Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dress Shirts 101 - Things to know about the Dress Shirt

A few things you should know about the dress shirt: (1) the dress shirt was originally worn as an undergarment. (2) The button-down shirt as we know it today did not take its form until the close of the 19th century. The Brown, Davis & Co was the first company to register the shirt in 1871. (3) Until the 19th century the plain white shirt, was the epitome of elegance. (4) Early twentieth century shirts mostly came with detachable collars. (5) The most distinguishing feature of the dress shirt is the collar; there are six different variations of shirt collars: stand-up, turndown, cut away, detachable, soft-roll and tab. (6) There are eleven variations of shirt fabrics: Egyptian cotton, Poplin, Oxford, Sea Island cotton, Ribbed Twill, Pinpoint, Herringbone Twill, Silk, Brushed Cotton, and Viyella. (7) There are four basic kinds of shirt patterns: Plain, Gingham, Tattersall, Madras and Striped
Brooks Brothers Shirt
What to look for in a quality made shirt: (a) a firm collar with collar bone slots (this is not necessary for soft, tab, and button-down collars); (b) a split yoke is another good indication of a quality made shirt, although, its mostly decretive on an off-the-rack shirt, its imperative on a custom made or made to measure shirt. Shirt makers use split yokes to address the differences in the size and height of the shoulders; however, on an off-the-rack shirt this is only a sign of good quality, in that it is an expensive feature. (c) A third, indication of a quality made shirt is the even or matching alignment of the pattern at the seams; in addition, the use of raised seams is essential in the more stressing areas of the shirt to ensure the stability of the seams over time. (d) As well, the stitching at the seams should be generous, this too ensures the durability of the garment and quality shirt makers generally apply twenty stitches per inch to the seams. (e) Another, indication of good quality in a shirt is the buttons; traditionally, quality shirt makers have used and still use mother-of-pearl buttons because of their indestructibility. (f) Another indicator of a quality made dress shirt is the gusset. The gusset is a thin triangular piece of material shirt makers apply at the bottom of the shirt between the breast and the back of the shirt to give reinforcement to the structure. (g) Finally, the last indication of a well made shirt is the use of ample pleating at the point where the sleeve meets the cuff. This tapering affect streamlines the sleeve and prevents it from flowing out from the suit jacket’s arm. Fit is also very import; however, durability over time tends to be the best indication of quality, a well made shirt should be an heirloom. 

Source: Gentleman, A Timeless Fashion


  1. This is very informative. I never knew the history of dress shirts myself, and I find it quite quite interesting. And your tips for picking the right shirt is definitely a must. I'm particularly struck with this line: "durability over time tends to be the best indication of quality, a well made shirt should be an heirloom". I actually have some awesome looking dress shirts from my father, and at least 2 vintage ones from my gramps, and they still look good to wear in any ocassion! In the end, I think wearablity of a dress shirt is reliant on its form (aesthetics) and function (utility).

    Joel McCall @ CorporateShirtsDirect.com

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