A Guide to Men’s Shirts – From Formal to Casual, From Work to Play
There are three basic types of men’s shirts – formal shirts; work shirts; and casual shirts. Though there is some overlap between the latter two. Nothing in fashion is ever straightforward of course.
Before I go into too much detail about the types and styles of men’s shirt, I’ll start with a word in sizings. A good shirt is measured in collar size and arm length. The collar size is normally indicative of your chest size, which is why you don’t usually get shirts that have a displayed chest measurement. And the arm length is indicative of your overall height.
Normally you can buy men’s shirts in collar sizes ranged in halves – with between 13 and 16 inches being about the average for a 6ft guy.
Arm length is also measured in inches. Normally the shirts are made and sold in half-inch increments – but you can have the length of the arms altered in many cases for a small extra fee, so you have an exact fit.
The correct fit for your arm is with the cuff resting on the knobbly bone of your writs. So when you have a suit on the cuff protrudes from the sleeve without covering your hand.
Formal men’s shirts come with a range of collar styles. The most common are the wingtip collar (for bowties); no collar (in which case the collar is bought and added separately; and the Oxford collar (for normal ties). In most cases formal shirts have no buttons on the breastplate, and are instead done up using shirt studs. Some formal shirts may be supplied with buttons here, which can be snipped off if you are intending to wear the shirt with studs.
Men’s work shirts are available in two basic fits – classic and slim fit. A slim fit shirt should only ever be worn when the waistline is smaller than the chest. Otherwise you simply look as though you are bursting at the seams.
The classic fit shirt falls with more straight lines, and so conceals the stomach, making the whole body more in line with chest and shoulders.
Commonly, work shirts are worn in a variety of pastel colours – pinks and purples are very in at the moment. And the true “business shirt” is normally two-tone, with white cuffs and collar and a coloured body. Pale blues and pinks, often with fine pinstripes, are the in look for this year.
Work shirts may be short-sleeved as long as they retain the colour and cut of a long-sleeved shirt.
Casual shirts are often short-sleeved, or will have long sleeves but no collar. The casual shirt is either patterned in a way that simply doesn’t cut it for work (Hawaiian style for example) or is very plain, but cut from a material that doesn’t fit crisply with a suit and tie. The causal shirt instead tends to be more loose-fitting – and may be worn with shorts at a BBQ as readily as it is with jeans and a t-shirt in the pub.
Men’s shirts can be bewildering if you don’t understand the different varieties and styles.