7 factors to look for when buying a high quality dress shirt

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

The Dark Knot carries an extensive range of hand made silk ties, pocket squares & lapel flowers. Our core philosophy is to help gentlemen dress better.  Hence, each of our accessories come with recommendations for matching attire. All of our products come with a 30 Day Money Back Guarantee.

So you’ve decided to buy a high quality dress shirt, but are having a hard time discerning whether what you are looking at is indeed high quality or not. 

The last thing you need is something that looks good at first glance, and ends up being subpar.  I’m sure you get the drift.  So with that conveniently established, let’s have a look 7 factors to look for when buying a high quality dress shirt.

High Quality Collars

A close inspection of the shirt’s collar will give you a sense for the quality of the shirt.  Quality collars are cut perfectly symmetrical, with straight and clean edges.  High quality dress shirts generally have fused collars, which have a level of crispness to them

These collars should curve in a circle when buttoned and should not lose shape.  While an unfused collar is not a sign of poor workmanship, it is important to note that the work required to create an unfused collar is generally of higher technical standard, and hence, while a high quality unfused collar can look great, a lower quality one will look subpar.


shirt collar

Split Yolk

High quality dress shirts always come with a split yoke.  The yoke of the shirt is the panel of fabric that runs across from shoulder end to shoulder end, right below the collar.  Split yolk is where the yolk is made of two different pieces of fabric. 

The functional benefit of this is that the shirt fabric can stretch more, enabling the wearer with a greater range of motion.  Barring the infamous Jean Claude Van Damme, who only wears spandex, who wouldn’t want greater range of motion on a dress shirt?

Split Yolk

Removable Collar Stays

Higher quality dress shirts, in addition to quality collars, also come with removable collar stays.  Collar stays are little pieces of metal or plastic that are inserted into the points of the collar and they generally keep the collar points looking straight and looking sharp

Some shirts may come in with sewn in collar stays .  Removable collar stays will allow a collar to retain its shape and pointedness over the years.

Removable Collar Stays

Quality Fabrics

Needless to say, the quality of the fabric is extremely important.  Higher quality dress shirts are often made from Egyptian Cotton, which is considered the gold standard for cotton

Egyptian cotton fibers are considered the longest, at 1 ½ inches.  Egyptian cotton is considered soft, silky and strong.  Alternatives to Egyptian cotton include Sea Island and Pima. 

Additionally, the vast majority of shirt fabrics fall into five major weave categories; Broadcloth, Oxford, Pinpoint, Twill and Herringbone, which can be read more about here

Of importance – Broadcloth – alternatively known as ‘Poplin’, is considered the quintessential dress shirt fabric.  Broadcloth fabric is manufactured using a simple over / under weave pattern and is generally woven tighter with finer yarns so that the fabric is smooth and silky. Because broadcloth fabrics are of much smoother texture and quality than its Pinpoint or Oxford cousins, they are more suitable for formal occasions. 

A key consideration in assessing the quality of your dress shirt fabric in consideration is Yarn count.  Occasionally, when you come across a shirt at a major retailer, you will see something along the lines of: “100’s 2 ply cotton”.  What exactly does this mean?  It can be broken down into two components:

Yarn Number – describes the thickness of the yarn.  A lower yarn number indicates a thicker yarn, whereas higher yarn numbers are indicative of slimmer, finer yarns. 

Because these thinner yarns can only be created from the smoothest, longest cotton fibers, shirts made from higher yarn counts are more expensive.

Ply – refers to the number of yarns used in the weaving process.  A two ply shirt indicates the twisting of two yarns together to form a single yarn before weaving.  Fabrics made from two ply yarn are of higher quality than those made from single yarn.  Because fabrics are woven using yarns in two directions (warp for vertical and weft for horizontal), the following delineations are often used:

2 x 2: Two ply for both warp and weft

2 x 1: Two ply for one direction and single-ply for the other

1 x 1: Single-ply in both directions

Cleanly Finished Button Holes

If there are loose threads around the button hole, or any sign of fraying, this is indicative of a lower quality shirt.  Premium quality shirts will have more stitches on the button hole clear openings with no signs of fraying.

Button Holes

Hand Sewn Cuffs

Similar to collars, cuffs can come either fused or unfused.  Fused cuffs are preferable for formal attire, whereas unfused cuffs are preferable for more casual wear.  Either way, hand sewn cuffs will exhibit attention to detail with straightness in the stitching and pointedness of the cuffs.

Hand Sewn Cuffs

Edge Stitching

Higher quality dress shirts will have stitching close to the edges of the collars, plackets, cuffs etc. Most shirt makers tend to stay away from edge stitching however, because it’s harder and ultimately more costly for them to mass produce. 

Dress Shirt Edge Stitching

What do you consider indispensable when looking for a quality dress shirt?  We would love to read your comments below!

Need help with your tie shopping? Feel free to check out our Tie Starter Kits that come with a Free Style Consultation (typically valued at $500) and a 30 Day Money Back Guarantee.

Are you having difficulty matching tie colors and patterns to your dress shirts? The Dark Knot's filtered search system is an extremely valuable tool where you can find ties that will match your dress shirts based on color and pattern! 

← Older Post Newer Post →