, a fully-buttoned collar should fit snugly, but make sure to give yourself room to breathe.


The Tuck

We all know the feeling: constantly tucking, stuffing, and re-stuffing an ill-fitting button-down shirt into your pants, with only wrinkles, bunching, and another imminent re-tucking to show for it.

One of the culprits of this problem, though, is not immediately evident: it may not be that your shirt’s too long or too wide, but rather the cut of your shirt’s armholes.

Armholes (the very technical term for the “holes” through which you put your “arms” into the sleeves) that are too tight or cut too far into the neck can result in a premature lifting of the rest of the shirt every time you raise your arms past a certain point.

A well-fitted, well-tailored shirt will still lift some, but not so much that you’ve got another full-on re-tuck on your hands.


The Sleeves

For most guys, the sleeves are where so many otherwise-flattering off-the-rack dress shirts go wrong. And sometimes they can go really wrong. 

The secret may be in the length: guys’ arm lengths are very much not standard, even if we have similar-sized torsos and shoulders. Yet, the average guy purchasing an off-the-rack dress shirt can be blissfully unaware of this fact. 

So, how to check if your sleeve is just right? Stretch out your arm at a slight angle (say, 45 degrees) and note where the sleeve ends: it should be before the base of your thumb. If the sleeve covers the protrusion of your thumb’s base, it’s too long. If it stops well before the meeting point of your wrist and thumb base, it’s too short.

The sweet fit spot is the base of your thumb.

The Sides

A well-fitting shirt’s sides will taper some, but won’t hug you so tightly that your movement is restricted.  

Once again, we’ve got a good test to check for the fit of your shirt’s sides: lift one arm out to the side of you (close to 90 degrees). With your free hand, pinch the fabric below your outstretched arm, and see how much loose fabric there is to pinch.

There should be between 2 inches (if you like the slimmer look) and 4 inches at the most (if you’re really prioritizing comfort).


The Back

When it comes to the back of the button-down, we are checking for both comfort and all-around fit.

First, (you guessed it) raise your arms out in front of you at 90 degree angles.

We’re not measuring anything here, but rather noting the feel of the shirt: does it feel just loose enough to stretch across your back without impinging on shoulder movement? If so, great.

If it feels tight and like it’s straining your shoulders, you probably need to let out some fabric (or get a new shirt).

Another more obvious check we can recommend is just to look at your shirt’s front buttons when fully buttoned. You may have to size up to accommodate your shoulders - just make sure to get the rest of the shirt tailored to fit your torso. 

If gaps are forming between the buttons and the buttons themselves appear to be straining, the shirt is definitely too tight. Size up in your shirt and tailor it to fit perfectly.



There’s a good deal to remember when determining if your button-down shirt is flattering your look.

Fortunately, there are professionals available to help, such as the stylists and tailors at Ticknors.

They’ll assist you in not only determining what off-the-rack cuts compliment you best, but also tailor your dress or sport-shirts to meet all of the above rules of fit (and more). Stop in any time or make an appointment