The dress shirt is perhaps the most common staple of any wardrobe, not only used in the formal and business settings, but has also gained strong traction in casual and “night-out” atmospheres. When navigating the fashion world from the crazy designs to the basics whites, there are a few principles to keep in mind when building your wardrobe.
The first thing to look out for is the material of the shirt. Fine-quality dress shirts are made of 100 percent cotton, a very simple principle. In the 50s, Brooks Brothers became the first store to begin blending synthetic fibers such as polyester in their shirts, a move to reduce and keep the cost of shirts down. Now 100 percent cotton shirts will cost more than the polyester blends popular in many stores today, however you are paying for unrivaled comfort and a look that conveys luxury and tradition. Since cotton is a natural fiber, it works with the natural needs of the body. It breathes when necessary, allowing the body to cool, but also absorbs moisture when the body perspires. Beyond comfort, fine cotton also has a denser weave creating a more natural fit to the body and takes color well, giving a stronger response to dyes. The clarity and richness of color in cotton shirts simply cannot be duplicated by synthetic blends. With a warm and subtle natural sheen, fine cotton continues to the be fabric of choice for the well-dressed.
Next, we look at the fit of the shirt and its comfort level. The neckband should never choke or chafe, and the body of a shirt should not bind a man’s torso. It should have about one-quarter inch in front, allowing the head to turn without causing any chafing on the neck. Most people unfortunately wear the neckband too tight, either because the shirt has shrunk or due to increased age, the neck has naturally thickened. The tightness also causes the collar to spread, creating a larger space where the tight knot sits leading to discomfort and a sloppy appearance.
The body of the shirt should also avoid excess material beyond what is necessary to sit comfortably. When wearing a jacket, the bulging from extra material around the midriff can ruin the lines of the jacket. If you do end up with a shirt with a lot of extra body, a recommendation would be to request a tailor to put darts in the back to reduce the size. This way the material is taken in, but should you put on weight they can be opened up. Additionally, the length of the shirt should be around six inches below the waist. This way it stays tucked in when you moved around however it won’t be too long creating bulges in the front of the trousers.
Finally, the sleeves of the shirt should show a full half-inch beyond the sleeves of the jacket. Generally, the good rule to follow is that they should finish around a half inch below the break of the wrist. If you bend your arms and the cuff falls behind the wrist, the sleeve is too short. Moving the arm in any direction should not cause the cuff to recede if the sleeve is the proper size. The cuff itself should be tight enough around the wrist to be snug where the hand has room to move but it cannot go through without unbuttoning the cuff.
Although these may seem very basic and straight forward principles for dress shirts, many fashion concepts today go against these basic rules to give way to design. Although these concepts can still work for many individuals, it’s important to know the difference between fashion and style when choosing a dress shirt. Style is truly achieved through understanding how the pieces of an outfit should compliment each other and fit properly with every individual body. It is about creating a balance between the clothing and the person wearing the piece.