Essentials: Dress Shirt
Everyman should own a good white button down dress shirt (or three). Formal business meetings, weddings, nights out on the town; a white shirt conveys authority. Dressed up, you’re the lion in charge. Dressed down, you’re the good ole’ American classic.
Your Dad, Grandpa, or some other authority in your life expressed to you the importance of a good white button down dress shirt. And you know how they should fit. But,
How do you pick a shirt that’s right for you?
As per usual, the right shirt will flatter your natural features; fitting you in all the right areas and making you look better for wearing it. There are a couple areas of a shirt that you’ll want to pay attention to.
Material – What is it made of? And why does that matter?
Dress shirts can come in all different types of materials; from man-made materials like rayon and polyester, to natural materials like cotton, linen and silk. Each of these has different properties and advantages, but too much detail beyond the scope of this article.
The fine nature of silk and rayon makes them much too delicate for an essential item like your white button down shirt. Polyester will be durable, but awkwardly shiny and impossible to iron. Linen is a wonderful material for summer, but it’s just not formal enough.
Cotton makes the best white button down shirt.
Cotton has just the right amount of sheen, breathes well and will last for quite a while, when you take good care of it.
Collars – Four you should know and the two you should use
There are tons of different types of collars with names like Club, Eyelet, and Band, it’s hard to keep them all Straight. Below are the four basic styles that you need to know as well as some tips on choosing the two that you need.
The collar you choose frames your face, and will enhance your look by adding length or softening your features. Choose a collar from the first three based on your face type; everyone should wear the fourth.
Round or wide face: Get a Point Collar
Since the 1980s, point collars have been one of the most popular styles of dress collars for men. Point collars extend the length of your face by drawing attention downwards. This lengthening effect makes them the perfect choice for men with round or wide faces.
Rectangle, Square, Triangle or other Angular face: Get a Cutaway Collar
Recently trending, the cutaway collar provides width by drawing your attention outwards. This widens the overall feel of your face, softening the sharp angles and providing an understated and pleasing look.
Oval face and everyone else: Get a Semi-spread Collar
If you have an oval face, you are quite fortunate. It is considered to be the most symmetrical face and, because we link symmetry with beauty, the most ideal. You can wear anything! For these shapes, I love the semi-spread collar. It’s a cross between a point collar and a cutaway, but not as extreme as either. Put simply, it’s the Goldilocks of collars.
All Types: Get a Button Down Collar
The button down collar is another universal style that you should be wearing. The buttons prevented the collars from blowing up during the athletic activities of young men attending Oxford University. This is why they are often referred to as an Oxford collar, but that is actually a misnomer. Oxford refers to the cloth (a more casual weave), but many young men wore these casual shirts with button down collars. Over the years, these two distinct ideas have combined into the concept of the Oxford shirt, made of the casual weave, which most often (but not always) has a button down collar.
Why is a casual feature being recommended in a white dress shirt article? Because these shirts have become a staple of the American workingman. Button down collars should not, however, be considered “dressy”. In Britain, button down collars are too casual to wear with a suit and tie. You should follow a similar rule here. If you are going tie-less, try a button down collar. If you are dressing up in a suit and tie, avoid the button down collar.
I don’t want to overwhelm you with all the possible options here, so I’ll just focus on the two most important: French cuff and Button Cuff.
French Cuff: For formal/dressy occasions
p>I love French Cuffs. You’ve probably seen them on the tux shirt that you wore to Prom, but don’t let that be a slight against them. They are classic; they stand out; and they enable one of the only legitimate uses of “man-jewelry”: the cufflink. French Cuffs are very formal, and should only be worn with suit jackets.
Button Cuff: For everything else
Button cuffs come in many variations, but you should stick to the one or two button varieties. If the buttons are arranged horizontally (across your wrist), you should pick the one the tightest one that you can button without pulling. If they are arranged vertically (down your arm), you should button them both. If there are three or more buttons on your cuff, they were placed there in a misguided attempt at being fashionable; avoid this shirt.
Did you know that the weave of your shirt affects the formality? Certain weaves are shiner or use finer cotton. This finer cotton is less durable and therefore more formal than others. I’m only going to go over a few here, but if you want more details, checkout this guide over at Proper Cloth.
Broadcloth – Formal
This is a tightly woven fabric with a very light sheen. It’s considered quite formal, but it can also me semi-transparent. This shouldn’t be a problem for you because you’re wearing an undershirt, right? Broadcloth will give you the best “crisp” pressed looked when iron.
Twill – Formal
This weave has a slight shine, and its most distinctive feature is a diagonal pattern in the cloth. Because Twill is a thicker cloth than Broadcloth, it won’t press as crisply, but it is less see through, and will drape well. It is also easy to iron and relatively wrinkle resistant. Twill makes for an ideal, formal shirt.
Pinpoint – Business
Pinpoint cloth is woven in the same way as oxford, but with a much finer cloth. Though it’s not formal, Pinpoints are durable and a great option for a business shirt.
Oxford – Casual
As we already discussed in the button down collar section, Oxford cloth is a combination of fine and soft cotton woven together to create a subtle “basketweave” texture. This is a more casual and sporty weave and should be reserved for less formal or weekend wear.
Pockets are up to you as a matter of choice. Personally, I like them, but you should know that they are considered less formal.
That’s a collar joke…lame. ↩