How to Buy Your First Dress Shirt

There are two most essential dress shirts you should own, a white and light blue shirt. Although very simple, these form the foundation for your wardrobe and are incredibly versatile. They pair with almost every coloured suit and any tie will look great with them. Alongside your first suit colours we recommended, these dress shirts pair so well with navy and grey, and give you so many styling options.

Many collar options exist, with varying formalities. For your first dress shirts, we recommend choosing a cutaway collar. This collar style remains formal, yet doesn’t look over the top. It is quite versatile, working in some casual environments as well. Other good starting options include a spread and point collars. For more advanced styles, a tab and pin collared shirt is a great way to elevate your style.

Mahdi showing us how great a nice white shirt looks.

A key thing to look for when buying a dress shirt, is making sure the collar points reach under your jacket’s lapels. When the collar is too short, it falls short of the lapels, and looks quite unflattering. Sometimes this can occur due to poor fitting in the chest area, however it usually means the collar is too small.

Example of the collar points meeting the jacket’s lapels and collar.

Your collar should also not be constricting, you should be able to fit one to two fingers when buttoned. It is also crucial to make sure you have enough tie space with your collar. Lack of tie space is usually an indicator that the collar is too tight in the neck area. You can tell when you do up your tie and it slips by a noticeable amount quickly, especially if it’s already a small knot like a four in hand.

As with all clothing, fit is extremely important. When tucked in, the shirt should not balloon out. There is no secret to keeping your shirt tucked in. Simply, a real fitting shirt will stay tucked in, as there is no excess fabric to come out.

Similar to the fit of the suit we discussed, the shoulder’s seam should meet at the end of your shoulders. The shirt should ideally not be pulling too much throughout the body, however it is difficult to get this perfect when going off the rack. Sleeves should not go past your palm and should not be too tight throughout the arm. Again, armholes should be high, to allow as much freedom of movement as possible.

Riley wearing his light blue dress shirt with jeans, a great smart casual look.

For your fabric, choose a nice durable cotton. Cotton will allow your shirts to be trans-seasonal, which is exactly what you want when building your wardrobe. Typically, a poplin or twill weave is your go to option.

Avoid French (or double) cuffs for your first shirt. These are not as versatile as they are more formal. A standard barrel cuff with one or two buttons is a safe bet.

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