How Tight Should the Collar on Dress Shirts Be?

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You've seen it before: a man dressed to the nines in an expensive suit and tie whose look is ruined by an ill-fitting shirt collar. And just as any well-dressed man would cringe at a dress shirt with too-short sleeves or one that's too tight across the chest, he should also cringe at one that doesn't fit his neck -- whether it's too loose or too tight. The three crucial measurements for a properly fitted dress shirt are the chest, neck and sleeves.

How to Measure Your Neck Circumference

It's easy to measure your neck circumference. Wrap a tape measure around your neck just above the point where your neck meets your shoulders or where your normal shirt collar would fall. Hold the tape measure with two fingers inside and your thumb on the outside. The tape should slide around easily. A properly fitted dress shirt neck should allow for two fingers to comfortably fit inside it. Anything less is too tight, any more is too loose.

Dress Shirts With Tight Collars

If your existing dress shirts have tight collars, you don't have to throw them out. You can wear them without a tie and unbuttoned -- on a workplace casual Friday, for example -- or unbuttoned with a loosened tie. You can choose to wear them as casual layered pieces over a T-shirt. If you're carrying some extra weight, losing a few pounds will decrease your neck size. Inexpensive, elastic button expanders can add an inch or so of leeway and are virtually undetectable under a tie.

Loose Collars

Wearing a collar that's too loose is as big of a fashion faux-pas as wearing one that's too tight. It makes you look like a kid trying on your dad's shirt, regardless of your weight. Any collar that's more than three-fingers larger than your neck is too loose. And short of taking the shirt to a tailor -- a more complex and expensive task than you might think -- there's really nothing you can do to salvage the shirt other than wear it as a layering piece over a T-shirt.

Saving Your Current Wardrobe

If you have a closet full of shirts that you don't have the time or patience to try on -- or ones without sizing labels -- you can still figure out if the collars fit properly. Armed with your correct neck measurement, measure the collar of each shirt: the measurement should be taken from the middle of the button hole to the center of the collar button when the collar is spread flat. If it matches your current measurement, keep it. If it's too small or too large, consider the previous options to save your wardrobe.