In recent years, dress codes have become more casual than ever, but there are still certain occasions where gussying up is a necessity. For those scenarios, there’s nothing like a smart, tailored dress shirt to make you look as polished as possible. But before we dole out our best picks for men’s dress shirts, let’s start with an anatomy lesson.
First things first: All men’s dress shirts must be button-downs—that’s more or less common knowledge—but how dressy a shirt is hinges on one distinguishable feature: the collar. There are dozens of collar styles found in the sartorial index, from old-school club collars with round ends to wider spread collars that flare outward. But it’s the classic, or straight collar, that remains the most traditional variation found on men’s dress shirts. (Button-down collars, like the ones you’d typically find on Oxfords, are the most casual of the bunch.) Fit-wise, you’ll want to make sure that two fingers can slide between your neck and the collar after it’s buttoned.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the cuffs. Men’s dress shirt cuffs come in two main styles. The single cuff (also known as a barrel cuff) features one or more sewn-in buttons that can be unfastened when you want to roll up your sleeves. The majority of button-downs in your wardrobe will have a single cuff. A much less common cuff in the modern man’s wardrobe is the double cuff (a.k.a. the French cuff), which features an extra swatch of fabric that’s folded back onto itself, then fastened together with statement studs or cufflinks. You’ll find these on tuxedo shirts, but even those tend to favor single cuffs these days.
Speaking of a tuxedo, that’s just one example of when donning a dress shirt is a must (unless you’re a celebrity that decides to layer a jacket over a bare torso). The most formal of festivities—weddings, galas, and award ceremonies, for example—beg for a quality dress shirt to complete a dapper suit. Heck, you should also have one at the ready for your cousin’s engagement dinner or your nephew’s bar mitzvah. And although the typical 9-to-5 uniform has evolved to be exceedingly casual, wearing a crisp dress shirt—even if you forgo the blazer—will impress, both inside the office and out.
Every guy needs at least a couple of these shirts in his closet. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best men’s dress shirts to prove that you can clean up nicely, after all.