Yesterday I bought a good dress shirt. Yes, it’s purple, but you’re going to have to deal with that. It’s from Jones New York (amusingly, I can’t find any men’s clothes on their website), and I got it at the Bay. After wearing it last night, it occurred to me that it had pretty much everything I look for in a dress shirt.
Thick, opaque cotton
I see plenty of dress shirts that are made of this thin polyester/cotton blend that’s vaguely translucent, particular in light blue or white. I’m kind of a hairy dude. In a strong light, I don’t want to be able to see my chest hair through my shirt.
Removable collar stays
Collar stays are one of the hallmarks of a well-made shirt. They say “I’m serious about keeping your collar straight”. Plus, it’s cool to have a shirt with removable parts. Just remember to take them out before you send the shirt to the dry-cleaners. I frequently forget this. The plastic collar stays come back as sad bent little things, good only for, I don’t know, shoveling cocaine, maybe?
One way lousy shirts cheap out is by trimming the volume of cloth that you tuck into your trousers. Be wary of this, because the last thing you want is to have the shirt creeping out at your hips.
Obviously these are more of a stylistic choice than a indicator of quality, and only a few of my shirts have this feature. That said, I don’t see many cheap and cheerful shirts with French cuffs. Cuff links can be fun for an otherwise accessory-free man like myself. They’re earrings for your shirt.
This is another personal preference, but I think a shirt looks crisper and a little more formal without the extra stitching and fabric of placket. I’m no opposed to plackets per se, but if I’m looking for a shirt to wear to business functions, cleaner lines are better.
Horizontal button hole
If there’s a litmus test for a good dress shirt, it’s the horizontal button hole. I’ve written about this before, but I’ve never had a bad shirt that had this feature. It’s a tiny detail, but it implies that someone cares enough about crafting the garment to make this effort. Bonus points if the thread used on the button hole is a different colour than the rest of the holes (not the case with this shirt).
There are other shirt-related topics. Obviously if the shirt has a lot of loose or unfinished threads on it, stay away. I’m not a fan of monograms anywhere–they just strike me as odd little coats-of-arms. Your shirt should be cut round at the bottom, called a ‘tail’, unless you’re planning on wearing it untucked. In that case, I think having it cut square usually looks better.