I walked through the Men’s Department at Macy’s Herald Square a few weeks ago, and I did not see any dress shirts with exact sleeve length sizing. More and more men’s retailers are moving to average sleeve length sizing, since it reduces the number of sku’s they need to handle and stock by half – a good deal for the stores, but not so good for men who really like their clothes to fit perfectly.
What does this all mean for a guy who wants to look good? Exact sleeve length dress shirts are cut to accommodate that sleeve length only. If you buy a 16.5/34 shirt, you know that the collar will measure 16.5 inches, and the sleeve 34 inches. If you purchase an average sleeve length dress shirt, for example 16.5/34-35, you are getting a shirt with a 35 inch sleeve. The manufacturer provides an additional button on the cuff to allow you to make the cuff tighter around your wrist, preventing the shirt from enveloping your hands, but also giving you an extra inch of fabric between your wrist and elbow that you really don’t need. It isn’t perfect. If you want to look really put together, stick with exact sleeve length sizing.