Gentlemen, let me ask you – what's the staple piece of your wardrobe?
I'll give you a hint. You'll be wear this 99% of the time.
You've probably got at least 5.
If you wear it right, you look like $1 million. If you get it wrong, you've wasted your money.
It's your shirt.
In today's article, I'm giving you the Complete Perfect Shirt Checklist. Let's get into it.
#1. Men's Dress Shirts – Fit
Fit is everything.
The best dress shirts are comfortable and fit without restricting movement. If your shirt doesn't fit you, either get it adjusted or get rid of it.
Off the rack men's dress shirts are available in a range of standard sizes like slim, athletic, traditional and full fit. The one you choose depends on your preference and body shape.
If you're a bigger guy, you may want to go for a traditional fit because it will complement your shape and if you're a smaller guy, a slim fit shirt will keep you from looking like you've borrowed someone else's shirt or recently lost weight.
Whichever you go for, make sure your shirt doesn't have excess material which bunches around the belt line. This look is unflattering and you'll find yourself trying to tuck it back in throughout the day.
1.1. How A Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit – Collar
You should be able to comfortably button your shirt up all the way up to the top. When it's buttoned, you should be able to get 1-2 fingers between your neck and your shirt collar. If your collar is too tight, you're going to be uncomfortable all day long and if it's too loose, your collar will sag around your neck and behind your necktie.
1.2. How A Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit – Shoulders
The shoulder seams on your shirt should reach to the edge of your shoulders. If they end before your shoulders (you may see the shoulder seam ride up towards your neck), you need to go up a shirt size. If they overhang and slide down your arm, it's time to get rid of that shirt and get a smaller fit.
1.3. How A Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit – Torso
Always dress for your body type. A larger guy is needs 2.5 – 3.5 inches of extra fabric around his torso to make movement comfortable whereas a smaller guy needs less excess material.
If you can see your shirt fabric straining around the buttons – pay particular attention to the chest area and lower buttons – your shirt is too tight. If your shirts sags and billows at the sides, and bunches up under the arms – it's too baggy.
1.4. How A Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit – Armholes
The armholes of your shirt are often overlooked. Higher armholes give you a wider range of movement and many men find them less restrictive.
Lower armholes allow more air to circulate inside the shirt but don't offer this extra freedom of movement. If you notice an abundance of fabric hanging under your arm, your armholes are too big.
This is one part of the shirt you can't have altered so if you find your armholes aren't working for you, you need to go for a tailored shirt.
1.5. How A Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit – Sleeve Length
Your shirt cuffs should not ride up your forearm when you raise your arms over your head or out to the sides. You should not be able to see your wrists when your arms are down by your sides. If this is happening, you need a longer sleeve length.
Ideally, your sleeves should reach the base of your thumb. You should be able to see 1/2 inch of sleeve when wearing a jacket or blazer.
If your sleeves are too long, your shirt fabric will bunch at the cuff when your arms are down by your sides and your sleeves will extend over your thumb and on to your hand.
1.6. How A Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit – Sleeve Width
Off the rack men's dress shirts come with a sleeve width which varies according to the shirt fit. Traditional fits come with wider sleeves and slim fit shirts sleeves are more tapered. Your sleeves should fit comfortably when you flex your arm (you don't want to see your muscles bulging through the fabric) but shouldn't be loose enough to flap and billow.
If you have had your shirt torso tailored, you need to make sure you're having any excess fabric on the arms tailored too in order to keep everything in proportion.
Factor in the cost of tailoring when you make a decision as to whether to have your existing dress shirt adjusted or to buy a new shirt. The cost of alterations can exceed the cost of a new made-to-measure dress shirt.
1.7. How A Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit – Shirt Length
Keeping your shirt tucked in is one of the biggest bug-bearers for men. If your shirt is too short, it will continually pop out and it'll drive you crazy. Raise your arms above your head and test this. If it pops out – you may want a longer shirt.
For this reason, you should always go for longer shirts. No one will see the additional length because you'll have it tucked in.
1.8. How A Men's Dress Shirt Should Fit – Dress Shirt Cuffs
Your cuff size should be between 1.5 and 1.75 inches larger than the measurement of your wrist. A good rule of thumb is you should have to unbutton your cuffs in order to take your shirt off. If you can slip your hands out of your sleeves without doing this – your cuffs are too loose.
Take care if you wear a wrist watch, you may want to have the buttons adjusted 1/2 – 1 inch on that sleeve to allow your sleeve to slide over your watch.
#2. Men's Dress Shirts – Fabric
Dress shirts range in formality. The more simple the shirt pattern and design – the more formal it is. The plain white dress shirt is the most formal style of dress shirt; the scale moves down towards informal with stripes, patterns and extra details like pockets.
2.1. Shirt Fabric Weight
Men's dress shirts made from heavier fabrics will keep their form longer and are more suitable in cooler climates. Lighter shirts made from materials like Linen will keep you cool in the sun.
If you feel uncomfortable in your shirt, it will show – so make sure you pay attention to the fabric weight before making that purchase.
2.2. Shirt Fabric Weave
The weave of the fabric is how the yarns are sewn together.
Poplin (also known as broadcloth) – the ‘standard' fabric used with dress shirts. It's classic and crisp, cool and breathable and has a slight sheen. Poplin has a smooth texture but is also prone to wrinkling. Overall, it's a great day-to-day material.
Twill fabric – a diagonal weave or texture. It is softer and thicker than poplin and some variants of this fabric are offered as a ‘non iron' men's dress shirts because it's resistant to creasing. Twill drapes from the body but doesn't offer that crisp, clean feel you get with poplin.
Broadcloth – similar to poplin but with a denser weave. Broadcloth is lightweight, smooth and flat looking, with no pattern in the weave of the threads.
2.3. Shirt Fabric Types
Cotton – cotton is the standard by which other shirt fabrics are judged. It's breathable, looks great and you can wash it over and over again without damaging it. You can also put it through the tumble dryer at a low heat.
Synthetic – synthetic blends are common in men's dress shirts, sometimes to add elasticity. The problem with synthetics is that they do not stand up to heat well. You need to take care to iron at a low temperature to avoid burning or melting the material. I avoid tumble drying synthetic shirts altogether and allow them to dry naturally. Note that synthetics are also prone to shrinking.
Linen – linen is a lightweight and breathable material which makes it ideal for summer shirts. It's a material best suited to a casual environment and tends to be more expensive than cotton or synthetic blends because its labor intensive production process.
#3. Men's Dress Shirts – Style
3.1. Shirt Collar
The collar is one of the most important parts of the shirt because it frames your face. Men's dress shirts come with a number of collar styles; I'm going to list the most common below.
The Point Collar – the most traditional collar style and designed to be worn with a tie. The Point Collar points do not meet up with your jacket's lapel. This collar works perfectly smaller tie knots.
The Button Down Collar – a causal variant of the Point Collar. The buttons make the collar slightly less formal.
The Spread Collar – the collar spreads away from the face and the points end where they meet the jacket. This collar is great when you're not wearing a tie or you need to allow room for a bigger tie knot like the Full Windsor.
A spread collar has the visual effect of widening your face while a point collar can make your face look longer.
Whatever collar you choose, make sure your shirt collar can accommodate metal collar stays. These slide in the underside of your collar and help maintain its structure through the day.
3.2. Dress Shirt Cuffs
Standard / barrel cuff – the default for most men's dress shirts and available in one-button or two-button style. Two-button is a great way of adding a little “je ne sais quoi” to your shirt. It looks bespoke, even if it's off the rack.
French cuffs – a more formal cuff which is great for the office or to wear out to dinner. French cuffs are twice as long as the standard cuff but fold back over on themselves and are secured by a cufflink.
3.3. Dress Shirt Buttons
Mother of Pearl buttons are used by high-quality shirt makers and are made from the inner layer of pearl oysters. They are thin, tough and have more depth of color than a plastic buttons – which are much more common, come in a variety of colors and are found of the majority of dress shirts.
If you're going for a casual shirt, you can introduce contrasting buttons and contrasting button stitching to make your outfit pop.
3.4. Shirt Pockets
Men's dress shirts come with or without a breast pocket. The rules of formality state that a shirt with a pocket is less formal that one without. Some casual shirts utilize the breast pocket as a style feature and Linen summer shirts often come with breast pockets (these are great for hanging your sunglasses from).
My advice – if you're not going to use it, go without. Remember that shirts with breast pockets are unsuitable for the most formal events.
3.5. Shirt Pleats
There are three types of pleat – box, side and none.
Box Pleat – the most common type of pleat, which creates a rectangular fold of fabric that runs down the middle of the back.
Side Pleat – the side pleats are located on the extremes of the back of the shirt, near the shoulder blades. Side pleats are more formal and stylish than the box pleat.
None – the most stylish and formal option and my favored look because it's the cleanest.
3.6. Shirt Monograms
Monograms are embroidered initials, traditionally found discreetly under the belt line but now often found on the shirt cuff. Some guys love them, some think they're a bit too much. This one is a matter of personal taste.
Click here to download the RMRS Perfect Shirt Checklist. You can save it to your computer and use it to make sure your next shirt makes you look like $1 million.
3.7. High Quality Shirts & Attention To Detail
You can often tell a quality shirt by the manufacturer's attention to detail; details you won't find on most off the rack men's dress shirts.
My advice to you is to check inside the shirt. You know that if this shows attention to detail, the outside of the shirt will mirror this.
First off, check under the collar. You may find the maker has stitched in an extra layer of fabric to help maintain the collar's structure. Next, check the stitching. Around 8 – 12 stitches per inch is a sign of a quality dress shirt.
So gentlemen, there you have it! We covered a lot in this article. Check out the video ‘How To Design The Perfect Dress Shirt Online‘ – it shows you how to make that perfect purchase from the comfort of your own home.