|What makes the perfect dress shirt? At Proper Cloth, since we make dress shirts, sell dress shirts, tailor dress shirts, wear dress shirts, and practically eat, sleep and breathe dress shirts, we've developed a pretty good idea of what to look for. Here are some things to consider:
1.) Stiff Fused Collar
Assuming this shirt is for professional context, the collar should be stiff and sharp. More casual dress shirts can come with floppy collars that are comfortable and great for relaxing on the weekends but these are not appropriate for formal situations. We also think the perfect dress shirt should have a collar that is fused, although there is some debate around this issue. It seems to us that fans of unfused collars fall into one of two groups. The first group prefers the unfused collar purely because historically bespoke shirt makers did not fuse collars (it does require a bit of machinery and advanced materials after all). I'm fairly certain that people in this group also drive classic cars, make coffee in stainless steel percolating pots and smoke tobacco from pipes while watching episodes of Matlock. The other group of people that dislike fused collars have usually had a bad experience (bubbles forming) with a cheap fused collar sometime in the 90's. Collar fusing has come a long way since then and we definitely endorse it as the best way to make a collar that will look crisp and sharp for the life of the shirt.
2.) Split Yoke
The shirt yoke is the panel of fabric that runs across the shoulders, just behind the collar. Fine shirts will be made with what's called a split yoke (it is made from two pieces of fabric and split in the middle). A true split yoke will have the two pieces of fabric cut at an angle. The stylistic benefit of cutting the fabric like this is that if the shirt has stripes or some kind of pattern, this pattern will run parallel to the front seam of the yoke, producing a neater look in the front In the back below the collar the stripes will meet in a chevron pattern. The functional benefit is that when a fabric is cut at this angle (also referred to as "cut on the bias"), the fabric stretches more length wise. This means you'll have more stretch in the shoulders providing a greater comfort and range of motion.
3.) Removable Collar Stays
This is pretty basic stuff. The perfect dress shirt will definitely have collar stays (little bits of metal or plastic that are inserted into the points of the collar) - they keep the collar points pointing straight and looking sharp. It's ideal to remove the collar stays prior to cleaning and pressing the shirt, and you'll eventually want to replace them if they become bent out of shape. For both of these reasons, removable collar stays are ideal.
4.) Premium Cotton Fabric
I won't even go into this too much, because dress shirt fabrics is a deep subject with varying opinions on thread count, ply, country of origin, mill, type of weave, yarn treatment, materials, etc. It all comes down to one thing though: the fabric makes the shirt. So get something comfortable that looks nice. Most dress shirts are made with 80 thread count fabric and nicer shirts are usually made with higher thread count fabrics. What fabric you prefer is up to you. BTW - the shirt shown here is 100% cotton 120 threads count white twill imported from Europe. And it's amazing.
5.) Smaller Arm Holes
Now we're getting into the shape of the shirt which is just as important as the fabric. Most off the rack shirts come with very large arm holes (to accommodate the widest range of body types) although some of the more trendy designers are now making their shirts with very tight arm holes. The benefit of a smaller arm hole is part fashion (the more tailored dress shirt look that is in style now) and part function (a smaller arm hole better isolates the movement of the arm from the rest of the body allowing you to move your arms without pulling the body of your shirt all over the place).
6.) Slim Cut Sleeves
This is primarily for fashion's sake. Slim cut sleeves (trim, not tight) make for a more polished look, removing unnecessary fabric around the arms.
7.) Single Needle Stitching
You want to look for this on the side seams of the shirt and at the underside of the sleeve. Single needle stitching makes for a tighter, neater looking seam than double needle stitching. It's hard to explain the difference, but on a single needle stitched seam, you'll only see one line of stitching. The other will be folded up into the tight fold of fabric. Single needle stitching takes longer to do than double needle stitching and thus generally costs more.
8.) Tapered Midsection
Similar to the slim cut sleeves, a tapered midsection adds to a polished look by removing unnecessary fabric. Especially if you have an athletic build, you'll find that most off the rack shirts will naturally billow out around your waist. A slim fitting tapered midsection will compliment your physique and make your entire outfit look more polished.
9.) Hand Sewn Fused Cuffs
It doesn't really matter if we're talking about French cuffs or barrel cuffs. For the same reasons we like fused collars, we like fused cuffs. They should be hand sewn and this is where experience, skill, and patience makes a difference. It takes a lot of focus, practice and time to get the details on the cuffs right and it will show the most in the pointedness of the corners and the straightness of the stitching.
10.) High Quality Buttons
Nothing ruins a shirt worse than cheap plastic buttons, and if you shop at the fabric shop in Shanghai, this is exactly what you're going to get. (At least that's what I got when I shopped there) The more ostentatious will demand mother of pearl or perhaps a Trocha shell composite button, however, there also some high quality composite plastic resin buttons that are attractive and even more durable than their natural alternatives.
11.) Reinforced Side Seam Gussets
In the past, I've complained that side seam gussets are nothing but worthless flair, however, I've come to believe that a reinforced side seam gusset is a nice design touch that sets a shirt apart when it is untucked. I've also heard guys complain that their shirts tear at the bottom of the side seam, so strengthening this area has a functional benefit as well.
12.) Shallow cut shirt tails
If you want to wear your dress shirt untucked without looking like a nightgown, you need to avoid the extra long shirt tails that Brooks Brothers' shirts are so famous for. And while formal situations require the shirt to be tucked in, late nights at the club can cause shirts to become untucked. Getting the length of your shirt and the shape of the shirt tails right will suit you in either situation.