Men's Dress Shirts Buying Guide
by Stephanie Petersen
Published April 28, 2010 | Updated June 25, 2015
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Whether you are an executive who is building your wardrobe or a young man who needs your first men's dress shirt for a new job, knowing how to buy dress shirts will help you achieve the professional look you are after. Style is in the details. While the color may be the first thing you notice about a dress shirt, it's the details that will define its style. Be sure to notice the style of the collar, cuffs, and pocket of a dress shirt before you buy it. You'll probably find that there are dress shirt details you prefer over others.
Shopping for Men's Dress Shirts:
- Size and Fit
Before looking for a dress shirt, you'll need to know your size. Dress shirt sizes have two numbers: The first is your neck size, and the second is your sleeve length. Ill-fitting shirts will be uncomfortable, so measure yourself to get an exact fit.
For directions on the correct way to measure yourself for a men's dress shirt, read our men's measurement guide. If you have any more questions about your shirt size or men's clothing sizes, be sure to refer to our sizing guide.
The collar on a shirt will determine how formal the shirt feels and how much it flatters your face.
Straight-point: The V-shaped points of a straight-point collar are the most common style and are flattering for most faces.
Button-down: Less formal than other dress shirt collars, the button-down collar is generally made of a softer fabric and pressed with less starch.
Spread: With a bigger gap between the tips, a spread collar has many different tips to flatter all but the roundest faces.
Tab: With a higher collar and a smaller spread, this is most flattering on men with long necks.
Club: Also known as a rounded collar, the club collar is short, has rounded tips, and looks very fashionable.
Pinned: With a high collar much like the tab collar, a pinned collar has a straight pin which fastens the two points.
Barrel cuffs are also known as a button cuff because they close with at least one button, and possibly more than one. If there are multiple buttons, these can be used to adjust the fit.
A French cuff or double cuff has fabric that is long and folds back. These are closed with a cufflink or silk knot. French cuffs are considered by many to be more formal than a barrel cuff.
A convertible cuff can be closed with buttons or cufflinks.
Pay attention to where pockets are placed. Men's shirts with two chest pockets are considered to be less formal. Dress shirts with button-down collars are more likely to have a chest pocket, and shirts worn with a vest or with suspenders should not have pockets, so your chest does not appear bulky.
With so many choices, you may not be sure which color of men's dress shirt is right for you. Before you start buying every color available, think about a few things:
- How do others dress at your office?
Take a cue from others around you to see what would be appropriate. If everyone is wearing a white or blue dress shirt, then you may not be taken seriously in a brightly-colored striped shirt.
- Is there an office dress code?
Often, only law offices and financial institutions have official policies about the color of your dress shirts, but there may be an unspoken policy. When you're noticing what others are wearing, you'll want to also notice if there are any unofficial attitudes about what is expected.
- What will you do today?
A day spent meeting with clients requires a different outfit than one where you are by yourself in your office. With a variety of men's shirts in your closet, you can make sure you have styles that are appropriate for what your schedule holds.
- What do you do at your job?
While lawyers, bankers, and politicians are expected to project a serious image, a graphic designer or a publisher is expected to be more creative. A lawyer in a print shirt may not be taken seriously, and likewise, not much creativity may be expected from a creative director in a solid blue dress shirt.
- What makes you feel confident?
Once you have found what is expected in your office, choose dress shirts that you'll feel good wearing. Even if everyone in the office is wearing a wild patterned shirt, you can still wear a white shirt if that's what helps you feel self-assured.
Men's Dress Shirt Fits:
Athletic: Also called slim or tailored, this is the narrowest-fitting men's dress shirt.
Regular: This standard dress shirt fit is a little looser than the athletic fit. If a men's dress shirt doesn't have a fit listed, you can assume it is regular fit.
Full: The loosest of all dress shirt fits, this is appropriate for men with a larger stature. Full-fitting men's dress shirts are also usually a little longer.
How to Pick a Color or Pattern:
Find the Right Fabric:
Cotton: Cotton breathes well and can be very soft, so you'll be comfortable while you're wearing it. Cotton also holds dye well, so bright colors will look great for a long time.
Cotton blends: When another fiber is woven in with the cotton, you get the benefits of both fibers. For example, a cotton-Lycra blend will add stretch, and a cotton-polyester won't wrinkle as much.
Linen: Linen dress shirts breathe well, making them perfect for summer wear. Linen does wrinkle easily, so you'll need to spend a bit more time ironing or have these shirt professionally laundered.
Broadcloth: A tightly-woven fabric with a silky texture, broadcloth cotton has a lustrous finish.
Poplin: Made of 100 percent cotton, poplin is woven with a horizontal rib effect and can be a bit more expensive.
Oxford: A few types of Oxford weaves are available, but in general, an Oxford is woven from a heavier yarn, giving it a more rugged texture.
Twill: The diagonal weave of twills makes it perfect for a solid-color dress shirt.