Did you know there are several different types of dress shirts for men? Everyone thinks of the usual button down, long sleeve shirt right away, but what really makes a men’s dress shirt?
If you are struggling to find the right dress shirts for you and for the right occasion, this article is the ultimate guide to men’s dress shirts. We will learn about the various types of dress shirts, the components of every shirt, how to find the right fit, and what to wear for different occasions.
What makes a dress shirt?
The first question that needs to be addressed is what constitutes a men’s dress shirt. Naturally, tee shirts are out the window. If you’re into polo shirts, then there’s more bad news. Those are fantastic for the golf course, or business casual meetings, but they are also not dress shirts.
If you live in a hot climate where you never get much opportunity for long sleeves, then more bad news is coming your way. While many workplaces have started to trend towards business casual and allow short sleeve collared shirts, they also do not count as dress shirts.
So what does make a dress shirt? A men’s dress shirt must be a button up shirt that has both a collar and long sleeves. They were meant to be worn with a jacket and tie, but in modern day dress culture, they are often worn with one or neither of them.
Use caution with pockets. Although the definition of a men’s dress shirt ends with the above, pockets can quickly impact how you are seen. If your shirt has no pockets, it is a very formal men’s dress shirt. This interpretation stems from the tradition of being a gentleman who does not needs pockets, signaling a difference from being a working man.
Today, having 1 pocket is generally informal, but acceptable as dressy. In the working world of business, it is mostly acceptable for men’s dress shirts to have a single pocket for pens. Be careful not to wear shirts with pockets for true formal events.
If your shirt has 2 pockets, then it is no longer considered dressy by cultural standards even if it technically fits the requirements of men’s dress shirts. A chest pocket on both sides of your shirt is generally reserved for military, uniforms, and blue-collar occupations. It is considered informal.
How should a men’s dress shirt fit?
Now that you know what a dress shirt is, you need to know how it should fit. Most men wear shirts that are too large for their bodies, which can’t be completely helped unless you pay to have all of your shirts tailored perfectly. In today’s culture, off the rack clothing is the most frequently chosen option, so the fit is unlikely to be perfect on most body types.
A man’s shirt should fit snugly to his torso, but the buttons should lie flat. If your buttons are buttoned, but you can see some skin between the edges then your shirt is too tight. If your buttons lie flat, but your shirt bags up because there is too much room then your shirt is too big. The ideal shirt will have flat buttons and enough room to breathe without any extra material.
The amount of cuff to show and the length of sleeve vary based on style and whether or not it is worn with a jacket.
Most dress shirts are now being made with 6 buttonholes instead of 4 to make them more versatile. In any case, make sure your cuffs don’t extend past your wrists.
Collars and Cuffs
The collar of a men’s dress shirt is where you will see the most variance in style. There are several different collar types, so make sure that you choose the right one for the occasion and find the right tie to match your particular collar choice.
You also need to make sure that your cuffs match the collar for a complete look. These are the different types of collars, cuffs, and tie knots that pair best with them.
The most common collar type is the straight point, or pointed collar. This is the most traditional type of collar, sometimes called a forward point. This collar is the narrowest, and is great when wearing a suit and tie. It usually has a longer collar point and closer tips than other collar types.
The pointed collar is versatile, and can be worn in business or black tie settings. We recommend small and medium tie knots with this look and a shirt with an angled (mitered), or round cuff for the sleeves.
Small Semi Spread
A small semi spread collar features shorter points that are wider apart than the straight point collar. This look is a bit more casual, but sometimes still suitable for formal occasions. Most tall people with longer necks will look great in this collar choice.
Pair this look with medium or large tie knots. This gives you the option to use Windsor and get a bit fancier than simple knots. Pair it with angled or rounded cuffs.
The spread collar is one of the most versatile dress shirt collars available. It’s very modern & elegant and fits in well with most settings. This collar will work well with pretty much any type of knot you choose to tie, though a popular choice for this is the Half-Windsor.
This is a well-balanced middle of the road collar that is versatile enough to fit in nearly any situation. It’s great for men with long faces, narrow faces, and oval faces. Pair this with a straight cuff or rounded cuff.
The cutaway collar has the smallest collar point length of all shirts. The tips are very short and extremely spread apart. This has gained major popularity in contemporary fashion. It is a bit more sophisticated and may not always be great for formal workplaces because some of the collar band may be visible under your tie.
This is a great shirt for angled faces because the wide spread of collar points will soften strong facial features. You can easily pair this with large tie knots like the Windsor, but to add even more sophistication, try a fancy knot like the Balthus, Eldredge, or Trinity knot.
Long Button Down
Thanks to the Brooks Brothers, a less formal dress shirt exists in the long button down collar. The collar tips have small buttonholes that fastens it down to the shirt. This used to worn exclusively in sporting, but has earned a place among more casual and informal business looks. It’s more popular with younger people.
Because this is more casual, it is rarely worn with a tie. Instead, pair it with a tailored blazer or sporty jacket to dress it up. If you must wear it with a tie, then use a small knot. Because this is a more casual, sporty collar, the angled cuff works best.
Short Button Down
The short button down collar is a very youthful dress shirt. It has very short collar tips that are still buttoned down. It’s a balanced collar that mixes classic looks with modern and commonly found on oxford shirts.
The same tie rules apply to this shirt as the long button down shirt. That is to say, try to avoid a tie and just pair it with a nice jacket instead. Again, the angled cuff is the right cuff for this type of shirt.
The club collar was the style in the 20s and is seeing a bit of a comeback in modern fashion. This collar’s tips are rounded rather than pointed, so it is sometimes also called the round collar. This was originally invented as an exclusive look for wealthy English schools, but is still seen today as a more unique fashion choice.
It is best worn by men with long faces and should be avoided by men with rounded faces. The shirt goes well with sleek knits and very thin ties. If you want this shirt to become casual, simply wear the collar open. Match the collar to the cuffs with a rounded cuff.
The band collar was inspired by Eastern fashion and is sometimes referred to as a mandarin collar. It doesn’t have any collar points, and is instead just a single collar band with a front button. It’s a minimalist shirt and can be worn for special events with or without a jacket. You cannot wear a tie with this shirt. This shirt should also be worn with round cuffs.
The wingtip collar is most frequently seen on tuxedo shirts. It is the most formal men’s dress shirt available. It has extremely short point lengths that fold over the collar but don’t reach the bottom of it. In the past, this was worn regularly in formal events, but as recent culture has called for more casual dress, it is now only worn during special ceremonies and black tie events. It’s usually paired with a tuxedo or a tailcoat.
The best accessory to wear with this style is a bow tie, which has taken the fashion world by storm in a recent resurgence of popularity. Don’t wear a tie with this shirt if you’re in a tuxedo setting. The French cuffs are the only real choice for this shirt because of its formality. You can wear either double or rounded French cuffs but you must pair them with cuff links.