Buying a dress shirt can be:




You want the perfect shirt but how do you know when you’ve found it?

Your girlfriend and a biased salesman aren’t the best people to rely on for expert advice.

How do you avoid leaving the mall with an empty wallet and shirts that don’t fit or look right?

That’s why today I’m showing you the 10 things to look for in a dress shirt.

Understand these and you’re good to go!

Click Here To Watch – 10 Golden Rules To Buying The Perfect Dress Shirt

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Nailing your collar’s look is vital because it is the most noticeable part of your clothing. Your collar sits directly below your face! A properly shaped straight collar accentuates your facial strengths and downplays any asymmetry.

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#1 Make The Distinction Between Dress Shirts & Casual Shirts

how to choose a quality dress shirt

A proper men’s dress shirt is a button-up shirt with a starched, rigid collar and long sleeves that end in wrist cuffs.

The most common kind of shirt often confused with a dress shirt is a casual, button-down sport shirt.

You might not see the difference in a fitting room when you are wearing jeans but I guarantee you will notice when you combine the shirt with a suit!

What is a button-down sport shirt?

This is a less formal shirt style recognized by its un-starched flexible collar fixed to the shirt with buttons. The collar is often deliberately cut too long for the shirt and bends or ‘rolls’.

don't look for rolled collar in a dress shirt

A more subtle tell is the placement of buttons on the placket. A casual sport shirt will have the first button below the collar lower down because it is designed to be worn open-necked without a tie. Showing a little more skin lets air in to keep you cool when you are active.

A dress shirt will have a higher button placement by contrast. If the first button below the collar shows almost no skin when unbuttoned it is likely a dress shirt.

This collar and shirt style originated from British officers playing polo in 19th Century India. They altered their shirts to have the collars buttoned down to stop them from flapping when riding at high speeds. Button-down shirts are inherently more casual than formal dress shirts as a result of this sporting heritage.

Don’t throw out your button-down sport shirts, just save them for smart-casual occasions when you are combining a sports jacket or blazer with odd trousers.

#2 Only Accept A Perfect Fit

choose a perfect fit in a quality dress shirt

Even a modestly-priced dress shirt can look like it was custom-made by a Savile Row tailor if you are able to nail the fit. How to tell?

First, use a suit that fits you:

  • Is ½-1 inch shirt cuff visible out the jacket sleeve?
  • Is ½-1 inch of shirt collar visible above jacket collar?

Next, ask yourself:

  • Do the shoulder points (seams) sit perfectly at the edge of your shoulder?
  • Does the shirt placket rest lightly against your ribcage?
  • Does the shirt follow your torso’s shape as it goes down? (Avoid the dreaded ‘muffin top’)
  • Can I fit a finger between the buttoned-up collar and my neck? (Shirts shrink slightly in the first 5 washes)
  • Are the armholes high enough for you to raise your arms? (Mobility is essential for comfort)

Putting in the time and finding a dress shirt that ticks all of these boxes will give you a shirt that is comfortable and looks amazing.

#3 Tuck Your Shirt In & Keep It Tucked In

how to choose a quality dress shirt

I don’t need to tell you a dress shirt needs to be tucked in, right?

Sometimes it’s easier said than done though. Some of a shirt’s fabric can sometimes work its way up out of your trousers and bunch around your waist over a long day of work. You start off the day looking great and by the time you’re home you have a muffin top.

There are two key ways of preventing this:

First, the best way of preventing this is to buy a dress shirt that is a traditional length. Modern shirtmakers sometimes try to save money by shortening their dress shirts. How do you know if a shirt is the right length? Relative to your height, a quality dress shirt should end several inches below your beltline.

Second, ensure that the bottom of a dress shirt has the classic, curved hem pictured above. A straight hem where the shirt ends in a perfectly horizontal line should be kept for casual shirts designed to be worn un-tucked.

#4 Keep Your Collar Rigid

using collar stays is a must to increase a shirt's lifespan

A dress shirt’s collar should be perfectly straight. It needs a little help to stay smart though.

Even a heavily starched collar will bend and deform over time if not properly maintained. That’s not very sharp-looking.

You need collar stays (also referred to as collar stiffeners or collar tabs sometimes). Look for a dress shirt with small sleeves on the inside of the collar where you can insert them.

Some shirts will come with thin plastic or stamped metal collar stays already in place. But guess what? They bend too!

Thick, premium collar stays are what will retain your collar’s shape and keep it looking great for years to come.

Now collar stays are a must to prevent ‘collar curl’. However, they only support the tips of your collar. For a dress shirt that looks truly high-quality, use a shirt collar support like Slick Collar’s.

Fitting under your whole collar, collar supports help the 98% of your collar not assisted by collar stays. This gives you a rigid, professional look all the way around your neck.

NOTE: You are not supposed to keep collar stays in when a shirt is being washed or ironed. You risk losing the stays or even damaging your shirt in extreme circumstances.

#5 Choose The Right Fabric

choose the right fabric for you when buying a dress shirt

The vast majority of dress shirts are made from 100% cotton or a blend of cotton and synthetic materials.

The story doesn’t end there though.

There are a number of different ways cotton can be woven into fabric for dress shirts. Each has a different level of formality and unique qualities you need to be aware of.

Life is short so I have put together the most common fabrics for you here. I have started with the most formal and ended with the most casual:

  • Poplin – Poplin has a smooth surface with a light, loose weave. The loose weave makes poplin ideal for spring and summer.
  • Twill – A shimmery and diagonal weave. Opt for twill if you want a shirt with texture.
  • Herringbone – a textured weave with distinct “V” shapes. Avoid multicolored weaves to keep this fabric formal. Herringbone is also a thick weave that lends itself well to fall and winter.
  • Broadcloth – A poplin-esque dense weave that results in a real workhorse fabric. Men will appreciate the versatility and affordability of this fabric.
  • Jacquard (less formal, expensive) – complex, textured
  • Pinpoint/Royal oxford (casual, expensive) – a smoother, lighter oxford
  • Oxford (more casual) – a simple, sturdy weave with light bumps in its surface

The best fabric for a dress shirt will depend on your office dress code and what you can afford. Also ask yourself if you will be hot or cold at work and on your commute. Do you ride a subway warm from overcrowding to a baking hot office? Or do you drive an air-conditioned car to an icy office?

#6 Understand Color, Stripes & Patterns

how to choose colors stripes patterns in a quality dress shirt

Dress Shirt Colors

Not all colors are made equally. A man starting out his dress shirt collection should aim for 80% of his shirts to be white, the most formal color, or light blue.

Once you have this foundation you are free to experiment with bolder colors, stripes and patterns. What colors would I recommend adding at this point?

Off-white/Ivory (good for caffeine addicts, smokers – also better complements brown suits)

  • Light gold
  • Light pink
  • French blue
  • Lavender

Striped Dress Shirts

Striped shirts are more casual than solid shirts but there’s a reason the New York Yankees wear them.

They mean business.

The general rule for striped dress shirts is the thinner the stripes, the more formal the shirt is.

There are four main styles of stripes on shirts. I have arranged them here from thinnest (most formal) to thickest (least formal):

  • Pencil stripe
  • Candy stripe
  • Bengal stripe
  • Awning stripe

TIP: Pattern on pattern rules for men’s clothes can be difficult. As a general rule, whatever stripe or pattern you choose for a dress shirt should be a different size to any patterns you have in your suit and tie.

Patterned Dress Shirts

How about patterns? Patterns will always be less formal than solid colors or stripes.

Which pattern is more formal than which pattern though leaves some room for interpretation. I have ordered them here roughly from most formal to least formal but if in doubt use common sense. If you are wearing this shirt to the office does your boss or a co-worker wear the same pattern? If so, you are probably OK to proceed.

  • Glen check
  • Graph check
  • Windowpane
  • Houndstooth
  • Gingham
  • Madras
  • Tattersall
  • Shepherd’s check
  • Dots
  • Tartan/Floral/Paisley

This is a lot to take in so below is a handy guide. Save this on your phone and take it with you to the store next time you buy dress shirts.

the most common stripes and patterns you will see in a menswear shop

#7 Pay Attention To Your Cuff

how to choose the right cuff on a quality dress shirt

Dress Shirt Cuff Fit

The cuff, along with a shirt’s collar, is one of the only parts of a shirt visible underneath a suit jacket. That’s why it’s imperative to:

  • Pay close attention to the details here.
  • Understand the significance of each option.

We have already covered the general fit of a dress shirt but here are some extra tips for this vital area:

  • Does the cuff fit close to your arm and wrist while allowing a little room?
  • Can you take off a dress shirt without unbuttoning the cuffs?
  • Can you fit your watch under the cuffs?

Dress Shirt Cuff Styles

Most menswear shops offer the single barrel (single-layered) button-up cuff as their standard option. This is adequate for the vast majority of business occasions but technically the least formal option. The single barrel cuff will work best for men working in relaxed, creative fields such as marketing where a minimal dress code is sometimes still required for the benefit of clients.

Another option you might see is the double French cuff: this cuff style is how most men wear cufflinks on a dress shirt. This is a doubled-over cuff you fold over to create two layers. It fastens with cufflinks instead of buttons. This is a step up in formality and is a more unusual option that will separate you from the crowd. I recommend the double French cuff for men working in traditional fields like the finance sector, law and medicine.

Many other cuff options have existed historically but today you are unlikely to find them outside of the made-to-measure and bespoke shirting industries. If you do go down this route what else can be found?

There is the double-barrelled cuff which you fold over but fasten with buttons. There is also the single French which logically is single-layered and fastens with cufflinks.

#8 Only Wear Flawless Dress Shirts

how to choose a quality dress shirt

To wear a formal dress shirt is to look as smart as a man possibly can (barring a tuxedo or morning suit). As a result, there is no room for half measures.

No stains or wrinkles can be tolerated. Your dress shirts should be spotlessly clean. They should also be freshly ironed and pressed.

Watch out for your white dress shirts in particular yellowing with time and wear.

One of the first areas on a shirt to show signs of distress is the points of the collars. The collar is designed to touch the shirt (avoid a ‘hovering collar’!) so don’t be alarmed. The collar rubbing slightly against the shirt is an inevitability.

A little wear and discoloration is practically invisible on a white dress shirt. But, let it go too far and it looks like you’re wearing a historical artifact that belongs in a museum. It is time to find a replacement.

#9 Don’t Overlook The Details

look for these details to identify a quality dress shirt

Telling a shirt’s quality at a glance is difficult even as a tailor myself. There are hallmarks of quality you can look for though that indicate a manufacturer is going the extra mile and is aiming to produce a high-quality garment. Here is what makes a quality shirt:

  • High-density stitching, as many as 14 per inch, will give a dress shirt a longer lifespan.
  • Single-needle side stitching reduces wrinkling and makes a dress shirt look smoother.
  • A split yoke on a shirt’s back balances uneven shoulder and helps the pattern on a shirt line up.
  • Mother of pearl buttons and their beautiful luster add a luxurious look.
  • A slimmer top button better facilitates a tie. This puts less pressure on your neck.
  • A shirt gusset is a small patch of fabric sewn onto the hem of a dress shirt that extends its lifespan by preventing it from tearing from the bottom upwards.

The more of these details you find on a shirt, the better its quality is. Use this to identify high-quality dress shirts that are worth the investment.

#10 Frame Your Face

how to choose the dress shirt collar shape and size for your face

The collar on a shirt is designed to complement the proportions of your face and draw people’s eyes up to it.

Once your collar is crisp and rigid with collar stays and a shirt collar support, it’s time to decide what collar will frame your face best. So, what is the best collar for a man’s face shape?

Just like when you are searching for sunglasses, look for a collar shape that is the opposite of your face shape. Avoid the ‘conehead’ look of an angular, pointed face paired with a sharply-pointed collar.

If you are lucky enough to have an oval-shaped head there is virtually no style of collar that will look out of place on you.

A more angular face however requires a (less angular) spread collar. The rounded club collar pictured above would be a great match and help you stand out from the crowd.

Conversely, a more rounded face will look best with a pointed collar.

What about collar size? This is a factor most men completely neglect. A collar’s size should be proportional to how large your head is. A larger head requires a larger, longer collar. A smaller head needs a smaller collar.

Nail the shape and size of your collar and you will immediately have a better-looking shirt than anyone else in the room.

BONUS: Ditch That Shirt Pocket

This might be controversial for some but hear me out. When it comes to formality, less is more.

A shirt pocket is an extra detail most men don’t need.

The pocket also makes a shirt harder to iron because creases can easily form around the stitching at the edge of the pocket.

Plus, even putting a small item in the pocket will pull down on your shirt and contorts its shape. This can easily detract from an otherwise flawless-looking shirt.

There is no rigid rule here but I recommend you compare shirts with and without a pocket. See which you prefer. You might well find yourself leaning towards the latter.

Overall, take these ten points to heart and it will be impossible to put a foot wrong when you are choosing your next dress shirt.

The post How To Choose A Quality Dress Shirt | 10 Things To Look For appeared first on Real Men Real Style.

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By: Antonio
Title: How To Choose A Quality Dress Shirt | 10 Things To Look For
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Published Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2021 11:55:00 +0000