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How To Choose Formal Shirts For Men

How to choose a formal shirt

A crisp white shirt is one of the most versatile garments you can ownImage source: Samuel Windsor

Formal shirts are ideal for work, celebrations, smart casual and even casual wear. Look your best by choosing a shirt which matches the occasion, your age, build and style sensibilities. Quality counts too - selecting the right fabric is the difference between a shirt which does the job, and one that makes you stand out for all the right reasons. Here's how to choose a formal shirt.


What Size Shirt Should I Buy?

Take your neck measurement by wrapping a tape measure around the widest part of your neck. Calculate your sleeve length by measuring from the point of your shoulder to a fraction below your wrist joint. If you’re not sure and don’t have a tape measure handy, the best way to check your size is to look at one of your old shirts.

Most of us fall somewhere between a 15” and 17” neck, but you’ll find smaller and larger sizes easily enough, if that’s what you need. Most manufacturers supply men's formal shirts in both 14” and 18” sizes.

Samuel Windsor Size Guide

Use Samuel Windsor’s size guide to help you order correctlyImage source: Samuel Windsor


What Size Shirt Should I Buy?

Trying on a new formal shirt? Here’s how to check for fit. Beginning with the neck – when the shirt is fully buttoned you should be able to place two fingers between the collar and your skin without feeling strangled. Moving onto the sleeves, with your arms by your sides, the cuff should end a quarter to a half inch below the crook of your wrist, and when buttoned or secured with cufflinks, you shouldn’t be able to withdraw your hands into your sleeves.

To check for fit around your body, give the fabric a tug – you should be able to pinch a couple of inches of material all round. Flex your shoulders and try waving – if your shirt cuts into your armpits, or there’s puckering around the buttons, go for a fuller cut. In any case, once you progress beyond your mid twenties, you really need to consign very slim fit shirts to sartorial history.

Your shirt should be long enough so that when you raise your arms over your head, it doesn’t come untucked – likewise with sitting and standing.

Correct Sleeve Length

The correct sleeve lengthImage source: iiiphevgeniy


What fabric Is Best For Shirts?

Assess shirts for quality by focusing on thread count and ply. Thread count actually refers to the weight of the yarn – a 100s thread count means 100 hanks of yarn would weigh 1lb. The higher the thread count, the finer the yarn – the finer the yarn, the more likely you’ll be looking at a two-ply shirt.

Two-ply (also called two fold) simply means that each thread is made from two strands of cotton twisted together. A 120s two-ply shirt is woven from threads made up of two 60s strands. This means that a high thread count two-ply shirt is a much better quality garment. Two-ply is far tougher than single ply and well worth any extra expense.

Formal shirt Striped

Formal shirts from Samuel Windsor are made from two-ply fabric in 100% cottonImage source: Formal shirts from Samuel Windsor


Coloured And Patterned Shirts

Conservative colours are perfect for the office or for job interviews – think in terms of white or pale blue. Once you’re established in your role, you can experiment with subtle stripes and, perhaps a tasteful check. Steer clear of anything too overpowering for office wear – the only thing that should appear busy is you.

Celebratory, smart casual or casual occasions can see you branch into more adventurous colours and patterns – pale pink is a surprisingly versatile colour and looks great with grey or blue suits and jeans or chinos too. Just remember that one of the wonderful things about a classic men’s formal shirt is its crisp clean lines – let the shirt do the talking.

Formal Checked Shirt

Patterns are less formal than block coloursImage source: Formal shirts from Samuel Windsor


Do I Need To Wear A Tie With A Formal Shirt?

If you’re wearing a suit, you should wear a tie. Barack Obama was famous for preferring to go tieless, but because most formal shirts are designed to wear with a tie, the collars can appear somewhat lost without one. If you are going without, make sure you select a shirt with a substantial collar which will stand to attention.

The same goes for wearing formal shirts with sports jackets and blazers. If you want to leave your tie at home, wear a smart casual shirt with a robust collar.

Formal Shirt With Tie

Formal shirts are designed to be worn with a tieImage source: Samuel Windsor


Now you know how to go about choosing the perfect formal shirt, you’ll need to pick out the right pair of men’s leather shoes to go with it. Wearing a suit? You need Oxfords. Sports jacket? Brogues.

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