Even if you don’t wear a suit and tie every day, chances are you’ll need to wear a dress shirt at least a few times each year.
There are so many types of dress shirts to choose from - different colors, patterns, fabrics, collar styles, etc. How do you choose the right ones?
Truth be told, most guys only need a handful of dress shirts. Men who only dress up for weddings and funerals would be fine with 2-3 well chosen dress shirts.
If you dress up regularly, you’ll want a few more, but it’s still important to have your fundamentals covered.
Here are the three most versatile dress shirts you can buy.
#1: Solid White
If you could only own one dress shirt, it should be a plain, solid white cotton shirt with a medium spread collar and no chest pocket.
This is the quintessential dress shirt. From black wool to tan cotton, this shirt goes with any type of suit, literally.
It can also be worn with any combination of blazer/sportcoat and odd trousers. You could wear it with khaki trousers and a classic navy sportcoat, or you could wear it with jeans and a blazer.
Plus, you can wear almost any tie with a white dress shirt. It’s a blank canvas, so any tie will look great. It basically takes the whole “how to match your tie to your shirt” question out of the equation.
Be sure to choose the right fabric. This isn’t your thick Oxford with a chest pocket and button down collar. It’s more formal than that.
When shopping for white dress shirts, look for shirts made from poplin or broadcloth. These are tightly woven, lightweight fabrics that are perfect for dress shirts. Twill is also a good option for something less crisp (and therefore less prone to wrinkles).
For your standard white dress shirt, stay away from Oxford, chambray, denim, flannel, etc.
#2: Light Blue
Light blue is another extremely versatile color for men’s dress shirts. It wouldn’t be your first choice, but it’s a close second to white.
Just like white, light blue looks good with many different jackets and ties. When pairing light blue dress shirts with suits, you can go with navy, black, brown, any shade of grey, tan or olive (to name a few).
Just like with your white dress shirt, keep the light blue shirt simple - no chest pocket, spread collar, standard double button cuffs. These details will help maximize its versatility in your wardrobe.
Similarly, stick with broadcloth, poplin or twill. The light blue Oxford cotton button down (OCBD) is also a great shirt, but it’s not a dress shirt and typically shouldn’t be worn with a suit and tie.
Speaking of ties, here are a few colors that pair well with light blue: darker blue, navy, dark green, burgundy, orange, gold and brown.
These colors apply to solid ties and patterned ties. For example, a navy and red striped tie looks great on top of a light blue dress shirt.
#3: Subtle Pattern
Consider this a subtle and fashionable alternative to your solid white and light blue dress shirts.
This shirt has a pattern to it, but it’s subtle - something like windowpane, tattersall, microchecks or vertical stripes.
The safest option is to keep this shirt in the monochromatic realm (e.g., white with a light grey windowpane pattern). You can also go colorful with light blue microcheck or blue pinstripe.
If you look great in blue and find it easy to pair with your other dress clothes, why not stick with blue?
Remember, this is still a dress shirt, so subtly is your friend. Large scale patterns like traditional plaid or gingham don’t work as well for dress shirts. Keep the patterns small - thin stripes, micro checks, mini gingham, etc.
The details and fabric of this shirt should be the same as your other dress shirts. Broadcloth or poplin are nice, crisp fabrics, and a spread collar will always work best with or without a jacket and tie.
Expanding Your Collection (Or Not)
Once you have your fundamentals covered - white, light blue and subtle pattern - you can start adding more dress shirts to your collection.
From different solid colors like pink or yellow to increasingly bold patterns, you have lots of options.
Or, you can go the minimalist route by keeping a small, well curated dress shirt collection.
Adding an extra white dress shirt is never a bad idea since white works with everything and will probably never go out of style.
Caring for Your Dress Shirts
Say you have a super minimal dress collection, just like the one outlined in this article (white, light blue and subtle pattern). It goes without saying that you want to maximize the lifespan of your shirts, so you don’t have to replace them very often.
A high quality dress shirt can last years before needing to be replace, assuming you take proper care of it. We recommend following the care instructions on the tag of your shirt.
Graphic courtesy The Modest Man
Some shirts are dry clean only. Others can be washed at home in any old washing machine, but it’s crucial to use the right settings.
It’s a safe bet to wash dress shirts in cold water, using a gentle cycle. Some dress shirts can be dried with low or no heat, but it’s never a bad idea to air dry your dress shirts.
Non-iron dress shirts are a bit lower maintenance, as wrinkles won’t be as much of an issue. Regular dress shirts will need to be ironed after they dry (or while they’re still a bit damp).
You should also invest in some quality shirt hangers. The cheap metal wire hangers you get from the dry cleaner won’t do your dress shirts any favors. A thick plastic hanger or wood hanger is your best bet.
Peter Manning NYC Dress Shirts
PMNYC makes high quality dress shirts specifically for shorter men. Unlike most dress shirts you’ll find on clothing racks in the mall, our shirts actually fit properly.
The sleeve length has been adjusted to hit right at your wrist, so you can wear it without a jacket without looking like a pirate, or can you wear it with a jack and show just the right amount of cuff.
The body length of our shirts has also been shortened, but they’re designed meant to be tucked in. The length and shape of the hem are just right for a clean tuck that stays put all day.
We also paid attention to the details, which is why our dress shirts feature medium spread collars (perfect for wearing ties or going tie-less), clean chest panels (no pockets) and double button cuffs for adjustability and wearing watches.
But we didn’t stop with proper fit. We wanted to make dress shirt that would look great and feel fantastic. That’s why we’re so selective about our fabrics.
Our non iron dress shirts are made from wrinkle-free 80s 2-ply cotton in pinpoint Oxford and poplin weaves.
If you’ve never been satisfied with the dress shirts you find at department stores, it’s time to check out Peter Manning NYC dress shirts.