How to Measure a Men’s Suit Jacket

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Instructions On How to Measure a Men’s Jacket.

To get an exact fit on E-bay jackets!

By Andrew Harris

I’ve received requests from some of the members of the Ask Andy Forum for instructions on how to measure a men’s suit jacket.

In order to take advantage of the great deals on eBay, one has to learn how to properly measure a suit jacket or men’s sport coat that fits well and to compare those measurements to those provided by the eBay seller.

DO NOT rely on a tagged size.

I’ve measured at least 2500 men’s suit jackets and believe me – tagged size means next to nothing.

Instead, measure the jacket in your wardrobe that fits you best. Memorize those measurements. Then use them as a baseline when looking at possible purchases on eBay.

So here goes. There are five suit jacket measurements that most sellers provide when selling a tailored jacket.

I’m using a (measured) size 42 Hermes sports jacket as an example.

1) Chest measurement

This is the most important suit jacket measurement.

It is the measurement that varies the least, it cannot be easily changed (altered,) and it determines the size of the jacket.

In general the tagged size refers to the chest measurement of the individual.

So if your chest measures 42” you likely wear a size 42 jacket. It is a common misconception that a size 42 jacket would then have a 42” chest.

This is NOT the case (if it did the jacket would be so tight you would have difficulty breathing and certainly would not be able to move.)

Almost every tailor and manufacturer on the planet cuts the chest of the jacket 4” larger than the actual chest measurement of the individual.

Occasionally you will find jackets that measure 3” larger, or as much as 5” larger but 95% of the time it is 4” larger.

A size 42 suit jacket would have an actual chest (outseam) measurement of 46.”

Beware of eBay sellers who say a jacket is a size 42 and that it measures 42” in the chest.


a) it actually measures 42” and the suit jacket is therefore a size 38, or

b) it is actually a size 42 and they don’t know how to measure correctly

Or some combination thereof.

To measure the chest of a jacket that fits you well, lay it on a clean flat surface and button it.

If it is a two or three button jacket button the second button (from the bottom) only. If it is double breasted button it completely.

Arrange the jacket so that you get an accurate measurement.

In the first picture the jacket is arranged properly.

jacket chest measurement

Photo 1 – Chest Measuring


measuring your sports jacket

Photo 2: Inaccurate suit jacket measurement due to stretching

In the second picture it is stretched too far which gives an inaccurately large measurement.

You can tell it is stretched to far because the lapels are buckled outward.

jacket not stretched

Photo 3: Jacket not stretched far enough

In the third picture the jacket is not stretched out far enough.

If you arrange it this way the fabric will be bunched up at the back of the jacket – giving an inaccurately small chest measurement.

This same method applies to all five measurements.

Make sure you stretch the area you are measuring to the point where you are measuring the full amount of the fabric present – but do not overstretch it.

If you overstretch it you are simulating a jacket that does not fit.

2) Waist measurement

The waist of the jacket can be found at different points depending on the make. It is usually found at the second button (from the bottom.)

The waist measurement is usually 2-4” smaller than the chest measurement.

2” smaller on jackets that are targeted at older men (Hickey Freeman, Oxxford, most Brioni & Kiton etc.)

4” smaller on jackets that are meant for younger men (most designers.)

jacket waist measurement

Waist Measurement

3)  Measuring Shoulder Width

This measurement should be taken from shoulder seam to shoulder seam at the widest point (as pictured.)

Measuring shoulder width

Measuring shoulder width


4) Measuring Jacket Length

Measure from the bottom of the collar to the bottom of the coat as pictured. Some sellers indicate the overall length instead.

In that case you can usually assume that the “bottom of collar to bottom of coat” measurement is 1.5” less (1.5” being the height of the collar.)

Measuring jacket length

Measuring the jacket length


5) Measuring Sleeve length

This is taken from the top of the sleeve at the shoulder seam to the middle of the end of the sleeve (as pictured.)

As you can see the end of the sleeve is often cut on a slant so make sure to measure in a straight line down the sleeve.

I also indicate in my auctions how far the sleeves can be let down.

I arrive at this measurement by feeling how much extra fabric there is and subtracting 1.”

(I figure there should be at least 1” of fabric to hem under although some tailors may be able to use facing and make the sleeve even longer.)

Measure jacket sleeve length

Measuring sleeve length


Standard variations:

Within a certain size nearly every “standard” measurement is subject to change depending on the overall silhouette the designer or tailor is going for.

Here are some common variations.


The chest measurement is the only measurement that stays fairly consistent from brand to brand. And even that changes.

Companies going for a slimmer, dressier look may cut the chest slightly smaller. Drape cut suits will have a slightly large chest.

Also some “athletic cut” suits have a large chest measurement – usually combined with very wide shoulders and a very small waist. (Avoid this cut like the plague unless you are built like Arnold.)

In general though, the chest is cut 4” larger than your actual chest measurement.


As mentioned the waist is usually cut larger on more expensive suits ($1000+) and slimmer on low-to-mid-range and designer suits.


Designers tweak the shoulder more than anything else. Currently they are running on the narrow side.

You should determine a minimum (jacket) shoulder width for you personally.

If the shoulder measurement listed in the auction is wider it may still look fine on you – it depends on the overall cut and also the look you are going for.

Jacket length

This is the other measurement that designers love to mess with. Currently jackets are being cut on the longer side.

Generally 30” – 32” indicates a regular and 32” + indicates a long.

The one rule to keep in mind – the jacket must cover your posterior.

Sleeve length

Sleeve length is the easiest alteration to make.

Generally the sleeves will be too long as it’s easier to shorten a sleeve than it is too lengthen it.

If the listed measurement is too short then ask the seller how much fabric there is to let the sleeve down.

Older suits

Older (10-20 years old) suits almost always have a waist that is 4” smaller than the chest. In fact the chest and shoulders are usually narrower too.

Often if I’m selling an older suit (Oxxford for instance) that is tagged a size 44 I’ll sell it as a size 42.

I do this because the measurements correspond to a current size 42 Oxxford suit.

European sizes

Generally you get the US size by subtracting 10 from the European size.

For  instance a Euro 52 usually corresponds to a US 42. But there are plenty of exceptions so rely on the measurements.

The Hermes jacket pictured is tagged a Euro 54 and it measures to a slim 42.

Made to measure

A made to measure garment will  usually have tagged size that is 1-2 sizes larger than the actual measurements indicate.

I’m guessing they start with a larger pattern and then cut it down as needed but I’m not certain.

Previously altered garments

If you buy previously worn garments they may have been altered.

In this day and age most guys leave their jackets exactly as they bought them.

But never assume. Rely on the measurements.

The strange and the unexplainable

When the tagged size has no basis in reality you are usually dealing with an Armani.

I’ve seen a lot of Black Label jackets that were tagged a size 58 Euro that measured to a size 44 or even a 42.

So once again – measurements are your most reliable guide.


I get a lot of questions about what can and cannot be altered.

Basically you can almost always alter the sleeves. And you can usually have the back taken in or out a bit to change the waist measurement.

The chest and shoulders can be altered, but you will need a very skilled tailor.

Jackets can also be shortened, but usually only by 1/2 “, any more and the pockets will look too low, unless they were placed high to begin with.


Hopefully this will be of some use, and I wish you all the best in your search for the perfect suit at the perfect price!