Fashion & Style

How to choose a men's dress shirt

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Row of men's dress shirts hanging in a closet
The perfect menís dress shirt is easy to select
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Choosing a men's dress shirt is an important part of dressing well. Whether you are purchasing a shirt for yourself, or as a gift, the following tips will help you sort through the options.

When shopping for a men's dress shirt, many considerations should be taken. Style, color, quality and fit are amongst the most important and small touches can make a big difference.

Consider the collar

Men's shirts come with various collar types - the most popular are the point collar, the button down collar and the spread collar. Point collars are those in which the points of the collar aim straight to the ground and come together in a point. These types of collars are best suited to a small, knotted tie. Button down collars have small buttons at the tips to hold the collar and shirt together and are traditionally a more casual look. A spread collar spreads out from the neck at a forty-five degree angle, which leaves a wide area for a necktie.

Check out the cuffs

Other style considerations include the cuffs. Button cuffs are usually more casual while French cuff and barrel cuff sleeves are more formal. French cuffs generally require cuff links, a traditional and beautiful accessory to a man's wardrobe.

Formal versus casual

Even though they are all referred to as dress shirts, men's shirts can range from very formal to dress casual. Factors such as fabric, cut and color will determine how dressy a shirt is considered.

Fabric choices

Men's dress shirts can come in a wide variety of fabrics, ranging from polyester blends or cottons Ė generally considered more casual, to dressier silks or linens. Will the shirt be worn with khakis or jeans, or under the jacket of a fine Italian suit?

Options to consider include whether or not to choose a shirt made from wrinkle resistant and stain resistant fabric. Not having to iron the shirt would be a great convenience if you frequently travel. Check if the shirt is dry clean only or if it can be washed at home.

Other quality considerations include ply count. A higher quality shirt will be two-ply and the material will be stronger and softer. Check the collar for the ply information. If it is not listed, you can assume the material is one ply.

Check the side seam. A higher quality shirt will have only one line of stitching whereas most shirts will have two. Better shirts will also have a gauntlet button that closes the sleeve. Check the buttonholes for irregular stitches Ė ironically irregular stitches here indicates that they have been hand sewn. Hand sewn holes indicate better artisanship as does a two-piece yoke (the part that covers the shoulders) as this provides a better fit.

Choosing the right color

Unless you are buying a full wardrobe of shirts, or have a job that requires only white shirts, the color will need to be considered.

Look at the suits you own. Tan or cream shirts would be a poor choice if your suits are grays and blacks, but would work well with brown suits or casual khakis or jeans. Take a friend along to help you select shirts that look attractive with your coloring.

Don't be afraid of color. Pair a formal European suit with a fine shirt in rich jewel tones or soft pastels for a look that radiates self confidence and style. Brighten up a pair of casual trousers with a bright colored shirt or bold pattern.

If you're trying to choose a dress shirt for a specific event for which you will have a date, it would be best to note the color your partner will be wearing and coordinate your own outfit. You do not want to show up in a red shirt if your date is wearing a pink dress! Where to shop

Shopping for a dress shirt can be overwhelming, as there are many stores to choose from.

Narrow down your options by choosing a regular men's wear store or a specialty store. If you need specialty sizing and a "Big and Tall" type store will better suit your needs.

Consider your budget. Designer and specialty shops will be more expensive than regular shops and department stores.

Does it fit?

Once you choose a shirt from the rack, it is important to try it on. Button the shirt all the way to the top and check to make sure the buttons are well spaced and that there are no gaps between them. Make sure you can put two or three fingers between your neck and the collar of the shirt. Bend your arms to make sure that the sleeves are long enough. They should not ride up your wrist.

Check that the cuffs are snug and that they do not hang over your hand. You should not be able to slip into shirtsleeves without first undoing the buttons. Move around as you normally would to make sure the shirt isn't tight on your chest or over your back and raise your arms over your head to ensure the shirt is long enough and will not pull out of the waistband of your pants.

One thing to consider when you choose a men's dress shirt is that most shirts will shrink a little upon washing so select a shirt that has a little extra room.

If you are purchasing a shirt as a gift, make sure you have all the required measurements. These include neck and chest sizes as well as sleeve length. If you are purchasing the shirt as a surprise gift, check the sizes on the shirts he has hanging in the closet for guidance.

Custom made shirts

If you want the perfect fit in a dress shirt, custom tailored shirts are still available in many cities. Check with the local high-end men's stores or ask the tailor at your dry cleaner if they know of a shop in your area. Or check out some of the online custom shirt sites, many of which allow you to view a virtual model of your shirt before you place the order.

Now that you have the perfect dress shirt, finish off that dapper look with several men's fashion tips!

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