Tallit size guide for first-time tallit buyers

8th May 2022

Tallit sizing leaves a lot of our customers a bit confounded. A really easy solution is to try out a tallit that fits you, send me the measurements and I'll tell you which size it is, since tallit sizing is largely standardized. But for a lot of people this is not an option, for whatever reason. Here's a fairly typical inquiry we received, from a fairly tall customer.

Hi! Shalom. I'm Jeff from North Carolina and my rabbi loves your Tallis Size Wizard. Okay, back to me. I'm a 6ft tall fellow who is confused about height and width because all my life I've worn a pleated bar mitzvah tallis and don't know from Ashkenazi tzitzis or knots, ateras [atarot] or stripes. I am now a 57-year-old man. I need a tallis for home use. Please Ben, only you and HaShem can help me now. Keep me kosher! Shavua tov, Jeff

First, I set out to explain to Jeff the "theoretical science fundamentals" of tallit sizing.

Primarily in Reform and Conservative circles it's common to find long, narrow tallits. They rest on the nape of the neck, wrap around the upper arms and all four corners hang in front. These are sort of one-size-fits-all. Just about anyone from 5'2" to 6'2" can manage with a size 24. They are also made in size 18 and size 36, but the length is the same. The change in width is primarily aesthetic. The problem with this type of tallit, from a halachic standpoint, is that you're supposed to be wrapped in a tallit (עיטוף). There are various approaches to how to accomplish that, but this type of tallit is not ideal.

Traditional-style tallits are also rectangular, but not so narrow. The ratio is around 3:4. And here's where it gets confusing, the "length" of the tallit is worn across the width of the wearer, and the "width" is what drapes down, covering the wearer from the neck down to the waist or lower. Different people might debate what should be called the width and what should be called the length. For clarity, I prefer to refer to "width" as the "height."

If the above just leaves you confused, you can safely ignore it.

If you want the type of tallit that bunches up on your shoulders and drapes down the back, that means you're looking at sizes 45 to 80.

Size 45 - XXS
Size 50 - XS
Size 55 - S
Size 60 - M
Size 70 - L
Size 80 XL

I'm 5'7" and I wear a size 60. It drapes down to the back of my knees (not including the tzitzit). So I estimate that a size 70 would fit like that on you.

But sizing is not fixed in stone: some people like a long, elegant look, whereas others prefer to go down one or two sizes down, because they want it more manageable to wear.

From one size to the next is a difference of four inches (except for the jump from size 70 to 80). So if a size 70 would drape down to the back of your knees, size 60 would hang down four inches higher.

Regarding the tzitzit, if you want a very safe bet, select hand-spun, medium, Ashkenazi tying.

As for the atara, every tallit comes with an atara (except the Chabad Tallit). So you don't need to worry about that.

Regarding the striping, that's really a matter of personal preference. Black is sort of a conservative default option, but some people want some color (e.g. blue striping or blue-silver, blue-gold, etc.)