There aren’t too many fashion “must-haves” out there. But a great dress shirt goes a long way.
I was at a wedding a few weeks ago, and I noticed a trend amongst the younger guys. The 20-24-year-old dudes showed up in a nice shirt, dress slacks, and a tie.
No jacket. And you know what? It looked great.
There’s no doubt that a suit or blazer are wardrobe staples. But it was nice to think back to those youthful days when my closet was barebones and a solid dress shirt was as formal as I could go with my budget.
My wardrobe has evolved since my early twenties, but one thing has never changed. A killer dress shirt is still a core essential. Even the young guys know it.
We’re going to talk about how to style one, how to find the right fit and give you a list of our seven favorite shirts right now.
So whether you’re looking for a wedding or for work, we’ll give you everything you need to know to upgrade this wardrobe staple.
The 6 Best Dress Shirts for Men in 2021
Without further adieu, here are our seven favorite dress shirts right now.
1. Mizzen + Main Leeward
Mizzen + Main’s Leeward collection is a great balance between classic menswear and modern fashion.
The trim fit and spread collar make for a versatile shirt that works on its own or paired with a suit.
We’ve tried the Kennedy and Malone colorways and we love the texture and fit.
This is the shirt for you if you travel a lot for work. It simply doesn’t wrinkle or crease. Even fresh out of the box, all I had to do was hit it with some steam and it’s stayed completely wrinkle-free.
If you’re used to packing everything into checked luggage, the Leeward collection is your best bet for a non-iron shirt. Great fit, all-weather, and no-wrinkles makes for a great travel companion.
This is easily the best dress shirt we've tried for travel. Mizzen+Main specializes in breathable, non-iron shirts. We actually crumbled this in a ball and stuffed it in a backpack for two days and it still didn't have wrinkles.
2. State & Liberty Checked Dress Shirt
If you read our guide on taking measurements and said enough is enough, State & Liberty might be for you.
State & Liberty makes performance dress shirts for the slim, trim, and fit guy.
We’re fans of the fit and style of the brand’s shirts, plus we love how stretchy and comfortable they are.
If you don’t want to go through the whole process of getting your shirt tailored and you’ve got biceps for days, consider the Athletic Fit from State & Liberty.
The fit on State & Liberty's dress shirt is excellent, even for guys who aren’t jacked. The two darts placed in the back tapers the waist significantly and creates a flattering silhouette. And the way the sleeves are cut help emphasize your shoulders. Yep, you're looking good.
3. Charles Tyrwhitt Multi-Buy Shirts
I visited London back in 2012, and I was shocked. I didn’t know England had a mandatory, national uniform. I didn’t check with any officials, so this is all unverified. But from what I could see, every adult male between the ages of 26 and 42 wore a navy suit with a white, semi-spread collar dress shirt. Tie optional.
Do you know where all those Londoners got their shirts? Charles Tyrwhitt.
This growing company has plans to expand London’s national navy suit agenda, with 12 brick-and-mortar shops in the States already. Check out Charles Tyrwhitt’s multi-buy program, pick up several dress shirts at a discount, and become a loving subject of the royal family today.
The brand’s huge variety of shirts means you can find fabrics for any season: poplin, cotton, chambray—you name it.
Charles Tyrwhitt dress shirts are oldies but goodies. They have a multi-buy program that's perfect for guys who need a new set of dress shirts, pronto. Pick up two or three for an excellent discounted rate.
4. Mizzen + Main Spinnaker
Anyone here live in a warm climate?
If you do, check out Mizzen + Main’s Spinnaker collection. This range is M + M’s most stretchy, comfortable, moisture-wicking option.
When we gave the Spinnaker a try, we forgot all about the fact that we were wearing long sleeves—it was that comfortable. Darts in the back keep it slim and streamlined. We loved the fit, and it works especially well tucked in.
If you need a dress shirt you’re not going to sweat through, check out Mizzen + Main’s Spinnaker line.
The Spinnaker is our favorite dress shirt built for comfort first. This has the highest stretch factor of any Mizzen+Main shirt, but the dual darts in the back keep it trim and classy looking.
5. J.Crew Ludlow Dress Shirt
J.Crew has a wide range for guys looking to solve their workday woes. Their Ludlow line is a collection of nearly 50 simple colorways you can rock in the office.
But our favorite pick from J.Crew’s Ludlow collection is their simple white dress shirt. Classic and simple is necessary on some occasions. And few brands do classic as well as J.Crew
J.Crew has been serving up classics for years, and they're our go-to brand for the simple, timeless white dress shirt.
White dress shirts needs to be opaque. You don't want anything "sensitive" peeking through the chest of your shirt while you're making a deal. The Ludlow hits a perfect balance with fit, fabric thickness, and comfort.
6. Brooks Brothers Milano
These guys have been in the shirt game forever. Well, since 1818. Abraham Lincoln had a coat from Brooks Brothers.
They have unique collar options that aren’t too common, like this Milano stretch shirt with a clubbed collar. While the styles are a little “older,” some nights just call for a little more refinement.
What we love about this shirt is the French-cuff. In high-powered business meetings, showing a stellar cufflink is just the touch of refinement you want to seal the deal.
Hey, Honest Abe wore it, and we'll wear it, too. Brooks Brothers may be over 200 years old, but that doesn't mean they're stuck in the past. Their take on the iconic business French cuff is a must-have for high powered gents.
How Dress Shirts Are Measured
Dress shirts have four important measurements. These are:
- Neck Size
- Chest Size
- Waist Size
- Sleeve Length
Other important measurements are:
- Seat Size
- Bicep Size
- Shoulder Width
- Cuff Circumference
You’re not likely to have control over these last four measurements unless you’re going to a bespoke shop or tailor. For that reason, we’ll only cover the big four mentioned above.
Neck size is the circumference of the collar with the top button done. Typically, neck sizes range from 15.5” on the small side to 18.5” on the large size.
When buying off the rack at a department store, neck size is the first measurement I look for.
I’ve noticed that most of the time if you get the neck right, everything else follows suit.
So if you don’t want to take the time to measure out your torso (or you’re operating solo), at least measure your neck.
My neck is 16.5”, which puts me somewhere in between a medium and a large.
If you’re like me and are in between sizes, you might need to do a little more digging to figure out what fit will work best for you.
Chest size is the second most important measurement. But you’re going to need a friend to help you with this one.
You’ll want to measure the fullest part of your chest, so you need a tape measure to run under your armpits.
Most companies judge their sizing based on actual body measurements—not the measurement of the shirt. That means, if you have a 40” chest, get a shirt with a 40” chest measurement. Some resources out there tell you to add a few inches, but if you do, you’ll end up with an oversized blanket.
When measuring your sleeve length, you’ll actually be adding two measurements together.
First, measure from the base of your neck to the end of your shoulder (the very top of your arm). After you’ve got that, measure the length of your arm to where you’d like the cuff to sit.
Add those two numbers together and round up to the nearest available measurement, and you’ve got the perfect sleeve length.
A quick note on measuring for sleeve length: stand as natural as possible when getting this measurement. That means your arm will have a slight bend to it. If you unnaturally straighten your arms or bend them too much, you won’t get an accurate measurement.
Unless something is terribly wrong, waist size shouldn’t be a deciding factor when buying a dress shirt. You’ll get enough information to find something that fits great by knowing your neck, chest, and sleeve sizes.
If the manufacturer has any idea what they’re doing, they’ll nail the waist size.
Shirt Sizing Chart
Mizzen + Main has a great sizing chart that shows what your measurements are for both their trim fit and standard fit shirts. These measurements work with many brands, too, though each brand has its own unique fit and style.
If you don’t feel like busting out a tape measure and marking down your sizes, I don’t blame you. You can go to a tailor and get your measurements done and have them tucked away for reference.
But as a quick guide, I’m 6’2”, and weigh between 180 and 185lbs. I have an athletic frame, meaning my chest and waist are roughly the same widths.
I went with a Trim Medium, and it fits great. But looking through the measurements, I’m right on the line between medium and large. If you’re like me, you’ll just have to choose if you want your shirt a little more snug or loose.
And with most companies, if you mess up your sizing the first try, you can exchange for the right fit.
Different Types of Collars
The collar of a shirt defines its style. Some collars are more formal, some collars are casual. A lot of people overlook the style of collar, but that’s a big mistake.
Knowing what style you’re going for will help you choose the right collar for you. These are the four most popular types of collars.
Straight Point Collar
The straight point collar is the most commonly available. It’s a slightly older looking style, but it’s perfect for gents with wider faces. The narrow opening in the front will elongate your facial structure.
The spread collar is the modern alternative to the point collar. These collars allow you to showcase wider tie knots, like a Windsor.
The spread collar will visually widen your jaw, so it’s a great option if you have a narrow face.
These veer toward the casual end of the dress-shirt spectrum. While you can wear a button-down with a suit and tie, I like to layer them with a sweater or a vest.
Every guy should have a great button-down—they’re so versatile. I recommend investing in one that fits you well. Because you can wear it on Friday nights and Sunday mornings alike, you’ll get your money’s worth in no time.
Band collars are the most casual option and are usually only found in chambray or linen shirts. It’s a throwback to when men used to attach turndown collars with pins. Now, it’s purely a style choice.
Band collars look great on slim guys and work well underneath a blazer for the rest of us.
Best Hangers for Dress Shirts
Ok, I’ll admit, I had to learn this lesson the hard way. But if you hang your dress shirts for a few weeks on the wrong kind of hanger, you run the risk of stretching out the shoulder fabric.
You know that shirt that used to fit perfectly? Yeah, sorry. It’s floppy and weird now.
I recently had to salute two dress shirts and give them a Viking send off after I hung them up on wire hangers for six months without wearing them. It was a tough blow.
But after doing some research, I came across these American Cedar Hangers on Amazon. I picked up a 10-pack and I’ve been loving them. The shape keeps my shirts from stretching out in the shoulders, and they keep the fabric fresh. Closets can get a little musty, especially in winter, so having a fresh wood like cedar helps give your dress shirts a lift.
These hangers work on a few levels: first, the shape is supportive so you don't blow out the shoulders of your dress shirts if you don't wear them for a few months.
Next, they're made with American Red Cedar, which keeps moths from getting at your nice cotton.
Lastly, they smell freakin' amazing and keep your shirts fresh, no matter how long they're crammed up in your closet.
White, Blue, One, or Two?
Wherever you are with your wardrobe, a top-of-the-line dress shirt is non-negotiable.
You don’t want to be like me at my sophomore year homecoming—wearing the world’s thinnest, most ill-fitting thing eight dollars could buy. They called me “nipples” for weeks.
A great dress shirt will last you a long time, and when you get one that fits right, you’ll find yourself wearing it more than once per week.
These seven winners are sure to help you stand out whether you’re looking to be the most stylish guy in the office or you need a special touch for a date night.
What color dress shirts should every man have?
White and blue dress shirts are a must in every man’s wardrobe. We recommend picking up one pastel color, whether that’s purple, pink, or yellow. Navy and charcoal colored shirts are also highly versatile and make for a solid addition to man’s collection.
How many dress shirts should a man have?
A man should have at least as many dress shirts as he needs to get through a workweek. Ideally, you’ll have double that amount. So if you wear a dress shirt 4x/week, you’ll have 8 dress shirts. Don’t be afraid to mix up your colors, either, and switch out any shirts that start to get stained.
Should you wear a shirt under a dress shirt?
You don’t always need to wear a shirt under a dress shirt. If you’re wearing a buttoned suit, you don’t need an undershirt. The main concern is that you don’t have your undershirt showing through at the collar of your dress shirt.
What color shirt is most attractive?
Studies have shown that women find red and black shirts are most attractive. The least attractive scoring was yellow. More important than the color is the fit. Get the right fit for your body type and your shirt will look attractive no matter what.