Dress Shirt Basics (Part 2): Style
Back in the day, I would land in a store at the mall to search out a shirt or two. Picture the scene with me. Shirt in hand at arm’s length. I think to myself, “will I look good wearing this?” Waiting for something inside me to say “this is the one,” I walked from shirt to shirt hoping to stumble across the right one. In the end, I settled on what I considered the best.
Years later, my wife inquired of me if blue was my favorite color. “Why do you ask?” I inquired. She astutely pointed out the color of ninety percent of my shirts: blue. There in lies the problem of shirt hunting based on feeling alone. You may find yourself building a one dimensional wardrobe and may fall short in some important areas. Moreover, you may miss key style elements.
Let’s discuss the style components of a great dress shirt:
1. Collar – Pay attention to this area as it ranks at the top of the list of importance. Why? It frames the face. When wearing a suit, it is one of the only shirt parts visible. Your four basic collar options include point, spread, button down, and none. You should default to a point collar, especially if you have a round face. A spread collar conveys more formality and works well for those with a slender face. A button down collar generates visions of college and a smart prep look. Generally, I advise not to go without a collar, but you can pull it off if you consider how it fits with your outfit as a whole. Overall, a collar appears best when it extends to beneath the lapels of your suit coat.
2. Cuff – Two options: Barrel or French. The standard all-around cuff for business and general wear is the barrel. Wear it tight around the wrist right at the base of the hand. The French cuff offers a more refined and dressed up appearance.
3. Pockets – The more pockets, the more casual the shirt appears. Generally, you will find shirts with one pocket. For a formal occasion, I start with no pockets as my first choice. Also, when wearing a suit, one pocket works almost as well.
4. Placket – Bisecting the front of the shirt, the best placket consists of a separate piece of fabric attached on the front of the shirt. Most shirts possess a placket, but some have no placket offering a more casual option.
5. Buttons – Look for good ones. They range from cheap plastic up to mother of pearl. You can also upgrade a shirt with excellent buttons you find and purchase.
6. Shoulder Flaps – They can add fun in a casual way. For the most part, they dress down the shirt. Avoid them with suits.
7. Gusset and shirt bottom – The gusset adds strength to the bottom connecting the front and back. Regarding the shirt bottom, think about the length. If you plan to wear it untucked, keep the end of the shirt from going beyond the bottom of the buttocks. Also, make sure the front and back are the same length. For dressed up occasions, I like the bottom to be long to prevent untucking.
When shopping, stay focused on the details. As you will discover, a multitude of variations exist for the areas I discuss here. For this reason, either make a list of your favorite characteristics or print out this article; then, set out to find your match. Don’t forget the way the shirt fits (see Dress Shirt Basics Part 1: Fit). Truthfully, if you nail every one of the seven areas above, but purchase an improperly fitting shirt, you will miss the mark.
Copyright 2012 Fashion for the average man.