Dress shirts are an essential component of menswear. However, we’re all guilty of occasionally treating them as an afterthought. While we try to choose the right shirt for the occasion, most men will just opt for the most affordable ones available.
Therefore, this guide will provide you with the ultimate resource on men’s dress shirts. Not only will you learn about their history and how to wear them, but you will also discover the best men’s dress shirt brands on the market.
- Top 10 Best Dress Shirt Brands For Men
- Shirt History
- Shirt Formality Guide
- Components Of A Dress Shirt
- Dress Shirt Sizing & How A Shirt Is Supposed To Fit
- How To Recognise A Good Quality Dress Shirt
- Caring For Your Dress Shirts
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read it all!
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Top 10 Best Dress Shirt Brands For Men
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about dress shirts. We’ll cover their history, their construction, and how to properly care for them. First, we’ll walk you through some of our favourite brands to give you an idea of what to expect.
Currently, we recommend the following shirtmakers in no particular order of preference:
- Eton Shirts
- Black Lapel
- Hawes & Curtis
- Turnbull & Asser
- Charles Tyrwhitt
- T.M. Lewin
- Van Heusen
- The Tie Bar
Feel free to use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to discover them all!
While shirtmakers are usually associated with Jermyn Street in London, Eton is a renowned Swedish brand that has been in operation since 1928. As a premium brand, they take great care in where their materials are sourced.
Using only cotton from Egypt and California, the fabric is woven by Albini in Italy being before finished in Switzerland or Germany. Following that, the shirts are cut and assembled in Estonia. The result is a refined yet hard-wearing shirt that lasts many years without showing any signs of wear.
"Elegant and well-crafted shirts with a perfect fit. Offering subtle elegance through focusing on barrel cuffs, Eton have amazed us with their selective choice in fabrics."
While Black Lapel is best known for its high-quality made-to-measure suits, they also produce premium custom shirts. Starting at $99 for their more casual styles, refined Savoy Line dress shirts cost around $160.
Everything can be customised from the collar and cuff styles as well as the placket. You can even add a monogram to the shirt on a location of your choice. Depending on the fabric of your choice, the cotton used varies. However, some fabrics have been sourced from well-known Italian mills like Tessitura Monti.
Whatever your choice, the result will be a shirt that is made specifically for you and nobody else.
Like Black Lapel, Indochino is one of our favourite made-to-measure suitmakers who also excel is producing custom shirts. However, their made-to-measure shirts are more affordable by being offered at a lower price point.
There are also a number of deals available. For instance, at the time of writing this guide, you can save $90 when you buy 5 custom shirts using the code “BUNDLES” during checkout. There’s no need to supply your measurements multiple times either. Once they’re on record, all orders are made just for you.
A heritage shirtmaker from Jermyn Street, London, Hawes & Curtis offers an attractive balance of quality and value. Typically, their dress shirts retail for around $75 each but there are often sales where you can pick up 4 for under $200.
Since it was founded in 1913, Hawes & Curtis has received four Royal Warrants. In fact, it was such a popular destination of the English aristocracy that they are said to have turned down Fred Astaire as a client!
Founded in 1885, Turnbull & Asser is a Jermyn Street shirtmaker that continues to produce its shirts in Gloucester, England. Furthermore, Turnbull & Asser was appointed one of the current Prince of Wales’ first Royal Warrants in 1980.
Offering bespoke and made-to-measure services, it also retails ready-to-wear dress shirts. Needless to say, they are sold for a premium as they’re still proudly made in England. Nevertheless, you’d be hard pressed to find a more authentic heritage Jermyn Street brand today.
Compared to other Jermyn Street brands, Charles Tyrwhitt is a young start-up. However, it makes up for it with its ambition. Founded by Nick Wheeler when he was in university, his vision was the produce a competitive shirt brand that offered unparalleled quality.
Today, Charles Tyrwhitt is rightfully recognised among the great Jermyn Street shirtmakers. It has a similar price point to Hawes & Curtis and retails its shirts for around $100. However, you can benefit from their multibuy programme and pick up 4 shirts for less than $200!
TM Lewin is another prominent Jermyn Street brand that was founded in 1898. Today, TM Lewin seeks to control the market by offering excellent value. Shirts retail for as little as $65. However, their enticing multibuy offer allows you to pick up 5 shirts for only $150!
In many respects, TM Lewin is the brand that started it all – at least for Charles-Philippe, our Editor-in-Chief. As a student, Charles-Philippe worked at a TM Lewin shop in the summer of 2008. Although he had already worked in retail, it was his first luxury menswear experience.
Needless to say, it sparked a passion, which is very much alive today. For this reason, TM Lewin will always have a special place in his heart.
Like Nick Wheeler, Fokke de Jong started Suitsupply as a student in 2000. Today, the Dutch label is one of the world’s most famous menswear brands. As a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, their fabrics are sourced from historical Italian mills including Vitale Barberis Canonico.
Suitsupply’s shirts vary in price and can cost between $89 and $229. However, critics argue that their quality easily rivals that of designer brands.
These days, it’s quite possible that Van Heusen doesn’t quite ring as many bells as it used to. In fact, Van Heusen is actually one half of PVH; one of the biggest clothing firms in the world! In 1910, a Dutch immigrant called John Manning Van Heusen patented a technique for fusing cloth of a curve.
This resulted in the “soft folding collar”, which revolutionised menswear at the time. After partnering with Issac Phillips, PVH was born.
Today, PVH owns celebrated designer brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Ted Baker, Michael Kors, and even Calvin Klein. Nevertheless, Van Heusen shirts are still in production today. Offering a very affordable alternative with understated elegance, they’re a great option for when you’re on a budget.
A one-stop shop for the sartorially-minded, The Tie Bar sells it all. From socks to ties and other accessories, it’s catalogue of shirts is equally wide. We’re very fond of The Tie Bar and its exciting range, which allows us to be a little more adventurous in our purchases.
Thanks to its large collection of accessories, purchasing items from The Tie Bar is easy. Therefore, it’s a convenient space to work on various ensembles by pairing your ties, socks, and shirts in a single spree.
A Brief History Of Men’s Shirts
It’s said that shirts first got their collars around the year 1300. They were built into the shirts themselves and came up as high as the jaw and opened outwardly in a riffled pattern.
As you might imagine, this was excess cloth at the time. Given its expense and lack of utility outside the battlefield, it was mostly worn by noblemen but was also built into soldiers’ armour at the time.
Up through the nineteenth century, white linen dress shirts were considered to be the epitome of male elegance. All shirts at the time were made from linen, and this term has carried over into the tailoring world. For example, it’s important to show “half an inch of linen” below your jacket sleeve when suited.
This is also where we get the term “white collar”, which denotes office and administrative professions that require an education. They could afford to wear white collars because they didn’t dirty them by doing manual labour.
At a time when most of the population lived in poverty, wearing white indicated success, a “good” family background, and gentility.
Where Do White Collars & Cuffs Come From?
Over the course of the years, it has become fashionable for men to wear dress shirts with different coloured collars and cuffs.
You’ve like realised that collars and cuffs tend to be the first parts of a shirt to show wear and eventually break down. Meanwhile, the body of the shirt could last nearly forever.
During the 19th Century, it became common for the collars and cuffs to be detachable. As a result, laundering the most worn areas became easy and helped further maintain the lifespan of the shirt’s body.
In fact, as higher classes would change their outfits several times during the day, a single shirt would be worn several days before being cleaned. As for the collars and cuffs, they were typically cleaned every day.
More affluent men of the period would have their collars and cuffs heavily starched. This resulted in a brilliant shine as well as a hardened material that didn’t crease. Similarly, it allowed the shirts to endure far longer.
This style has recently been popularised thanks to period dramas like Downton Abbey and Peaky Blinders.
It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that shirt collars were attached to their shirts as they are nowadays. As mentioned above, Van Heusen was one of the brands that helped introduce this with their soft folding shirt collar.
White was the collar of choice for a number of reasons. Firstly, white collar indicated status as we described above. Secondly, starch is white so it wouldn’t stain the collars. Finally, even in those days, people knew that white went with anything!
Where To Buy Shirts With Different Colour Collars & Cuffs
Shirts with contrasting collars and cuffs are still widely available and most of the brands above have their own versions. Alternatively, Black Lapel and Indochino include this as a free customisation option so you can have it done with any of the shirt fabrics.
Meanwhile, collarless shirts or “tunics” are a little rarer but not impossible to find. As these are still used by both priests and barristers in the UK, a number of Jermyn Street brands produce them. For instance, TM Lewin sells these shirts at very competitive prices.
As for detachable or “stiff collars”, you can often find vintage ones on Etsy or eBay. We have a number of these, which we thrifted ourselves! Alternatively, Darcy Clothing specialises in period garments and has a plethora of affordable styles. Some are even machine washable so they don’t need laundering!
Finally, when it comes to starching collars, very few launderers still do this. However, we have often used the Barker Group’s mail laundry service with a lot of success. It costs just over £2.50 per collar and if you want extra shine, you can ask for their Toastmaster service, which is a free option.
Additionally, click here to benefit from a £40 complimentary laundry collection so you can test them for free!
How Formal Is A Dress Shirt?
Shirts play a large role in determining an outfit’s level of formality. We can easily break this down into what we’d like to refer to as the three Cs: colour, collars, and cuffs.
Firstly, collar formality is determined by two main factors: its firmness and its “spread,” which refers to the distance between the collar points. Firmer collars are more formal than softer ones, and wider spread collars are more formal than those with minimal spread (sometimes referred to as a “point” collar).
Similarly, collar styles each have their own levels of formality. For instance, a button-down collar is very casual. Meanwhile, a round collar is something of a grey area. Being a heritage style, it denotes class. However, it was historically worn by workers and schoolboys!
Secondly, colour plays an important role. This is apparent when considering black or white-tie events. In both cases, white is the colour of choice, which indicates that it’s the most formal colour for shirts.
The same rules apply in a professional environment. We wear white shirts to job interviews, and it’s rare that we see a sitting President in anything but a white shirt.
As shirt colours get darker or begin to include patterns, they get incrementally more casual. You can complicate things even further by referring to the twill or weave of the shirt, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Finally, cuffs can indicate formality or a lack thereof. A barrel cuff is not necessarily casual and they can be worn with a suit. Yet, aside from short-sleeves, they’re the least formal option. Meanwhile, cuffs that require cufflinks -single and double- are definitely more formal.
As an aside, the single cuff wing collar shirt in white is exclusive to white tie and is thus the most formal shirt of all. However, double or “French cuffs” are usually considered to be the most formal in most typical settings.
Clothing is an art as much as it is a science. Therefore, it’s important to remember that a shirt is the sum of its parts, which don’t exist in a vacuum.
For instance, a brightly-coloured, boldly-patterned shirt is casual. However, if it features a spread collar and double cuffs on it, it’s formality is somewhat increased. Conversely, a plain white shirt would typically be quite formal until you slap a button-down collar and two-button barrel cuffs on it.
Components of A Dress Shirt
As described above, all men’s dress shirts have two major components, which are the collars and cuffs. Since you now know a little about how they affect formality, let’s explore the various different styles.
Different Dress Shirt Collar Styles
As we mentioned above, a dress shirt’s collar is key formality indicator. Below is a graphic representation of the most common dress shirt collars that men see:
There’s quite a bit to discuss as it relates to shirt collars, including how to make collars work with your face shape (you can identify yours with our face shape guide). To that end, we’ve created a guide to shirt collars that we invite you to take a look at.
Different Dress Shirt Cuff Styles
As explained above, shirt’s cuffs are another component that helps establish your level of desired formality. The three main styles for men’s dress shirts are barrel, single, and double/French. All of these are represented graphically below:
Like collars, there’s much to know about shirt cuffs. As such, we created a separate page on dress shirt cuffs with all the information you need.
How Do Dress Shirt Sizes Work?
You’ve probably seen terms like Slim Fit, Athletic Cut, and Tailored Fit in addition to S, M, L, XL, and even numerical measurements. It’s confusing, and there’s good news and bad news as it relates to this. We’ll start with the bad news.
The bad news is that there’s not a whole lot of standardisation around men’s shirt sizing outside of using actual numerical measurements. The good news is that we can help you navigate this minefield.
Note that all the information below is specifically for for off-the-rack shirts. When buying made-to-measure shirts, about 15 measurements will be taken off of your body and used to construct a shirt that fits perfectly. Seeing as not all of us have a tailor nearby to do this, we’ve included the info below to help you as you shop in a store or online.
Numerical Shirt Sizes
More traditional and / or higher-end men’s clothiers will use a numerical sizing system for their shirts. There are two measurements that are used:
- Collar (ranging from as small as 13″ to as large as 20″)
- Sleeve Length (ranging from 30″ at the short end to 38″ at the long end)
Most of the Jermyn Street brands listed above will produce shirts with different collar and sleeve lengths, which is convenient for getting the right fit.
Meanwhile, the majority of brands will only base it off collar size. The upside to this system is that numbers are numbers, and if you know that your neck measures at 15.5″, you can pick up a 15.5″ collar shirt and know it will more-or-less fit.
The downside is that our arms don’t necessarily get longer as our necks get larger, nor do our bodies enlarge. If you have an atypical body type, then you might want to opt for a Jermyn Street brand at the very least. Alternatively, you can instead order made-to-measure shirts from either Indochino or Black Lapel.
Many low-to-mid-tier retailers will sell dress shirts sized like t-shirts or sweaters: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and so on. Any brand’s website will often provide a sizing guide wherein these sizes correspond to collar, sleeve, and even chest sizes.
This is great if you’re loyal to one brand whose shirts you love. However, there’s literally no standardisation for this across brands, and while you might be a Medium at XYZ store, you could easily be a large at ABC Company.
While this approximate fitting would probably be fine for some casual shirts and garments, we believe that it isn’t quite appropriate for dress shirts. Therefore, try to opt for brands like the ones we’ve featured in this guide for a better fit.
Shirt Cuts (& Your Body Type)
Further muddying the waters is off-the-rack retailers’ terminology around shirt cuts. Some terms you’ll typically see are listed below, and comparing them to your body type can actually be quite helpful (we’ll get into that below). For now, that a rule of thumb
- Extra Slim
- Tailored Fit
While all of us understand what the words “classic” or “slim” mean in the abstract, these terms only mean something in relation to the company’s other offerings. Slim can only be slim in relation to something like “Standard” or “Classic.”
The two terms that we find most useful are Tall (meaning that body and sleeve length have been increased for a given size, but not the overall body size) and Athletic (chest and shoulders are cut larger, but waist is still tapered).
To make things even more confusing, some brands use entirely arbitrary terms in lieu of words that might actually describe how a shirt fit. Though they frequently change, J.Crew has a “Ludlow” and “Crosby” fit, and Banana Republic has a “Camden” and “Grant” fit as of this writing.
There is, however, a benefit to all this, which is that you can use your body type to guide you in terms of which cuts will work for you and which ones won’t. First, if you don’t know your body type, take a minute and determine yours using our body type guide.
If, for example, you’re tall and thin, look for brands that offer tall sizes for shirts. However, if you’re a thin guy, you’re going to want to see the words “Tailored” or “Slim” in the cut of your shirts. Otherwise, heavier guys should consider adjectives like “Standard,” “Classic,” or “Traditional”.
How A Dress Shirt Should Fit
Regardless of how you buy a shirt or what size the tag says it is, there are five main components to dress shirt fit: body size, body length, collar, sleeves, and cuffs. For an in-depth analysis of proper shirt fit complete with custom graphics, we invite you to see our page on shirt fit.
Very quickly, though, here’s a breakdown of how a shirt should fit:
- Body is trim, but not tight. Shoulder lines sync closely with your own shoulders.
- Two fingers fit between the collar and your neck.
- Sleeves finish at the break of your wrist with a bit of extra material to prevent it from pulling up on an outstretched arm.
- Cuffs are neither cinched at the wrist nor so big that they fall onto the hand.
- Tail length hits approximately at mid-crotch.
How To Recognise Shirt Quality
As with anything in life, there are varying levels of quality in men’s dress shirts. We advise you to buy the best quality you can afford, but that’s a meaningless statement if you don’t know how to spot quality.
Therefore, this following section will give you a few pointers on what to look for.
What Is Shirt Thread Count?
Proper dress shirts -ones that we wear to work and to social functions- are made from cotton. Therefore, it stands to reason that a shirt’s quality is directly linked to the quality of the cotton from which it’s made. We determine cotton’s quality, in large part, by its thread count. So, how does thread count work?
In a nutshell, thread count simply refers to threads per square inch. The higher the number, the denser the weave of the fabric.
The number of threads per square inch can only increase if the individual cotton fibres are finer. Consequently, a good rule of thumb is that higher thread count shirts tend to be better.
Furthermore, they’re often more wrinkle-resistant and longer-lasting than shirts with a lower thread count, and their hand feel is often superior.
Generally speaking, 80’s thread count cotton is where shirts begin to get “nice.”
Still, thread count isn’t super helpful if the cotton isn’t great to begin with. Some brands will proudly tell you where they source their materials. For instance, Eton Shirts use Egyptian or California cotton that is woven by Albini in Italy. This is one reason why they can be regarded as somewhat pricier than other brands.
However, if you’re unable to find out from where the cotton came, it can be more art than science. However, you can use your hands to get a better idea. As a simple rule, does the cotton feel nice when you touch it? If so, it’s probably a good-quality cotton.
Meanwhile, if it feels stiff, rough or brittle, then it may be inferior quality.
Cotton Vs Cotton Blends
Some shirts will have other materials in their fabrication, most often to add a bit of stretch to slimmer fitting models. If your shirt is, say, 97% cotton and 3% Lycra or Spandex, this is generally fine and won’t affect the long-term performance or wear of the shirt.
Shirts that are 50% cotton and 50% polyester, though, should be avoided. While the price tag is enticing, these shirts come with a number of problems. Firstly, they don’t breathe well so you’ll find yourself sweating more.
Additionally, they don’t wash well and those sweat patches will soon stain. Finally, they don’t last long and the fibres will quickly wear on the collars and cuffs.
Indeed, we’re all for finding garments that offers good value for money. However, things are often cheap for a reason. While you may spend less on your initial purchase, you’ll ultimately be paying more when you have to purchase more shirts in the near future.
How To Properly Care For Your Dress Shirts
As a functioning adult, it is incumbent upon you to take care of your clothes, and your shirts are no exception. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult, and caring for shirts can be broken down into four components:
How To Wash A Dress Shirt
There are a few ways to wash a dress shirt: wash & press at the cleaners, dry cleaning, and washing it yourself.
Note that if you outsource your shirt cleaning, make sure they don’t get starched. While the shirts will initially look crisp, regular starching will decrease their overall lifespan.
Wash & Press
It seems almost silly to take your shirts to a cleaner to have them throw it in a washing machine just like you would. The big selling point here, though, is that the cleaners will also press the damp-from-the-wash shirt for you, effectively ironing it and drying it at the same time.
Most cleaners will do this for less than $2 per shirt, which is great. The only downside is that the pressing machines can sometimes be a little rough and can break buttons with relative ease.
A more expensive way to clean a shirt (typically about $5 per shirt), dry cleaning is good for oil stains and other issues that can’t be resolved by a simple wash. We mentioned Barker earlier in this guide with regards to stiff collars. They also offer an excellent collection laundry service for other garments.
If you head to their site via this link, you can benefit from a complimentary £40 laundry collection service so you can try them out!
How To Properly Clean A Shirt At Home
This is probably the most common method of shirt washing. It’s easy once you get the hang of it, and we’ve provided a step-by-step guide:
- Unfasten all buttons and remove any collar stays.
- Use a stain remover pen to treat any visible stains
- Set your washing machine to “normal” or “cotton”.
- Select a warmer temperature for white and light colours or colder for darker garments.
- Air dry the shirts by laying them flat and not hanging or use dryer set to “cold” or “delicate”.
- Iron your shirts (see below).
A Note On Collar Rings, Cuff Dirt, & Pit Stains
No matter how well we care for our shirts, it always seems that the insides of collars and cuffs get this yellow-ish dirt ring that’s really difficult to get out. This occurs because these parts of the shirt make the most constant contact with the skin.
Unfortunately, this issue can be more pronounced if you have darker skin. Therefore, we offer our due condolences go out to our darker-skinned readers.
Yellowing at the armpits happens as a result of the chemicals in the deodorants most of us use, namely aluminium, mixed with sweat. The only way to slow this process down is to launder your shirts regularly and in careful accordance with the care instructions on the tag.
How To Properly Iron A Dress Shirt
While ironing can be a daunting task for many men, it can actually be quite satisfying once you get into the swing of it!
Use the following steps to improve your shirt ironing technique:
- Get your iron and ironing board ready.
- Unbutton all buttons and remove the shirt collar stays.
- Start by ironing the collar by unfolding it and starting with the underside.
- Slowly press the iron from one side to the other, meeting in the centre
- Repeat the process on the other side of the collar.
- Iron the shirt front, starting with the button holes (the placket) facing you. Run the iron down the placket then go back from the shoulder down to the shirt’s tail.
- Slide the shirt across the board so half of its back is facing you, tucking the shoulder into the board’s point.
- From the shoulder, run the iron down the body, taking care to do under the armpits and around any vents.
- Pull the shirt towards you again to repeat the process on the other half of the back.
- Slide the shirt towards you again to reveal the front and its buttons.
- Use the iron’s point to get in between the buttons and repeat the process as with the other side.
- Pinching the shoulder and cuff, lift the shirt and lie the sleeve flat on the iron with the seams lined up.
- Start with the inside of the cuff, pressing wrinkles to the edges.
- Run the iron from the shoulder down the sleeve, taking care not to iron in creases by accident.
- Repeat on the other sleeve.
While the above process looks laborious, it actually takes fewer than five minutes. In fact, if the shirt is just slightly damp and you do it regularly, you’ll be able to iron shirts under two minutes!
How To Store A Dress Shirt
Once laundered and ironed, your dress shirts should be stored hanging, with two important caveats:
- They should be hung on wooden hangers that are approximately 1″ (2.5 cm) wide. Avoid wire or plastic hangers as they can warp your shirts’ shoulders.
- Don’t stuff them into a crowded a hanging bar. Not giving your clothes any space to breathe can cause more creasing.
If your wardrobe is busting at the seams, it’s time to look into closet organisation solutions. We like to reassess its contents every now and then to sell/donate/throw away anything that we haven’t worn in a year.
How To Fold Dress Shirts
We don’t recommend folding dress shirts for everyday storage, but each one of us is going to have to pack a bag for travel at some point.
Therefore, here’s a quick, easy way to fold a dress shirt:
- After laundering and ironing, button the shirt.
- Lay the shirt flat with the front facing down and the back up with the sleeves spread out.
- Fold the sleeves to the middle of the back. Take both sleeves one-by-one and fold it over the back horizontally.
- The cuffs should now cross over the middle of the back without folding in the shirt’s side seams.
- Fold both sleeves in again, this time bringing the shirt’s side seams in to the center of the back.
- Take the bottom of the shirt with both hands and fold it up over the sleeves, ending just beneath the back of the collar.
Now you have read our detailed shirt guide, you should be better informed on how to choose the right one for you. If you still have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment! If not, we have more resources at your disposal: