Despite rock stars and Hollywood types often making the point that fashionably unkempt is the new cool, the man's dress shirt escapes from this trend. A classic, well-made dress shirt is always crisp and impeccably tailored. Even the smallest details, such as a slight puckering at the back or an off-kilter button, can leave a mark of bad taste. There's no sparing the details. Here's what they are.
Always, mother of pearl. The natural sheen elevates the shirt and fits smoothly into handmade buttonholes—another thing to look out for.
The best material is 100 percent two-ply cotton because it feels more luxurious and is more absorbent. Two-ply cotton means that the fibers used to create the yarn have enough length to twist around each other for greater strength.
Single needle tailoring, especially on the side seams, involves attaching the pieces and then going over the seams a second time (to make it look like a single row of stitching). The technique streamlines the look of the shirt while increasing its durability. Also, if you can barely see the stitches on the cuffs, collar, and buttonholes, then the dress shirt is very fine indeed.
Another indication of quality is the horizontal placement of a sleeve placket buttonhole. Fine dress shirts feature a button that closes an opening on the cuff. Creating a horizontal buttonhole requires more skill than a vertical one, because the button has to align perfectly with the hole.
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 2 2011.