The Dos and Don’ts of Choosing a Dress Shirt to Wear With a Suit

If you’re planning to wear a two- or three-piece suit, you’ll need to find the right dress shirt. While a dress shirt technically isn’t a part of a suit, it’s still an essential garment that you’ll need to wear. But with hundreds of different styles available, how do you know which to dress shirt to choose? Below are several dos and don’ts to follow when choosing a dress shirt to wear with a suit.

Do Choose a Comfortable and Appropriate Fabric

Men’s dress shirts are available in a variety of fabrics, each of which performs differently when worn. For maximum comfort, choose a dress shirt in a fabric that’s appropriate for the season. During the summer, for example, you may want to choose a linen dress shirt because of the lightweight and breathable properties of linen. During the winter, on the other hand, a thicker fabric like a polyester and cotton blend is recommended.

Don’t Choose a Dress Shirt in the Same Color as Your Suit

Never wear a dress shirt in the same color as your suit. If you already own a suit and are now looking to purchase a dress shirt, choose a dress shirt in an alternative color. Why is this necessary? If your dress shirt has the same color as your suit jacket and trousers, there won’t be any distinction between these various garments. Instead, it will create the illusion that you are wearing a single-piece outfit or jumpsuit, which isn’t very flattering. To prevent this fashion faux pas, choose a dress shirt in a different color than your suit jacket and trousers. If you’re wearing a black suit, consider choosing a white dress shirt. It’s a classic combination that looks great on all men.

Do Pay Attention to the Buttons

When shopping for a dress shirt to wear with a suit, take a few minutes to inspect the buttons. Look to see where the buttons are located, what they are made of (e.g. pearl, plastic, etc.) and how many the shirt has on it. A typical dress shirt will feature about a half-dozen buttons aligned in a vertical row down the middle. But the quality of these buttons can vary, so you need to inspect them yourself. If you choose a dress shirt with cheap plastic buttons, you may discover them falling off or breaking. Thankfully, most mid- and high-end men’s dress shirts are made with high-quality buttons.

Don’t Choose an Overly Casual Dress Shirt

To create a formal appearance, you’ll need to avoid overly casual dress shirts. A suit alone will help you create a more formal appearance, but it won’t result in a complete formal outfit unless you complement it with a formal dress shirt. A formal dress shirt should feature a high-quality construction with a well-defined collar that you can use for a necktie. If the collar is weak or flimsy, the dress shirt is probably too casual, in which case you should keep searching.

Keep in mind that different dress shirts have different collar styles. The standard point collar is the most common collar style. It features sharp edges that point downwards at about a 50- to 60-degree angle. There’s also the spread collar, which is characterized by 90-degree edges. The spread collar is considered more modern than the standard point collar, but you really can’t go wrong with either of these collar styles.

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Do Make Sure It Fits

You can’t expect your suit jacket to hide an oversized and undersized dress shirt. Granted, a suit jacket can minimize the appearance of a poorly fitted dress shirt, but other people will still notice that your dress shirt is either too big or too small. To avoid this headache and create an attractive, formal outfit, choose a dress shirt that fits your body.

You’ll usually find men’s dress shirts are sold size such as  15/32 or 17/38. Basically, the first number refers to the neck size, whereas the second number refers to the waist size (both measurements are expressed in inches). Before you head out to shop for a dress shirt, use a tape measure to get these measurements of your body. You will then be able to choose a dress shirt in the perfect size for your body.

Don’t Overlook the Cuffs

A common mistake men make when shopping for a dress shirt is overlooking the cuffs. While most dress shirts now feature buttons sewn into the cuffs, there are still plenty of dress shirts that without buttons in the cuffs. And if you choose a dress shirt with buttons in the cuffs, you’ll have to secure them using cufflinks. Cufflinks are essentially small accessories that secure the cuffs — similar to how buttons work. There’s nothing wrong with using cufflinks, but you’ll need to make sure you have some ready if you choose a dress shirt without built-in buttons.

Do Consider the Price

The price of men’s dress shirts can wildly fluctuate, so check the price tag before making a purchase. Some of the cheaper men’s dress shirts are available for as little as $20. But as the saying goes “You get what you pay for” holds true. $20 dress shirts generally lack the quality and attention to detail of their higher-priced counterpart. By spending the extra money on a high-quality dress shirt, you’ll reap the benefits of a better fit, improved appearance, increased comfort and a longer lifespan.

Don’t Choose a Dry-Clean Only Dress Shirt

Unless you don’t mind visiting the dry cleaners every time you wear it, avoid choosing a dry-clean only dress shirt. Assuming a dress shirt is made of an organic fabric like cotton or linen, you should be able to wash it clean it in the washing machine. For other dress shirts made of synthetic fabrics, though, you could be forced to have it dry cleaned. To see whether a dress shirt is dry-clean only, check the care label. Here, you’ll find cleaning, caring and general maintenance instructions as recommended by the manufacturer.