A dress shirt is one of the basic elements to wearing a suit or any other ensemble with a jacket. To have an interchangeable wardrobe you should have a couple of white and light blue shirts. By sticking with basic colors you allow ties, pocket squares, socks, and other accessories to change your look. Keep in mind those items are a significant amount cheaper and give you your best bang for the buck. I am no expert in textiles, however I have done basic research to determine what information is necessary. Before doing any research I had no clue as to terms and best practices, I would walk into a store and pick out what I thought would be best. Having some knowledge definitely goes a long way, so here is what I am able to share.
Dress shirts have three basic types of fabric weaves. Each of these weaves have different patterns and textures which allow for a dressed down all the way to a formal look. Let’s start off with the least formal.
- Oxford: This fabric is used for more of a casual event. The shirt uses a heavy thread with a loose weave which makes it durable.
- Pinpoint Oxford: This fabric is similar to the Oxford, however the weave is tighter and a thinner thread is used.
- Poplin or Broadcloth: These fabrics are used for a formal event and have a tightly woven.
Getting down to the details, Oxford and Pinpoint Oxford use a basketweave structure while Poplin/Broadcloth has an over-under structure to it’s weave. What does this really mean? The structure of the weave can determine the durability and the look of the shirt. The basketweave structure lends itself to being thicker and more durable, while the over-under structure is thinner and combined with appropriate material will produce a sheen.
There are three main types of collars, which will have variation for the spread of the collar. Taking a look at the images of the collars. You will see that Straight-Point is the narrowest, with Semi-Spread having the collar spread further apart, and Spread having the largest spread. Typically Semi-Spread is the one you want.
There are two types of cuffs, Barrel and French. It is very easy to determine the difference between the two. The French cuff are folded over and requires the use of cufflinks, while Barrel cuffs don’t require any folding and have buttons sewn on the shirt. As for the sizing, the length of the cuffs should align with the joint in your wrist. When wearing a jacket the cuff should stick out an inch past the end of your jacket.
More on Fit
One to two fingers should fit between your neck and the collar, anything more and it won’t look right. Often times the regular shirt off the rack will not fit you properly, so look for slim-fit shirts. Slim-fit shirts won’t have all the extra material around the chest and waist. If you have the money to spend, then I recommend a fitted dress shirt.
Pro Tip: Shirt Stays!
My first encounter with shirt stays was while serving in the US Marine Corps. At first glance, I thought what are these crazy contraptions? However once their purpose was explained, they made total sense. This is one of the tricks that help Marines look sharp! Here is how they work. One side of a shirt stay attaches to the bottom of the shirt, while the other side attaches to the top of your sock. You will wear two of these per leg, one in the front and one in the back. Once the shirt stays are attached and adjusted, they will keep your shirt neatly tucked in all day long! You can pick up some shirt stays from Sharp & Dapper or from a military supply provider.