I Went to the Mall and Tried On 15 Different White Dress Shirts — Here Are the Ones Worth Buying

best white dress shirt
Courtesy of Zara

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In this style guide, SPY contributor Jacob Lauing reviews the best white dress shirts for men. Keep reading to see our entire selection.

Chalk it up to pandemic-induced fear of crowds, a preference for sourcing smaller brands or good old-fashioned introversion, but I absolutely loathe shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.

The Los Angeles traffic and parking. The stuffy, sterile interiors. The shopping fatigue. The in-store pressure to buy something without comparing it to other options. I’d much rather browse from the comfort of my home, open up 20 tabs on my laptop and find the best option for the best price.

But with a handful of weddings coming up this year and a body that struggles to find well-fitting clothes, I knew I was overdue for an in-person shopping experience.

I was on the hunt for a formalwear staple: the timeless white dress shirt. As classic as it is versatile, you can pair a white dress shirt with a tie and a suit of pretty much any color. Every guy should have a least one white option among the dress shirts hanging in the closet.

But what is the best white dress shirt for men? After trying on over a dozen different white dress shirts, I believe I’ve found the answer.

best white dress shirt, Asos dress shirt Courtesy of Spy
best white dress shirt, ZARA textured shirt Courtesy of Spy

There are great options to be found online. But to purchase one only to have it arrive and fit terribly — warranting a trip to the post office or mall to return it — is a gamble I know all too well, and one I wasn’t willing to make this time around. My goal was to spend a few hours test driving as many white, affordable dress shirts as possible.

So I drove to the nearest mall with the greatest number of relevant menswear stores and did precisely that.

  

How We Chose the Best White Dress Shirts

I’m 5’9″ and 180 pounds with an athletic build. I usually wear a medium or 16 32/33. With that size in mind, I entered my day from hell at the mall with three specific criteria for the best white dress shirt. Regarding style, I wasn’t concerned with collar or cuff type, which you can read more about in SPY’s guide to the Best Dress Shirt Brands for Men. Whatever fit my three criteria best would be my winner, collar be damned. But here is what I was looking for:

  • Fit: Slim and tapered, without being too suffocating. I have a white dress shirt hanging in my closet that’s been reliable for years. But as a loyal gym-goer who spends a ton of time engaging in and writing about chest workouts and arm workouts for SPY, I and my late-20s body need a white dress shirt that’s a little roomier. I constantly struggle to find a shirt that’s big enough in the shoulders and chest but still trim enough around the waist. I can’t stand a boxy dress shirt with extra material spilling over my belt.
  • Material: Something both functionally and aesthetically pleasing. Higher-end dress shirts will utilize premium cotton for a softer, more functional fit, but your best bet for white dress shirts in the under $100 range is a cotton/spandex blend. Shirts that lean too heavily into the performance dress shirts category — utilizing polyester and other moisture-wicking materials — end up looking synthetic and feeling too much like a golf shirt, in my opinion. I want to retain that formal aesthetic while finding a white dress shirt opaque enough to conceal my chest hair and nipples.
  • Price: Under $100. I don’t have the budget for a luxury dress shirt. Along my route of retailers, I stopped in Nordstrom to check out higher-end options. The correlation between price and quality is tangible. But I remained committed to spending no more than $100.

Now, before we jump into the contestants, I will acknowledge that I did not try every single dress shirt at the mall. After 6,000 steps and a couple of hours in fitting rooms, I was ready to go home. Still, I made a decent dent. Here are the 12 best white dress shirts for men I tried on.

  

1. COS Regular Fit Shirt

BEST CASUAL DRESS SHIRT

My first stop at the mall was COS, H&M’s more elevated-style sibling. Like many, my style has grown more oversized and loose-fitting since the mid-2010s’ skinny jeans trend, so COS’s neutral-colored, comfortable silhouette is exactly what I gravitate toward daily. Predictably, this didn’t translate into my white dress shirt criteria. The shirt itself was comfortable, but the aesthetic too casual and oversized for that fits-like-a-glove dress shirt I’m looking for.

best white dress shirt, COS shirt Courtesy of COS
  

2. Bonobos Tech Button Down Shirt

PERFORMANCE PICK

I was skeptical about performance dress shirts designed to wick moisture and resist wrinkles — until I tried one. The Tech Button Down from Bonobos was hands down the most comfortable shirt I tried on all day. True to its reputation, the wrinkle-resistant fabric created a soft, clean look. It even comes in various lengths and builds to match different body types, precisely the type of customization I’m looking for. The nylon/spandex blend looks anything but synthetic and offered the perfect amount of opaqueness. Overall, this shirt was a big winner.

SPY has also rated Bonobos as the best place to buy suits online, and it’s a great place to buy all of your formal attire online or in person.

best white dress shirt Courtesy of Bonobos

  

3. J.Crew White Cotton Dress Shirts

BEST VALUE

My next stop was J.Crew, a retailer that needs no introduction. Its well-known suiting line strikes the perfect balance between quality and price, resulting in some of the best value on the market. I walked into J.Crew with high expectations and tried on three different white dress shirts:

  • Bowery wrinkle-free stretch cotton shirt (spread collar)
  • Bowery wrinkle-free stretch cotton shirt (button-down collar)
  • Slim fit Ludlow Premium fine cotton dress shirt (cutaway collar)

All three shirts fit were an A+ in terms of fit, hugging my shoulders and waist without feeling like my pecs would pop out at any moment. However, J.Crew’s shirts are too transparent for me. My white dress shirt will see the most action at weddings, and I intend to ditch my suit jacket once the cocktails start flowing and the dance floor opens. Given the chest-related criteria I outlined earlier, these shirts left me feeling too exposed. I’d buy a few of these (they offer two for $125 and three for $175) in other colors, but the white dress shirt was a no for me.

best white dress shirt, J.Crew bowery shirt Courtesy of J.Crew
  

4. H&M Slim Fit Stretch Shirt

BUDGET-FRIENDLY CHOICE

Though it’s made progress, H&M remains heavily entrenched in the world of fast fashion — trendy clothes mass-manufactured with questionable ethical and environmental implications. I’ve had some success with H&M in the past, but mostly stay away and opt for more conscious brands. This white dress shirt fit OK, but the quality isn’t there. It feels like a $35 dress shirt. If you’re in a pinch and can’t stretch the budget, this will get you through an event. But I wouldn’t buy this shirt.

best white dress shirt, H&M slim fit stretch shirt Courtesy of H&M
  

5. Zara Easy Care Textured Shirt

NOT WORTH IT

Zara is even worse than H&M regarding its fast fashion status and troubling economic impact. That might be reason enough to look elsewhere. For me, though, Zara’s clothes hew to a more European cut that’s just too tall and narrow for my body. At rest, the fit was OK, but as soon as I started moving my arms, the shirt had no give in the shoulders or armpits. You can see how easily the shirt wrinkles (it was hanging when I picked it up). At $50, you’re better off spending an extra $30 for a much better shirt from J.Crew.

best white dress shirt, zara dress shirts Courtesy of Zara
  

6. ASOS Design Stretch Cotton Blend Button-Up

BEST BARGAIN

I rounded out my trip to the mall with a few department stores, beginning with Nordstrom. It was there I realized how much of a discrepancy there is between a $50 dress shirt and a $200 dress shirt. Nordstrom mostly stocks higher-end retailers in its menswear section, and with one touch, you can feel the difference in quality. Softer, more textured and less wrinkle-prone, those dress shirts are likely worth the money if you find yourself donning formalwear regularly. But for us sub-$100-ers, I scrounged up this button-up from ASOS. The fit worked decently well for me, but It feels like a $25 shirt. I’d rather spend a little extra for better texture, especially after feeling those high-end options across the store.

best white dress shirt, asos button up Courtesy of Nordstrom
  

7. Topman Stretch Form Flow Button Down Shirt

ALSO CONSIDER

Also from Nordstrom, this Topman dress shirt surprised me. But, like the similarly-priced $50 shirt from Zara, this had a fine silhouette but didn’t move well with my body. It bunched up at the shoulders and armpits when I moved my arms. Not surprising, considering Topman and Zara both cater to a trimmer European cut. If you’re taller and slimmer, this is a solid choice at a reasonable price.

topman white dress shirt for men Courtesy of Nordstrom
  

8. The Men’s Store at Bloomingdale’s Slim Fit Dress Shirt

IT’S A NO FOR ME, DOG

My day at the mall ended with Bloomingdales, a store that does not cater to late-afternoon shopper’s fatigue. I was irritable and eager to go home, but I forced myself to try on three more shirts, starting with the department store’s slim-fit stretch dress shirt. It was much bulkier than any other slim-fit shirt I tried that day, with material pillowing around my mid-section. Not a bad shirt, just not right for my body.

best white dress shirt, Bloomingdale's dress shirt Courtesy of Bloomingdale's
  

9. Hugo Jason Slim Fit Long Sleeve Cotton Dress Shirt

DEPARTMENT STORE STANDARD

Like the Bloomingdales-brand dress shirt, this option wasn’t trim enough for contemporary standards, in my opinion, with too much extra material in the arms and waist. The quality is fine — and I appreciate the spread collar on this particular shirt — but the fit didn’t work for me.

best white dress shirt, Hugo dress shirt Courtesy of Bloomingdale's
  

10. Theory Silvain Shirt

BEST SPLURGE

When I tried on Theory’s Silvain shirt, I didn’t know it cost $195. But I’ll include it as Best Splurge because it probably was the best shirt of the day. Trim in all the right places, tailored but not tight, and a nice blend of soft Supima cotton and stretch, this checked all the boxes (except for price).

best white dress shirt, theory silvain shirt Courtesy of Theory
  

The Best White Dress Shirt for Men? The Final Verdict

So who makes the best white dress shirt? There are a lot of great options, but Bonobos has the top shirt. While this might just seem like one guy’s opinion, SPY’s other style writers agree that this is the best dress shirt for most men.

I hate malls, but I’m glad I went. I executed a 12-shirt shootout in only a couple of hours and got a thorough sense of the market. For me, the biggest takeaway is the correlation between price and quality. It’s no surprise that the better options (from J.Crew and Bonobos) hovered just under the $100 mark. The Bonobos Tech Button Down takes the cake, thanks to its opaque texture, breezy material (great for summer weddings) and tailored fit. Funnily enough, though, I bought it online since the store was out of stock, and I recommend you do the same.

And I’ll admit: that with an extra $100 in my pocket, I’d probably splurge on the Theory dress shirt. And I wouldn’t have known that without going to the mall.

best white dress shirt Courtesy of Bonobos
  

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