An Introduction to Dress ShirtsThe dress shirt is a button-up shirt with a collar and long sleeves. It is cut differently than the sport shirt, which is made to be worn open-necked and looks awkward with a tie. The dress shirt is designed to carry a jacket and tie, but can be worn without one or the other, or with neither. Various shirts with different sorts of collars and cuffs are appropriate for different ranges of attire, and many can run the gamut of formality.We do not discuss the short-sleeve shirts here as that their lack of sleeves prevents them from being worn with a jacket, a prerequisite for a dress shirt.
Over the past half-century, the dress shirt has gone from being an undergarment to holding a prominent place in many outfits. This is one reason why it is today available in so many more colors and patterns than the plain white ubiquitous in days past. Additionally, when most working men’s jobs involved getting their hands dirty, clean white cuffs were a status symbol, a symbol that the man wearing them was above the dirty work. Today whether one’s style is chinos or suit-and-tie, shirts are an essential means of expanding one’s wardrobe, since they both offer more variety and cost less than suits, shoes, and most other items in men’s dress.Whatever it is worn with, a shirt should fit snugly without restricting movement. Just as the shirt protects the jacket’s lining from absorbing too much grease and sweat from the skin beneath, an undershirt can take the brunt of perspiration to keep a dress shirt looking fresh all day and extend its life. If the shirt is to be worn open-necked, a crew-neck t-shirt will peek out below the throat, an adolescent look most men do well to avoid. V-neck tees are much safer. Some men prefer to feel the dress shirt’s finer fabric against their skin, and forgo an undershirt altogether.
The first thing that jumps out about a shirt is its color and pattern, closely followed by its fabric type. Although the vast majority of men’s shirts are solid white or blue, a man with an understanding of his complexion and what complements it opens himself up to a much wider range of colors and designs. Golds, lavenders, pinks, and an endless variety of striped and checked patterns are available for the taking; the skillful pairing of the right shirt with a conservative suit can turn an ordinary outfit into an extraordinary one. As to fabric type, this depends mostly on your personal preference and needs. Pure sea island cotton represents the higher end and more expensive fibers, while a pima cotton and man-made fiber blend will appeal to the individual on a more modest budget. Both fabrics can be built into excellent garments; the choice is more about what you value and the fabric properties you seek. For more information on shirt fabrics click here.Next, we begin our discussion of shirt style. There are many key elements to a dress shirt’s style; the collar, the cuffs, the yoke, the shirt’s back, the front button style, the choice of buttons, pockets, and the choice of a monogram all have a say in the attitude the shirt will project. A button down collar, left breast pocket, and single-button cuffs signal leisure while a shirt with turned-down point collar, no breast pocket, and french cuffs signals formality. The beauty of a custom shirt is that you can design the shirt’s style not only for the occasion but also to complement your physical features. More on shirt styles is covered in A Deeper Understanding of the Dress Shirt.
A bit of advice for beginners – if building your dress shirt collection seek versatility in your clothing. To maximize value and eliminate confusion, you want to be able to wear any dress shirt with any suit you own. Avoid extremes, and slowly build your range by experimenting with patterns, colors, and styles that complement your features. Once you have this down, you can with confidence move into complex world of multi-color patterns and eccentric style.