Once upon a time I could confidently walk into a store and buy most of my clothes without having to bother trying them on. But somewhere along the line, I've noticed things have started to go a little pear-shaped. And by pear-shaped, I mean that when it comes to maintaining an average standard of sizing in menswear, things have taken a turn for the disproportionate.
For the longest time we men have had the safety net of sartorial tradition – some would also call it monotony, others a simple lack of choice – to rely on. But as menswear continues to develop in leaps and bounds, including the lightning growth of international markets available to us online, sizing has become a precarious juggling act. Just because you fit into size-32 pants or a medium shirt in one brand is no guarantee that you'll fit the same measurement in another.
So for an industry where the 'fit' is meant to be a major selling point, what has happened in the world of menswear to cause such variation on what should be a standard feature?
Some of it comes down to mass manufacturing. Jared Acquaro from Melbourne-based tailors Oscar Hunt says that since most major brands use block-sizing patterns, certain inconsistencies will be inevitable according to what they (the designer) consider to be a general size correlation.
“A lot of ready-to-wear clothing is made from a block pattern,” says Acquaro. “These block patterns will be constructed to fit the average small, medium and large person [and] that's why sizes will differ from brand to brand; it's really the best way brands can manufacture in bulk quickly, otherwise it would be a tailored garment and individual fittings would be needed.”
And while this does mean that you may inevitably find yourself shuffling up or down a size (or even two), there are certain rules of thumb you can follow when it comes to buying certain brands. For example, Scandinavian labels such as Nudie, Filippa K and H&M all run on the lean side, whereas local brands such as Country Road and Herringbone tend to be a bit roomier, as are American brands GAP and Ralph Lauren.
In order to get a proper idea of how labels fit the obvious preference is to try before you buy. However this isn't always going to be an option, especially if you like to shop online.
While most websites have some form of returns system in place, the mixture of the high cost of international shipping combined with my own personal flaw of pure laziness can often be a turn-off for many potential buyers. Or you simply throw it to the back of the wardrobe and try hard not to think about the money you just wasted.
Thankfully, however, most online stores are now providing a full description of the garment along with its technical size which is great for people such as myself who hate trying things on and hate even more having to send something back.
One of the better online stores for men, Mr Porter, not only gives a garment's full measurements, such as sleeve length and width across the shoulders, but additional details on how it wears in real life - thus saving you the need to send something back, only to wait several more weeks for a replacement to arrive. Which, in the end, is also smart business for them, considering a poor fit is the primary reason most people end up asking for their money back.
One final, and obvious, tip to help the male shopper get the right fit every time when buying online is knowing what size you really are, as opposed to what size the label says you are.
Spending half an hour of your day with your local tailor who can provide you with an accurate set of measurements will inevitably save you a lot of time in the long run.
Have you encountered your own menswear sizing discrepancies?