The Essential Guide to Men's Dress Shirts - Fits & Details | THE STYLE INSIDER

It doesn’t matter if you only sport a shirt for special occasions or don one daily, the essential guide to men’s dress shirts is for you. We’ve compiled our knowledge so you can understand everything there is to know about shirts.

You may see shirts as being simple garments that sit inside your wardrobe gathering dust until your next event or day in the office, but they are so much more. There are a plethora of different styles and details that go into designing a shirt. Yes, you can have a number of white shirts without them being all the same! This guide to men’s dress shirts will break down everything shirt-based and aid you next time you have to choose between slim or tapered fits.

Like with all clothing, shirts do follow in fashion and can be adapted to match the current trends. Not one shirt will be exactly the same as another and not everyone will like the same shirt. Many men will opt for a simple white work shirt but when socialising they choose a quirky patterned shirt.

So what shirt should I buy? Well, that’s up to you. There is not one straight answer and it’s important to have variety in your wardrobe. Just having one style of shirt is incredibly boring and won’t benefit your style. In fact, if you wear shirts for work, it’s been suggested that you have around 10-15 work shirts so you can have a good rotation. If that sounds like too many then keep reading this men’s guide to shirts as it will help instil confidence when purchasing your new wardrobe.


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KNOW YOUR FIT

When it comes to buying shirts it can be a bit daunting, from contemporary fits to super slim fits, it’s a minefield of cotton out there! Knowing your fit is incredibly important, there is nothing worse than wearing an ill-fitting shirt. Just having an idea of your fit can make or break an outfit, so make sure you carefully consider what fits are right for you.

Playing it safe by always choosing a regular fit shirt is not always the right idea. If you want to look good, making sure your shirt fits properly is vital. After your face, your torso is the next most viewed part of your body so it deserves to have a well-fitted shirt. We are going to say ‘well-fitted’ as finding the ‘perfect’ fit is borderline impossible unless you have all the time and money in the world.

A good deal of high street stores will be shirts which aren’t particularly flattering on your figure. This is because these stores are designings shirts that will fit a wide range of figures to keep their costs down. It may seem easier to pop to your local store for a shirt but it most likely will not be tailored to your shape (even if it says it’s the right fit). Hence why the phrase ‘quality over quantity’ is so valid. Just because you could buy three shirts for the price of two, doesn’t mean that those shirts will flatter you.

CAN’T A TAILOR JUST FIX IT? 

Not really. Tailors are clever but they are not magicians. While there is a lot they could do to an oversized shirt, they can’t make a shirt that’s too small gain material. They’ll also charge a pretty penny so we’d advise spending your time and money more wisely and just do your research.

HOW DO I KNOW A SHIRT FITS?

This is a question that many people ask and so we had to make sure we addressed it in our guide to men’s dress shirts. While there are many different styles of shirt, there are a few generic tips to know if they fit.

We’ve put together a small guide to help you out when checking if a shirt fits you properly.

SHIRT FIT CHEATSHEET

  1. SHOULDER SEAM – The seam should rest directly where your shoulder meets your arm. If it’s higher, then the shirt is too small. If it falls lower, it’s far too big – Arguably this is the most important test because if the seam sits in the wrong place, the whole shirt will be wrong!
  2. THE COLLAR TEST – You’ve probably heard of this tip before as it’s a quick indicator of size. If you can’t fit two fingers (index and middle fingers) between your collar and neck when the shirt is done up, then it’s too small. Likewise, if you can fit more than two fingers, the shirt is too big.
  3. BUTTONS & CHEST – It may seem self-explanatory but when trying on a shirt you want the fabric to appear flush against your chest. No pulling or creasing. Similarly, with the buttons, you do not want them to be strained. A good test for this is moving your arms back and forth, as the buttons may not gape when standing still but could when you start moving.
  4. CUFFS – To check your sleeve length is right you can use this hack: stretch out your arm straight in front of you and the cuff should sit at the bottom of your thumb bone.
  5. HEMLINE – A good shirt should always have a curved drop back hem. This means that the hem should be longer at the back than the front. This is so it stays tucked in when you sit down. A good way to test this theory is to touch your toes and see if the hem becomes untucked.

THE FITS

THE FITS

Now you know how a shirt should fit, it’s time to look at the different types of fits on offer. Like we previously mentioned, not every shirt fit will suit you and that’s okay.

A shirt is a staple in every man’s wardrobe so it should be able to frame your body in the best light. Certain fits are suitable for certain body types and occasions. It’s helpful to know which fits are best as you don’t want to make a style blunder.

It’s also important to remember that while shirts are a formal garment and appearance is important, you need to keep your comfort in mind. You will want to make a good impression and people will be able to tell if you are feeling uncomfortable.

We’ve rounded up the five main men’s dress shirt fits for this guide. There are a lot of variations of these fits but once you know these five, you’re pretty much there.

1/5
REGULAR FIT

The regular fit shirt is the shirt that most men will gravitate to just because of the name. Regular sounds safe and easy hence why so many people choose it. However, be aware that a regular fit is not quite the same as the classic fit. It’s a common misconception that they are the same when actually the classic fit is a slightly more generous cut!

Regular fit is basically the shirt version of straight leg jeans. They aren’t as intimidating as the super skinny and slim fits as they allow movement and don’t cling to every muscle. It’s a very up and down style with extra fabric around the key areas which can be helpful if you feel self-conscious about your midriff or arms.

If the other fits don’t seem right for you, or you have a ‘regular’ to fuller figure then this fit is going to be more suited to you. Whilst it isn’t as airy as the classic fit, the regular fit provides you with movability and comfort.

Specific regular fit shirts will still include some tapering which will slim the torso down. Although, even without tapering, this fit will always appear traditional in styling and offer plenty of breathing room. Some men even choose to buy a regular fit shirt and have the back professionally tailored around their own body type.

PROS: A traditional and versatile fit which offers extra fabric for men with broader torsos.

CONS: It can conceal certain elements but also drown leaners figures.


2/5
SUPER SKINNY FIT

Super skinny shirt is probably the most intimidating shirt fit in this guide. A super-slim silhouette is more popular these days within fashion and is often seen on younger men who are savvy with current trends.

In all honesty, if you want to follow the above cheatsheet, you need to be very slender to wear this fit. This fit is not flattering on certain figures but is perfect for the guy who feels swamped in their regular fit shirts. The super skinny fit will not take any prisoners and will cling to your torso like a second skin, so beware.

Similarly to the traditional slim fit, super skinny still has two darts on the back that help mould to your frame. It also offers more times than not, a slightly more generous percentage of elastane. If you have a small waist but broad shoulders, slim and super skinny fits will benefit you more. They will frame your shoulders and arms in the best way but not leave you with gaping fabric around your middle.

PROS: Ideal if you are smaller around the waist and want a flattering fit around your biceps and shoulders.

CONS: Not so flattering on everybody else!

PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO THE NATURE OF THE FIT YOU NEED TO CHECK THE ARMHOLES AREN’T TOO LOW. THIS CAN CAUSE RESTRICTION OF MOVEMENT WHEN TUCKED IN. TEST THIS BY RAISING YOUR ARMS STRAIGHT IN THE AIR.

3/5
SLIM FIT

That leads us nicely onto slim fit shirts. This fit is very popular for workwear as it doesn’t have any extra material loitering on your mid-section. Extra material can crease and look baggy around your waistline – not so smart.

Slim fit shirts have been crafted for the lean men among us and once again doesn’t flatter all body shapes. The benefit of a slim fit is that the style can accentuate your top half, therefore moving eyes away from other body parts you may wish to distract from.

As we’ve just said slim fits have two darts on the reverse. These darts keep the fabric from gathering unflatteringly around your waistline. The design has been crafted to sit flush on your shoulders and arms so if you’re wearing a jacket it will slip on with ease.

The other great thing about slim fit shirts is that they can be worn confidently with or without a tie. You’ve probably heard the phrase “you’ve got to dress the part” and slim fit shirts will help you appear professional confident.

PROS: Perfect for lean figures who want to look confident at work or social events.

CONS: The downside, again is that you have to have a lean figure to be able to pull this fit off.

PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO THE NATURE OF THE FIT YOU NEED TO CHECK THE ARMHOLES AREN’T TOO LOW. THIS CAN CAUSE RESTRICTION OF MOVEMENT WHEN TUCKED IN. TEST THIS BY RAISING YOUR ARMS STRAIGHT IN THE AIR.

4/5
TAPERED FIT

Tapered fit, the lovechild of regular and slim fit. This fit appears more tailored and cuts the closest to the body. It’s almost like getting the best of both worlds, comfort and shape.

This shirt fit is about the waist being pulled in to give the torso a cinched appearance. It’s one of the most popular styles of shirts because you have freedom of movement whilst still flattering your shape.

The nature of the tapered fit is narrowing the body of the shirt so it follows your natural decrease in size from the chest to the waistline. It’s the most natural shirt fit and will mimic your own figure whilst still slimming down your waistline.

As the name suggests, tapered fits are the closest version to off the rack tailored shaping. It’s all about quality and refining the fabric that sits around the waist by darting. By only darting the reverse this will not restrict your movement.

PROS: The shirt for all men (well most of them). Incredibly wearable, the tapered fit is a winner pretty much all around as it can slim down larger figures.

CONS: The tailored fit can accentuate a paunch so choose carefully.


5/5
RELAXED FIT

One style of shirt that seems to take a back seat is the relaxed fit, or also known as the loose fit. This fit is meant to appear the most worn-in and casual for your off-duty days.

Commonly, relaxed fit shirts are favoured as over-shirts. A lot of flannel shirts are designed in a relaxed cut and are very popular in the cooler months. Likewise, many lightweight linen shirts are also a relaxed fit as they are easy to wear and can let your body breathe.

When it comes down to body shapes, this style is quite difficult. Due to the shapeless design, it can make bigger-built men look larger than they naturally are.

In recent years, men’s fashion has been majorly influenced by oversized garments. You often see Justin Beiber and Kanye West donning large and shapeless tops!

PROS: Lightweight and simple to wear, this fit is perfect for layering or easy to wear in the heat.

CONS: The shapeless cut can be very ill-fitting and make figures appear much larger.


IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS…

It’s very easy to get bogged down in the fits of shirts, and while that is important, this part of the guide will help you learn the details of shirts. Now you know what fits are the best suited for your body shape, you have to look at what elements suit the occasion you are dressing for.

WHAT IS A PLACKET?

A placket on a shirt is the part of the fabric that holds the fastenings, i.e. buttons. The majority of shirts feature a full-button placket on the front.

STANDARD PLACKET

This is a standard placket which is suitable for work and formal wear. The fabric has been folded over which has the appearance of a raised strip where the buttons sit.

Commonly, the stitching is tonal to the shirt but sometimes it can be embellished with contrasting coloured stitching. This will make the placket stand out further.

FRENCH PLACKET

The second most popular placket is the French placket.

Minimally designed, the French placket features no folded element. The design just continues from the body of the shirt.

This placket can be seen as a slightly more cosmopolitan vibe which is good for socialising and work.