Trad Or Trim? The Shirt-Fit Reader Poll


As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the declining demand for traditional-fit shirts at Brooks Brothers, I think we should take a sampling of the fit preference of Ivy Style readers. It occurred to me, though, that there is likely a correlation between fit preference, age and physique.

Therefore, while this is hardly scientific, the poll consists of three questions. After all, if 80 percent of respondents indicated that they preferred the baggiest possible fit, it would be worth knowing if a similar number were over 50 and generous in the midsection. Likewise, if 80 percent indicated a preference for extra-slim-fit shirts, the number might suggest youth and ectomorph proportions. But just as with politics (not to mention every other possible subject of debate) Ivy Style readers are surely a mix.

And to make the point that fit preference and physique may not always align the way we think, pictured above is famous thin man Fred Astaire in a full-cut oxford buttondown. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

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44 Comments on "Trad Or Trim? The Shirt-Fit Reader Poll"

  1. I recall a thread on the Trad Forum at AAAC claiming the Brooks Brothers Regular Fit of today is much closer to the Trad Fit of old.

  2. I agree about the BB Regular fit. If you compare to the old makers shirts. They are much closer to today’s Regular fit than trad fit. The arm holes are higher are not as full as today’s. I love them both but still lean towards the BB reg fit.

  3. My guess on the fuller fit shirts of old and non-iron debate is that they have a common variable: suit/sport coat. Until recently most men wore a jacket with their “dress” shirts. Jacket only came off when they were relaxing (like Astaire in the above pic) or were in a slightly more casual moment in the office. There was little concern as to shirt fit since it was concealed and was not an important silhouette – the jacket took care of that. When three piece suits were more common this was even more the case.
    Now jackets are rarer. The shirt is often on display (and is the only concession to a “dressy” look) and the shirt’s appearance is of more importance to most men. For example, if you are selling cell phones it is desirable to have a heavily treated shirt that can’t wrinkle, fits tight, and doesn’t detract from the smooth appearance that is achieved with the matching tie it comes with.

  4. I think the idea that the Trad fit was somehow slimmer in decades past has been debunked. If memory serves, HTJ did a comparison of a NOS BB OCBD (I believe from the early 80s) and a new-new stock version; the two were exactly the same in terms of measurements across the chest and waist. Also, David Mercer has said one of the reasons he started his business was that he was frustrated with how BB was starting to skimp on the fabric/sizing – and this was 30 years ago, so if the Trad fit shirts are baggy now, I can only imagine what they were like before the Marks & Spencer takeover.

  5. Interesting results from the voting. It looks like the plurality of the reader base are average looking twenty-somethings, who primarily prefer a tailored and fitted look to their shirts. I’d be interested to see a poll for the average age of the usual contributors to the comment section, and what shirt sizing they prefer. I must admit that, being a regular reader of this blog (and it’s comment section) over the past four years, I would’ve surmised the average reader to be about 20-30 years older, curmudgeonly and reactionary, perhaps a bit portly, and absolutely opposed to anything modern…

  6. Barnaby brings up a good point. I would not mind the fuller cut if I were to be wearing a jacket more often. However, as it is today, you are often made to feel out of place by dressing in tie and jacket. The OCBD paired with khakis is far more common today and I believe the sales in slim fit shirts reflects that.

  7. A.E.W. Mason | September 3, 2014 at 2:51 pm |

    It’s probably my age, but I’m really comfortable only in a must-iron full-cut shirt. By the way, here’s a shot of Cary Grant from North by Northwest after his new CIA handler has brought him a Brooks Brothers button down so he’d have something to wear after leaving his confined quarters.

    They finally killed off his famous Kilgore glen plaid suit by that point in the movie.

    I understand they originally wanted the full title of the movie to be: “North by Northwest: Suit Preservation Trade Craft for the Modern CIA Agent.”

  8. Forty years ago I had Brooks Brothers make to my measurements a bunch of its fullest-cut straight-collar shirts. The armholes were slightly high, the sleeves very full, the body very wide, and the sideseams ran dead-straight from the bottom of the arm-hole to the hem, which ended at my knee caps. They felt kind of funny, but I got used to them. They seem to have been designed with an old-fashioned three-piece suit in mind, with high-waisted trousers loose at the waistband so suspenders could be properly worn. I wore those suits. The shirts never bunched up at the waist.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would want to wear such shirts nowadays, except as an affectation. The shirts would look ridiculous if worn with modern short-rise pants cut tight in the tuchus — and think of the itchy discomfort as all that billowing cloth is clinched together at the waist.

  9. Christian – I e-mailed you over 3 years ago (when I found your site) to ask you why “Preppy” shirts don’t fit and if you ever addressed the topic so I find it funny that this is finally gaining some traction. I searched gmail when I saw this post and I still have it.

    I gave up on BB shirts around the time of my e-mail and found that the only way they seem to fit is slim fit and buying down 2 sizes (I am a 16.5 and buy 15.5). I mostly wear Charles Tyrwhitt extra slim fit shirts which don’t have a button down collar but I am willing to give that up for the fit.

    For reference, I selected “extra pounds” on your survey above, which is the minority if people are telling the truth. I don’t know why people would buy shirts where the waist is bigger than the chest if that is not their body’s proportions.

  10. I like the BB’s regular and slim fits, must irons.
    The slim fits do look somewhat neater without a jacket, but either one will do.
    BB’s seems to be one brand I can find in either fit in a 17 1/2X33, must iron.

  11. For this poll to be worth anything, first take at least half of the self-reported averages and bump them up to extra pounds. Then replace the shirt fit with Brooks’s current sizing schema so there is some degree of objectivity. Almost anyone who reads here is familiar with it. Brooks’s slim fit is really a regular fit, when compared to other manufacturers.

  12. Scotch & Soda | September 3, 2014 at 7:40 pm |

    The problem is if you have any shoulder size to speak of, the slim cuts are far too tight and the upper back is binding. I’m talking muscle, gentlemen. All that rowing on the river.

  13. Re: Scotch & Soda – I’ll drink to that! I have a similar issue: broad shoulders and large chest combined with a slender (15”) neck. If I attempt to don a Slim-Fit of any sort, I can barely fasten the placket buttons. I used to wear BB Traditional Fit until a few months ago when they slightly enlarged their Regular Fit. Now I have downsized to the “new” BB Regular.

    The new “purple-label” Regular is identical to the old Traditional in the chest and arms, but more slender from the armholes down. For me, it is almost perfect. Maybe they should market it as an Athletic Fit.

  14. The reason the full shirt works for the pencil thin Astaire is because the pants and no doubt his jacket are all full cut. Full or slim cut shirts, pants, ties all work best when paired together.

    Now, picture Astaire with a slim cut shirt tucked into those baggy, pleated pants or slim fit pants with the full cut shirt….To me, that would not hunt. Well, maybe, if he were dancing the Flamingo?

  15. I disagree about the way Astaire wore his clothes. The baggy shirt look seems to be something he preferred on buttondown oxfords specifically. It was characteristic of that drapey Golden Age Hollywood/Savile Row look that trousers (particularly Astaire’s beloved flannels) were full cut, while jackets were perfectly fitted (obviously) around the shoulders and tapered at the waist.

    Further, in regards to slim or baggy from head to toe, Astaire has a brief solo in “Flying Down To Rio” wearing full-cut trousers and a jersey turtleneck that’s super-fitted, for perhaps his skinniest-looking outfit in any film. Same goes for his golf scene in whatever film that is (“Damsel In Distress” perhaps), in which he wears his usual full-cut trousers and a very fitted cardigan.

    Finally, his white-tie outfits always contrasted a flowing bottom half with a super-starched, unmoving shirt and waistcoat. Plus of course a perfectly sculpted tailcoat.

    I’ll ask Boyer (who’s done a book on Astaire) to elaborate further.

  16. It should be noted here, that the vast majority of BB’s shirts these days are 100% cotton, but treated for no iron. I’ve also discovered that many of the more desirable patterns and stripes, are made in Malaysia. I can still get their 100% untreated cotton shirts (which I vastly prefer), but only in 4 or so colors, and the traditional candy stripes. Thats ok by me I guess, as the vast majority of dress shirts I buy are blue and white. Thank goodness for Mercer.

  17. Cranky Yankee | September 4, 2014 at 6:35 am |

    I completely agree with RKW. Even though they are 100% cotton, Brooks’ non-iron shirts feel and look awful. Solid blue, white, pink, yellow or university stripe are all I want or need…Traditional Fit, of course.

  18. @Scotch & Soda, JKraus

    I couldn’t agree more. Needing neither a tent or a straight jacket I am a regular fit kind of guy.

  19. It looks like the results to question one and question three line up more or less as one would expect, with “full cut” and “extra pounds” being about the same, “regular fit” and “average physique” being about the same, and “tailored/fitted” lining up well with the combined total of the muscular and slender physiques. One can conclude that poll respondents are mostly buying clothes that fit their bodies, an obvious result that still probably needs testing in light of how often full-cut comes across as some kind of righteous dogma.

    The “as slim as I can find” fit is a tiny percentage of the responses. This is amusing because it seems like that’s the fit that brings out the full-cut curmudgeons’ ire, yet it’s not actually very popular here and likely not what most people are talking about when they address “slim fit”.

    I tend to think of it more as “slim fit” means a shirt that fits someone who is slim (or athletic), not that it’s a ‘gigolo’ cut (as I’ve seen it described around the Ivy/Trad boards).

  20. I emailed Bruce Boyer regarding Astaire and he had this to say:

    “Much confusion arises about Astaire’s style because his style changed subtly over the years: his coats were tighter in the earlier years, a bit more roomy in the 1940s, and slimmer again later on; in his later films he wore fairly slim trousers. In other words, Astaire followed fashion a bit too.

    The simple answer about the shirts is that Astaire wore full-cut button downs shirts because that was the style. Cary Grant’s button downs were full cut too because slim-cut shirts weren’t considered stylish (For years Brooks only had one model. When did they first start making their trimmer model?).

    But Astaire’s wardrobe was also somewhat determined by his need for freedom of movement: coat sleeves had to be very high in the armhole and a bit shorter in length, comfortable in the chest and fitted in the waist; trousers were a bit short in length and sat above the waist. Dancing necessitates that the clothes be anchored at certain points (coat scye, collar top, and waist particularly; and trouser waist) and roomy at others (coat chest and trouser crotch, for example). Astaire paid close attention to this — he danced at fittings to make sure the clothes didn’t bind anywhere or fly away — while still maintaining a stylish silhouette.”

  21. I must be missing something. What does Fred Astaire have to do with Ivy?

  22. Well he certainly has something to do with preferences on how buttondown oxfords should fit.

  23. I don’t seek out the fullest cut, but I get “Regular Fit” or the like. I always wear a sports jacket so any billowing doesn’t affect me, and I prefer the mobility of having a full cut shirt. I’ve owned a few slim fit shirts in the past and they mostly feel too restricting. Or they become untucked. Nightmare. I have a pretty slim build.

    I answered “20s” because I’m 19.

  24. Even if the cut of the Brooks main line shirt did not change, remember Brooks, over the years, offered a series of junior or starter lines targeted at younger men. From the 50s through the 80s, these included 346, University Club, and Brooksgate. These may have been slimmer, especially when slim cuts were in fashion for instance during the ‘body shirt’ period of the 70s. Brooks, like Astaire, was not immune to fashion, as my Brooks Brothers Qiana Nylon repp ties attest.

  25. I wish there’d been a “sixty and above” category for those of us who really know what ivy league style is all about.

  26. Bags' Groove | September 6, 2014 at 4:06 pm |

    @ Dutch Uncle.

    I’m right with you there, baby. 32% in their twenties? They should be finding something better to do, like finding their own damn style!

  27. The traditional, gentleman’s cut shirt vs. The ultra-slim narcissist-cut shirt debate continues.

  28. I like to think of it as a contrast between still wearing what your parents bought for you when they sent you off to prep school and what you end up wearing when you start thinking for yourself a few years after graduating college.

  29. The argument that the fuller-cut shirt works only with a jacket is total bollocks I’m afraid; indeed if the above picture had shown Astaire wearing a jacket over his OCBD there would be nothing “iconic” or interesting about it (other than it being a picture of history’s most famous dancer). The way a fuller-cut (or “regular” as compared with the new “slim” status quo) sleeve, especially if rolled up, hangs over a man’s arm is perhaps one of the most effortlessly cool and manly (as opposed to the macho effrontery of ultra-slim shirts) things that can be achieved with fabric alone. In my opinion the reason why the classic “regular” cut fell out of favour has less to do with practical considerations, and more to do with how ever since the 1970s it’s become gradually associated with the cheap plasticky, garishly coloured shirts that are usually paired with equally plasticky hideous suits and awful square-toed shoes by men stuck in hopelessly Lomanesque jobs. This is unfortunate because as the above picture (and many others like it) illustrate(s), a “regular cut” shirt in a good, unassuming fabric will make even a short tap-dancing midwestern kraut look like he’s just won a fistfight with a bear.

  30. People who are wiser about these things than I am tell me that the traditional fuller cut of shirts was intended to reduce the stress on both the fabric and the seams, which then extends the useful life of a shirt by a significant amount. If this is true, I like to think of wearing slim-fit shirts as a way to blatantly advertise my affluence instead of a carefully-calculated way to make women swoon.

  31. The Grey Ivy vs. Gay Ivy debate goes on.

  32. VS
    You didn’t much attention to the 1970s did you? Slim cut shirts are “Bogey Nights” attire, slim cut shirts were king.

  33. The hipster set (the “you goin’ to the show at Terminal 5 tonight?” lot in the city)–they’ve ‘discovered’ the fuller fitting OCBD. I am seeing more of them on the backs of younger, collegiate folk. The pants are still slim, though.

    What if purist Ivy really is, after all these years, still essentially ‘cool’?

  34. @S.E.
    Ivy purists have never worried about being “cool”.

  35. True “cool” isn’t contrived, it just is.It’s like porn, you know it when you see it.

  36. As always, “cool” is a subjective matter. Eye of the beholder and all that.

    Ivy certainly isn’t de rigueur among the majority of urban professionals. High, pronounced jacket shoulders accentuated by spread collared shirts and wide (mostly shiny, thick knotted) ties reign. And pointy- toed black lace-ups.

    I remember watching the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour. Robin MacNeil appeared regularly sporting button down oxfords, well worn tweed jackets, and repp ties. Country weekend wear. Name an anchor who could pull that off today.

    A safe hunch is that it’s deemed a too casual, too professorial, too bland, or maybe even a tad bohemian by the urban professional set.

  37. Okay, Brit Hume came close.

  38. @S.E.

    Re: “High, pronounced jacket shoulders accentuated by spread collared shirts and wide (mostly shiny, thick knotted) ties reign. And pointy- toed black lace-ups. ”

    In other words, members of the urban professional set are totally lacking in good taste.

  39. Brit Hume, but you beat me to it.

    Are you saying “cool” isn’t defined by TMZ or Good Morning America? 😉

  40. It’s all very Men’s Warehouse at the moment. Like S.E. says – hard shoulders, spread collars, huge tie knots – and shiny shirts, really poor coordination of patterns, lots of pinstripe, and two button jackets nipped in at the waist that are already apparently two sizes too small so they’re pulling with unsightly lines right across the midsection. BLEGH!! It’s all very cheap looking and there’s no texture to anything.

  41. I loathe him but Chris Matthews usually wears a tweed jacket and bd.

  42. Matthews does lean trad a bit more than others. He’ll occasionally sport a decent regimental stripe tie and a good shirt. The worst, by far, are the football commentators. Those guys really need to get a clue. A total mess.

  43. Football commentators love them some slim fit shirts. ( and pants and jackets)

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