Every guy should own at least 3 different styles of collared shirt.
But when you're at the mall and there are literally hundreds of options to choose from, how can you even begin to find the best button-down for you?
Simple – do your research and identify the key features you want to find in your perfect collared shirt. Good news – that research starts here.
In today's article, I'm breaking out the basics of button-down collared shirts to help you understand the style that best suits your needs.
We'll be covering:
- How Should A Collared Shirt Fit
- What's The Best Collared Shirt Fabric?
- What Is A Collared Shirt's Placket?
- Best Buttons On A Collared Shirt
- What Are The Different Collared Shirt Cuff Styles?
- Collared Shirt Colors And Patterns
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How Should A Collared Shirt Fit
Fit is king. It's the fundamental rule in men's style. So do bear in mind: if it doesn't fit you properly, it's surely not worth buying.
That's a truth that generally applies to most clothing items. A dress shirt that fits you perfectly:
- Ensures comfort and freedom of movement
- Shows off your body in a flattering way
Now there's a good chance that your upper body is most compatible with shirts that have one of these 3 types of standard fits:
- Slim fit – for athletic guys who have a rather slim or non-muscular torso. Your guide to customizing a shirt is adding 12 cm to the chest, waist, and hip measurements (in order to give yourself more breathing room).
- Normal fit – for men on the muscular or buff side. It's good to add 16 cm to the chest, waist, and hip measurements to provide some extra room (without compromising the visibility of your physique).
- Loose fit – for those with a fuller torso. About 20 cm should be added to the chest, waist, and hip measurements.
And here are a few specific details that you'll need to watch out for whether you're choosing a shirt, trying one on or having one custom-made:
There are several more factors of a well-fitted dress shirt – and it would be helpful to learn and know them by heart.
What's The Best Collared Shirt Fabric?
Do you know exactly what you'll be needing your shirt for? And the kind of setting you plan on wearing it often?
When you have the answers to those given questions, then you can think about the dress shirt fabric that's most appropriate.
For most men – it's either they'll need something for the office and formal occasions in air-conditioned rooms, or they'll need something sporty or suitable for outdoor environments.
Whatever the case is for you…it's definitely important that you're completely aware of the different fabric options:
- Fine cotton – this is a lightweight cotton that's woven in a way that provides good moisture and heat conduction. It feels quite smooth against your body and it easily takes space while being ironed. Cotton types such as Sea Island and Egyptian cotton are considered among the best raw material for dress shirts.
- Man-made fiber – this can come in the form of nylon, polyester, etc. It doesn't have the same desirable properties as cotton. But it does create shirts which are wrinkle-free, stain-resistant, and very affordable.
- Cotton chambray or linen – a more comfortable alternative for casual button-downs or sports shirts.
- Standard Oxford or flannel – another good choice for casual shirts.
What Are The Different Button-Down Collar Designs?
The right dress shirt collar isn't just supposed to be there for the sake of wearing a collar. It practically frames your face – which means it has a key role in accentuating or downplaying your facial features.
And because there are lots of collar styles to select from, you have to understand the functions of each style. Then you can find out which one will do you and your shirt the most justice.
Below are some of the basic collar styles for dress shirts:
- Spread collar – the points on the collar are spread out, roughly 10 cm apart. This collar style can be dressed up or down and goes well with any fabric, color or pattern. It's great for men with long or medium-shaped faces.
- Widespread collar – the points here are pulled back even further (about 14 cm apart). It's compatible with fuller tie knots.
- Wing Tip – this is the style that works on a tuxedo. It's the most formal among the collar types and features two “wings” at the front (tucked behind a bow tie).
- Classic collar (Straight Collar) – this is a versatile style that you can wear to both casual and professional settings, featuring a small spread of around 8 cm. It tends to elongate the face, making it best suited for men with fuller or rounder faces.
- Button-down collar – it's similar to the classic collar but with buttons on the collar points (tips). The collar in place with these buttons. It's the least formal and most casual among the collar styles.
- Band collar – the band is a piece of fabric that wraps around the neck, which makes it impossible to wear with a tie. It stands up straight at the top of the shirt without the standard collar points. It looks great with a linen dress shirt.
What Is A Collared Shirt's Placket?
As sharp as you want your collar to appear, the structure of your shirt placket is just as crucial of a detail.
The placket is basically the vertical strip of fabric at the edge of the left front panel (where the button holes line up). A good placket supports a good-looking collar.
So make sure that the placket reinforces and retains the shape of the front side of your dress shirt. Your options here are the following:
- Standard placket front – the most common type of placket in dress shirts. At 1-2 inches long, the fabric is either folded or attached as a separate piece (with visible stitches on both sides). It's responsible for the symmetrical look of the front of your shirt.
- Fly Front placket – refers to a concealed shirt placket that has a flap on the front to hide the buttons beneath. This style is most appropriate for formal occasions where a tuxedo is required (since the fly front drives more attention toward the bow tie).
- No placket – this is an alternative option for those who'd rather sport a plain shirt front. The edge of the front side of the shirt is folded over to form a creased edge (held together by the button holes). This style gives the dress shirt a simpler look and is considered more formal than the standard placket.
Best Buttons On A Collared Shirt
That's right. The buttons may seem quite small or insignificant individually…
But when your dress shirt is seen as a whole – with all the buttons lined up at the front center and along the sleeves – one loose or missing button can spoil everything.
So you'll want to take the material of the dress shirt buttons into account. Options for this include:
- Plastic buttons – they're common, fairly strong and affordable. However, if the manufacturer used low-quality resin in their construction, they can break easily. So there's always a risk that comes along with them.
- Mother of Pearl buttons – these are the preferred type. Typically, they're made from the shells that surround the pearl. That's why they're extremely resilient. But these buttons are also a bit pricier and suit higher-end clothes.
- Horn/Wooden buttons – durable alternatives for the buttons of casual shirts.
Flat Vs Thick Buttons
You'll need to weigh the pros and cons when it comes to the thickness of buttons for your dress shirt. Although it's easier to dress or undress using flatter buttons, they're at a higher risk of coming off. Thicker buttons tend to last longer, but they can be bothersome to button up when you're in a hurry. So you'll need to figure out which side you'll benefit more from.
The Different Collared Shirt Cuff Styles
Don't underestimate the value of quality, well-designed cuffs.
Sure – it's only a tiny part of the overall garment, but when you've got a jacket covering the other 90% of your shirt… they can suddenly stick out like sore thumbs (along with the collar).
You'll want your dress shirt cuffs to extend about one inch past the sleeves of the jacket you'll wear. As for the cuff style itself – pick one of these versions:
- Button cuffs – the most common style that can feature round, square or angled corners. They wrap around the wrist and button into place. Round button cuffs promote a more casual feel and normally match with a button-down collar.
- Barrel cuffs – a formal style where each cuff has 2-3 vertical buttons. Multiple buttons typically suit taller men. The larger barrel length also provides a nice snug fit around your wrist. This helps create a sharper look for more formal/professional settings.
- French cuffs – these are twice the length of regular cuffs. They're designed to be folded back on themselves and sealed with cuff links. They've got a distinct look and pair well with a wing-tip collar style or a formal shirt. Use cufflinks for these.
Some cuffs feature a small button on the sleeve between the cuff and the end of the cuff opening. Called the gauntlet button, this small button prevents the sleeve around the upper arm from opening and exposing the gentleman’s wrist. Gauntlet buttons are a sign of a quality-made shirt.
Collared Shirt Colors And Patterns
Finally, you should also think about the “personality” of the overall design (color and pattern) of your dress shirt.
Is it compatible with the rest of your outfit? Does it either showcase your personality (if you're wearing it to a casual event) or match the seriousness of the occasion?
To answer these questions accurately – you want to really define the message you're aiming to send to others.
Whether it's trust and credibility, uniqueness and boldness, or a laid-back vibe…knowing that message will guide you in choosing among these sets of dress shirt designs:
- Solid white/blue – for office/business attire and formal events
- Checked/striped pattern – suited to more social/casual environments with friends or family
- Multiple colors, bright colors, floral details – for weddings, informal dinner parties, afternoons at the beach (try incorporating this into your wardrobe during the summer)
Looking for more inspiration? Check out my guide on how to pair tie knots with shirt collars!