How to Buy a Dress Shirt for a Guy
By Jessica Kirkland
It’s your dad’s birthday. You want to get him a new, crisp dress shirt for work—one that’ll fit over the years of cake and beer. It’s your son’s first job. And all he has is that holey shirt he’s worn since high school.
Or maybe it’s your anniversary. You picked out a fancy restaurant to dine at and your husband isn’t the “dressing up” type. Do you really want him wearing that tacky red-and-white shirt he promised throw away years ago?
Tip 1: Find out his true size
Probably the hardest thing to do. The easiest way is to measure him with a tape measurer, take him to a tailor, or ask him yourself. Sometimes, however, this is not a great idea—particularly if this is a surprise gift. Furthermore, men don’t usually know this kind of information off hand. And if they do, they’re probably overestimating in the neck and arms, and underestimating in the waist.
Go through his old shirts (both T-Shirts and dress shirts) to get an estimate of his current size. If need be, sneak the shirt away from the house and bring it to a tailor.
If your special guy was born in the wild and has no previous shirts to speak of, use height as an estimator. Generally speaking 5’4 to 5’9 men with a medium build wear a medium sized shirt; men between 5’10 – 6’4 wear a large; and men over 6’4 wear XL. Again, this depends on the amount of cheesesteaks he eats.
Tip 2: Learn his “fit”
Fit is the next hardest thing to figure out. It’s also one of the hardest things to eyeball. Generally, there are three categories of men’s shirts: athletic, regular, and full.
· Athletic shirts are slim or tailored, and are the narrowest-fitting men’s dress shirts.
· Regular shirts are for the “average” sized man. It’s a little looser than the athletic fit, and if a shirt doesn’t list a particular fit listed, you can assume it’s a regular fit.
· Full shirts are the loosest of all dress shirt fits. These are appropriate for men with a larger stature and also tend to be a little longer than the other fits.
Tip 3: Choose the right fabric
Fabric is one of the most important factors in picking the right shirt for your special guy. And if you’re reading this guide, I’m assuming that he’s more of a rough and ready type.
Cotton would be the best choice. Cotton breathes well, is very soft, and holds dye well, so bright colors will stay bright.
If you can’t get cotton or a cotton blend, the next best choice would be linen. Linen dress shirts also breathe well and don’t wrinkle easy. Note: if your guy NEVER irons his clothes, get him a linen shirt.
Last I’d suggest going with Poplin or Twill fabric. They are very stylish, somewhat durable, but a bit on the expensive side. I don’t recommend silk shirts (tacky on most men), wool shirts (not for men with hairy chests), or shirts made from polyester (for fireproof men only).
Tip 4: Don’t Overdo It
By “overdo it” I mean don’t get him a shirt that’s too fancy or too uncomfortable or too flashy. Remember, this is a man we’re talking about: bare essentials only. And if you’re thinking about whether or not to get him a shirt with a cuff link or a shirt with a fancy blend, consider his line of work or the event you’re buying for. Also consider the type of man he is. Again you want to buy him a shirt that he will reuse, so that he never goes back to that tattered rag of a shirt in his closet.
Tip 5: Buy plastic stiffs
Some of you may turn up your nose at this idea, but I highly recommend buying stiffs. Stiffs are rigid pieces of plastic or metal that men put in their collars to protect its straightness. Most men don’t hang their shirts in an appropriate manner, and over time collars curl in on themselves. Getting him a stiff will prevent that.
Also, I recommend a plastic stiff over a metal one. Why? Most men forget to take out the stiffs when they wash or dry clean their shirts. If you get him a metal stiff that’ll spell the end of that shirt. Plastic stiffs won’t rip the shirt in the wash, they stay sharp, and can be easily replaced.
Remember these five tips. And if you’re able to find him the perfect shirt, it will last for years—just like the shirt that you want to throw away. Note: Make sure to buy him another shirt before he gets too attached to that one.
Jessica Kirkland is a writer for RAG New York where you can find cheap button down shirts and more fashion tips.