Mens Suit Size: How To Determine What Size Suit You Wear

Shopping for a ready-made suit today is like shopping for a new car. You walk into the store where you are cordially greeted by the happy haberdasher who quickly asks,” What size suit do you normally wear?”


Seldom are you asked about any fit challenges you may have experienced in the past with regard to the jacket, discomfort of the seat, rise, or overall fit of your trousers. Furthermore, you are rarely placed in front of a mirror — with tape measure in hand — having your measurements taken and recorded so that you can accurately determine the correct size suit to select.

The following steps are your guide to knowing what size suit you really wear…


Establishing Your Size

Overarm – The tailor should place the tape over both arms and parallel to the ground. This measurement should be taken 2 inches above the nipple line. Snug, but not tight.

Chest – The tailor should place the tape over the fullest part of your chest under the arms and parallel to the ground. He should make sure the tape is over the shoulder blades in the back. Snug, but not tight. If there are more then 8 inches between the chest and overarm, you should go up to the next suit or jacket size to accommodate for the large overarm.

Coat Length – This is measured in back — from the bottom of the shirt collar to the bottom of the seat. The coat should completely cover the curvature of the seat.

Here’s a  common formula for figuring the coat length:  A man’s height in inches, minus 9, divided by 2. For example:

  • Height 6 feet 2 inches = 74 inches
  • 74 inches minus 9 inches = 65 inches
  • 65 inches divided by 2 inches = 32.5 inches
  • 32.5 inches would be the coat length

Waist – Make sure you have your pants on your waist in the position you normally wear them. The tailor should place the tape slightly under the top of your waistband and measure snug, then release it gradually until he is sure it is comfortable to you.


Important Tip:  Know Your “Drop”

In ready-made suit sizes, there are standard chest-to-waist “drops” in inches.

The drop is the difference between chest size and waist size. Normally, sizes from 36 to 44 have a 6-inch drop and 46 to 56 have a 5-inch drop. For example:

  •  Size 46 minus a 5-inch drop = 41-inch waist in trouser

So, if your overarm and chest measurements fit the example above, yet, your waist is 36 inches you should inquire about a “separates” collection the store may offer or consider custom-made clothing.

DO NOT allow yourself to be persuaded that the trouser can be altered more than 2 inches without completely losing the balance of its intended fit.

However, if you enjoy reaching for your car keys from the cheek of your rear-end, the uncomfortable smile from a high rise, and the fashion trend of one continuous back pocket, proceed and enjoy!

Steve Walczak

Steve Walczak

I've been in the men's clothing business since 1991. My specialty is custom-tailored suits and shirts, as well as men's accessories.

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  • Jonathan Bowen

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand why suits are all made for extremely fat people. Is that what our country has become?! I mean my god, it would be one thing if 8″ drops were standard, I guess I’d shrug and think, ok, well that’s not TOO bad, but 6″ drop?! You would have to be very overweight, not just 10-15 pounds extra. At a 30″ waist and 42″ chest, I’m twice the “normal” and it’s always ridiculous to me that they put fat people pants with a nice suit jacket. I could fit my evil twin into those things! This is clothes shopping in general, though, a total mediocrity fest. Whenever I shop for jeans, I end up either being completely unable to fit into any of the jeans a brand offers — all too small, too tight around the thighs — or I end up in their most extreme “relaxed fit” jeans, which on me are not at all relaxed fit, they’re in fact form-fit. It’s like they make jeans for scrawny little chicken legs men and suits for fat asses. It’s extremely frustrating! Being in good shape should not be so aberrant that you need to spend extra money and time to find anything that fits. It should just be the norm!

    • TigranMetz

      I hear you. When I first started researching this stuff, I was dumbfounded at what is considered to be a normal “drop.” I don’t consider myself to have a particularly a-typical body type, but according to this article I need to consider getting a custom made suit to make sure I get one that fits properly.

      • Jonathan Bowen

        Yeah exactly! I’m not even that muscular yet, I mean, I’m muscular and I am proud of the work I have accomplished, but my one-rep max bench press is more like 275. Imagine the guys who are REALLY strong, benching 400 pounds, squatting 600, or whatever other crazy numbers, those guys could conceivably have a 30 or 32″ waist with a 46″ chest. That becomes… almost impossible to find something that fits. PS: Add shorts to my list above. I bought three pairs of shorts and I look like the biggest dork in the world because they’re way too tight on me when I sit down. My quads just don’t fit into them well, so they ride up my leg and I look ridiculous. I had to switch back to my 34″ waist shorts and just wear a tight belt because they fit well everywhere except the waist. This is also what happens when someone has long legs, but a small waist (32 inch waist usually, though I could fit 30s, wouldn’t be comfortable with 34″ legs).