Saturday, March 20, 2010

What to look for when buying a button down shirt?

When thinking of men’s clothing there is one item that defines men’s style more than anything else - the BUTTON DOWN (UP) SHIRT!
I personally LOVE Button down shirts and most of my closet is dedicated to them. My favorite is what I call the SMART SHIRT (thank you Natalie). This is a contemporary version of what known as the traditional dress shirt that our fathers and grandfathers use to wear… with more flair, more flattering fit and a larger variety of fabrics, colors and details. What I love so much about this shirt is the fact that it’s very versatile for today's life style. It can be dressed up or dressed down depends on one’s mood, needs and the occasion. The modern man is constantly on the move and needs items that with small tweaks can be made suitable for few situations. I for example don’t wear suits in my every day life so the traditional dress shirt is not an item I have much of, (if you are
looking for tips on the classic dress shirt check out askandy - he has a great guidance for the classic, conservative shirt and other dress codes).... I need shirts that I can wear to a business meeting with a client, run around the city, have a drink with friends later on and go out to a dinner party all in the same day and without needing to change in between….I can than pick up a shirt in the morning and base my outfit for the day around it to make it as dressy or casual as I need it to be. So, if you are like me and are looking for my words of wisdom on buying a smart shirt than get yourself a cold beer, stretch out your legs, open your notebook and take notes....

FIT: It all starts here! This is the main KEY! No matter what brand it is, how expensive the shirt is or who bought it for you...If it doesn't fit well it will be a TURN OFF! When determining the right fit, consider your body type and look for a slimmer fit. The waist should be snug but not too tight allowing to see the silhouette of your waist without creating pulling and tension at the center front as if the buttons are about to hit someone's face at any giving moment..... for an average body the right measurement should be about 4-5" bigger than your waist. Make sure there is no bulging in the back or around the chest. Look for a slim cut sleeves with a tight armhole, a bulk of fabric around your arm will only hide those muscles you have been working so hard to maintain, also with a tight armhole the sleeves movements are separated from the body of the shirt allowing for it not to be lifted with the sleeves every time you are trying to stop a cab…. The sleeves length should be about 1-1.5" above your knuckles, allowing you to raise your arms without looking like you’re wearing your nephew's shirt... . Keep the length of the shirt where the back tail is just about covering your buttocks (when worn untucked, you don't want to look like you forgot your nightgown on...). Although this shirt is not specifically intended to be worn with tie and suit make sure the collar still fits your neck, you should have enough space to insert your thumb comfortably between the collar and the neck.

Above Kenneth Cole

STYLE/COLOR: Choosing the color, pattern and style of your shirts can be tasking, because there is a lot to choose from now days but once you find your way it gets easier….I promise!
Solid colors
- If you are just starting your shirt collection, solid color shirts are the back bone of your wardrobe, especially the white shirt (or more like 2-3 of them). Keep it simple in details, with a basic straight point or spread collar, no pockets, no trim or crazy embroidery or prints, just plain white in a great fit. You will get the most out this shirt. It works for almost any occasion, easy and comfortable, pair it with dark jeans and boots when you hit the bar with your buddies (add a cool vest (waistcoat) on top to funk it up), or tuck it into dark slacks with a leather belt and you are ready for your business meeting with this new client.

Above: Theory

Other than white any other solid color works, as long as it's the right color for you and one that you like wearing. Other staple colors are shades of light blues/blues, and blacks. While blues are more universal and classic (almost conservative) and easy looking (good for first impression), the black shirt is a bit trickier and can look on one hand edgy and sexy when paired with jeans, or on the other hand when worn with black pants can look either European, sharp and elegant or .... mafia style!….that I will leave up to you….

Stripes and plaids - The classic men's patterns! From subtle pinstripes to gingham and multi color plaids, the variety of these is endless. I personally love geometric patterns, so when a classic pattern is being tweaked and used on a contemporary shirt it makes the prefect combo for me.... (A designer that does it sooooo well is Paul Smith!)... Look for shirts that have a play on the direction of the stripes, like in this shirt.... It adds a nice sophisticated twist. Stripes and plaids are not only for the casual wear as some tend to think, it is great for a dressier event when matched with the right items.

Above: Paul Smith

Prints - Obviously this has to do with your personal style, so if you consider yourself to have a daring style don't be shy (there is nothing wrong with standing out). Just keep in mind that a loud print will probably not be a long term investment. So to play safe go with more universal prints like paisley and small flowers, these can look very cool and fun, depends on the color scheme and the size of the print. Stay away from shirts with flags, big logos and someone’s life's motto printed all over them...leave that for T-shirts....oh, and Hawaiian shirts....maybe in Hawaii???

Above: Paul Smith
Style: While the fit and the color of the shirt are the first details you notice, other details you should pay attention to are the collar shape and the cuffs.
Collar – This is an important detail since it is the closest to your face (serving almost like a frame) and it is the detail that people will be staring at the most while talking to you, so look for a two parts collar (a collar stand and a collar) that are stiff and stand nice. As far as shape goes, the most common ones are the straight pointed collar and the spread collar. The first one works well with any face shape, while the spread collar is to be avoided with round faces. Another popular version of the straight collar is the button down which is usually a softer collar and considered to be more casual. Other shapes are mostly a take on the above two (different collar heights, size points and spreads) and at times are just trying to hard reinvent the wheel (like a cut off square collar)…. These although could be fun are just like loud prints - have a short life span.
Cuffs - The main two styles are the barrel cuff which have a button (or few) closure, and the French cuff that meant to be closed with cuff-links and considered to be more formal. I personally love the French cuff, it has more of an importance feel and attitude to it and choosing a cool cuff-links can be a great conversation starter… Average cuff width is about 2.5” (for French that will be half width), wider cuffs are cool but can be a pain when rolling up your sleeves…
Other details to look for will vary depending on the trend and the season but ones to look for are:
– When on a shirt I consider pockets as a style detail more than a functioning one, it looks tacky when you try to shove your phone, cigarettes and the rest of your belongings into them (invest in a cool bag instead)…honestly not even a pen! Any pocket other than a flat and simple square pocket on the left side is considered to be casual, consider a two front flap pockets version like the below:

Above Kenneth Cole
Short sleeves - although, there is something very masculine about rolled up sleeves (I'm sure a lot of women out there will agree with me on that.... short sleeves can be a nice and flattering option as long as you can find shirts with fitted sleeves that are not longer than the center of your biceps…. these are hard to find, but you can always have a tailor take them in and shorten them.

Combo of fabrics, colors and patterns: for an added touch of flair, look for a strip of color or a print inside the collar stand, the cuffs, the back yoke or anywhere else where it’s introduced in small doses… this way it will pop but not take over.

Above: Paul Smith
Buttons: I like the traditional round shape buttons, in clear or a color. I’m not so crazy about other shapes. A different color thread should be enough as an added detail on the buttons.

FABRIC: Although silk and other cotton blends fabrics are used for shirts, I would say your best bet is 100% pure cotton, it breathes, offers the greatest comfort and is easy to take care off (usually cost about two bucks to be laundered).

WHERE TO BUY: That depends on your style and your wallet and can vary from H&M, Zara (which I found some great shirt in both of these stores) to designers such as Paul Smith ,Ted Baker, Thomas Pink, Robert Graham or a younger brands such as Rag & Bone, Band of Outsiders, Brooklyn Tailors and the list can go on and on and on…
Another great choice, especially if you still come up empty handed finding your perfect shirt, or just like to have your own unique shirts is made to measure...ask around for a good shirt maker in your area or go online to choose one ( and spoil yourself with made to measure shirts. Those will be made specifically for your measurements and body type and can be custom made with your choice of fabrics and details.... what better way to create your OWN PERSONAL STYLE!

Now, armed with all these suggestions and info its time to finish the last beer stretch and go out there, to find the prefect shirt.....and please feel free to share it with us... i would love to post up your feedback and pictures on the subject...and please let me know of any new brands out there that you discovered...i can always use another shirt or two!

1 comment:

  1. Great primer on the men's button-up! Helpful for organizing my wardrobe; starting with the basics and working across the various styles and patterns. :)



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