There are few menswear staples that are as timeless and essential as a crisp white dress shirt. Men have been reaching for white dress shirts for as long as they’ve been wearing suits, although the clean, classic look of this garment works with just about any outfit, making it one of the best and most versatile pieces of clothing a guy can have in his wardrobe.
There’s a good chance you’re already fairly familiar with dress shirts, and you probably already have a few. There’s also a good chance, however, that there’s a lot more to a quality dress shirt than you’re aware of. Here’s a quick run-down of things to look for in your next dress shirt:
Choose the right Fabric
Cotton is the standard material used for dress shirting, but it’s not all made the same way. Natural shirt fabrics are generally classified according to the weave:
- Poplin (or broadcloth) is a soft weave that is light, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant.
- Oxford is a medium-bodied basket-woven cotton with a slightly rough texture.
- Twill has a tight diagonal weave that results in a thick, substantial cloth.
- Pinpoint is similar to Oxford but woven with thinner threads for a smoother hand.
- End-on-end features contrasting warp and weft threads that create a heathered look.
Fit Should be Trim & Tailored
Dress shirts should be fairly trim. The important thing here is to avoid the big, baggy, blousy over-sized shirts many men are wearing. Also important is collar fit. There should be no visible gap between the collar and your neck, but you want to be able to comfortably insert two fingers inside the collar. If you can’t, it’s too tight.
A proper dress shirt’s size will be labeled by two numbers which indicate collar size and sleeve length – dress shirts shouldn’t be labeled with generic garment sizes like “medium.” A 15/34 shirt, for example, has a 15-inch collar circumference and a 34-inch sleeve length measured from the back of the neck down to the cuff. To suss out your ideal size, use a flexible tape measure to measure your body or find a shirt you already have that fits perfectly and measure that. And find a good tailor.
Top 10 Best White Dress Shirts
1. Brooks Brothers Milano Fit Oxford Sport Shirt
The Milano Fit Oxford is a workhorse of a white shirt. It’s made in North Carolina out of superdense cotton oxford cloth, and it’s actually kind of rough when you first get one. But then, with enough washing and wear, it becomes one of the softest things in your closet. Coggins called the Milano the original button-down that’s still great.
2. Buck Mason Perfect Oxford One Pocket Shirt
Another shirt that Livingston says he wears regularly is Buck Mason’s Perfect Oxford One Pocket. “Buck Mason is one of my go-to’s for easy-breezy staples and their Oxford shirt is no exception. It’s fitted, lightweight, and maintains wash after wash.”
3. Everlane Air Oxford
Even if you wear a lot of oxfords, you may not have designated cold and warm-weather options in your closet. According to style blogger Justin Livingston this shirt from Everlane is a hot weather godsend. Made in a lighter material than Everlane’s traditional oxford, it’s designed for warmer weather. “Everlane’s Air Oxford stays true to its name with an extra-light fabric woven from thinner yarn, which makes it an indispensable item in any guy’s summer wardrobe,” says Livingston.
4. J.Crew Slim Stretch American Pima Cotton Oxford Shirt
Photographer and rug dealer Mikael Kennedy who is over 6-feet tall says that he looks for a combination of fit and price when he’s shopping for button-downs “I’m a tall dude, so it’s hard to find shirts that fit properly. And then honestly, the majority of my choice is based on price because I wear them almost as often as I wear white T-shirts. The J.Crew slim fit shirts tend to do the job. They’re not disposable, but they need to not be precious, either. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $40 to $60 on a white button-down. The shirt I got married in was like $30 on sale. So, I don’t think it matters that much.”
5. Bonobos Wrinkle Free White Dress Shirt
This is one of the best-selling shirts Bonobos offers thanks to its classic, wrinkle-free fabric. Never iron another shirt again.
6. Indochino Custom White Dress Shirt
Indochino lets you customize just about everything about your shirt, from the type of collar to the kind of cuffs you want based on your measurement profile.
7. Charles Tyrwhitt Slim Fit Spread Collar Non-Iron Twill
This brand is known as the “the home of proper shirts” and we couldn’t agree more. This standard, classic-fitting dress shirt features a wide, cutaway collar to make more of your tie visible while drawing more attention to one’s face. The Charles Tyrwhitt Slim fit offers slim sleeves, giving a defined and classy silhouette. This flattering shirt will enhance any man’s formal collection.
8. T.M. Lewin Cotton-Linen Blend White Shirt
Almost all quality dress shirts are made from 100% cotton, but as men are wearing suits more, cotton/linen blends have become a popular choice of shirting material for those hot summer months. Cotton by itself is not the most breathable cloth, and while linen is very light and airy, it wrinkles about as easily as wrapping paper. A nice blended fabric, on the other hand, combines the body of cotton with the coolness of linen, presenting a near-perfect hot-weather alternative to all-cotton garments.
9. Brooks Brothers’ Golden Fleece Shirt
This dress shirt is part of the Golden Fleece Collection, one of Brooks Brothers’ high-end lines. The cotton is woven in Italy in a durable twill that gives the shirt a thick body and a nice smooth hand. Golden Fleece shirts, however, are cut and stitched right in Brooks Brothers’ shirtmaking facility in Garland, North Carolina, so you’re getting old-school American craftsmanship from the old-school American menswear label. That puts this shirt above the rest and makes it more than worth the money considering it’ll be your go-to white dress shirt for decades with proper care. If you’re a “buy once, cry once” kinda guy, and you only need one solid white dress shirt in your rotation, then the Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece spread-collar is the one for you.
10. Hugh & Crye Mayfair Fitted White Dress Shirt
100% two-ply Egyptian cotton from the renowned Italian mill, Tessitura Monti this unique fitting sizes will get you as close to custom as possible without the wait.