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Dress Shirt Basics (Part 2): Style

February 22, 2012

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.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2012 8:07 am

    very informative! definitely thought that a shirt was a shirt! i think that you may want to move away from blue shirts :p even if its a patterned blue shirt 🙂
    keep smiling x

  2. March 6, 2012 5:57 pm

    Thanks for this post. I think that the well-dressed gentleman is (perhaps slowly) disappearing from sight. Because of this, things which once were commonly-known are becoming lost.

  3. Mandy permalink
    March 9, 2012 4:33 pm

    Bring back the Cary Grants into the world!!! A nice fitting dress shirt is a great thing 🙂 so many men do not know how to wear their dress shirts…usually too BIG! Hahaha

    • March 9, 2012 5:03 pm

      I totally agree. That’s why I write this blog. To help the average guy understand the same principles evidenced in Cary Grant’s style.

  4. March 13, 2012 6:57 am

    I needed to read this. Having to wear scrub suits for most of time and rolled long sleeve shirts to go with my jeans, I forgot the priceless basics of dressing well. Great job in sharing invaluable tips and information. Definitely you got awesome style….

    • March 13, 2012 12:29 pm

      I can relate to what you are saying. For years I unknowingly displayed poor fashion. I had a desire to look good, but did not know the principles. Once my eyes opened, I spent several years researching fashion to my great benefit.

      I then launched this blog to share what I learned. I am glad to hear you got something out of this post.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  5. April 17, 2012 11:36 pm

    Wow, great blog! I’m afraid fashion is one thing that I overlook typically simply because of the multitude of other things that demand my time. I’ve said several times, there’s a point when I must start looking the part of a new business owner. Roger

    • April 18, 2012 3:03 am

      Glad you like the blog.

      I know it took years for my fashion sense to awaken and am glad when others join me in the journey.

  6. April 18, 2012 9:31 pm

    You have some great advice here. I need to get measurements written down for my guys so I can get them some properly fitted shirts.

  7. December 23, 2012 9:30 pm

    there is also the features on the back of the shirt

    -split yoke
    – pleats (side or box)

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