The perfect shirt – a buyer`s guide
The shirt is like a second skin, so it’s not surprising that the average German man owns 16 of these must-have items. The following shirt-buying guide gives you all the tips you need to bear in mind when looking for the perfect shirt.
First and foremost - size and fit
The first thing to consider when buying a shirt is choosing the right size. Shirts come in multi-sizes with the only difference between a 41 and a 42, for example, being in the collar circumference. The shirt will be the same size and the same cut, but the collar will be a little wider in a size 42. These are the standard sizes for men’s shirts in Germany: 37/38 (S) – 39/40 (M) – 41/42 (L) – 43/44 (XL) – 45/46 (XXL). Your waist circumference determines the fit of the shirt. The key things to consider here are the way you wear your shirt and what fit you feel most comfortable in.
The fabric quality
You can recognise a good shirt by the quality of its fabric and the processing technique used to make it. Most shirts are made of cotton, which can be processed in various ways. The most important thing is that the fabric feels good, so always remove a shirt from its packaging so that you can touch it before committing to a purchase. Of course, your decision also depends on your budget and your personal taste. Below is a list of the most well-known fabrics and weaves you should be aware of:
- Poplin (cotton) is a high-quality shirt fabric with a slightly ribbed structure. Shirts made of poplin are very durable and comfortable to wear.
- Batiste (cotton) has a fine weave, which makes the shirt light and airy. This fabric is ideal for warm summer days.
- Flannel (cotton) features a soft, roughened surface, which gives the shirt a grainy look. It’s ideal for warm, checked, casual shirts.
- Oxford (cotton) is soft and very robust and durable thanks to its sturdy yarn. Oxford fabric is best used for casual button-down shirts.
- Twill (cotton) is a robust woven fabric with a diagonal ribbed structure. It’s mainly used for casual shirts for cooler days.
- Linen is a natural fibre, which is highly breathable, practically lint free and also bacteria repellent. Linen shirts are cool on the skin and are ideal for summer.
- Silk is very high maintenance, but also comfortable to wear. This fine fabric is cooling in the summer and warming in the winter.
As a result, silk shirts are very exclusive and expensive.
- Wool also plays a role, particularly in the casual segment. The quality depends on the type of wool and how it has been processed. Wool is often mixed with synthetic fibres to improve wearing comfort and durability.
The ultimate checklist for a perfectly fitting shirt
- The shirt should not strain across the chest, but it also shouldn’t fit too loosely. The shirt should also be comfortable and fit well when you sit down.
- When the collar is buttoned all the way up, you should be able to fit two fingers between your neck and the shirt.
- The armhole seams should sit right where your shoulder becomes your arm, except when it comes to dropped shoulders or oversized shirts.
- A shirt that is worn untucked should not be longer than the lower edge of the belt.
- A shirt that is worn tucked in should remain tucked in when you sit down; if it doesn’t, it’s too short.
- The correct sleeve length is between the bottom of the thumb and the wrist. Shirt sleeves should be longer than jacket sleeves, but not by more than 1.5 cm.
- Cuffs should be wide enough for a watch to have space underneath without the fabric becoming taut. However, they definitely shouldn’t slip over your hands.
Collars - the crucial criteria
From casual to elegant, nothing determines the style of a shirt as much as the style of its collar. Here are the most important types of men’s shirt collars:
- Spread collar – Classic, fashionable and elegant all at once. A spread collar is suitable for all occasions and can be worn with both a tie and a bow tie.
- Button-down collar – A casual style for a relaxed look. For non-tie wearers, leave the top button undone. What’s special about this style are the tiny, visible buttons on the points that keep the collar in shape. An alternative is the hidden button-down collar where the buttons are concealed underneath the collar.
- Cutaway collar – A universal style with exquisite elegance. A shirt with this type of collar is best suited for a serious office job. The collar points finish far apart making it ideal for larger tie knots.
- Cuban collar – A casual, flat style that is once again a fashion hit for summer 2020. The upper part of the shirt is folded outwards with the collar to create the distinctive shape. Due to this open neckline, the shirt is worn as a casual item without a tie or a bow tie. This style may appear familiar thanks to the bowling shirts worn by Charlie Sheen in “Two and a Half Men”.
- Band collar – This is a classic, narrow collar without a turndown and is bang on trend. Buttoned up it has a very uniform-like look, but it can also be worn undone with jeans for a casual look.
- Wing collar – A very elegant style for seriously special occasions. Shirts with these collars are almost always worn with bow ties. Add a dinner jacket, a tailcoat or an elegant suit for a truly perfect look.
- Tab collar – A more elegant version of the spread collar. An additional strip of fabric holds the points of the collar together for a perfect fit. This collar is worn with a narrow tie; the knot sits quite high allowing it to be well displayed.
- Pin collar – A relation of the tab collar that is suitable for very special, elegant occasions. For this collar type you need a collar pin, which is inserted through two holes in the collar points. Here as well, the tie knot is highlighted, so make sure you tie it neatly. Choose this type of collar if you want to stand out from the crowd or fancy trying out something more unusual.
Cuffs and button plackets - the devil is in the detail
The ends of shirt sleeves are called the cuffs. The main reason behind cuffs was to protect jacket sleeves, which is why they still protrude from underneath them today.
Buttons on shirts were added relatively late. Although nobody knows why, men’s shirts are always buttoned left over right, while women’s blouses are buttoned right over left. However, we do know that nowadays there are three types of button plackets on shirts.
Caring for your shirt
Just like any other item of clothing, a shirt must be well cared for. To preserve the quality and shape of your shirt for as long as possible, here are some tips to bear in mind when it comes to washing, ironing and storing.
Washing: You can wash shirts in the machine at 30°C – 40°C. If there are stubborn grease or sweat stains on the shirt or if it has a yellowed collar, you can use any other conventional stain remover. Sort your shirts by colour and do not add any heavy fabrics, such as jeans, to the wash. At any rate, you should always observe the care instructions on the label in the shirt. Spin cycles can be taxing on shirts and should be reduced to lower RPMs.
Drying: The best way to dry shirts is to hang them on clothes hangers. Before hanging, do up all the buttons and smooth out the shirt so that all the seams are correctly aligned and to prevent creasing.
Ironing and storing: Iron your shirts while they are still damp. The right temperature depends on the quality of the fabric and care instructions on the label. First iron the collar and then move on to the sleeves and cuffs, pulling them taut and then ironing them. Then lay the shirt over the ironing board and iron the front and back. Do not iron over the buttons. Iron breast pockets from the seams to the inside. After ironing, hang the shirt on a clothes hanger to cool and then hang it in your wardrobe.