December 22, 2022 9 min read

A well-fitting button-up shirt is something that every man needs in his wardrobe. They’re versatile, snazzy, and, if chosen correctly, can show off your best assets.

But if you’ve got more muscle than the average person, getting a button-up shirt to fit properly can be a challenge. Narrow arm-holes, bulging buttons, and fabric splitting at the seams are just a few of the problems that bulkier men face when trying to buy clothes.

That’s why TAILORED ATHLETE is the only choice for athletes and gym-bodies who don’t want to be limited to loose and shabby T-shirts and vests just because they’re wider across the shoulders.

We’re here to take you through exactly what to look for when trying on a new button-up shirt so your clothes can complement your body.

First, though, we need to break down the difference between a button-up and a button-down shirt and clear up any confusion.

What this article covers:

Button-up and Button-down

how should a casual shirt fit

There’s a lot of confusion between button-up and button-down shirts, but it's not that complicated once you’ve got the gist of it.

If a shirt fastens down the middle with buttons going from the top to the bottom, that’s a button-up shirt.

Button-down refers to collars that button down to the shirt, almost seen as a way of securing the collar.

Button-up shirts can have button-down collars or regular collars that fold up and down.

There’s also a difference between dress shirts and button-up shirts. This means that there’s a difference between how should dress shirts fit vs. how should button-up shirts fit

Dress shirts are longer because they’re meant to be tucked in, while casual button-up shirts are shorter with a straighter hem since they’re designed to be worn outside your pants.

There are also differences in the design of the dress shirt compared to the button-up.

Dress shirts are known to have hidden plackets, French cuffs, or no pockets. However, the main difference is the length of the two shirts. They’re also difficult to fit properly if you’re larger than average, but TAILORED ATHLETE’s True Muscle Fit dress shirts can help you with that problem. 

 how should a collared shirt fit

Enough about dress shirts, we’re here to discuss button-up shirts and how they should fit.

The Fit

Collar Fit

When it comes to the collar of a button-up shirt, you should be able to button the top of your shirt without it feeling uncomfortable or too tight. This makes finding the right fit for muscular guys a real difficulty. 

If you’ve got a wide neck from gyming and exercise, finding a shirt that’s not too tight around your neck when it’s buttoned but not too loose around your waist is close to impossible. 

Thanks to TAILORED ATHLETE, this doesn’t have to be the case. Our premium 4-way stretch fabric made with a proprietary blend of cotton and elastane contours around your muscles without making you feel restricted.

You should be able to fit one or two fingers in the space between the collar and your neck. Despite their differences, this is another shared attribute between a dress shirt and a button-up.

This two-finger space rule is also the answer to how should a dress shirt collar fit.

The reason for this space isn’t to only add to the comfort, but it accommodates those wanting to wear a tie. If you put a tie on and you already have a tight collar, you’re going to suffocate.

However, if the gap between the collar and your neck is too large, the shirt is considered oversized.

Also, if the collar is too big, it can be tailored to your size. You can’t do much about a tight collar other than returning the shirt.

Shoulder Fit

how a button down shirt should fit

Getting a button-up shirt or a short-sleeve shirt to fit properly all depends on getting the shoulders right.

For a button-up shirt, you need to pay close attention to the size of the armholes and the shoulder seams.

If you want to know whether your button-up shirt fits you, the seams should be sitting on top of your shoulders. 

A good-fitting button-up shirt has its seam resting on your acromion, which is the bone at the end of your shoulder.

It’s not the end of the world if the seam doesn’t sit right on the bone, but you don’t want it to be resting on your tricep. This indicates that the shirt is way too big for your body.

A good way to know if the shoulder area is too tight is to swing or stretch your arms forward. 

If the shirt feels like it's going to tear near your back, it’s too narrow in the shoulders. This is another issue that’s common with athletes and gym enthusiasts. Most manufacturers don’t account for extra muscles since they design their clothes to fit the biggest number of people and neglect those on the extreme end of the spectrum.

If you’re a more muscular man, you’re going to have broader shoulders and if you still want to rock a button-up shirt, you need to find shirts designed for athletes.

Sleeves Fit

When it comes to the width of a button-up shirt’s sleeves, you don’t want them to be super slim. This restricts your movement and is uncomfortable if you bend your arm.

If the sleeves are too loose, it might be more comfortable, but your physique isn’t enhanced, giving off the impression that you wear oversized clothing.

Moreover, if you’re a muscular man having large biceps and forearms, going with a slim-fit shirt also isn’t a viable option.

If you can’t decide between a slim fit and a more casual, baggy fit, the traditional button-up shirt borders the line between being loose and slim fit.

Now that we’ve dissected the width of the sleeves, let’s look at the recommended length.

how should a men's button down shirt fit

A good button-up shirt has its sleeve cuff close to the wrist bone, slightly past the wrist bone, or right before the start of the wrist bone. 

What you don’t want is sleeves going too far past your wrist bone or stopping a few inches before your wrist bone.

Another good way to determine the perfect length of a button-up shirt’s sleeves is to wear a jacket. You want to ensure that the sleeves of the shirt creep out slightly past the jacket sleeves.

Chest Fit

The fit of the chest is subjective when it comes to button-up shirts, and it all depends on your desired style.

Most slim-fit button-up shirts sit close to your chest, leaving almost no room for excess fabric in that region.

For someone who isn’t muscular and wants their chest to pop out more without feeling uncomfortable, slim-fit shirts are the answer to shirts that make you look muscular, but since you’ve already put the work in, they’re just going to make you look like a sausage.

The more traditional fit button-up shirts give you around three inches of excess fabric in the chest region, giving your chest plenty of breathing room.

These shirts cater more towards muscular men since a tight fit around your chest with an already muscular chest can make it difficult to breathe.

Again, as an athlete, you’ll need to size up to accommodate your broader chest and shoulders.

Sizing up is probably the biggest mistake that athletes make when buying clothes, since the difference in size isn’t uniform across your body. You may be a large across the waist and a XXL in your chest. This leaves unflattering excess fabric and creasing.

Fortunately, TAILORED ATHLETE’s True Muscle Fit works around this by designing our clothes with athletes in mind. We’re aware of how difficult it can be to shop for athletic bodies, so we tailor all our clothes to accommodate larger muscles.

Stomach Fit

how should a mens button down shirt fit

Most athletic men have v-shaped bodies, meaning that their chest is a few inches bigger than their stomachs. 

This means that the shirt is going to have a taper at the torso to achieve that shape.

The average man, on the other hand, has a bigger stomach than their chest. 

If they have a taper in their button-up shirt, it’s going to be too tight. 

The approach to figuring out the fit of the stomach is like the chest. 

Whether you want to know how essential shirts fit, button-up shirts, or muscle shirts, you name it, the best approach is to feel the excess fabric.

For button-up shirts, if you can pull more than two inches of excess fabric in the stomach region, the shirt is too loose.

The second you feel like the shirt is pulling across your belly, exposing your stomach to the world, the shirt is too tight.

Finding the halfway point between these two factors is how you find the perfect fitting button-up shirt.

Shirt Length

A traditional button-up shirt should be short in the front, ending around the mid-thigh region in the front and your mid-behind at the back.

Button-up shirts shouldn’t be tucked in, so if you notice that your shirt goes beyond your thigh and needs to be tucked, the shirt is too big.

Generally, you’d be able to tell in other regions like the chest and shoulders if the length of the shirt is too short.

If the button-up shirt fits comfortably and you look great without needing to tuck anything in, your button-up shirt is perfect.

Difficulties and Challenges

Despite us covering the basics of how a button-up shirt should fit; many muscular men still have difficulty finding the perfect size.

Too Loose = Baggy 

Since muscular men have broader bodies, you need to buy clothing that has enough breathing room to compensate for your muscles.

The problem with this is if the clothing is left untailored. If a muscular man wears baggy clothing, he won’t be doing much to show off his physique.

how button down shirt should fit

There are two approaches to this situation. 

One of them is to buy a more loose-fitting button-up shirt but ensure to tailor it to match your physique. The downside is that tailoring is both expensive and time consuming. You can’t simply wear a shirt out of the store and may have to wait weeks before you get your shirt back. Even then, it may not fit properly.

The second, and arguably the best approach, is to buy button-up shirts designed for athletes.

TAILORED ATHLETE produces shirts that ensure athletes look and feel their best when wearing button-up shirts, instead of having to squeeze into one.

This also saves you money and the trip of going to the tailor.

Too Tight

No man should ever have to suffer for beauty and finding the sweet spot between tight and loose isn’t easy when you’re a muscular man.

The problem that many muscular men face is that they want to wear clothing that shows off their physique but they end up suffocating to do so.

A good button-up shirt should make you look stylish without feeling like you need to pop the buttons off to breathe.

The muscles of an athlete grow and shrink respectively so which adds to the difficulty of finding the perfect fit.

Most button-up shirts designed for athletes contain stretchy material that allows for maximum comfort when buttoned up.

So, we would recommend opting for athlete-friendly button-up shirts over more traditional fits.

Uncomfortable Sleeves

Muscular arms mean bigger forearms and biceps. 

Muscular men don’t have evenly-shaped bodies, so certain areas are more comfortable than others.

how should the button down shirt fit

For example, a muscular man can have a good amount of breathing room in the chest region but may find their arms to be restricted beneath the shirt.

If you still want to wear a long sleeve button-up shirt but find the arms to be uncomfortable, you can neatly roll the sleeves up in two folds.

However, a more effective solution would be to buy a short sleeve button-up shirt.

This gives your arms a good amount of breathing room as well as not having to worry about the excess fabric that’s been rolled up.


No matter your body size, a button-up shirt should never be too tight or too loose. 

The key to finding the sweet spot between those sizes is using the various rules for the various shirt regions.

A muscular man may have more difficulty in finding the perfect fit for a button-up shirt, but there are plenty of athlete-designed button-up shirts on the market. 

These are made with different fabrics and take the growth and shrinkage of muscles into consideration.

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