We deal in t-shirts and custom apparel every day, so we're pretty familiar with sizing trends and have some pointers to help you select a size distribution that will help you avoid ending up with a bunch of shirts you can't get rid of.
When it’s time to place an order with an array of different sized t-shirts, it's sometimes tempting to say: "let's just do 50 of each size." The problem with that is that you're pretty likely to end up with inventory you don't need or worse: running out of the sizes you actually need.
What Are the Most Common Shirt Sizes Sold?
Below is a chart showing the average distribution of sizes purchased, based on a sample of 15,000 orders collected from around the United States. Source: Dizzyjam
You can tell that the majority of the sizes are medium and large. Because shirt sizing can vary by brand, we do recommend the following breakdown that skews a little more toward the XL size. Remember, you can still wear a shirt that's too big but a shirt that's too small usually ends up in the donation pile.
Our Recommend Size Breakdown
An easy way to remember the formula as represented in the chart above goes like this, based on a total of 10:
S – M – L – XL – 2XL = 1 – 2 – 3 – 3 – 1
For example, if you are getting 1,000 shirts, the breakdown would be:
100 (S) – 200 (M) – 300 (L) – 300 (XL) – 100 (2XL) = 1,000 shirts
We would encourage you to also add some sizes on both ends of the spectrum, with some XS and some 3XL, which are not accounted for in this ratio.
Keep in mind that shrinkage is a factor as well. If your shirts are all 100% cotton, you may want to encourage sizing up. If your shirts are 50/50 cotton/poly you don’t have to worry as much, and if your shirts are 100% polyester, shrinkage isn't a concern.
Another thing to consider is that many “fashion fit” styles run slightly smaller than their standard counterparts. On certain styles from Bella + Canvas and Next Level, for example, the cut may be tapered for a slimmer fit. Check with your sales rep if you are unsure about the cut of the particular shirt you are ordering.
Finally, think about your audience or demographic. Is it a local barbecue all-you-can-eat contest? You might want to go a bit larger. Is it a yoga retreat? Maybe tend on the smaller side. Is it band merch for fans in their 20’s? Go with the fashion fit.
Take all these things into consideration and you will make your customers, employees, family, and fans very happy.