What Does True to Size Mean? (In Shoes and Clothing)

The term “true to size” originated in the shoe industry and has carried over to the garment industry. Also known as TTS, many people ask us: what does true to size mean?

True to size means that the shoes or clothing is sized accurately according to the industry standard. In shoes, it means it follows the measurements on the Brannock device. In clothing, it means that it follows the standard ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) sizes.

In this post, we will answer everything you need to know about what “true to size” means in shoes and clothing. By taking the time to understand the term, you will have better confidence when buying shoes and clothing online.

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What Does True to Size Mean in Shoes?

“True to size” means that the shoe’s length, width, and arch measurements are in direct proportion to the measurement on the Brannock device (the foot measuring tool).

The Brannock device is used to accurately measure the size of your feet.

The term “true to size” can also mean that the shoes don’t run big or small. It is important for shoe buyers because shoe sizes vary from brand to brand. To help you understand the terms better, here are three examples in real life:

  • 1/2 Size Small: This means the shoe runs small. For example, if your regular size is 10 then you’ll want a 10.5 for shoes that run 1/2 size small.
  • 1/2 Size Large: This means the shoe runs large. For example, if your regular size is 10 then you’ll want a 9.5 for shoes that run 1/2 size large.
  • Fits True to Size: This means the shoe runs true to size. If your regular size is 10 then you’ll want a 10 in shoes that run true to size.

Put simply, when shoes run big it means that the shoe tends to be slightly bigger than what it’s said to be. When shoes run small, it means that the shoe tends to be slightly smaller than what it’s said to be.

So when you are shopping for shoes and sneakers, be mindful that they can run big or small. If you find “true to size” shoes, you can safely buy the size according to your exact measurement on the Brannock device.

How to Measure Your Feet Using the Brannock Device

To get the most accurate measurement of your foot, the Brannock device measures three different areas:

  1. Length of the foot
  2. Width of the foot
  3. Arch length (distance from the heel to the ball of the foot)

Most Brannock devices have two measurements in place, one for men and one for women.

To measure your foot with a Brannock device, you need to stand. If you can’t stand, then you need to sit while keeping your legs at a 90° angle. Once you are in the right position, here’s how to measure your feet:

  1. Measure the length of your foot – Start by placing the heel of your foot all the way back in the heel cup of the Brannock device. Find the farthest point of your foot from the heel and note the number.
  2. Measure the width of your foot – Similar to measuring the length, measure the width by noting the number on the horizontal plane. Foot width is measured by alphabets. 
  3. Measure the arch length – For measuring arch length, you need to make sure the slider is exactly besides the first ball of your foot, cupping it firmly. 

Once you have the right measurement for your foot, you can buy the shoes that fit your size. This is where the term “true to size” comes in. If a shoe is true to size, it will perfectly fit the measurements on the Brannock device.

What Does True to Size Mean in Clothing?

When it comes to clothing, defining what “true to size” means is more difficult simply because most companies don’t follow the industry standard for sizes. Each brand and manufacturer decides how “big” the Small, Medium, and Large are.

But we’ll do our best to define it for you.

What does true to size mean in clothing? In clothing, “true to size” means that ready-to-wear clothing follows the standard ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) measurement and sizes.

It also means that ready-to-wear clothing of the same nominal size stays the same over time, not becoming bigger in physical size (a phenomenon called vanity sizing or size inflation).

Vanity Sizing and Size Inflation

Vanity sizing is the practice of labeling clothing with sizes smaller than the item’s measurements and industry standards would indicate.

Over the years, the clothing industry has been riddled with vanity sizing or size inflation. This is especially true in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Here’s what Jim Lovejoy, the industry director for the SizeUSA survey said to Newsweek:

“According to standard size measurements, that average 155 pound woman should be wearing a size 16, but thanks to vanity sizing, she’s probably buying a size 10 or 12. Most companies aren’t using the standard ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) sizes any more. Sizes have been creeping up a half-inch at a time so that women can fit into smaller sizes and feel good about it.”

We like to think of vanity sizing as self-delusion on a mass scale. Women over the age of 40 can wear a smaller size than what she did 20

We like to think of vanity sizing as self-delusion on a mass scale. Women over the age of 40 can wear a smaller size than what they did 20 years ago.

After all, a lot of women’s clothing is sized accordingly to what a woman thinks she is.  So, a size 12 a decade ago is now miraculously a 6.

Vanity sizing, however, does have its drawbacks. Smaller women nowadays who might be a standard size 4 may need to find clothing that is sized in the negative numbers.

To summarize, it’s hard to determine “true to size” in clothing because it is up to the manufacturer how to size their clothing.

Unlike units of measure like ounces or inches, garment sizes are approximate and no two items of the same style and size will be exactly the same. So when it comes to clothing, your best bet is to try them on and see if it fits you well.

Bottom Line

And there you go, the complete answer to the question: what does true to size mean?

Many people fear buying things online simply because they are afraid that the shoes and clothing they buy may not fit them correctly. Hopefully, by understanding what “true to size” means, you can have better confidence in buying products when you can’t try them on.

Fortunately, most shoes and sneakers are “true to size”. But when it comes to clothing, your best bet is to try them on and see if it fits your body well.

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