- Every man needs at least one good white dress shirt.
- Fine Italian-woven cotton, old-school American craftsmanship, and a great trim fit make the Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece shirt a must-have for the modern gentleman. Its versatile spread collar looks great with or without a tie, so you can pair this timeless staple with almost any outfit.
There are few menswear staples that are as timeless and essential as a crisp white dress shirt. Men have been reaching for white dress shirts for as long as they’ve been wearing suits, although the clean, classic look of this garment works with just about any outfit, making it one of the best and most versatile pieces of clothing a guy can have in his wardrobe.
There’s a good chance you’re already fairly familiar with dress shirts, and you probably already have a few. There’s also a good chance, however, that there’s a lot more to a quality dress shirt than you’re aware of. Here’s a quick run-down of things to look for in your next dress shirt:
Choosing the right fabric is key
Cotton is the standard material used for dress shirting, but it’s not all made the same way. Natural shirt fabrics are generally classified according to the weave:
- Poplin (or broadcloth) is a soft weave that is light, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant.
- Oxford is a medium-bodied basket-woven cotton with a slightly rough texture.
- Twill has a tight diagonal weave that results in a thick, substantial cloth.
- Pinpoint is similar to Oxford but woven with thinner threads for a smoother hand.
- End-on-end features contrasting warp and weft threads that create a heathered look.
Synthetic materials like polyester permeate the field of men’s dress shirts today owing to their low cost, but these fabrics simply do not look, feel, or breathe as well as quality cotton, so keep it natural. You might see some shirtmakers use terms like “yarn number” (referring to the thickness of the yarn) or “ply” (meaning the number of threads comprising the yarn, e.g. “two-ply”). These aren’t necessarily indicators of quality so don’t sweat about them too much.
The fit should be trim and tailored
Dress shirts should be fairly trim. The important thing here is to avoid the big, baggy, blousy over-sized shirts many men are wearing. Also important is collar fit. There should be no visible gap between the collar and your neck, but you want to be able to comfortably insert two fingers inside the collar. If you can’t, it’s too tight.
A proper dress shirt’s size will be labeled by two numbers which indicate collar size and sleeve length – dress shirts shouldn’t be labeled with generic garment sizes like “medium.” A 15/34 shirt, for example, has a 15-inch collar circumference and a 34-inch sleeve length measured from the back of the neck down to the cuff. To suss out your ideal size, use a flexible tape measure to measure your body or find a shirt you already have that fits perfectly and measure that. And find a good tailor.
Cuff and collar construction matter
Dress shirt styles mostly boil down to the collar and cuffs. Cuffs typically come in two flavors: Barrel cuffs, which feature a button closure, and French cuffs, which are folded back on themselves and held closed with cufflinks. Collars are a bit more varied and are classified by the cut with spread, cutaway, point, tab, club, and button-down being the most common. Your collar choice depends on the ties you want to wear with your shirt and whether or not you plan to wear the dress shirt without a necktie.
Here are the best white dress shirts you can buy:
- The best white dress shirt overall: Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece dress shirt
- The best lightweight summer shirt: T.M. Lewin cotton/linen dress shirt
- The best French cuff dress shirt: Charles Trywhitt French cuff dress shirt
- The best Oxford cloth button-down: Brooks Brothers Oxford cloth button-down
- The best budget white dress shirt: The Tie Bar pinpoint dress shirt
Updated on 10/21/2019 by Amir Ismael: Updated formatting and prices.
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