The formal shirt is an essential item that belongs in every gentleman’s wardrobe. If your job requires you to be suited and booted every day then knowing the difference between a spread collar and a button-down collar are essential. Read on for our guide to the formal shirt.
The point collar is the most popular collar style, found on the majority of men’s formal shirts. Having its origins in the military uniforms from the turn of the 20th century, the variations of the point collar have established themselves as the de facto collars of the world due to their ability to remain neutral.
Wear with a traditionally cut suit and small tie knot for a refined yet composed look.
The second most popular style is the spread collar also known as the Windsor collar. These collars have the points “cut away” or spread, hence the name. They reveal more of the upper shirt area and leave additional room for larger knots such as the Windsor. Like the point, spread collars come in a variety of widths, with more moderate ones resembling slightly flared point collars, while more extreme versions can be nearly horizontal.
Best matched with a modern cut suit, single colour textured tie, pocket square and black Oxford shoes.
The button-down collar style is naturally suited to more casual surroundings, the button-down was initially introduced by Brooks Brothers in 1896. These collars have small buttonholes at the very tip of each point, corresponding to a small button on each side of the shirt front. While this collar can be worn successfully with a tie, it is the least formal of all the collar choices and is an excellent choice for the man looking to leave the tie behind. The buttons on the collar should always fastened.
The current trend is to wear without a tie and with the shirt buttoned to the top. Try combining with tailored chinos and chukka boots.
The shirt cuff is often overlooked and is one of the few features visible when worn under a suit jacket. Here are the various options available.
Button Or Barrel Cuff
The button cuff is the most popular style of cuff and the basic single button style is commonly seen on shirts bought in high street menswear stores. They consist of a single cuff that wraps around the wrist and buttons into place, this functional option can offer square, round or angled corners and some versions provide an additional adjacent button for adjustment.
The barrel cuff has two or three vertical buttons and provides a more formal style, rather than the single. It’s extra fastenings provide a slightly tighter fit around the wrist. Shirts with barrel cuffs also often come equipped with a gauntlet button, which is a small button between the cuff and cuff opening allowing for a better fit around the forearm.
This french cuff is the defacto classic dress shirt cuff, it folds back around the wrist and is fastened by cufflinks rather than buttons. Although more ceremonial in style, the French cuff is not only for black tie affairs and is perfectly acceptable for daily wear.
The French cuff is usually featured on higher end and made to measure shirts. It is definitely worth owning a shirt featuring French cuffs as nothing quite compares to styling your suit with some beautiful cufflinks and a silk tie and matching pocket square.
Material And Fit
The formal shirt is traditionally manufactured using a number of different materials depending on the shirt’s design and function. Broadcloth and Poplin are essentially the same types of fabric, this simple weave provides a smooth and formal shirting and is available in a range of thread counts. Another option available is twill, which is a more detailed textile, with diagonal and herringbone patterns and heavier material.
Oxford shirts are more of a casual affair that every man should own at least one of. Thicker cloth is generally used in combination with the button-down collar. Many modern casual shirts are now sized small, medium, large, etc but it is certainly worth knowing your measurements. The neck measurement is particularly important when purchasing more formal shirts. You should be able to fit one finger comfortably between the collar and neck.
A more fitted style around the torso is also more flattering and practical. The general rules on shirts cuffs are that they should just touch the hinge of the wrist or be around half an inch from the jacket sleeve.