Fitting the dress shirt

With the exception of the Italians, who border on the fetishistic relative to the fit of their dress shirts, most men wear theirs too tight in the neck, too short in the sleeve, and too full around the wrist. The explanation for this is relatively simple: successive washings shrink the collar size and sleeve length, while most manufacturers allow enough cuff width for a large Rolex-sized watch to drive through.

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Unless its collar fits comfortably, the best dress shirt is useless. With the top button closed, two fingers should be able to slide comfortably between the neck and the collar of a new shirt. Most fine shirt makes add an extra half-inch to the stated collar size to allow for shrink age during the first several washings. Should the collar of a new dress shirt fit to perfection when first tried on, return it or risk being strangled before too long.

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As the torso’s second skin, the shirt should fit comfortably. At a minimum, it should be cut full enough to allow the wearer to sit without concern of whether its front will gape open. Even normal shrinkage or weight gain should not create tension across the chest or waist. The shirt’s overall length should be such that you can raise your arms without it pulling out of the trouser top.

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When a necktie is worn, the collar’s points ought to be able to remain in touch with a shirt’s body, no matter how the wearer turns his head. Semi- spread to cutaway collars should have no tie space above the tie’s knot, with points long enough to be covered by the jacket’s neckline. And finally, no part of the collar’s neckband should peek out over the tie’s knot.

Whether barrel or French cuff, the shirt must fit snugly around the wrist so that the additional length required to keep the cuff from pulling back when the arm is extended does not force it down the hand. Shirt cuff and hand should move as one. If the hand can slide through the cuff opening without first unfastening it, the cuff’s circumference is too large.

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Pockets, placket, the back and the hem

Pockets
Some men like to have a shirt pocket; others don’t. A dress shirt without pockets is the most formal choice. A gentleman would wear a jacket and therefore he would never use his shirt pocket. On the other hand, someone engaged in physical labor used the pocket to store things while working. Nowadays no one would put items in a pocket, but there are some people who, as a stylistic choice, would like to add a pocket to a dress shirt. Dandies would use it to combine a pocket square with their dress shirt. A chest pocket on both sides is very casual and usually reserved for very informal shirts.

 Placket
The placket is one of the main elements of the shirt’s front, because it automatically draws attention to itself due its central position. The traditional placket, also known as the ‘American placket’ is the most common style. It adds symmetry to a dress shirt, and it is basically, a separate piece of fabric attached to the shirt front. It can either by be folded or stitched, and it is a popular option for everyday business shirts. The French placket (no front placket) is a very simplistic style that is achieved by folding the fabric over itself inwards. This technique results in a clean shirt front without any stitching. The French placket works well on both business and casual shirts. The fly front placket,or covered placket, features an extra flap of fabric which conceals the buttons thus providing a very dressed-up look.

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The back
When it comes to the back of a dress shirt you have the option to choose pleats and/or darts. Shoulder or center back pleats help to guarantee a large range of movement in your arms, but some men also like them for the looks. Back darts, however, depending on their width, can produce a pronounced cinched effect on the waist that makes it slimmer and more contemporary. Darts are popular for removing excess fabric from the lower back of a shirt. Many guys will have lower backs that curve inward, so removing fabric from this portion of the shirt can help the shirt follow the lines of their body more closely.

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The hem
A classic dress shirt is worn tucked in. Therefore the tail and front hems are longer than the sides, so it doesn’t come untucked during the day. If you are looking for a casual shirt that you can wear untucked on a more relaxed occasion, straight hems are the way to go.

As with most details on the shirt, it all comes down to personal taste. We can give you advice on every little aspect of the dress shirt, but in the end you decide what fits your own individual style best.


Cuffs

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Barrel cuffs
Barrel cuffs are closed with buttons and are the everyday choice for most people. The barrel cuff gives a wide range of choices to the wearer, from choosing the number of buttons to the shape and design of the cuff . As to the number of buttons, most people will opt for a one-button or a two-button cuff. However, as a bespoke tailor we can also make cuffs with three or even five buttons. You have to keep in mind that the more buttons, the longer the cuff. Ofcourse, even if you want just a one-button cuff, you can decide on a longer cuff length. A longer cuff is recommended for someone with long arms. With regard to the shape of the cuff corners, you can decide between a round, an angled or a squared shape. Rounded cuffs are most common and subtle, whereas angled cuffs are generally considered more elegant and formal. The straight cut is less common, but can look nice, especially on a casual shirt. If you like your shirt cuffs to give a little bit more of a bespoke look, you can decide on an extra design element by choosing the Italian, the tab or the enveloppe closure (see the picture above).    

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French (or double) cuffs
French cuffs are dressier and more formal than barrel cuffs. The cuff is folded back (hence the double) with holes to be fastened with cufflinks instead of buttons. Cufflinks are one of the typical pieces of men’s jewellery and if you like to make a personal statement or express your sense of style, French cuffs are a great way to do so. French cuffs can have squared, rounded or angled corners. Next to the double folded cuff it is also possible to opt for a single cuff (without the fold). If you wear formal outfits such as a three-piece suit or a tuxedo, a shirt with French cuffs are a must-have. When you want a more casual shirt, you should not opt for French cuffs.

There are a lot of variations to the cuff style of a dress shirt and it is even possible to combine the barrel cuffs with French cuffs (the so-called convertible cuffs). Ideally, the shirt cuffs and the shirt collar should harmonize so the combination will give you the look you’re searching for, whether this is a formal, relaxed or a classic look. For more articles in our guide to dress shirts keep following our blog.