My girlfriend likes to wear my dress shirts around the house and it’s a good look for her. When I take them to the laundry, I get them pressed, but not starched. Perhaps the softness of my shirts is part of the appeal. Whatever the reason, I’m not changing a thing because I enjoy looking at her over my morning coffee.
The dress shirt says a lot about you and the right one will define your status, not only in business but your personal life as well. Even the untrained eye can generally distinguish between cheap and expensive and if a shirt is well constructed it can last you years. It’s better to have 5 high-quality dress shirts than 15 cheap ones – quality not quantity.
First and foremost, choose 100 percent cotton. The reasons behind this are, cotton breathes and looks crisp. While polyester and cotton blended shirts are wash and wear, the fibers tend to break down quicker leaving pilling in its wake. Besides, they look cheap. Ply count is another important option to consider. The higher the ply count, the softer the cotton will be.
The weave of the fabric is just as important as the ply count. Oxford cotton lasts for a long time and has a basket weave which that is extremely soft. Broadcloth is a tightly woven cotton fabric with a silky feel. Poplin cotton, my personal favorite, is woven with a horizontal rib effect which is heavier which makes it great for colder months while Twill cotton has a diagonal weave which is light and great for the warmer months.
The type of collar you choose will say more about your personal style than anything else in your closet. Straight point collars have a V-shape and are the most common collars in menswear. These are best for a small knotted tie. For a more casual look, the button down collar is a great option because they can be worn with or without a tie and still be perfectly acceptable. The spread collar is reserved for professional men who like the full Windsor knot. Less common, but equally as stylish are the tab collar, the club collar, and the pinned collar.
Sleeve length is very important. Too long looks sloppy and too short looks ridiculous. Sleeves should rest at the end of your wrist. To ensure this effect, choose shirts that are exactly as long as your arm.
Cuffs come in three styles and each is acceptable in menswear. Barrel cuffs are most common because they do not require any accessories. Currently, vertical double buttons are considered stylish, but one button is standard on most shirts. The French cuffs are considered to be more formal than barrel cuffs as they require cufflinks. This is a great option for a job interview or an evening out. Convertible cuffs are more versatile for they can be buttoned or use cufflinks.
Pockets are yet another consideration when choosing a dress shirt. The one pocket is most common and can be used to hold items such as pens. Two-pocket shirts are less formal and should not require a tie. No pocket dress shirts are a bit more fashion forward and are an elegant choice for the style conscious man.
The fit of a dress shirt is, again, a matter of personal style. Regular fitted shirts are a bit looser and allow for ease of movement. Slim, Trim or athletic fit, are cut so the shirt hugs your torso. Full fitted dress shirts are cut for men of a larger stature and are generally longer.
Solid color shirts are most versatile because they can be matched with bold ties, pattern suits, and printed sports jackets. While white is acceptable, it’s also extremely safe and unadventurous. I would recommend adding pink, red and orange to your wardrobe as a punch of color goes a long way. Prints are fine, but you must pick a tie that does not clash or steal the spotlight. While pattern mixing has become acceptable, if you are unsure, choose a solid tie to go with a printed shirt.
When buying a dress shirt, be prepared to spend over $100 on a single shirt – again, you’re buying quality. Brands to look for would be Ted Baker, Hugo Boss, and David Donahue. These all have a heavy ply count and are hand stitched to ensure durability. Nordstrom makes a nice in-house shirt in 100% cotton called the John W. Nordstrom, but don’t be fooled – not all their shirts are created equal.