How To Choose The Perfect Dress Shirt

Understanding Men's Dress Shirts

By: Kim Keller, Clothier - Dallas, TX
March 15, 2024

In the intricate world of professional attire, a man's dress shirt is akin to the canvas upon which the modern executive, attorney, financial adviser, or entrepreneur paints his sartorial masterpiece. It speaks volumes about his persona, his attention to detail, and more often than not, his success. 


Accordingly, the various elements that compose a dress shirt—from the collar and cuffs to the pocket design—are important not just as style choices, but also as nuances that can either elevate a look to an epitome of refinement or detract from it significantly. 

If you are a man who understands the importance of first impressions, sartorial elegance, and the unspoken language of attire, this post is tailor-made for you.


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Menswear traces its roots back to antiquity, where the earliest iterations were drapes and loincloths. However, it was only during the Renaissance and the subsequent centuries that refinement in tailoring led to the evolution of fully-formed garments for men. By the 19th century, the modern dress shirt, with its banded collar and cuffs, came into vogue, complementing the tailored suits favored by men of status and authority. Fast forward to the contemporary era, and while the fundamentals remain largely unchanged, dress shirts have experienced considerable diversification in both form and function. Today, the market is replete with a kaleidoscope of options, each catering to different tastes, occasions, and expressions of personal style.


The point collar, with its timeless and classic appeal, is a straight-edge collar with a modest spread between the tips, making it a versatile choice for most face shapes. This style is a staple for traditional business attire and projects an air of conservatism and business acumen. Conversely, the spread collar, with a wider distance between the points, is the choice for those aiming to make a bolder statement. Often associated with power, it accommodates wider tie knots and flatters a longer face profile. The spread collar has become increasingly popular in modern, fashion-forward circles and is a favorite among stylish gentry who like to keep an eye on current trends. 


Cuffs, or what many call 'sleeve ends,' of a dress shirt are a subtle yet noticeable feature. They offer a hint of the personality of the wearer and provide function alongside form. The button cuff, or barrel cuff, is the quintessential choice for the pragmatic gentleman who appreciates simplicity combined with classic charm. It fastens with buttons, usually one or two, and is the standard for business casual and professional work settings. On the other hand, the double cuff, colloquially known as the French cuff, is a sophisticated choice for men who frequent more formal events. With this style, the cuff is folded back and fastened with cufflinks, elevating the look with an unassuming elegance that captivates attention subtly. 


A pocket on a dress shirt is a debatable feature. Traditionally, it was considered a standard inclusion in shirts, providing a modicum of utility. However, the evolving nature of sartorial fashion has seen preferences shift, with many considering the pocket to be an unnecessary embellishment on a dress shirt. The presence of a pocket can impart a shirt with a casual vibe, which might be intentional if you’re aiming to bridge the gap between formal and casual. Pockets can be practical, offering a space for a pen, glasses, or the occasional business card, a feature some find quite handy. Should you opt for sleek, unadulterated elegance, omitting the pocket is advised. It lends a cleaner, more refined look that aligns seamlessly with classic business dress codes. A shirt without a pocket is the quintessential canvas for upscale business wear, exuding an aura of immaculate sophistication.


The interplay of these different elements—collars, cuffs, and the presence of a pocket—dictate not just the character of a dress shirt but also how it aligns with the wearer's intentions and the broader context of his style. A point collar with button cuffs and no pocket speaks to a wardrobe that is steeped in the art of understated elegance, while a spread collar with French cuffs and a chest pocket may hint at a more contemporary, expressive taste.


It’s essential to understand the unwritten rules of men’s style, as it is often the case that the minutiae matter as much if not more than, the overarching trends. A correctly chosen dress shirt can enhance your personal brand, showcasing not just your wardrobe choice, but also your distinct personality and taste. Your TJ clothier can offer guidance on which type of collar, cuff & pocket is best for your custom shirt style preference.


In the world of the well-dressed professional, the devil truly is in the details, and as with all domain expertise, the key to mastering the art of dress shirts is through knowledge, practice, and the daring to experiment while staying true to one’s essence. Understanding these dress shirt styles should now equip you with the tools to choose wisely, ensuring that every donned shirt becomes an elegant statement of your professional and personal excellence.

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