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Men’s Dress Shirts – Shirt Style Details (Collars, Cuffs, Pockets, Etc)
Over the past half century, the dress shirt has evolved from an undergarment to a prominent place in many outfits. This is one of the reasons why it is available in so many styles, colors and patterns today. Whether his style is chinos or a suit and tie, the shirt is an essential way to expand his wardrobe.
The style of a shirt says a lot about the intentions of the wearer. A dress shirt with a button-down collar, left chest pocket, plain front and single-button cuffs signals leisure while a dress shirt with a turned-down point collar, no chest pocket, a button placket down the front and French cuffs signal formality. The beauty of adjusting the style of a shirt is that you can design it not only for the occasion, but also to complement your unique features.
The collar of the men’s dress shirt is the most important style detail, both in determining the level of formality of the garment and in flattering the face of the wearer. Button-down collars are the least formal and extremely versatile; they look great without a tie, but can just as well wear a tie and jumper combination, blazer or sports jacket. The wing collar, on the other hand, is reserved for formal wear and should always be worn with its accompanying pieces. It is the least versatile collar, whose sole purpose is to signal the highest standard of dress.
Most men’s dress shirts sport some sort of pointed collar, but there’s plenty of room for variety here. While the standard pointed collar suits most men, those with narrower faces do better with slightly shorter faces, while round faces wear well over long collar points. Generally, the greater the angle between the short sides of the collar points, the more formal the presentation. The spread collars, which leave a wide opening between them, accept large tie knots particularly well. The edges of the cut-out collar almost form a straight line above the tie knot; it is the most formal necklace arrangement. An exception to the parallelism of spread and formality is the tab collar: here, small tabs of fabric extending to either side connect behind the tie knot, holding the collar close together and projecting the knot outward for a clean, no-frills look. The white contrast collar, in any style, with or without matching white French cuffs, is a favorite of power-dressers. While it certainly elevates a suit and tie above the masses, be warned if the wearer cannot match his eminence.
On most decent dress shirts, the collar points are held straight by collar stays. These 2-3 inch pointed splints are inserted into the slots under the collar after ironing, then removed for washing. Besides the plastic ones that come with most shirts, you can buy them in brass, silver, and even ivory, but their material has negligible effect on their function.
Straight cuffs, standard on most dress shirts, come in a variety of styles and, except for the most formal occasions, are never a bad choice. The common variety has a single bud; two or even three button cuffs are a bit more clever. French cuffs are of rigor for ceremonial clothes; they go well with a costume but are always optional. A button in the sleeve placket helps the sleeve stay closed during wear and can be opened to iron the cuffs; it’s optional but almost ubiquitous.
The traditional left chest pocket adds a bit of depth to a dress shirt, especially if worn without a jacket or tie, and can be useful for holding pens, tickets, etc. A shirt without pockets may look slightly cleaner with a coat and tie, but since the coat covers the pocket, the difference is minimal when you’re wearing a suit. As with most things, simplicity equals formality, so the pocketless shirt is the dressiest.
Shirt front and button placket
The standard placket is a raised strip of fabric across the front of the men’s dress shirt with stitches on each side; this is what most casual shirts and many dress shirts have. In the more modern French placket, the front edge of the shirt is folded over, creased and held together only by the buttonholes. This cleaner front sharpens up more formal dress shirts; however, it should not be paired with a button-up collar. There are also hidden button plackets, and as the name suggests hide the front buttons under a fabric sheath.
Back of shirt
Men’s backs are not flat; pleats are thus used on the back panel of a shirt so that the fabric can hang down from the yoke (the piece covering the shoulder blades) and better fit the body. There are two common varieties of pleated shirt back styles: the box pleat consists of two pleats an inch and a half apart in the center, while the side pleats are midway between each edge and the center back. . While the former is more common on off-the-peg shirts, the latter aligns better with the actual shape of the back and therefore suits most men better. A well-made custom shirt can be cut and sewn to fit its wearer perfectly without wrinkles, making it neater and easier to iron. Nevertheless, many men prefer to have pleats even on their tailored dress shirts.
A man may choose to have his shirt monogrammed, usually on the edge of the breast pocket or on the cuff of the shirt. The monogram originated as a way to identify one’s shirts in a commercial laundry, much like writing a child’s name on a jacket tag. More recently, as the shirt has taken a more prominent place in men’s attire, the monogram has emerged as a way to subtly communicate the care a man has taken in getting his clothes. While large, garish monograms certainly do more harm than good, many men appreciate the quiet display of their initials, usually in a similar color to the shirt.
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