What to remember when buying a dress shirt

What makes a dress shirt unique?


To answer that, let’s understand, what is a dress shirt?


First seen in the 16th century on European men, a dress shirt has long since climbed the ranks from being an undergarment to a much desired high-end clothing of choice.

A dress shirt is ideally a full-sleeved well fitted shirt with a button-up collar. Its versatile nature allows it to be worn on very formal occasions with jacket and tie or a semi-formal work attire minus jacket. It is way different from a sport shirt and more often than not is inclined towards a formal look. And a ‘perfect dress shirt’ is one that is custom fit.


Having understood that, let’s go back to our earlier question, ‘What makes a dress shirt unique?’


Some key points,


  1. The Fit:  This tends to become a big problem for many men who look to off-the-rack dress shirts, while easy, it’s not always worth the penny… you end up either getting too tight a fit or a very baggy one… rarely are people lucky to have that perfect fit. Which is why custom shirts for men are the perfect go to choose now.  There is more to the small, medium and large sizes.  An ideal fit, would require you to look at
    1. Armholes that allow movement without looking puffy
    2. Collar that doesn’t suffocate you or lets everything through…rule of thumb—two fingers should be allowed to slide in between collar and neck.
    3. Sleeve cuffs should end where your wrists does
    4. Sleeves should be well-fitted
    5. Shoulder should not be droopy
    6. Torso should be well-fitted not too tight not too billowy… 3-4 inches of extra fabric that’s all.
    7. Your shirt tail can’t be a night dress… your maximum length is your back trouser pocket.



Having said that, remember there are three kinds of fits you should choose from depending on your body type – Slim Fit – for a more athletic you; Normal Fit –for a muscular you;  Loose Fit – for a more fuller you, but not a baggy fit.


  1. The Fabric – Dress shirts are usually formal, hence they need to be light weight, preferably wrinkle-free. Perfect fabrics of choice would be – Cotton –preferably light weight (Egyptian Giza, broadcloth, oxford, twill); chambray or linen, Silk for a very formal do and lastly man-made fibres like polyester, nylon. Although, if price is not an issue we recommend not using them.


  1. The Colour / Pattern – Colours and patterns are integral mainstays of a good dress shirt and depending on the occasion, it can create quite the impression. A detailed analysis has been done in another article. But a perfect custom dress shirt should have key solids such as blue, white while patterns like stripes and checks are perfect to have and cater to all occasions.


  1. The Collar – What does a collar do? It’s main purpose amongst other things is to frame your face, highlight your best features. Therefore having the perfect one is important. Now they come in different colours, styles, sizes… so we have narrowed it down to six types.  Classic Collar – meant for both professional and casual wear, perfect for the fuller face to elongate it with a small spread. Button-down Collar – this has buttons on the collar points hence the name, but these are best suited for more casual shirts.  Spread Collar – Collar points are spread out and perfect for men with long or medium shaped faces. Wide-spread Collar – similar to the spread except the points are pulled further back out. Band Collar – Like a mandarin collar perfect again only for casual shirts. Wing Tip Collar – Usually saved for very formal dos like a black –tie event with a tuxedo. It has two wings tucked behind a bow tie.


  1. The Cuffs – Cuffs are important as they are visible parts of a dress shirt that can either build your persona or break it. So, these come in various forms – There’s the French Cuff – which is very formal and longer than the regular cuffs and require classy cufflinks. They go perfect with wing-collared shirts. Barrel Cuff, are formal cuffs too but with buttons, with two buttons for taller men and one for short. The Button Cuff is most common, less formal and usually with corners that are angled, square or rounded; works well with button-down collar dress shirts. There is also the Cocktail Cuff, a sleeker version of the French Cuff minus the cufflinks. It has a turnback with a cutaway, with buttons.
  1. The Buttons – In the larger scheme of things, buttons seem inconsequential right?


While being most underrated, it’s also a feature of the dress shirt that is visible, hence a mismatched colour, a hanging button, an ugly texture… all make the dress shirt stand out for the wrong reasons. Buttons too have variants – Plastic – common, economical and strong… but it can break if the quality is poor, so invest in better plastic buttons.  Mother of Pearl – made from shell, they are durable and also classy hence expensive. Wooden/Horn – used mostly for casual shirts. Also choose wisely between flat and thick buttons, one comes off easily and the other takes times to dress/undress.

  1. The Placket – Its basically what holds your buttons on the shirt very artfully, running from the top to the button. It also gives shape to the front of your shirt. Plackets come in different formats- Standard Placket – This is a separate piece sewn onto the shirt front with stitches displayed on either side, giving the shirt a symmetrical shape. Concealed/Fly Front Placket – This has a flap which conceals the buttons, best worn for formal events with tuxedos. And then there are no placket shirts as well.

With these seven points in mind, you now are ready to buy the perfect custom-fitted dress shirt.


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