Understanding Hem of a Shirt & The Types of Hems

hem of a shirt

The Hem of a Shirt

When choosing whether to tuck in your dress shirt or leave it untucked, the ultimate deciding factor often comes down to your hem. The hem of a shirt is usually defined by its shape, which is the bottom end of the dress shirt. This area is folded and curled to form a finished edge on the garment also known as a shirt hem.

Obviously, the style of hem that your dress shirt can make all the difference in your appearance if you choose to untuck your shirts. (Here's also our list of recommended best untucked shirts for guys.) In this guide, I’ll go over the most common hem types to give you a better idea of how shirt hems look and a few quick instructions on how to hem a shirt with or without a sewing machine.

helpful infographic on round hem vs straight hem vs polo hem for men's shirt hem types

Types of Hems

Which shirt hem you ultimately choose often comes down to what you intend to use your dress shirt for and how shirts fit. If you’re attending a lot of formal events and need to have your shirt tucked in, the hem type doesn’t really matter all that much.

Conversely, if you’re looking for clothing that goes well with casual events, then hem type is paramount. First, let’s go over the most common types of hems on dress shirts and work our way to tucking and untucking.

Straight hemmed shirts

straight hem dress shirt

Straight hem is a popular choice for casual shirts, especially shirts that you can wear untucked. As the name suggests, it passes directly through the bottom of the shirt and has a 2.5-inch vent at the bottom of the side seams on both sides of the shirt. 

If your shirt is designed with a straight hem, I recommend that you have it tailored or altered with a sewing machine with two small adjustments to your shirt size. For tailored suits, this is how long it takes to get one altered.

For starters, you want to make sure that the mid-section width is the same or very close to the bottom width finished edge. Doing so will help create the best casual look without the hourglass shape. This look is more typical in formal dress shirts. 

And secondly, you can also consider reducing the length of the shirt by about 0.7 inches so that the shirt does not feel too long when you are not wearing it tucked in. 

Rounded Shirt Hem

rounded hem dress shirt

The rounded hem is the most popular choice among business and business casual dress shirts. It has a 2-inch rise on each side of the shirt and bends to the side seams. This serves to make the hem of the front and back shirts round. 

A dress shirt with a rounded hem has some advantages you may want to consider, including:

  • Eliminates the strong horizontal line created across the body by a straight hem
  • Your leg line becomes elongated by revealing more leg on either side
  • The length of your shirt becomes visually shortened as a result
  • Vertical emphasis increases, and focus is drawn upwards
  • Your outfits have more visual interest and structure 

However, the rounded hem does not look the greatest when it is too short. This is especially true when you pair once you factor pants or jeans into the equation. If you're looking for a guide on how to measure your waist for pants, we have it here.

The good news is that rounded hems are suitable for both knitted and woven fabrics, as well as fitted and loose styles. 


Polo Shirt Hem

polo shirt hem

Polo hem types are traditionally a design feature found on classic polo shirts. This type has been cut directly along the bottom of the shirt, but the hem of the back shirt is an inch longer than the bottom of the front shirt. 

It has side slit vents on each side of the shirt, just like a straight hem. But considering the difference in length between the front and rear shirts, these vents are an inch long.


How to Hem a Shirt

After deciding which type of shirt hem you’d like, we can work on trimming any excess fabric of your shirt with a sewing machine or by hand. If you’re not too well-versed in this part, leave it to the pros.

  1. Measure the length you want your shirt to be from the bottom and mark it with pins. Make sure the shirt is evenly laid out and the pins are at the same length on both sides.
  2. Cut off the excess fabric below the pins, leaving about 1 inch of extra fabric to fold over for hemming.
  3. Fold the excess fabric over once, about 1/2 inch inwards towards the inside of the shirt. Pin it in place and make sure it is even all the way around.
  4. Using a sewing machine or needle and thread, sew a straight line along the folded hem, removing the pins as you go. Make sure the stitches are even and secure.
  5. Once you have sewn all the way around, tie off the thread and trim any excess fabric or loose threads. Iron the hem flat to give it a professional finish.

And that's it! You have hemmed your shirt.


Choosing Whether to Tuck or Untuck

Most men ignore the importance of function and prefer aesthetics. Although this concept seems easy to grasp at first, our inherent pursuit of comfort ultimately has a significant impact on the choice of everyday clothing, and formal dress shirts are no exception.

When buying a formal shirt, the decision-making process usually only focuses on elements such as the neckline or cuff styles, which undermines the importance of fit, mobility, and comfort. 

However, the fact remains that the functionality of dress shirts can accomplish or destroy the most visually attractive elements, making them a burden. Therefore, it’s clear that one of the most crucial aspects of dress shirts is length. 

Although the vast majority of shirts are designed for indoor wear, recent trends indicate a more casual approach and are shifting to lighter, open levels. Choosing between traditional shirts and button down shirts is a matter of personal taste. 

The traditional version can be easily adapted to different situations by rolling up the sleeves and unbuttoning the top two buttons, while the open version has a natural and casual look. Which you choose is entirely up to your preferences.

What’s more, you may have noticed that short hem dress shirts look casual, mixed with short sleeves or thick flannel, usually bright colors. So to finalize the shape, you can find your favorite polished or customized version. 

Thanks to this wide variety of options, it’s easier to get the look you want without compromise. It’s understandable that some guys simply don’t appreciate the untucked look. Indeed, there is a time and place to untuck your shirt, so it’s important that you don’t overdo it.

An untucked shirt seems to gravitate toward a certain group of men, and it takes a little sense of fashion to wear it properly. It’s also more likely to fit in with an already established wardrobe, not a whole new choice of shirts. To clarify this issue, let’s take a closer look at the available options.

untucked mens hem of a shirt

The Length of Tucked-In Dress Shirts

A classic shirt tucked inside will make you look elegant more than once, whether it’s wearing a full suit in the office or spending time with friends in the city. 

Unfortunately, the length of most traditional shirts is predetermined based on industry standards and custom size tables. They are meant to cover most body types, and you may have noticed that they do not necessarily include your body type.

Take a look at your wardrobe and choose your favorite shirt that suits you best. Where the hem is located, it is likely that it will be longer or shorter, even if you never noticed it. 

In fact, length has a separate factor, and there is a general rule of thumb for shirts that must be folded: the back of the shirt should almost completely cover the bottom of the shirt, allowing at least 1.5 inches to be folded.

A little bit shorter, you may untie the shirt because of basic exercises. A little longer, you will end up bulging in the thigh and crotch area due to too much fabric. Although the shorter version often needs to be stuffed in, the longer version is not the best solution. 

This is a very pressing issue. In the past, the bottom of formal shirts had a snap button closure that overlapped your crotch to ensure that they stayed in the correct position throughout the day. Some tuxedos and evening shirts have this privilege, which can make them look primitive in any black-tie event.

The Length of Untucked Dress Shirts

On the other hand, the coveted casual shirt is the embodiment of a more casual style. Although casual does not necessarily mean sloppy or vulgar, it can add versatility when wearing a shirt. That is, tucked the untucked appearance. 

Similar to formal shirts, there is also a rule of thumb in terms of length: the hem should be roughly on the lower edge of the trouser pocket. Although it is not set in stone, this recommendation aims to provide a clean appearance and sufficient fabric length to cover any easily exposed skin.

untucked shirt

Measuring Yourself for the Right Shirt

Dress Shirt Length

For traditional formal shirts, the total length is shown below (for example, 29 inches). For the unfolded variant, the measurement will actually be 2.5 inches shorter or 26.5 inches and 29 inches. When measuring the length of the unfolded style, the length should reach the middle of the jeans/trousers. In addition, here is a guide on how to measure sleeve length.

Bottom Cut

The shape of the hem must be appropriate, with no obvious “tail” on the front or back. This is basically a classic cut. Instead, you should choose a squarer cut hem, like a polo shirt. I find this to be one of the better style options for myself. Of course, your results may vary wildly. 

Shirt Fit

nice fitting dress shirt in suit

The fit must be impeccable, looks well-tailored, and even fit better than ordinary formal shirts. Since the entire shirt is displayed, it is important to ensure a fit, so there is no extra fabric that can cause bumps on the front or back. In addition, because of its T-shirt-like beauty, the shirt should be very close to the body, especially at the waist, without restricting movement.

Other Details

Finishing details are very important. That is, the fine stitching of the hem and the placket makes good craftsmanship more valuable. Most quality manufacturers will not sacrifice details anywhere, whether it is hidden, visible, or hidden and invisible. The streamlined short pointed collar is a fashion choice that people should consider.

Fabric and Pattern

Due to the inherently casual nature of the appearance, the proper combination of patterns and fabrics cannot be emphasized for wrinkle-free formal shirts. Consider linen and flannel for the fabric and check the pattern.

Linen looks casual in nature, so choosing a solid color can still work well with unfolded shirts.​​​ The white lightweight poplin also looks casual, without wrinkles.

Tucked or Untucked?

As with most other elements on a shirt, choosing the right length depends on personal taste and purpose. If your lifestyle revolves around a more formal environment, a non-pleated formal shirt is unlikely to be adjusted unless in very special circumstances. This would be best with a button up vs button down shirt.

However, if you get a more casual feeling in your daily life, then you should definitely consider several variations of this style. Just make sure to take all the above factors into consideration and customize your new shirt accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Although it is generally believed that if the choice is appropriate, a non-pleated formal shirt is a good choice when matching elegant clothes. In addition to ready-to-wear options (which often fail to fully reflect their potential), brands and companies have recently emerged in the industry, claiming to focus on wrinkle-free shirts. 

This is an interesting phenomenon, to say the least because the custom shirt manufacturers they provide have not provided them for several years. These special shirts are made with a square hem, cut short, and become slimmer, similar to the silhouette of a T-shirt, usually ignoring the rest of the above. That’s why it’s so important to choose clothing experts like Nimble Made.

In fact, custom shirt manufacturers have been investing more and more money to provide the latest styles of traditional formal shirts, including non-wrinkle styles. Here at Nimble Made, we help you choose the right length while adjusting other sizes according to your personal body shape. We also provide a variety of fabrics and style options to customize your shirt to your liking.


Frequently asked questions about the hem of a shirt

1. What are the different types of hemlines?

There are five main types of hems:

- Double-folded hem.
- Hem narrowly rolled.
- Tape hem with bias.
- Blind hem.
- Overlocked or zig-zag hems.

2. What does shaped hem mean?

Dressmakers may apply a dressmaker's hem to heavy fabrics with deep hems - an additional line of running thread is placed in the middle of the hem to ensure that the cloth does not hang entirely on one line of stitching.

3. What is an uneven hem called?

The information in this article was taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. High-low skirts, also known as asymmetrical skirts, waterfall skirts, or mullets, have a high front hem and a low back hem.

4. What does straight hem mean?

Most casual shirts feature straight hems, especially those worn untucked. As the name implies, it is cut straight across the bottom of the shirt, with 2.5" vents at each side seam.

5. What is a single turned hem?

A single fold hem is created by folding the cloth over itself and sewing it in place. Single fold hems are typically employed when the backside of the fabric will not be accessible or visible in the completed item due to the fact that the cut edge of the fabric remains visible on the back of the fabric after the hem is stitched.

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