Q and Answer: Where Can I Find Odd-Sized Suits?
Mike asks: Where can I find odd/less common suit sizes (my natural fit is a 45r, which is quite difficult to find)?
Some companies size more specifically than others. Some use S-M-L-XL sizing (blech!), some just go with even number chest sizing (36-38-40), some add short and long sizes and some go whole hog with odd numbers in the mix as well. The very best even offer semi-tall sizing off the rack.
Your best bet for odd sizes are traditional American retailers like Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart. They consistently carry these sizes up to 46 or so.
After that, consider European-sized coats. You’ll find that the sizing translations are rough, since “subtract ten” rule of thumb is inexact. A size 52 Euro, for example, is actually a size 41, though it’s likely to be labeled a 42. A 54 Euro is about a 42 1/2. You can learn more about how the conversions work here.
And of course there’s always the classic backup option: alterations. Buy something very slightly too large, and have it altered. Remember that the portion of a jacket that’s above the armholes is really tough to alter, but the waist is pretty manageable.
One good bit of news: when you have an unusual size, eBay can really be your friend. Strange sizes mean less inventory, but also much less competition. The odds that someone else is searching for a 45R coat and likes the one you like are relatively slim, so you have a shot at some great bargains in an auction context.

Q and Answer: Where Can I Find Odd-Sized Suits?

Mike asks: Where can I find odd/less common suit sizes (my natural fit is a 45r, which is quite difficult to find)?

Some companies size more specifically than others. Some use S-M-L-XL sizing (blech!), some just go with even number chest sizing (36-38-40), some add short and long sizes and some go whole hog with odd numbers in the mix as well. The very best even offer semi-tall sizing off the rack.

Your best bet for odd sizes are traditional American retailers like Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart. They consistently carry these sizes up to 46 or so.

After that, consider European-sized coats. You’ll find that the sizing translations are rough, since “subtract ten” rule of thumb is inexact. A size 52 Euro, for example, is actually a size 41, though it’s likely to be labeled a 42. A 54 Euro is about a 42 1/2. You can learn more about how the conversions work here.

And of course there’s always the classic backup option: alterations. Buy something very slightly too large, and have it altered. Remember that the portion of a jacket that’s above the armholes is really tough to alter, but the waist is pretty manageable.

One good bit of news: when you have an unusual size, eBay can really be your friend. Strange sizes mean less inventory, but also much less competition. The odds that someone else is searching for a 45R coat and likes the one you like are relatively slim, so you have a shot at some great bargains in an auction context.

Width Down, Size Up, That’s the Way We Like To …
… sometimes shop for shoes. That’s because “unusual” sizes are often discounted the most during sale season (or, comparably, end at the lowest prices on eBay). Most people have fairly standard sized feet, but did you know you can fiddle with your shoe size and still find things that fit you? To understand how this works, you have to know something about width measurements. 
Shoes come in two measurements – the length and the width. The length is usually a number and the width is an alphabetic letter. My own shoe size, for example, is 9D in the US and 8E in the UK (UK sizes are typically one size down from US sizes). The letters D and E here mean a standard width for someone with a size 9 or 8 length foot. 
However, the term “width” is a bit of a misnomer. On face value, it measures the width at the ball of your foot. But this isn’t the only thing that changes when you size up or down in width. As is the nature of “grading” in ready-to-wear, changing the size of one measurement will increase the size of everything else as well, so that proportions are maintained. Just as when you size up on a shirt collar and get a fuller torso and chest, sizing up in width will actually increase the overall volume of the shoe. That is, the overall circumference around the ball of the shoe increases. You can see this demonstrated in these charts. In this way, it’s perhaps most accurate to think of width as “fittings.” Size up a width, and the circumference at the ball of the shoe increases, thus increasing volume. Size down a width, and the circumference shrinks, thus decreasing volume.   
Sometimes, width doesn’t even mean increasing the width at all. It might only mean increasing the circumference and volume. Many, if not most, manufacturers use the same sole pattern for at least two widths. So for the “smaller” width, the last – which is the wooden form that a shoe’s leather is pulled over in order to take a certain shape – gets shallower, not narrower. In these cases, width only measures volume, not actual width.
Knowing this, you can adjust your shoe sizing and still find something that will fit. Size up a width and down a length to get the same volume; or size down a width and up a length to do the same. Last year, for example, I really wanted a certain pair of black oxfords, but my usual size in this model (8E) always sells out during sale season. So, I sized down to a 7.5 and increased the width to an EE (which in the UK is the slightly bigger size than E). Few people are shopping for a size 7.5EE, so I was able to snag a perfectly fitting pair at a good discount. 
I’m reluctant to say this trick will always work, but as of yet, I’ve never found a case where it hasn’t for me. So, if given the opportunity to shop for wider or narrower shoes, sometimes give them a try, and just adjust your length sizing. You might find something on steep discount that still fits you well. 
* Many thanks to Rolf Holzapfel for help with this post.

Width Down, Size Up, That’s the Way We Like To …

… sometimes shop for shoes. That’s because “unusual” sizes are often discounted the most during sale season (or, comparably, end at the lowest prices on eBay). Most people have fairly standard sized feet, but did you know you can fiddle with your shoe size and still find things that fit you? To understand how this works, you have to know something about width measurements.

Shoes come in two measurements – the length and the width. The length is usually a number and the width is an alphabetic letter. My own shoe size, for example, is 9D in the US and 8E in the UK (UK sizes are typically one size down from US sizes). The letters D and E here mean a standard width for someone with a size 9 or 8 length foot.

However, the term “width” is a bit of a misnomer. On face value, it measures the width at the ball of your foot. But this isn’t the only thing that changes when you size up or down in width. As is the nature of “grading” in ready-to-wear, changing the size of one measurement will increase the size of everything else as well, so that proportions are maintained. Just as when you size up on a shirt collar and get a fuller torso and chest, sizing up in width will actually increase the overall volume of the shoe. That is, the overall circumference around the ball of the shoe increases. You can see this demonstrated in these charts. In this way, it’s perhaps most accurate to think of width as “fittings.” Size up a width, and the circumference at the ball of the shoe increases, thus increasing volume. Size down a width, and the circumference shrinks, thus decreasing volume.  

Sometimes, width doesn’t even mean increasing the width at all. It might only mean increasing the circumference and volume. Many, if not most, manufacturers use the same sole pattern for at least two widths. So for the “smaller” width, the last – which is the wooden form that a shoe’s leather is pulled over in order to take a certain shape – gets shallower, not narrower. In these cases, width only measures volume, not actual width.

Knowing this, you can adjust your shoe sizing and still find something that will fit. Size up a width and down a length to get the same volume; or size down a width and up a length to do the same. Last year, for example, I really wanted a certain pair of black oxfords, but my usual size in this model (8E) always sells out during sale season. So, I sized down to a 7.5 and increased the width to an EE (which in the UK is the slightly bigger size than E). Few people are shopping for a size 7.5EE, so I was able to snag a perfectly fitting pair at a good discount. 

I’m reluctant to say this trick will always work, but as of yet, I’ve never found a case where it hasn’t for me. So, if given the opportunity to shop for wider or narrower shoes, sometimes give them a try, and just adjust your length sizing. You might find something on steep discount that still fits you well.

* Many thanks to Rolf Holzapfel for help with this post.

Q and Answer: Converting European Sizes to American Sizes for Jackets and Pants
Ryan asks: Why in the hell are US sizes always exactly 10 under the Euro size. Is that totally arbitrary?
Most buyers use a quick rule of thumb when converting from European to US sizing - just subtract ten. It generally works well enough, but it isn’t actually a perfectly accurate conversion. US and European measuring systems are actually measuring slightly different things, and they’re also using different units.
American jacket sizes correspond to the circumference of the wearer’s chest. If you’ve got a 42 inch chest, then you wear a size 42. (A size 42 jacket, by the way, will usually measure about 44 inches in chest circumference because of room for motion and so forth.) Similarly, American pants sizes correspond to the circumference of the waist - a size 38 pant should have a roughly 38 inch waistband.
Traditional European sizes are slightly different.
A European size 54 jacket represents a jacket for a chest that is 108 cm around (or 54 cm across) - that’s about 42 1/2 inches. Do the same math with a size 48E and you get a chest of about 37.8 inches - almost exact. In other words, the “subtract ten” rule mostly applies, but it’s not perfect.
Pants are a little trickier. European pant sizes are based not on the waist size, but rather the hip size. A size 54 represents a man with a 108 cm circumference around the largest part of his rear. That is usually a waist of around 36 or 38 inches - much smaller than 44, of course. Generally you’ll want to add about 16 to your US size, but that varies a bit for the same reasons the jacket sizes do.
When it comes to shirts, Europe generally prefers just a single size - a neck size in centimeters. European shirts typically come with longer sleeves, which can be taken up as necessary.
Hopefully this explanation is helpful… the real rule of thumb is: TRY IT ON.

Q and Answer: Converting European Sizes to American Sizes for Jackets and Pants

Ryan asks: Why in the hell are US sizes always exactly 10 under the Euro size. Is that totally arbitrary?

Most buyers use a quick rule of thumb when converting from European to US sizing - just subtract ten. It generally works well enough, but it isn’t actually a perfectly accurate conversion. US and European measuring systems are actually measuring slightly different things, and they’re also using different units.

American jacket sizes correspond to the circumference of the wearer’s chest. If you’ve got a 42 inch chest, then you wear a size 42. (A size 42 jacket, by the way, will usually measure about 44 inches in chest circumference because of room for motion and so forth.) Similarly, American pants sizes correspond to the circumference of the waist - a size 38 pant should have a roughly 38 inch waistband.

Traditional European sizes are slightly different.

A European size 54 jacket represents a jacket for a chest that is 108 cm around (or 54 cm across) - that’s about 42 1/2 inches. Do the same math with a size 48E and you get a chest of about 37.8 inches - almost exact. In other words, the “subtract ten” rule mostly applies, but it’s not perfect.

Pants are a little trickier. European pant sizes are based not on the waist size, but rather the hip size. A size 54 represents a man with a 108 cm circumference around the largest part of his rear. That is usually a waist of around 36 or 38 inches - much smaller than 44, of course. Generally you’ll want to add about 16 to your US size, but that varies a bit for the same reasons the jacket sizes do.

When it comes to shirts, Europe generally prefers just a single size - a neck size in centimeters. European shirts typically come with longer sleeves, which can be taken up as necessary.

Hopefully this explanation is helpful… the real rule of thumb is: TRY IT ON.