3 Steps: How to Measure Sleeve Length

how to measure dress shirt sleeve length on white button up shirt

Written by Tanya Zhang

When you know how to measure sleeve length, you can look forward to a better fit. A common misconception, however, is that sleeve length is based on the length of your arms. On the contrary, this isn’t always the case, as there are quite a few variables to consider.

For starters, it’s important to factor in the shape and size of your shoulders and where your shoulder seams lie. Since everyone’s shoulders are different, shirts fit differently on each person.

Secondly, the armhole shape of the sleeve plays a role in how a shirt fits over your shoulders. Here are separate guides on how to measure shoulder widths for men and how to measure neck size.

sleeve length mens dress shirt

    Because there are so many differences affecting sleeve length, clothing designers take their measurements from the middle of the back of your neck, over each shoulder, and just below your wrist.

    With all of these measurements combined, you can determine an accurate sleeve length. For casual sleeve lengths, your arm length is the only measurement taken. This length starts at the top of your shoulder and goes to just below your wrist. 

    But you want a precise measurement of your sleeves. For that, you simply need to follow three easy steps:

    step-by-step infographic on how to measure sleeve length

    How to Measure Dress Shirt Sleeve Length

    You’re ready to measure your sleeve length, but you aren’t sure where to start. Fear not; we have you covered! Below, you will learn the steps needed to ensure a precise sleeve length so that your shirts fit comfortably and look great. Here's a guide on how the rest of a dress shirt should fit which goes into detail about shirt collar size, shoulder seams, and torso fit.


    Step 1: Start from center of your back

    Put on a well-fitting shirt or top with sleeves that you want to measure. Stand in a relaxed, natural position with your arms at your sides. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and not hunched. 

    When measuring sleeve length, start from the center of your back. If you’re having trouble finding a good place on your neck to start, simply feel around for your spine.


    Step 2: Measure to top of shoulder seams

    Locate the point where the sleeve meets the shoulder seam. This is typically at the top outer edge of your shoulder, where the seam of the sleeve attaches to the main body of the garment.

    Measure your sleeve length by starting from the center of the back of your neck to the top of your arm, where your shoulder seam is. That’s where you want to place your measuring tape.

    Ask your helper to hold one end of the measuring tape at the starting point you just identified. The measuring tape should run down the outside of your arm.


    Step 3: Measure to your elbow

    Starting at the point on your shoulder where you left off, use a tape measure from there and go down to a slightly bent elbow. Record this measurement.

    Some people will skip this step and measure straight from shoulder to wrist. If you prefer this method when finding your sleeve measurement, you want to make sure that you bend your elbow slightly. Doing so serves a couple of purposes. One, it allows for just enough additional length so that your fit isn’t too tight. 

    And two, your arms naturally rest in a slightly bent position. As such, your measurement will be more precise and provide better comfort. 


    Step 4: Measure to wrist bone

    From the elbow, measure to your wrist bone or where you want your shirt cuff to end.

    Once you have a precise tape measurement, round it to the nearest half or full inch (or centimeter if you prefer the metric system). This measurement represents the sleeve measurement of your dress shirt.

    Remember that sleeve lengths may vary between different types of clothing, so it's a good idea to measure each garment you want to buy or alter to ensure the best fit.

    mens shirt sleeve length with watch


    In conclusion, mastering the art of measuring sleeve length for men's dress shirts is a crucial skill to ensure a polished and well-fitted appearance. By following these simple steps, you can confidently determine the perfect sleeve length and where your shirt cuff should end, allowing for comfortable movement and a stylish look.

    Remember to take accurate measurements, rounding to the nearest half or full inch, and consider trying on different shirts to find the ideal fit.

    Armed with this knowledge, you can now shop for dress shirts with confidence, knowing that they will complement your style and elevate your overall wardrobe. Once you've nailed the sleeve measurement, we also have helpful information on how a jacket sleeve or how a suit should fit.

    We also recommend finding a dress shirt brand that fits well and sticking to it. Our favorite is Nimble Made slim fit dress shirts that come with proper sleeve length already.  

    mens slim fit dress shirt infographic 

    Frequently asked questions about sleeve measurement

    How do I measure sleeve length on a shirt?

    To measure sleeve length on a shirt, start from the back of your neck and measure to your shoulder seam before going down to your wrist bone. Use a flexible measuring tape and follow the outside of the arm.

    What does 36 37 sleeve length mean?

    "36 37 sleeve length" typically refers to a shirt size with a 36-inch sleeve lengthand a 37-inch sleeve length.


    What are common sleeve lengths?

    Common sleeve lengths for men's shirts are 32/33, 34/35, and 36/37 inches.


    What is proper sleeve length?

    The proper sleeve length is when the sleeve ends at your wrist bone or just slightly above it, allowing for ease of movement and a neat appearance when wearing the shirt.