As part of my commitment to dressing better and helping anyone else interested in doing so, I spend quite a bit of time online reading articles, talking to folks I come across etc and trying to bring the information together in a single location i.e, I do the work so you don't have to...or something like that. Anyway, one of my go to sites for informative pieces, PutThisOn posted a brief article on buying dress shirts. I've combined this with a primer on shirting fabrics from Deo Veritas.
I really appreciate when stuff like this is explained in a straight forward manner and thought it was well worth sharing. The more you know, right?
When out trying on different button-up shirts, do something you may not have considered: sit down in your shirt before buying. Since slim is in, many (fashionably aware) men these days have overcompensated by buying slimmer and slimmer garments. The result is a shirt that might looks like it fits well when they’re standing in front of a mirror, but as soon as they sit down, the placket will gape and the buttons will strain as their stomachs push out.
A well fitting shirt should have relatively clean lines no matter what position your body is in. See the two men above from custom shirt maker Anto as examples. The one on the left has a shirt that’s slim enough to be flattering, but also comfortable enough to accommodate his body while he’s seated. Naturally, a shirt may feel tighter in the midsection if you slouch, but if you’re sitting up reasonably straight, the lines should remain fairly clean.
Other things you may want to check:
Armholes:Move your arms around to make sure you can reasonably lift them up without untucking your shirt. If you can’t, the armholes may be too low.
Collar: Manufacturers typically built in shrinkage, so it’s fine if your collar is a bit looser in the store. Generally, however, you want to be able to slip just your index finger between your collar and neck after a few washes.
Collar points: The collar points should be long enough so that they’re still touching the body of your shirt when you have a tie on. And though it’s a matter of preference, I think they should also be cut in a way so that the points remain tucked behind your sport coat when you’re wearing a jacket.
Sleeves: Again, manufacturers build in shrinkage, but generally speaking, after a few washes, your sleeves should come down to the webbing between your thumb and index finger when your cuffs are unbuttoned. When buttoned, they should sit just below your wrists. This way, you have enough material for your cuffs to stay still (rather than ride up your arm) when you extend your arms. If you’re able to get the first but not the second, a simple fix may be to just move the cuff button, thus making the cuff a bit tighter. You can do this at home quite easily.
What to Look For...
Every dress shirt is a combination of its weave, thread count and fiber. Ultimately, this combination will determine the feel and look of the dress shirt. This is what determines the final product.
Cotton dress shirts breathe very well and can also be very soft, feeling the most comfortable of all fibers. It’s a good conductor of heat, feels and looks natural while providing the best overall quality, which can make it expensive. However,it is important to bear in mind that it does wrinkle easily. Blended shirts are common because they are less expensive than cotton, are wrinkle free and provide good warmth, though, less comfortable than cotton. Since they are a combination of cotton and polyester, they are not breathable, so you may want to avoid it in the summer. On the other hand, linen is perfect during a hot day, but is notorious for wrinkling.
Oxford cloth is one of the more popular weaves, due to it’s softness and good durability. It can be worn for formal or casual occasions. It has a “basket weave” appearance, the fabric crossing over in pairs. Pinpoint Oxford is a higher end Oxford, having a lighter weight and finer texture. Royal Oxford is finer still, usually worn for formal occasions.
Broadcloth is a tightly woven fabric with a silky texture, giving it a smooth, formal appearance. It’s one of the most formal dress shirts you can wear, displaying patterns, such as stripes, with great detail. Also, it’s great during the cooler months, providing insulation, during Spring or Fall.
Twill dress shirts use a diagonal pattern, giving it a unique look but also has a strong texture which looks great on shirts with a solid color, making the patterns more visible. It’s generally light weight, lighter than Oxford and Broadcloth, but also very durable, not soiling easily.
Poplin, similar to Broadcloth, is made up of 100% cotton having a soft, comfortable feel, not requiring much ironing. It makes a good summer shirt. It has a very smooth look, though, there is a fine horizontal ribbed effect on the surface. Also, it drapes very well to the body so it’s important to have it sized properly.
Herringbone is a custom dress shirt that is tightly woven with a fine ribbed effect. It’s used with Twill, creating a weave made up of rows in opposite directions, forming a zig zag pattern. It looks great on solid colored shirts, bringing out the unique details of the fabric. Compared to an Oxford shirt, the Herringbone has a smoother feel and classier appearance. Not a common weave, but definitely unique.
The final piece is the thread count, which tells you how many threads were used to make the fabric. Most dress shirts range from 40 — 160. The higher the thread count, the higher the quality, such as a softer, finer finish. A lower thread count usually produces less quality but it could also mean a heavier fabric, for cooler weather. Another factor to consider with thread count is the ply, which means how many threads were twisted together before making the fabric. Two ply takes two strands, twists them together, and produces a durable, smooth fabric. Single ply uses one strand and therefore, produces less overall quality. So a two ply, 80 thread count dress shirt would be better than a single ply, 120 thread count shirt.