How to Measure Your Chest for A Shirt

Knowing your size does not only mean you know whether you’re small or large, or anything in between and beyond. While picking simple and plain t-shirts is easier than picking up dress shirts, you still need to know your proper size to ensure that it fits you perfectly. After all, you cannot just trust the S, M, L, XL, etc. labels on t-shirts because each brand has its own sizing chart. Particularly, the chest area is often one of the places that you should be wary about. Thus, you need to know how to measure your chest for a shirt to prevent those awkwardly fitted clothes.

Tape measure across chest
Photo Credit: Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko

Tips to Measure Chest for Shirt

Before purchasing a shirt, make sure that you get the proper size first. You have to measure accordingly and precisely. Otherwise, you may get the incorrect measurement and provide the wrong numbers when ordering your shirt. Here are some of our simple tips in measuring your chest area:

Use a fabric tape measure

Did you know that there are different types of tape measurers? Men are mostly familiar with pocket or spring return tape measures that you use during construction and other man-jobs you mostly do. The pocket tape measure can be flexible yet stiff at the same time. Hence, you cannot use it to measure your chest obviously.

When measuring for body sizes, use a fabric tape measure. This tape measure is very soft and flexible that it can circle around different areas of your body. Most fabric tape measures have both metric and imperial measurements. Simply flip to the other side if you need one or the other.

Old man measuring chest of young man
Photo Credit: Pexels/Tima Miroshnichenko

Ask another person for help

While you can measure your chest on your own, you can get more accurate measurements with someone’s help. The second person can line up the tape measure across your back so that it will yield to the correct chest size.

Some people who do not know how to measure chest for shirts will go to the store and ask a clerk to help them. Store department clerks always have a fabric tape measure close by. So you can simply come up to one of them if you want to know your size.

No one else to help? Use a mirror

If you have to do online shopping (as most of us are doing due to the pandemic) and you don’t have someone to help you with measuring, then you can use a mirror. Measure your chest size in front of the mirror and make sure that the fabric measuring tape is in a straight parallel line to the ground all the way around your chest.

Give some room to breath

Once you have your size number, do not order the exact same size that matches your chest measurement. It’ll become too restricting and tight that it will make you uncomfortable and limit your movement. Make sure that you add an inch or so to accommodate your movements and give you comfort.

Measure twice… or several times

Measuring twice gives you more accurate sizing. And if you measure twice and it gives two different results, don’t hesitate to measure again. You can always measure as many times as you want to ensure that you get the precise measurement of your chest.

How to Measure Chest for Shirt

Sewing materials
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Let’s discuss the steps on how to measure chest for shirt. With these simple steps, you can get the accurate number for that perfect chest fit.

  1. If you can, it is better to remove your shirt to measure. What you wear adds extra width to the measurement, which may result in an incorrect size.
  2. Circle the tape measure around your chest area beginning at the center part. Locate the widest part of your chest. This area is usually just under the armpits. Some gents’ chests are widest above or level of their nipple line.
  3. Once you locate the fullest part of your chest, hold the tape measure in front of your body. If you are measuring alone, use the mirror to check that the tape is not twisted at the back. Also, check that the measuring tape is properly leveled all around your chest.
  4. Stand as normally as you can. Never puff your chest nor flex any muscles since this will render the measuring inaccurate. Adjust the tape measure so that it won’t be too tight nor too loose. The tightness can restrict breathing, while looseness makes the fit ugly to look at when you wear your shirt.
  5. Check the number where the start of the tape measure meets the part at the center of your chest. Do not look down to check the number, but use the mirror’s reflection instead. Record the number so that you won’t forget it.
  6. For slightly loose garments, add 2 inches or about 5 cm to your measurement.

How to Measure Chest for Shirt Using a T-shirt (Half-chest/Across-chest Measurement)

Some people use the shirts they already have to measure their chest area. While this won’t give an accurate measurement, you can still use this strategy for casual shirts and the like. The measurement does not directly relate to your body measurement. Instead, it reflects the width of the shirt you are already wearing.

The chest measurement on a t-shirt stretches from the left lower part of the shirt’s vertical shoulder to the other side in a straight horizontal line. To measure the chest using a t-shirt, follow the steps below:

  1. Pick a shirt that fits you well, and lay it on a flat surface so that the front of the shirt is visible to you.
  2. Place the start end of the tape measure on one side approximately 1 cm below the armpit. Then, run it across the chest to the other side in a straight line. Make sure that the end is also approximately 1 cm below the armpit on the other side.
  3. Record the measurement.

With the chest measurement you just took, it’ll be easy for you to check different size charts from different brands. If you cannot see your actual size, then round it off to the next size. You must also remember that half-chest or across-chest measurement is not totally accurate. If you measured a 40cm half-chest size, there’s a big tendency that it will be too tight for a man with an 80cm chest. Hence, you have to add a few centimeters to the measurement to give room for breathability.

Some shirts also shrink. That is why you need to check the labels first or ask the manufacturer about the garment. If shirts shrink, you need to give more allowance to accommodate the changes in the measurements.

How to Check Chest Measurements in Clothes

Grey suit with brown polka dots tie
Photo Credit: Pxhere

Dress shirts and sports jackets have distinct ways of indicating chest sizes. When checking for a size that fits you, you will mostly see the letters R and L. So how do these letters affect the measurements?

R stands for Regular. Men standing from 5’7” to 6’ tall fall under the Regular sizing category. Meanwhile, men who stand from 6’1” to 6’3” need to choose the L for Long.

Thus, if you have a height of 5’9” and your chest measurement is at 42, the correct chest size is 42R. But if you stand 6’3” with a chest measurement of 40, then the correct size for you is 40L.


Knowing how to measure chest for shirt should not rely on tailors and store clerks alone. You can proactively take your own chest measurement so that you won’t have a hard time shopping for clothes. Now that online shopping becomes a trend, you have to know what your correct measurements are. This will assist you to get the right shirt, and decrease the chances of incorrect sizing. Hence, you won’t have to trouble yourself in returning the shirt you just bought for a more correct fitting.