Sweaters For Men: Seven Key Areas of Fit

Today, I was going to talk about measuring men, but after what Franklin said on Monday, I'm a little hesitant to just jump right in getting you gents to measure your biceps for me. I mean, we've barely met. But hey. It's what I do. And you manly folk deserve to have great-fitting sweaters, too, right? Yup. So shake hands and let's get down to business.

Recently, a young man approached me at a yarn shop and asked for help "upsizing" and fitting a pullover. He was a big dude (and handsome, with a charming southern accent, and yes in fact, I am married so nevermind), and took great pride in knitting–and wearing–his own handknit garments. But he had some "challenge areas" in terms of sweater fit: He had extra weight across his upper back; he was large in the belly, but not in the chest. If he made the sweater to fit his chest measurement, it hung loose over his chest, stretched tightly across his back, and clung uncomfortably to his belly and hips.

Sound familiar? No mystery here.
Men have bust measurements too, although knitting patterns refer to these as "chest" measurements. They have hips and waists. And sometimes, men need shaping to help their garments fit over generous bellies, buff chests, and other wild, untamed bits of manly landscape.

Measuring Men: Key Areas of Fitjazz man

The key difference between men's fashions and women's fashions is: Women's fashions are designed for curves, and men's are designed for straight lines. (In General, folks. I just covered seven thousand years of fashion history in those thirteen words, so there's gonna be some wiggle room, particularly around the Renaissance period.) Either way, curved or straight, male or female, the lines of a given knitting pattern may not match YOUR lines, and that is where careful measuring and comparison to the schematic is useful.

When knitting for men, there are seven key areas of fit to consider:

(For grammatical sanity purposes I am speaking as though the knitter is a woman measuring a man; those of you knitters who are men knitting for yourself please forgive the limitations of the language and translate appropriately. I know you are out there, Brother Knitters, I just have to pick a pronoun and stick with it!)

Sleeve length: Measure from shoulder seam to wrist. Some folks like to do this one with his arm outstretched; I prefer to do it with the arm down at his side, so that the muscular curve over the top of his shoulder gets accounted for.

Armhole to neck opening: This is the place where you find out how broad or narrow his shoulders are. Measure across the top of the shoulder, where the shoulder seam goes.

Neck opening: No dude likes to wear something that chokes him–or makes him look like a chicken neck! Measure a favorite sweatshirt of his and compare to the schematic.

Armhole depth: Give those biceps and triceps some room! But not too much room, or it will just add bulk at his upper chest (unless that is something he needs). Again, a favorite sweater or sweatshirt of his will give you some help here.

Hip circumference: Also known as "the widest part of the lower torso." This includes his belly and backside. If the gent's widest bit isn't technically at his hips, but a bit higher or lower, measure the widest part so you know how big to make the biggest part of his sweater.

Chest circumference: This is the base measurement for most sweater patterns. For guys, this is measured exactly like for the gals: Over the fullest part of his chest. If it isn't clear just where this is, then wrap the tape measure around his chest loosely, and slide it up and down his chest a bit until the numbers tell the tale. Oh, and tell Mr. Handsome to breathe normally when you measure: there's no point in holding his breath! He wouldn't want a sweater that tight anyways.

Total length: Too short, and a perfectly good sweater can make any guy look silly instead of svelte; too long, and it can make him look sloppy instead of suave. Start by considering a length that hits him a couple of inches above the crotch and then adjust for his own physique.

There is nothing more charming, nor more breathtakingly handsome, than the sight of a man in a well-fitting handknit sweater.

Friday: What to do with those "areas of challenge" in manly sweaters.

Want more help knitting for the male of the species?

In her book Men In Knits, Tara Jon Manning has an entire thirty-six pages of tips for fitting and flattering Mr. Handsome. She even has worksheets you can copy and fill out to help you find exactly the right fit. Tara takes you through things like discovering a guy's personal style and determining his body type; she then gives suggestions for which sweater styles are most flattering to each type. The second part of the book has more than 20 classic sweater patterns to choose from! Learn more.


What's on Sandi's needles? Hm. I have run into an interesting adjustment issue in the Camisa…I am puzzling it out and will report shortly. Meanwhile, I finished a pair of socks for myself. I love socks. And I'm going to need lots of them here!

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, follow her tweets: alpacasandi.


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15 thoughts on “Sweaters For Men: Seven Key Areas of Fit

  1. Hooray!! Go, Sandi–go, Sandi!! I am SO happy to see Knitting Daily acknowledge that, not only do men need sweaters that fit, but that we might also be knitting our OWN sweaters, too!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Can’t wait ’til Friday for the tips on achieving proper fit for “manly sweaters!”

  2. Yes please! My husbands back makes his sweaters point right out in the hem in the back. The back of the sweater seems too short then, but when measured it has the proper length.
    I cant figure out where the problem is placed or how to solve it.

  3. Thanks, I appreciate the most of the information, but I would like more information on some topics than “find a favorite sweater or sweatshirt” and measure. There are two problems with that: 1) Sweatshirts usually are very baggy around the armholes making saggy sweaters and if the armhole is too large it tends to cause problems when the man lifts his arms, and 2) Sweaters often don’t fit properly (which is one reason people want help fitting) so there isn’t a good measurement to work from. Please more help on armhole depth (especially) and necklines.

  4. Really happy to see the article on fitting men’s sweaters. This came on a particularly nasty day as I had to move 50% of my stash plus many ufo’s with a lot of people staring at what was there. I now resolve not to keep any of my stash in the only place in the house that has attic access. And maybe with these nw measurements, a couple of the ufo’s may change their status.

  5. “There is nothing more charming, nor more breathtakingly handsome, than the sight of a man in a well-fitting handknit sweater.”

    Hear, hear! The first one I made for my movie-star husband (he’s not really an actor, but honestly, he should be) was a simple “box” hooded sweater that I knit from a free pattern. I worked on it in the dead of night and early morning so he wouldn’t see it, and when I had finished I held it up and was so disappointed I almost didn’t give it to him. It was a box! Completely square, right down to the sleeves.

    But when he put it on, there was magic. It looks fantastic on him! So fantastic that girls spontaneously throw themselves at his feet when he goes to campus. (Not kidding.) Other sweaters where I’ve tried to be good about measuring, though, don’t hold a candle to the box. I guess that’s just the way he’s shaped?

  6. Sandy – I don’t know how you do it, but you always find a great topic to write about …… how many times have I thought I should knit my hubby (or sons) a sweater and then stop dead in my tracks cause they are all a slightly different size. oh boy, this comes at a really good time for me.

    Thank you again – I think you are reading my mind !!!!! (I’d love to be a fly on the wall when you have brainstorming sessions) lol

  7. After knitting for my husband of 35 years and dealing with several “fit” problems (he’s very tall and has a spinal curvature) you would think I’d have measurements written down someplace safe. I never can seem to find them when I want them and always have to remeasure for each project!!! It’s always nice to know we are in good company.

  8. Hi Sandy,
    I think that oit would help alot if you showed an outline of where to get the measurement. For example total length , if the guy has a bit of curved back, then the length should be longer in the back. As for the armohole dept, sweatshirts or other sweaters are never fitted properly, espcially if the sweater has to fit under a jacket.
    Did you do a similar topic on women, if yes, I missed it. Where can I retreive it.
    Thanks TR

  9. Great topic as I gear up for gift knitting. I’d like to apply this information to sweater fitting, and the instruction reference a “schematic”. Where can I find the schematic?

  10. The “challenge areas” caught my eye. I have been making vests (those and hats are the only knitted things he will wear) for years. The extra weight/muscular structure across the upper back/shoulder area was a significant problem until I tried using short rows. They work perfectly and the vests now hang at the same length in front and back. The directions were written down and have now been used for over twenty years. Looking forward to Friday’s post!

  11. Thank you Sandy! This is a great article. Getting sweaters to fit is one of my biggest challenges. Getting my husband to sit down long enough to look at a prospective pattern is the second, so perhaps I do need to invest in this book. Thanks and stay warm up there in Canada!

  12. Speaking of men’s knits, I have a request from my son for a “really warm–could it be two layers?–winter hat for him to wear on campus. He has been wearing two hats at a time when winter really sets in. Any suggesions, anyone?

    Also, could we see a column about men’s accessories, especially hats/scarves? 🙂

  13. Has anyone addressed this? My husband is 6’4″ and a pretty big guy. What are the measurements for the sweaters in the book, and does anyone know of a book or web site with “big and tall” patterns for men? He wants a sweater, but it would have to be fairly lightweight, not bulky, as he gets overheated easily.