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How to Measure Shoulder Width

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Written by Tanya Zhang

Knowing how to measure shoulder width ensures that you’ll get better-fitting clothing. Whether a blazer, dress shirt, or jacket, your shoulder width plays a significant role in finding better fitting clothes.

The best part is that measuring your shoulder width is quick and easy. In fact, we’re going to walk you through the process step-by-step. We have separate guides for how to measure sleeve length. By the end, you will be equipped to take an accurate number of your shoulder width.


Importance of Shoulder Measurement for Men

Shoulder measurement is an important aspect of men's fashion and clothing because it can have a significant impact on the overall fit and appearance of a shirt. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Proper fit: The shoulders are one of the most important areas to measure when it comes to clothing because they are the foundation of the garment. A well-fitting shirt should sit comfortably on the shoulders and allow for a full range of motion. More here on how a dress shirt should fit.

  2. Visual balance: The width of the shoulders can have a significant impact on the overall appearance of a man's body. The right shoulder measurement can help create a visually balanced and proportionate look, which can be important for both formal and casual attire.

  3. Confidence: Wearing a properly fitting garment can help a man feel more confident and comfortable in his own skin. When a shirt fits well, it can enhance natural features and create a flattering silhouette.

  4. Professional image: In certain professions, such as business or law, a well-tailored suit or blazer paired with a crisp white or blue dress shirt can be essential for projecting a professional image. Shoulder measurement is a crucial part of achieving a polished and put-together look.

Getting measuring shoulder width and finding the best fit can impact the fit, appearance, and overall confidence of the wearer.

visual infographic on how to measure shoulder width for men with measuring tape

Getting Started: Measuring Shoulder Width

When taking measurements for clothing, it’s almost always better to have a helping hand. This is especially true with shoulder width. While it’s possible to measure your shoulders from the front, your measurement will be more accurate when it’s taken from the back.

As such, you’ll likely need some help to complete this process. When you’re ready to proceed, follow Step 1 to get started.

mens shoulder width example

Step 1: Wear a Good Fitting Shirt

Unlike how to measure chest size, you don’t need to be shirtless to measure your shoulder width. In fact, the opposite is true. Wearing a slim fit dress shirt will actually assist you in getting an accurate width.

It’s certainly not a necessity, but the shirt can be used as guide points, thereby making measuring easier. 

Step 2: Stand in a Natural Position

Before taking your shoulder measurement, it’s important to make sure your shoulders are relaxed and in a natural position. Also, your back needs to be straight without tensing your shoulders.

If this position doesn’t come naturally to you, relax your shoulders as best you can. When you keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed, you are sure to get the most accurate measurement possible.

The slightest arching or tensing will only serve to throw off the placement of your measuring tape, thus affecting your true shoulder width. 

Step 3: Locate Shoulder Seams on Shirt

shoulder seams for how to measure shoulder width

When ready, you want to find your shoulder points. Known as the acromion bones, these are the pointy parts or the shoulder seams. It’s also the point where your arms meet your shoulders.

Once again, your shirt can serve as a guide for finding these points as long as it fits well. Dress shirts are marked with stitching where the shoulder seams are located. What’s more, there should be seams on the back of your shirt that match up with the shoulder points.

If the shirt you’re wearing doesn’t provide the best fit, make the necessary adjustments from one shoulder seam to the other until the shirt is just right. Then, you can use your tape measure to record the proper length. 

Step 4: Measure from Shoulder Point to Point

When you’re ready, measure the distance between your two shoulder points. The person taking the measurement needs to place the tape flat against your back. Be sure that the measuring tape lays flat the entire time, as this will ensure an accurate measurement.

Next, place the starting end of the tape measure on top of one shoulder point and stretch the measuring tape across your back to the other shoulder point. You now have your shoulder width.

Step 5: Follow Upper Portion of Back

Before you record your measurement, there are a couple of things to consider. When measuring, it’s important to make sure that the tape follows the upper portion of your back. Unfortunately, measuring shoulder width can be subjective so you can also find a average shoulder width measurement by recording a few tries.

As such, the tape is likely to curve outward slightly. This is because it should be following the broadest point between your shoulders. If you need help finding the right section of your back to measure across, try measuring one to two inches below your neckline or, as mentioned earlier, take an average shoulder width instead.

Step 6: Record Shoulder Width

With your tape on each shoulder point, you now have your shoulder width measurement. This method is ideal for ensuring that your upper articles of clothing fit comfortably. 

Be sure to save your measurement, as it will come in handy when you shop for new clothes. Combined with your other measurements, you can look forward to wearing clothing that complements your body perfectly. 

mens shoulder width

Alternative Method to Measuring Shoulder Width

You can also get a relatively accurate shoulder width measurement with one of your shirts. Simply lay your shirt on a flat surface with the back facing up. Using the same steps from above, measure the distance between shoulder points and record your total.

When measuring with this method, your tape should be perfectly flat against your shirt. Furthermore, you want to make sure that your tape remains level throughout the process. 

If one side is lower than the other, it will result in you getting an inaccurate measurement.


With your shoulder width in hand, you can now invest in the proper clothing based on your exact measurement. Finding the right neck size, sleeve length, and waist measurement will get you closer to the best fitting clothes. Blazers and shirts will look better than ever while providing you with a comfortable, precise fit.

Frequently asked questions about how to measure shoulder width

What is the normal shoulder width?

Shoulder width can vary widely depending on a person's height, weight, body type, and genetics. However, according to some studies and clothing industry standards, the average shoulder width for adult men in the US is approximately 18-20 inches (45-50 cm)

Is 18 inch shoulders broad?

An 18-inch shoulder width for an adult male would generally be considered on the broader side. However, it's important to note that what is considered "broad" can vary.

How is shoulder width divided?

Shoulder width is typically measured from the outside edge of one shoulder to the outside edge of the other shoulder. It is divided into two main components: skeletal width and muscular width.

How do I know if I have broad shoulders?

Compare the width of your shoulders to the width of your hips and waist. Typically, if your shoulder width is equal to or greater than the width of your hips, you would be considered to have broad shoulders.