Zoom calls in your underwear were great while they lasted, gentlemen.
But as more businesses open back up, many of us are digging through the closet…only to find that our pre-Covid dress shirts don’t fit anymore.
Now, we’re glass-half-full kinds of people around here. We say, if that dress shirt for work doesn’t fit anymore, it’s a great excuse to get a new one!
We’re on a quest to help you find some dress shirts for men to herald your return to the office like a boss (even if you aren’t the boss).
We’ll also throw some info your way about picking a men’s dress shirt and introduce you to some men’s dress shirt brands we consider to be top drawer.
Note: When we picked the shirts for this post, we imagined the average guy with an average paycheck. (So we basically picked for ourselves.) A couple of luxury brands are included, but most we featured here are accessible and affordable.
- Know Your Duds: A Quick Cheat Sheet Guide To Men's Dress Shirts
- Men's Dress Shirts Brands to Look For
Know Your Duds: A Quick Cheat Sheet Guide To Men’s Dress Shirts
- French Cuff
- Square Cuff
- Large Rounded
- Barrel Cuff
- One, Two, and Three Button
- One and Two Button Cut
- Envelope Cut
- Italian Cut
Nothing beats a well-fitted shirt, but often, your average guy doesn’t quite know how that’s supposed to work. At least not until they’ve been around the proverbial block or two.
The best place to start is with a tailor. If a tailor isn’t in the cards, recruit an associate at the retail store where you shop. If that doesn’t work either, consult this sizing guide to learn how to measure yourself and your shirts accordingly.
How Do Dress Shirt Sizes Work?
When you see the two numbers listed on packaged dress shirts at the department store or your local TJ Maxx, you may be tempted to chuck the shirt in place of the S, M, L, XL variety. That’s not necessary.
The first number indicates the neck size, and the second is the sleeve length. Easy, right? (Only if you know your measurements, so get on that.)
If you’d like to translate those numerical measurements into letters, here’s a number-to-letter size translator from The Tie Bar. (Who happen to be on our list because they’re a brand that knows what’s up in the men’s dress shirt department.)
How A Dress Shirt Should Fit
Neck: If a shirt fits correctly, you should be able to fit two fingers under the collar after it’s buttoned.
Shoulders: The seam at the shoulders should hit as close to your shoulders as possible. The stitching will sag past the shoulders if the shirt is too large. If it’s too small, it’ll crunch up toward your neck and feel tight in the armpits.
Armhole: If the armholes of your shirt don’t fit correctly, chances are, the rest of the shirt won’t either. If they fit too loosely, the rest of your shirt will likely bag. Too tight, and you won’t be able to lift and rotate your arms without pulling the rest of the shirt. The armhole should provide you plenty of room to move without sagging too low under the armpit.
Sleeves: A well-fitted shirt will feature a sleeve that tapers to the cuff without ballooning. When buttoned, the cuff should hit the thumb’s base with your arms at your sides.
Chest: If a shirt fits correctly, you should be able to cross your arms in front of you without the shirt stretching across your upper back too tightly. Similarly, you should be able to extend your arms behind your back without pulling on the buttons across your chest so much that they gap. The Hulk is incredible and all, but you’ve seen what he does to his shirts – that can get expensive. Not to mention embarrassing.
Waist: A correctly fitted men’s dress shirt should stay trim all the way to the waistline. If the shirt is baggy when you tuck it in, it’s too large. If it pulls and gaps at the buttons, it’s too small.
Length: Ideally, a well-fitted shirt should be long enough to stay tucked when you lift your arms over your head but rest at the hip when untucked.
Types of Fit
Typically, dress shirts come in three fits:
Classic: Less tapered at the waist and sleeves, broader across the shoulders.
Slim: Tapered at the waist, trimmer across the chest, shoulders, and arms.
Weave and Fabric
There are a few standard dress shirt fabrics, but cotton is the overwhelming choice for function and quality.
That said, what weave you choose is ultimately a matter of taste, but there are some guidelines about how to pick appropriately.
- Poplin/Broadcloth Weave
Smooth, crisp, and lightweight, poplin (also known as broadcloth) is the fabric of choice for more formal shirts.
- Oxford Weave
Oxford is rougher than other shirt fabrics. It stands up to frequent wear and tear and is an excellent choice for more casual shirts.
- Pinpoint Weave
With a weave somewhere in between poplin and Oxford, a pinpoint shirt is made for flexibility. It’s at home both in the office and on casual occasions where a button-up collared shirt is the order of the day.
- Twill Weave
Twill shirts are appropriate for both dress and casual occasions. While twill is soft, easy to iron, and relatively wrinkle-proof, it isn’t as crisp as poplin or pinpoint. Because of the weave pattern (such as houndstooth), it’s a bit harder to clean, too.
What Is Shirt Thread Count?
A shirt’s thread count is basically the number of woven threads in one square inch of fabric. Typically, men’s dress shirts feature a thread count between 50-200.
The higher the thread count, the better the quality. You’ll notice a correlating price difference, but it’s always worth it to pay a bit more for a shirt with a higher thread count.
What Does Ply Mean?
What go-to dress shirt colors should be in my closet?
This is a matter of taste as well, but unless you’re the most fashion-forward guy in the room and know how to rock a purple dress shirt, it’s better to keep it simple.
Most men’s fashion designers recommend keeping plenty of white and light blue shirts on hand because they look great with any suit color. If you’d like to branch out, very fine pinstripes or pale pink looks great, too.
For best results, the dress shirt should be a lighter color than your suit and provide plenty of contrast with the suit jacket and tie.
Where do the white collars and cuffs come from?
We’re glad you asked.
That, my friends, is called a Winchester shirt and was named for Oliver Winchester. While you may recognize the name more for guns than fine men’s dress shirts, he actually got his start as a clothing manufacturer.
By definition, a Winchester shirt is colored and/or patterned with cuffs and a collar in a contrasting color. (Usually white.)
How To Recognize A Quality Men’s Dress Shirt
A quality collar has a top layer, a middle layer that keeps the collar rigid (often called an interlining), and a bottom layer.
The layers are carefully stitched together and smooth flat when ironed in a quality shirt.
Cheaper shirts generally feature “fused” collars where all three layers are glued and pressed together (kind of like an iron-on patch) before a single pass with the sewing machine. Fused collars often bubble when ironed, and unsurprisingly, don’t hold up well with washing and wear.
A well-made shirt will feature a high stitch per inch count and straight seams. To determine the quality of a shirt’s stitching, turn it inside out. The stitching on the inside should look as tight as it does outside.
The buttons and buttonholes should be firmly and cleanly stitched, as well.
Plastic buttons are the most common type found on mass-produced shirts. If you can swing it, look for shirts with mother of pearl buttons. They hold up much longer and don’t melt under a hot iron like plastic buttons sometimes do.
Many shirts are made from a poly/cotton blend, but 100% premium cotton is always best.
Buttonholes should be cleanly and firmly stitched, and perfectly fitted to the size of the buttons.
If a tailor-made shirt isn’t in the cards for you, find a dress shirt that fits as closely as possible to the guide we outlined above. A quality shirt should fit consistently and proportionately.
Flat Felled Seams
Turn the shirt inside out and look at how the seams are secured. If they aren’t stitched with the edge secured between a folded piece of fabric then stitched down together, you’re looking at a lower quality shirt. (A flat felled seam is the seam used to make denim jeans.)
Hand Sewn Cuffs
Just as with the collar, the cuffs of a well-made shirt feature three layers. Some shirts fuse those layers together and sew them all in one pass. In better-quality shirts, they’re hand sewn.
How To Properly Care For A Dress Shirt
How do I wash a dress shirt?
Dry cleaning is nice, but it can actually be a pretty rough process on your shirts. If you’d like someone else to handle your shirts, ask them to wash and press them instead.
If you don’t have the disposable income to pay for someone else to wash and iron your shirts, you can do it yourself at home with a few guidelines.
First, pre-treat any stains with a mild detergent. Unbutton all the buttons (cuffs too), remove the collar stays, and wash warm on the delicate cycle for white and light colors and delicate cold for darker colors.
It’s best to hang your shirts or dry them flat, but most dryers these days have a low setting gentle enough to dry a dress shirt. Iron with a warm iron.
Wrinkle-free shirts are a little lower maintenance when it comes to washing, and of course, don’t usually need a pass-through with the iron.
Men’s Dress Shirts Brands to Look For
Bonobos began its clothing journey by perfecting the ubiquitous khaki pant and have branched out into all kinds of fine menswear since.
Their men’s dress shirt line has a great variety of style options, from crisp classic white to bold patterns. They’re also known to carry a broad range of sizes for every shape and stature.
If you like your shirts fitted with a bit of give for movement, this shirt manages to mix quality and comfort effortlessly. It’s made with a poly/cotton/lycra blend and comes in tailored and slim fits.
2. The Tie Bar
Unlike some of its competitors, The Tie Bar sticks to the basics regarding the dress shirts they offer. They also keep their prices low considering the quality of their shirts.
You won’t find a ton of variety of fabrics, but you will find three kinds of cuff and collar options to choose from, which is plenty for the average guy looking for work shirts. Also, their shirts are suuuper soft.
Of course Nordstrom offers a signature men’s dress shirt that makes anyone who wears it look like a million bucks. We probably don’t need to get into the intricacies of why their dress shirts are great – they’ve been around carrying luxury clothes forever. Just stroll into your nearest location and ask for directions to the men’s shop: you’ll see.
Not all wrinkle-free shirts are created equal, but this one ticks all the boxes. It features a curved hem, a pointed collar with removable stays, and 100% midweight cotton construction. Comes in classic fit with plenty of room through the chest, waist, and armholes.
4. J. Crew
Another well-known brand that’s been around forever, J. Crew can turn out a quality dress shirt as effortlessly as a knit sweater or Nordic hiking boots. Although we do have to say, we’re partial to their more casual dress shirts like the one we featured here.
Every guy should have a more relaxed, casual button-down shirt in their closet for less dressy occasions where you still have to look sharp. We think this one’s an excellent option with its buttoned collar and simple one-button cut cuff. It’s made from a cotton/elastane blend for a bit of stretch, too.
5. Luxury Brand: Turnbull & Asser
What can we say about Turnbull & Asser, except they make the sexiest, most masculine shirts ever? I guess we could mention that they carry a James Bond collection that will make you look like Sean Connery in his heyday. Oh, and they’re endorsed by British royalty.
If you happen to be in London, stop by their Bury street location and get fitted – they’ll create a custom shirt precisely for you.
It was hard to choose an example to show you from Turnbull & Asser because you’ll want every single shirt they make, so we decided to go with the classic of classics. This regular-fit shirt features the classic Turnbull & Asser style collar and three-button cuffs. It’s made from the most luxurious 100% cotton fabric, and the buttons are mother-of-pearl.
6. Brooks Brothers
Across the pond (with a more *ahem* reasonable price point), we have the iconic Brooks Brothers, creating luxury dress shirts for guys since 1818 from their flagship store in good old NY, NY. If you like your shirts crisp, smart, and with a side of heritage, Brooks Brothers has it.
This shirt has everything you need to take on the boardroom with moxie. It’s made from luxe cotton woven in Italy and features mother of pearl buttons, double-barrel two-button cuffs, and a sharp English spread collar. The shirt shown here is standard, but it’s available in regular and slim fits as well.
7. Land’s End
Land’s End prides itself in creating comfortable, laid-back clothing with preppy flair – so it isn’t surprising that they make a dress shirt that fits that criteria. In addition, their dress shirts are made with 100% Supima cotton, making them stronger and softer while staying blissfully wrinkle-free.
We think the patterns available for this shirt look effortlessly classy. If you want a dressy yet semi-casual shirt with more personality than blue and white, this is it. It features a button-down collar and two-button cuffs in traditional, tailored, and slim fits.
8. Banana Republic
For many guys just starting out in the workplace, Banana Republic was where they went to find their first real dress shirts for work. Without mom’s help. It’s definitely a go-to place for quality, fashionable dress shirts that stand up to wear and tear like a pro. Their shirts may be a bit pricey compared to some, but they’re definitely worth it.
9. Charles Tyrwhitt
Another English clothier from Jerwyn Street (the mecca of fine menswear in London), Charles Tyrwhitt has the reputation to match their real estate. Some may not realize the tremendous value they’re getting when they order a Charles Tyrwhitt shirt, too. Look for their online sales, and you’ll see what we mean.
We did a serious whiplash-inducing double take when we saw the price of this luxe shirt. It’s made from 100% cotton twill and has a classic collar and square French cuffs. It even features brass collar stays. Honestly, you can’t get a better shirt with all the expensive bells and whistles for a price like that.
Everlane designs clothes with maximum style while staying classic. Their dress shirt collection is no different. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention their 365-day satisfaction guarantee as well. If your shirt springs a leak (or pops a button, frays some edges, etc.), they’ll replace it.
We love this tailored shirt with a casual(ish) preppy twist! (In case you’re wondering, by the way, the “Japanese” moniker comes from the fabric made in Japan with 100% cotton yarn.) It has a button-down collar, back pleat with a hanging loop, and if you don’t love the blue and white pattern we picked, it comes in a few basic colors you’ll love.
11. Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein is a brand that consistently conjures visions of sophistication and style whenever you hear the name. Their men’s dress shirts are an excellent example of how they’ve managed to hang on to that reputation for so many years. Hip, stylish, and quality-made: all benchmarks for a great dress shirt.
Herringbone (or twill) is a beautiful fabric for dress shirts, and this one has the added bonus of low-maintenance laundering. It’s slim cut throughout for a sleek, modern silhouette and features French cuffs and spread collar.
12. Ralph Lauren
You can find Ralph Lauren ready-to-wear clothing at department stores worldwide, and there’s a reason why they’re so universally popular. Their dress shirts are among the staple pieces celebrated for years. Besides, if it’s good enough for the US Olympic team, it’s good enough for us.
The ultimate in collegiate style, the trademark polo pony is ubiquitous among the young and upwardly mobile set. This slim-fit shirt features buttoned barrel cuffs, a button-down point collar, and box pleat for a perfect fit across the back and shoulders. Made from 100% cotton.
Continually pushing to make fantastic shirts even better, Eton has worked hard to make a dress shirt that’ll turn heads at the office. Eton has developed a process that organically treats its yarn to make it naturally wrinkle-free, unlike some other companies that treat the whole shirt with chemicals to achieve the same results.
This handsome shirt stands out from some of the others we’ve shared because of (among other things) the extreme cut-away collar perfectly designed for wider-knotted ties. We love the effortless cut of the cuffs, too. Made from low-maintenance wrinkle-free 100% cotton.
14. Todd Snyder
A renowned designer of menswear, GQ called Todd Snyder “the man who taught men to love clothes.” One look at his clothing line, and more specifically, his line of dress shirts, and that accolade makes total sense. More affordable than some brands, a little less than others – they’re like the Goldilocks of dress shirts.
This shirt has it all: mother of pearl buttons, a hand-sewn moderate spread collar, and hand-sewn single-button cuffs. It’s also made from Egyptian cotton woven in Italy, then hand cut and sewn in the US. Not too shabby.
Look Out World
We hope we’ve helped you find the perfect shirt to make you feel good about emerging from the Covid cave of working from home. After all, a crisp dress shirt seems to make a man stand up straighter and stride through the day with confidence.
Look out, world – you’re bringin’ sexy back.
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Laura resides in the fantastic city of Nashville, TN with her very, very patient husband, three well above average boys, a dog the size of a dinosaur, and a fleet of cats. When she’s not writing for work, she’s writing for fun. When she’s not doing that she enjoys reading, fine dining, copious amounts of wine, and philosophical conversations with her children. And some adults on occasion.