The ABCs of Men's Dress Shirts: Glossary of Terms

The ABCs of Men's Dress Shirts: Glossary of Terms

A dress shirt is an essential part of a formal outfit. Whether you're planning to wear a suit or any other formal outfit, you'll typically need to invest in a dress shirt. Men's dress shirts, however, are available in different styles. When shopping for a men's dress shirt, you may come across some unfamiliar or even confusing terms. By understanding what these terms mean, you can choose the perfect men's dress shirt for your fashion needs.


What is the yoke exactly? It's a small band of fabric that extends from the collar to the shoulders. Most men's dress shirts have a curved yoke so that they can flex when worn. Without a yoke, dress shirts would fit exceptionally fit around the neck. Not only can this make them uncomfortable to wear, but the lack of a yoke could result in damage to dress shirts. Choosing a dress shirt with a yoke will give you peace of mind knowing that it's protected from damage such as this.


Men's dress shirts have cuffs as well. Cuffs are essentially the wrist areas of a dress shirt. They consist of a section of fabric that's folded about 2 or 3 inches lengthwise, resulting in the formation of a wrist area. All men's dress shirts have cuffs. If you're planning to buy a dress shirt, you should take the time to inspect the cuffs to ensure they are uniform.


Another term you should know is cufflinks. Cufflinks typically aren't built into men's dress shirts. Rather, they are accessories worn in conjunction with dress shirts. Cufflinks are designed to secure the cuffs closed so that they don't remain loose and open.

Some men's dress shirts have fasteners, such as buttons, on the cuffs that you can use to secure the cuffs closed. After putting on a dress shirt, you can pull the fasteners through the holes on the cuffs. If a dress shirt doesn't have fasteners, though, you'll have to use cufflinks. Cufflinks allow you to secure the cuffs without relying on buttons. Basically, cufflinks are rod-shaped pieces of material that are inserted through the cuffs. They act like buttons, with the only difference being that cufflinks are removable, whereas traditional buttons are not.

You can find cufflinks made of a variety of materials, some of which include the following:

  • Titanium
  • Steel
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • White gold
  • Yellow gold
  • Obsidian
  • Malachite
  • Plastic


Men's dress shirts have a placket as well. The placket is the front-center area of a dress shirt where the buttons and buttonholes are located. Even if a dress shirt doesn't have buttons on the cuffs, it probably has buttons on the front of it. The area in which these front buttons are found is known as the placket.

Most plackets consist of two or more layers of material. The individual layers of material are founded and sewn together. The end result is a slightly thicker -- and therefore more durable -- area on the front-center of the dress shirt. This area is known as the placket. You'll need to choose a dress shirt with a high-quality placket if you're planning to include it in your formal outfits.


Of course, we can't talk about the different parts of a men's dress shirt without mentioning the hem. The hem is the bottommost part of a dress shirt. Most dress shirts don't have a straight hem. In other words, they don't run completely horizontal across the bottom. Instead, they feature a shaped hem that dips down in either the middle or the sides.

When wearing a dress shirt, you'll probably tuck it into your trousers. A straight hem means that your dress shirt won't sit very deep into your trousers. It may sit just slightly below your belt. As a result, sitting and standing could result in your dress shirt coming untucked. You can prevent this from happening by choosing a dress shirt with an appropriate, shaped hem. Whether the hem dips down in the center or on the sides, it will sit lower into your trousers, allowing for a more secure fit.


As you may know, the collar is the part of a men's dress that wraps around the neck. All men's dress shirts have a collar. They specifically feature a raised and formal collar, which allows them to be worn be with a necktie (or a bow tie). You can pop the collar, after which you can secure a necktie around it. After getting your necktie in place, you can then pop the collar back down.

Some dress shirts have a normal spread soft collar, whereas others have a spread stiff collar. There are also wide spread soft collars and wide spread stiff collars. When shopping for a dress shirt, take a few minutes to compare the different types of collars. Only then will you be able to choose the right collar for your personal preference.

Snap Buttons

While not found on all men's dress shirts, some of them feature snap buttons. They look like standard buttons. Snap buttons consist of a circular- and disc-shaped piece of hard material, and they are typically found on the placket and cuffs. Snap buttons, though, are distinguished from standard buttons by their method of attachment.

Standard buttons are attached using a needle and thread. If you inspect a standard button, you'll typically notice that it has four small holes in the center of it. Standard buttons are attached to dress shirts by running thread through these holes. While snap buttons are found in the same areas, they are attached using a completely different method. Snap buttons are essentially fused into the dress shirt's material.

In Conclusion

Shopping for a new dress shirt may sound like a simple enough task. When you encounter unfamiliar terms, however, it can make the process a little more difficult. Some of the most common terms involving men's dress shirts include yoke, cuffs, cufflinks, placket, hem, collar and snap buttons.