The dress shirt is one of the most versatile pieces of clothing you will ever own. The dress shirt is appropriate for nearly every occasion – with a pair of jeans to hit the club or the restaurant, on a sweetheart of a dinner date, walking down a beachside boardwalk, or simply a job interview and hopefully the job itself. The dress shirt can be extremely formal and represent authority and class, or it can be a bit wrinkled with the sleeves cuffed up for a more rugged and casual definition. Whatever the occasion, the perfect dress shirt is only a few short steps and considerations away!
Finding Your Size
The first question is almost always regarding size. The vast majority of men do not know their actual shirt size, measured in both inches around the thickest part of the neck and in the length of the sleeve. The simplest rule of thumb is to remember that for the neck measurement – 14.5" is small, 15" and 15.5" is medium, 16" and 16.5" would be considered large, and so on and so forth.
For taller men, or men with longer arms, a tall-fit (a sleeve measurement of 34 or 35 inches and a slightly longer torso) may be requested. Ask a trained associate! Department stores are unlikely to have well-trained menswear staff, so always get a fitting done at a professional menswear store. Exceptions to the rule always do apply as everyone has a different shape.
Materials and Fit
Quality dress shirts will be 100% cotton, though some well made polyester-cotton blends at a 50/50 or 60/40 ratio do make the cut from time to time. Cotton is, despite many urban myths, fairly breathable compared to synthetics and well constructed shirts are now very resistant to wrinkling - you can breathe easy now gentlemen, and put down that iron. For the summer season, one might also consider linen shirts as a classical alternative, these shirts are extremely cool on a hot August afternoon.
The neck, when buttoned all the way up, should be snugly fit with room for two fingers to comfortably probe between the collar and neck. The stitching of the shoulders should be within an inch and a half or so in either direction to the actual end of your shoulders. The body should be slightly tapered, or perhaps more aggressively tapered if that is your style or if you prefer fitted shirts. Ideally the sleeve falls past the break of the wrist but before the crease between thumb and forefinger when your arms are relaxed and at rest.
Please do not raise your arms in front of you like Frankenstein or Superman and quizzically ask an associate "Aren't these sleeves too short"? unless you have a good sense of humour or are playing a joke – this is one the most common complaint tendered to many fashion salesmen the world over.
Colour and Designs
It's not the '90s anymore and men have been liberated from a previously dull, too-conservative colour palette. French-cuffed shirts, that is, shirts that have cuffs folded over and that accomodate cufflinks, are making an enormous comeback along with a slew of vibrant new shades. Of particular interest would be the return of the colour pink to prominence – previous regarded as effeminate and dainty – pink has become an extremely popular and eye attracting colour in dress shirts. A baby pink shirt inside of a severe black suit with a well paired tie is a masculine silhouette, and simply complimentary due to, once again, created contrast.
There is no colour that is taboo in the modern era, whatsoever. Men should try anything that compliments their complexions, personalities, and personal preferences. You will feel more comfortable and this will reflect itself in your sense of style.
Shirts in solid colours are by nature more conservative. They are more easily adaptable in choice of a tie for consideration with wearing suits or blazers, a strength that will be noticable if you frequently wear them. Striped dress shirts are bolder, and have a strength in that they can also be dressed down more easily with a pair of nicely tinted jeans. Striped shirts often present difficulty to men who are trying to match a tie to them, or worry that there may be "too many stripes".
Simply put, if the width of the stripes differ between the tie and the shirt, and the colours are still complimentary to each other, this combination actually might impress you. Experimentation is the key to looking great when it comes to being a well dressed man.