When suiting up, the jacket, dress shoes and tie tend to get most of the attention. But it’s the dress shirt that actually sets the tone for the rest of the outfit, albeit in a subtler way. A blue button-down oxford sends a different message than a white twill shirt with French cuffs, for example, even if they’re worn with the same suit and shoes. That’s why even if you might not wear them often, it’s worth having a few proper dress shirts in your closet. If you only have one suit, you can make it feel fresh by swapping out the dress shirt.
Having a variety of dress shirts will also help you be prepared for different occasions. Got a fancy wedding coming up? Break out the Charvet. More casual nuptials on the coast? An oxford from Ralph Lauren will do just fine. Meeting on Monday? Keep it simple (and affordable) with something from Club Monaco. But before discussing our favorite dress shirt brands, it’s worth running down some key details to look out for, so you can shop smarter and ensure you have the right shirt for the right occasion.
The collar of the shirt is arguably the most important detail, and there’s — unfortunately — a lot of room for error. With so many different shirt collar styles and sizes, it’s possible to end up with one that’s not the right fit for your suit and tie, or that’s the wrong style for the occasion. Shirt collars can be broken down to almost infinite detail with increasingly obscure names, but a few basic styles include classic, spread and button-down.
As the name implies, a classic or straight collar is a more traditional style — it has no buttons and it comes to a sharp but not severe downward point. Some might want to make a distinction between a point collar, classic collar and straight collar, but in general, these collars can be grouped together. Spread collars flare outward, and this is generally seen as a more modern style. Button-down collars, such as those on oxfords, are inherently more casual.
Other styles include club collars which have rounded ends that some would associate with Peaky Blinders. There are also band collar shirts, which are basically button-up shirts without collars. Cutaway collars are more severe spread collars.
As for collar height, it’s best to go with your suit as a guide. A slim suit with a narrow lapel will generally work best with a shirt with a smaller collar, while a wide peak lapel suit should also have a proportionally large collar. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about breaking out the ruler and measuring your collars — looking in the mirror and seeing what does and doesn’t look right will be a good guide. The same goes for ties — stick with a tie that’s proportional in size to your shirt collar and jacket lapel.
The bottom line: Both a point or spread collar work well, and your collar should be proportional to your jacket and tie.
Shirts come in two different cuff styles — barrel and French. A barrel cuff is round and has sewn-in buttons that are easy to undo if you want to roll up your sleeves. Just about any casual long-sleeve shirt in your closet will have barrel cuffs. On the formal end of the spectrum is the French cuff, which has a sort of teardrop shape when fastened. You’ll need cufflinks to keep them closed. For almost any setting, a barrel cuff will be appropriate. But if you want to dress it up, French cuffs can be a good option.
The bottom line: Barrel cuffs are more versatile than French cuffs.
White, light blue and to a lesser extent, light pink, are the most classic shirt colors. Striped or patterned shirts can also be a great addition to your wardrobe. In general, a dress shirt should be a lighter color than the suit, and it should contrast enough to stand out from the jacket and tie. It’s a more advanced move, but you can actually mix patterns. The shorthand rule is to vary the scale of the prints. For example, a shirt with small pinstripes can work with a wider repp tie — as long as the stripes aren’t going in the same direction. The riskiest dress shirt color is black, and unless you’re Johnny Cash, it’s best to stick with other colors.
The bottom line: White and light blue dress shirts are can’t-fail options.
Two-ply? Single-ply? What’s the thread count? It’s easy to get in over your head when it comes to fabrics, but it’s probably best to keep it simple. Poplin or broadcloth (there’s technically a difference, but remember, keep it simple) are the most classic knits for a dress shirt. Twill has a diagonal pattern in the fabric itself, which will usually have a bit of a shine and is more wrinkle resistant. Oxford has a somewhat coarse texture and is more casual, and Oxford shirts often have a button-down collar and a pocket. Can’t bear to be away from your blue jeans while wearing a suit? Chambray is denim’s dressier cousin, and a chambray shirt looks great with the right suit. In today’s casual era, an Oxford shirt is by far the most versatile — it can be worn with jeans, chinos and even shorts in a casual setting, or you can wear one with a suit and tie.
The bottom line: Broadcloth is classic, twill is comfortable and Oxford is casual.
The fit of a shirt is essential, and most dress shirt brands offer slim-fitting shirts in addition to more traditional styles. But when you’re looking at shirts on the rack, you might be confused by the size. While some brands give you a simple letter-size, most dress shirts are sized using two numbers. It may seem confusing at first, but it’s not that different from most men’s jeans. The first number is the collar size and the second is the sleeve length. A medium roughly translates to a 15.5-inch collar.
The bottom line: Get a tape measure or go to a tailor. Or if you’re shopping in person, ask the associate. There’s no real shortcut for finding out your shirt size.
We realize that all of that information might not actually help you pick a dress shirt, which is why we’ve rounded up some of our favorite dress shirt brands for men. These range from iconic high-end shirtmakers to affordable mall brands. That way, you can find the one that suits your needs, whether you suit up once a year for a special occasion or every day at the office.
THE OG SHIRTMAKER
Charvet makes ties, pocket squares and socks, but the Parisian brand is iconic for its shirts. Founded in 1838, Charvet was actually the world’s first shirtmaking shop (before that, shirtmakers would come to you, not the other way around). Since then, their legend has only grown, and their shirts are still made in Paris.
This cotton shirt from Charvet has a spread collar and single-button barrel cuffs. It’s a versatile option for navy, gray and just about any other suit colors.
2. Polo Ralph Lauren
BEST FOR OXFORD SHIRTS
Ralph Lauren is a behemoth of a brand, offering everything from furniture under the Ralph Lauren Home label to high-end formalwear through Ralph Lauren Purple Label — there’s even Ralph Lauren coffee. But by far the most iconic sub-label is Polo Ralph Lauren, which is a great place to get preppy essentials like this Oxford shirt. Wear it with jeans, wear it with a suit — a Polo brand Oxford does it all. The Polo brand also offers more traditional poplin dress shirts if that’s more your style. If you’re a lover of Oxford shirts, this really is one of the best dress shirt brands for men.
3. Club Monaco
BEST SLIM FIT
More luxurious than the average mall brand, less expensive than a luxury dress shirt brand for men — Club Monaco sits at the sweet spot for affordable designer wares. They bring a modern, minimalist approach to casual staples like tees and hoodies, but they also have a solid lineup of dress clothes, like this poplin shirt. It has a slim fit, point collar and two-button barrel cuffs. The shirt is made from a blend of cotton, elastane and nylon, making it wrinkle-resistant and easy to care for.
4. Turnbull and Asser
BEST BRITISH SHIRTMAKER
If your tastes skew British, turn to Turnbull and Asser for the best men’s dress shirt brand. Founded in 1885, the company still makes its shirts in England. It’s outfitted James Bond many times, in addition to the likes of Prince Charles and Picasso.
This poplin shirt is made with mother-of-pearl buttons and has a subtle blue striped pattern on the white shirt. It also comes in blue with white stripes.
BEST VALUE BRAND
Uniqlo recognizes that its core customer is more likely to prioritize comfort and convenience, which is why they keep it simple with their dress shirt offerings. The brand prioritizes easy letter sizing and convenient non-iron fabrics. The shirts also come in button-down, point or spread collars. Many of their options are poly/cotton blends, but this non-iron option is 100% cotton. Like all of Uniqlo’s offerings, their dress shirts are also affordable.
6. Ike Behar
BEST FOR FORMAL SHIRTS
While it may not have the legendary pedigree of a Charvet or a Turnbull, Ike Behar is nonetheless a reputed yet low-key brand for men’s dress shirts. Founded in the 60s in New York by a Cuban immigrant, the shirt company is still family-run, and it’s a great place to look for more formal dress shirts, such as this white twill dress shirt with French cuffs.
MINIMALIST AND MODERN
Theory is a great men’s dress shirt brand to look toward for streamlined basics made from innovative fabrics. Their clothes are great for anyone who wants to look polished and put-together, but not too formal. Their dress shirts fit in that ethos. Slim-fitting, streamlined and a good length to wear tucked or untucked, Theory’s Irving dress shirt has a pointed collar, barrel cuffs and a unique scale print that stands out but still looks professional. For a more traditional style, try their solid-colored Sylvain shirts.
BEST FOR PATTERNS AND PRINTS
If you like to have a little pattern and color, Bonobos is a good place to look. Originally conceived of as a direct-to-consumer online brand, Bonobos focuses on stylish yet simple designs for modern office-wear. The Jetsetter dress shirt is made from breathable stretch cotton that’s ideal for a man on the go, and there are tons of prints to choose from.
9. Brooks Brothers
It’s no secret that Brooks Brothers has been struggling lately, and some would argue that their quality doesn’t live up to their former standards. But it’s impossible to deny that the brand is a true American icon. Founded in 1818 as the US’ first ready-to-wear company, they predate Levi’s by a full 35 years. Brooks Brothers rivals Ralph Lauren in terms of preppy pedigree, so it’s a great place to look if you love Ivy-inspired dress shirts. This club collar shirt would look great with a plaid suit and a knit tie. All in all, it’s still one of the best dress shirt brands for men.