Understanding the Dress Shirt: Custom Shirt

Great article from The Art of Manliness.

blue_herringbone_shirt_folded

A man’s dress shirt can elegantly frame his face during a presentation and later absorb his perspiration during a tough round of questioning. It can play a supporting role by enhancing his sport jacket or it can stand alone and be the centerpiece of his outfit. The dress shirt ranges in price from the $9.99 Wal-Mart polyester special to over $600 for a name brand custom shirt. But why would you want to read an entire article about dress shirts?

Because details matter. In any given day we only speak with a small percentage of the people we see; the shirt you wear, in the absence of a jacket, is the most powerful signal you are using to non-verbally communicate with those around you. Your shirt, whether you like it or not, is speaking for you; make sure it’s saying what you intend.

What is a Dress Shirt

A proper dress shirt is a button-up shirt with a collar, long sleeves, and wrist cuffs. It is usually made from a cotton fabric woven and dyed into various, non-obtrusive patterns and colors. By altering these characteristics, a dress shirt can either send the message its wearer is ready for sport or ready to meet the president.

Dress Shirt Fit

Most men wear dress shirts that do not fit them properly. The problem is that ready made garments are made to fit many; as a result, they fit no one perfectly. We all compromise somewhere if a shirt fits us in the neck it fails us in the sleeve length; if it fits well in the sleeves, it billows out around the stomach. So the fit  I’ll describe here is generally only achievable on a custom shirt or one that’s close to fitting and then tailored by a skilled hand.

A well fitted dress shirt should first and foremost be comfortable; this is different for every man. Larger men are usually complimented by a looser fit while petite and thin men are complimented by a more form cut. In general, though, a shirt should:

  • Allow two fingers in the collar when buttoned.
  • Be tight enough around the wrist so that the cuffs must be unbuttoned to slip them off.
  • Have long enough sleeves so that you can raise your arms like wings and not pull the cuffs down the forearm; they should be short enough so that you don’t have more than 1 inch of fabric bunching near the cuff when your arms hang.
  • Shoulder points that extend to the end of the shoulder and no farther.
  • Have room in the chest and waist to pinch out 1-3 inches of fabric (depending on fit desired).

Dress Shirt Fabric

Cotton. The undisputed king of shirt fabrics, cotton has been the choice of those in the know for centuries. A finely woven cotton fabric exhibits all the properties a man could want from a garment worn close to the body, good heat & moisture conduction, durability, smoothness, and the ability to take shape when ironed.

Man-Made Fibers. Although they do not exhibit the same desirable properties as cotton, man made fibers have made a huge impact on the shirt scene due to their ability to do an acceptable job at a rock bottom price. Often wrinkle and stain resistant, these fibers have and will continue to play a major role in menswear. Although I recommend staying away from shirts with more than 50% man made fiber, for the budget minded, they may be a viable alternative.

Silk. A luxury fabric easily recognizable because of its sheen and light drape, it is not recommended for most as, the maintenance costs are high and long term durability low. But that’s just my opinion!

Check it out in its entirety at The Art of Manliness.

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