Our handy how-to on wearing and collaring the right dress shirt.
Expert salespeople can sound like members of a secret society when they talk about shirts. All you want to know is – “Does this collar make my neck look scrawny?” – and suddenly you’re In the middle of a wordstorm you don’t understand. If you’re confused by terms like placket, box pleat and end-on-end broadcloth, it pays to increase your know-how.
What’s the difference between a dress shirt and a sport shirt?
Dress shirts have exact neck sizes and sleeve lengths. Sport shirts are sized more casually – small, medium and large. A dress shirt was made to be worn with a suit or jacket. Rules are being broken, though. Oxford cloth with its sporty feel is mainly used for sport shirts, but manufacturers are now making tuxedo shirts in oxford cloth -formal, yet casual.
One hundred per cent cotton shirts are pricier but they breathe. They can be trickier to iron…or you can buy one labelled “no-iron cotton”. Cotton/ polyester blends are easy to press but if the fabric is more than 40 per cent polyester, you’ll sweat – a lot.
Shirt fits vary to if you find a certain brand’s cuts seem to be made for you – become a regular customer.
The right sleeve length is crucial to a smart impression. To work out your exact sleeve length, raise your arm to elbow height and bend slightly at the elbow. Then get a friend to measure two body parts-from the centre of your back to your neck and around the elbow to your wrist bone. The correct sleeve length is 1cm of cuff showing below the sleeve of your jacket.
Pay close attention to the stitching at the shoulders, armholes and sleeves. A long-wearing shirt will have two rows of stitches at these seams. Or there’s single needle tailoring -two rows of stitching, but only one visible.
Heavy-set or big men should opt for full cut shirts – a.k.a the executive cut. Slim guys are better off with fitted shirts. Anyone who spends a lot of time at the gym should never wear tight shirts. There are athletic fit shirts but failing that – buy a shirt that fits your chest and shoulders and have it taken in.
Collars should be a Goldilocks fit – not too tight, not too loose but just right. You should have room to insert two fingers between the collar and the neck.
Placket: The front inverted pleat on a shirt where the button holes are located. Not found on many casual shirts.
Yoke: The piece across the back of the shoulders.
Box pleat: A back fold that provides extra room for comfort.
Contrast collar and cuffs: For white shirt lovers who want to “break out”. The body of the shirt is coloured but the cuffs and collar are white.
Spread: The name given to the place on the collar where the tie knot sits.
Thread count: As with bed sheets, the higher count the better quality the shirt. In general, quality shirts begin at 50 and right through 80 to 140 thread counts.
The bottom button: Mainly found in expensive shirts these days. Why? History. Time was shirts used to button into the front of trousers to prevent blousing.
There are four main types of shirt cuff. Top in popularity is the basic one-button barrel. For guys who want to look more formal but don’t want to stretch to a French cuff, there’s the two button notched barrel cuff. The two-button turn-back cuff skews to the very image-conscious. The French cuff-with a simple tie and a plain silver cuff link- says “I care about details”.
Collars also come in a quartet of styles. The button-down was once strictly casual and worn with sport coats. Now it’s fine to wear one with a suit. The straight point collar is a good choice for men with round faces or short necks because it doesn’t make a neck disappear. The medium spread collar goes with all suits and face types. Tall and/or thin men should look at the two-button spread collar-it sits high on the neck and balances a thin face.
There’s to many weaves and fabrics in men’s shirts from well-priced “cotton rich” shirts from mass retailers to Sea Island cotton, the bespoke shirtmaker’s favourite. Best for a man who wants to look crisp all day is an all-cotton, non-iron dress shirt.