What You Need To Know To Buy Dress Shirts Online
Today, you’re lucky to find a store where the salesman A) knows anything about menswear, tailoring or, in this case, what to look for in a great dress shirt, and B) won’t pressure you to spend more than you intended or try to upsell you on a tie or some cuff links or some other thing you didn’t walk into the store intending to buy.
The solution to the pushy salesman problem is to buy dress shirts online. To learn what to look for and ensure you get quality dress shirts even if you can’t try before you buy, you’ve got the following guide.
Keys to buying dress shirts online
We shop with our eyes. You see a photo of a guy looking awesome in a shirt and think, “I want to look like that.” Two hours later you’ve scoured every website known to man and purchased the be-all and end-all of dress shirts. It arrives, you try it on and you’re sorely disappointed. You don’t look like the badass in the photo you saw. Why? Two of the most common reasons for online shopping failures are that the fit is off and the color/pattern isn’t what you expected. Below we break down how to avoid this scenario.
Revival of the Fittest – How
to find dress shirts that fit online
Use Size Charts
Many sites offer size charts to give you a sense of what their version of a Medium really is. If you know a couple of your measurements, these charts can save you a lot of headache as they give you a range of sizes that ought to fit. For instance, if you know you’ve got a 40” chest, you can use that as a starting point on the size chart to determine your size. Even if you’re pretty sure something will fit, take the two seconds to check the size chart. It can save you a lot of time on returns.
Know Your Measurements
Tailor Your Shirts
What’s a stylish man to do? Get to a tailor (if you don’t have one, check out our guide to getting the most out of your tailor). Tailoring shirts is one of the simplest, yet least used tricks well-dressed men have up their dress shirt sleeves.
Quality dress shirts come with extra fabric tucked inside at the seams. This is called a seam allowance and it is the tailor’s best friend. It gives the tailor enough fabric to alter any areas where you might need a little extra room. Conversely, let’s say your shirt fits you great in the neck but you’re swimming in the sleeves. A tailor can tuck in more of that extra fabric at the seam and taper your sleeves so you can show off the guns.
Make the Fit Flawless
With an outer layer like, say, a topcoat, there is some wiggle room for fit and off the rack versions can, on certain body types, compete with made-to-measure, but when it’s a base layer like a dress shirt, nothing compares with custom.
The web-enabled device of the beholder – How to look at dress shirts online
A lot what we love about dress shirts comes from the color and/or pattern of a shirt. When you consider that a dress shirt goes hand-in-hand with a tie, so you want them to pair nicely, being able to see the color and the pattern are two very important things. But when you’re buying online, how can you be sure what you’re seeing is what you’re going to get?
Avoid mistakes, use whiteout
There is one very simple strategy for dealing with this problem: get white shirts. Now, we could give you a laundry list of style-based reasons why a dress shirt whiteout is a great idea, in fact, we’ve given you a few already, but the practical reason, when you’re shopping online, is that you know what you’re going to get. A white shirt is a white shirt. Other colors? Not so simple.
Stay true to blue
When it comes to colored shirts online, you’ve got to take a bit more of a leap of faith and go by the photos. Our advice is to stick with forgiving colors. Blue dress shirts range from low saturated pale to heavily saturated cornflower blue. All of those blues work with, say, a gray suit. The same isn’t true of other colors. Take red. Sure, at the one end of the spectrum you’ve got preppy pink shirts but at other end you’ve got a devilishly, distasteful red dress shirt. If you’re looking to play it safe, stick to blue.
Check the scale
Swatches aren’t just for 80s watch collectors
Cop a Feel – Getting swatches from Black Lapel
If you’d like to see a swatch of the dress shirts offered by Black Lapel, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the fabrics you’d like to see and your name and address and we’ll get them out to you. Same goes for suiting fabrics.
Don’t lose your shirt – Understanding the true cost of a dress shirt
One of the beauties of shopping online is that, unlike in the store, you easily compare prices between brands. But comparisons are not always apples to apples. Here’s why:
Does that mean we think you should skip the tailoring step? No, we still highly recommend tailoring any shirts that don’t fit the way you want. The point is, you’ve got to factor that into the cost.
The Long Life of a Dress Shirt
On better shirts the yoke (the part of the shirt where you would rest the bar if, for some reason, you were to do squats in a dress shirt) is made of two pieces of fabric. This is not just a style choice, it allows the shirt to stretch better across the width of the upper back and shoulders for ease of movement while reinforcing the structure, and making a long lasting shirt.
If it’s tough enough to protect a mussel from predators (mother-of-pearl is made from mollusk shells) then it’s tough enough to stand up to repeated laundering. And look for a cross stitch on those buttons to keep them firmly attached to the shirt.
A more costly type of construction, single-needle stitching uses one needle to sew one side of the garment at a time. This results in a stronger seam that won’t pucker even after repeated washing.
What about thread counts?
If you’ve been doing your homework and looking for what makes a great dress shirt, you’ve likely come across at least one “expert” who swears by thread count as the only metric by which you should assess the quality of a dress shirt. So why wasn’t thread count in our list of above? That list is about the durability of a shirt. While high thread count shirts are generally considered high quality and, appropriately, more expensive than lower thread count shirts, thread count doesn’t have too much bearing on how well a shirt holds up.
So what does thread count affect? The feel and weight of a dress shirt. High thread count shirts can have a soft, almost silky, feel that exudes luxury. High thread count fabric makes great lightweight shirts. If you’re looking for a heavier shirt with a crisper, sturdier feel for more casual wear, then a lower thread count can actually have an advantage. As with most things style related, when it comes to thread count, there’s no need to slavishly follow the dictates of the menswear geeks.
Putting it all together
So that’s a lot to take in and the idea of finding all of the features we’ve discussed here may sound like discovering a unicorn…who can sing…and grows his own heirloom tomatoes…which he sells at the Farmer’s Market on Sundays. At least that’s what we felt like when we went looking for great dress shirts online. That’s why we created the Black Lapel line of shirts that check all of the boxes.
- They’re made-to-measure so they fit you flawlessly without the need for tailoring,
- They come in a variety of colors and patterns (swatches available upon request), and
- They’re built to last with split-yoke construction, mother-of-pearl buttons and single-needle stitching.
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