How to Measure Shoulder Width

how to measure shoulder width men's

Written by Tanya Zhang

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

The best part is that measuring your shoulders 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.

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.
    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. Browse business dress shirts and bestselling dress shirts from Nimble Made.

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

visual infographic on measuring 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

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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 measuring 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 the tips of your shoulders where your shoulder meets your arm.

Once again, your shirt can serve as a guide for finding these points as long as it fits well, especially around your upper arm. Dress shirts are marked with stitching where each shoulder seam is 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 measuring tape to record the proper length. 

Step 4: Measure from Shoulder Point to Point

When you’re ready, measure the distance between each shoulder seam. The person taking the measurement needs to place the measuring 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 measuring tape 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 measuring 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 measure 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, especially around the upper arms, and not peak out too far over your own shoulder muscle or shoulder blades.

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 shape perfectly. 

mens shoulder width

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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.

Is There an Average Shoulder Width?

The average shoulder width for adult males is generally around 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 cm), measured from acromion to acromion, the outermost points of the shoulder bones. Back shoulder width is the standard measurement, while front shoulder width is much less common.

The average shoulder width can vary due to several factors, including genetics, age, and ethnicity. For instance, shoulder width tends to increase slightly with age during the growth years and can be influenced by physical activity levels, particularly exercises that build the deltoid and upper back muscles. Ethnic and genetic backgrounds also play a significant role in determining bone structure and thus shoulder width.

In addition to these biological factors, posture can affect perceived shoulder width. Poor posture, such as rounded shoulders, can make the shoulders appear narrower, while good posture can enhance the appearance of broader shoulders.

Overall, shoulder width is a combination of skeletal structure and muscular development, making it a distinctive and varied physical trait among individuals. It's a key aspect of male body proportions, contributing to the V-shaped torso often considered desirable in terms of physical aesthetics.

Conclusion

With this standard measurement in hand, you can now invest in the proper clothing based on your exact shoulder measurements. Finding the right body measurements, such as 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.

For more on body measurements, check out our separate guides on how to measure neck sizehow to measure your chest, and how to measure pants, trousers, jeans, and more.

Frequently asked questions about measuring shoulder width

What shoulder width is considered broad?

Broad shoulders are typically considered to be those where the biacromial width (distance between the acromion processes of each shoulder blade) exceeds 18 inches (45.7 cm) for men and 16 inches (40.6 cm) for women. This measurement varies with body size and overall proportions, but these values are generally accepted as the benchmark for broad shoulders.

Is 18 inch shoulders broad?

Eighteen-inch shoulders are generally considered broad, particularly for women. For men, this width varies more significantly with height and build, but 18 inches still indicates a wider frame. In both cases, an above average shoulder width can enhance a strong, athletic appearance. However, the perception of broadness also depends on overall body proportions and individual context.

How do you measure shoulder width without tape measure?

To measure the width of your shoulders without a tape measure, use a piece of string or ribbon. Stand in front of a mirror, hold one end of the string at the outer edge of one shoulder, and extend it to the outer edge of the other shoulder. Mark the points on the string where your shoulders end, then measure the length of the string against a ruler or any standard object like a book or piece of paper with known dimensions. This will give you an accurate estimate of your shoulder width without a tape measure.

What bones determine shoulder width?

Shoulder width is primarily determined by the width of the clavicles (collarbones) and the scapulae (shoulder blade). The clavicles extend horizontally across the front of the thorax, connecting the sternum to the scapulae, which are located on the back of the thorax. The positioning and length of these bones, along with the associated musculature, define the overall breadth of the shoulders. Here is a guide on how to measure hips.

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