Selecting The Finest & Most Stylish Mens Dress Shirts
Ahh yes, elegant, crisp, regal mens dress shirts. Whether French-cuffed or barrel, button-collar or fly, custom dress shirts or off-the-rack, they all serve a grand purpose – as long as they’re well made.
Unfortunately, as time continues to push ever forward, our style ages with us, and a line of bent hangers mark our sartorial missteps.
With that being the case, here are some rules to help you grow your battery of mens dress shirts with care.
First, a ground rule: Dress shirts, like all matter, can be ruined. A shirt that you buy tomorrow will not last more than two years. Leaky pens, cocktail parties, sip-tops, the world is full of ways to destroy good fabrics. So don’t get sentimental when your powder blue turns powder purple because of spilled red wine, you should never have spent too much money anyway.
For mens dress shirts, you’ll either buy them off the rack or have them made for you. While the latter is the preferable method, it’s also usually the most expensive. If considering off the rack, there are many fine shirt brands to consider, like Ben Sherman shirts for instance. Most men buy dress shirts in three ways: from a catalog, off a hanger, or from a custom tailor.
In all cases, the most important thing is to know your size. Not simply small, medium, tall mens dress shirts,
or large, but knowing the length of your arms and the girth of your neck when you shop.
If you don’t know, go to a custom dress shirt shop and have an astute salesman wrap you with measuring tape. Write the numbers down and memorize them as if they were a pass-code to style supremacy. Because they are.
This pass-code, however, is not a universal standard. Whereas one size 16-35 can make you look nearly tailored, another could drape you uncomfortably. A fitted shirt can look the best of all.
It is to your advantage to sample the shirt before closing the sale.
Sampling means noticing how the shirt is made. Examine the stitching, the buttons, the hem. If the shirt looks cheap, it is. And if you wear that shirt, you’ll look cheap. If looking cheap is your thing, then have at it. Shirts, while more expendable than suits, are worth the money they cost, to a point.
No shirt, unless it’s made-to-measure, is worth more than $150. If you’re going to spend more than that, have it made for your body type.
COLLAR SELECTION IS KEY TO YOUR STYLE
To start with style, there are a variety of collars available for mens dress shirts:
- Straight: Possibly the most standard of collars in the world of mens dress shirts. This collar aims in varying degrees of ‘down.’ There are a number of ‘spreads’ available in straight collars, the ‘spread’ being the amount of space visible between the collars, at the neck, where a tie might sit.
- Spread: A straight collar that’s been spread to the point of not being considered straight anymore. This collar is also sometimes referred to as the ‘cutaway’ collar, for the large amount of visible space between collar tips; it’s also called the ‘British Spread,’ because it’s popular and has a European feel to it. Due to their construction, spread collars are typically slightly less-wide than straight collars. This collar, too, is available in a variety of spread distances.
- Button-Down: The collar that’s affixed to the shirt, popular with prep schools, and consulting firms. I.e., can look quite squarish, depending on how you wear it. Never wear the collar unbuttoned. And don’t snip off the buttons to make it a non-button-down shirt, you’ll still be left with buttonholes in the collar, and undoubtedly people will notice.
- Curved: A straight collar that has a slight curve outwards from the face. It’s a different look, for a different type of man. Yes, just different. The mirror may be needed to tell you if your "different" is good or bad in this instance.
- Tab: A collar that has a small snap-tab connecting the two collar sides together. The tab really has no true use.
- Banded: Quite simply, no collar – just a button at the neck.
TEST YOUR MENS DRESS SHIRTS FOR GOOD FIT
Whether you are checking the mens dress shirts you already own or are trying on a shirt that you are considering for purchase, you can use these guidelines to test the fit of the shirt:
- Button the dress shirt to the top. You should be able to slide two or three fingers between your neck and collar.
- Bend your arm. Sleeves should be long enough so that cuffs do not ride up your wrist when you move your arm.
- Check that cuffs are snug and do not hang over your hand. You should not be able to slip into shirt sleeves without first undoing buttons on the cuff.
- Make sure the shirt does not pull uncomfortably across the chest or waist.
- Inspect the buttons: they should be well-placed with no gaping holes exposing your chest.
- Raise your arms and check that shirt tails do not come out of your pants.
It is always important to consider the occasion when choosing a color for your mens dress shirts. Are you buying mens dress shirts for job interviews, or are you looking to dress up more fashionably? For an interview, choose conservative colors. A light blue is usually the safest. White is very formal color. Grays are also generally safe.
If you are looking to portray a more lively image, choose brighter, unconventional colors. Bright greens and oranges have been relatively popular, as well as pink. But no matter the situation, always strive to be finely dressed, maintain an aura of swagger, and stay abreast of the current fashion trends for men!