The dress shirt – the most essential building block of a man’s wardrobe. Before the bespoke suit comes the all-important dress shirt. Think Cary Grant in North by Northwest. “Cary Grant” is basically synonymous with a crisp white dress shirt. In a more modern – but no less memorable – approach, envision George Clooney jet setting everywhere from Hollywood to Lake Como to Washington, DC, in a loosely buttoned-but-impeccable slim-fit dress shirt in a pale cerulean or an inky midnight blue. Simply perfect. While a dress shirt features a collar, two sleeves and a row of buttons to bring it all together, this particular combination is so fundamental, yet so elusive to get just right. The dress shirt’s indelible strength lies in its simple elegance; we find that the more ubiquitous an item, the more importance that should be placed on its utmost worth. Something that you’re going to pull out of your closet most mornings and wear from the starting bell to whenever your evening ends should fit perfectly, feel good against your skin and, well, make you look like a million bucks. Superior fabric, perfect fit, and of course, the details – that’s the timeless formula for a quality dress shirt that will be a standout in your
collection for years.
Extra-fine Fabric for Comfort and Durability
When it comes to a luxury dress shirt, 100% extra-long staple cotton is the Rolls Royce of fabrics. Egyptian cotton and Sea Island cotton grown in the West Indian Caribbean Islands (the longest and most uniform cotton fiber in the world) are highly regarded as the finest fabrics for creating refined-meets-resilient shirts. Look for 100% extra-long staple cotton, which allows for sleek-yet-strong threads, making a dress shirt at once more luxurious and more durable. Premium cotton also equals excellent breathability, absorbing moisture in the summer and retaining body heat in the winter. Two-ply compositions, referring to two yarns that are twisted together to make a single stronger thread, also contribute to a shirt’s long-lasting wear. You may hear about the two W’s that also matter: warp (meaning the lengthwise yarns in a shirt) and weft (which refers to the yarns that thread over and under the warp). Much like a bed draped with cotton sheets in a decadently high thread count, those numbers matter in dress shirts, as well. (Picture wrapping your body in a plush fabric that only all-natural fibers can deliver.) Cotton twill and broadcloth dress shirts in higher thread counts, which refers to the yarn size, yield a smoother, silkier, more expensive feel. Look for the following thread counts when shopping for a quality dress shirt: 120, 140, 170, 240.
Fit Is Essential to a Polished Look
Immaculate attention to detail doesn’t stop at the fabric in the best of shirts. How a dress shirt fits is just as indispensable to creating a flattering silhouette. As Chicago-based fashion and media personality Ryan Beshel explains, "Fit is one of the most important aspects of anything I wear, the dress shirt included. I stand 6' 4" and I'm quite slim, so fit is often a struggle for me when it comes to dress shirts.” Whether worn under a suit jacket or on its own, it’s vital to look for a slim-fit dress shirt that skims the silhouette of the body without any added bulk. Most men these days work hard in the gym and want their efforts to be noticed. Look for fits that highlight your chest, biceps, and shoulders, but still allow for you to move comfortably. Longer shirttails that stay tucked-in are another component to a pulled-together, polished look for work, evening, and weekend wear.
Game-changing Style Details
Whether you self-identify your look as strictly High Street or a combination of high and low, the dress shirt is a non-negotiable necessity. Men of all walks of life – from those who devour fashion blogs and hunt for the perfect pair of cufflinks to the most sartorially unaware among us – have need of a quality dress shirt. Why not invest and make it the best version that money can buy? When a quality dress shirt is really top-notch, you’ll discover such how-did-I-live-without-them considerations such as:
And once you’ve experienced that kind of attention to detail, it’s hard to go back.
- Thicker interlinings within the collar and cuff that retain the shape
- French plackets that keep the front clean and sleek
- Adjustable cuffs that can actually accommodate any thick or thin watch
- Extra-thick mother of pearl buttons for an elegant finish
“The dress shirt is a staple of every man’s wardrobe–that is no surprise,” says Beshel. “Obviously, style is an important factor to consider. Be it the color or an original pattern; I look for dress shirts that stand out.” He goes on to describe how dress shirts act as the foundation to every man's look, but more specifically to his distinctive “sophisticated-with-a-spin” style. “They also act as an important part of me wearing my signature: the bowtie,” he says. “Without a dress shirt, I would have nothing to build on.” Celebrity stylist Law Roach
, who has staked his claim as an unerring purveyor of fine vintage and fashion collaborator of such of-the-moment luminaries as Lupe Fiasco, Swizz Beats and a certain Kardashian paramour, pays the wardrobe priority that is the quality dress shirt its due. “I’m a huge fan of a plain white dress shirt. Actually, I’m obsessed,” declares Roach (a.k.a. Luxury Law
). "A great white dress shirt is a staple piece that should be in everyone’s closet.” If that staple piece happens to be missing (or you need an upgrade), you now know
what to look for.