Men's Shirt Selection and Care
December 2, 2004 3:33 PM   Subscribe

GrowingUpFilter: In the middle of changing my look (as previous thread attests). I want to go slightly smarter, and have been buying some shirts lately. Quite expensive ones (for me, at least). Except, I can't figure out how to iron the damn things. Sleeves askew, collars curled. Should I get them laundered instead? Also, what exactly defines a good fit on a shirt? Should it look like a second skin? Where should it puff and billow?
posted by Jongo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Should I get them laundered instead?

If you can afford to, definitely yes. They look so much better when professionally done, especially if you're not good at it.

Also, what exactly defines a good fit on a shirt? Should it look like a second skin? Where should it puff and billow?

If they're too tight, any weight gain or shrinkage will make them look very uncomfortable and if you don't really have the build for it, you don't necessarily wanna show off what you've got.

Comfort is the key. If you feel comfortable, people won't really worry too much about the cut of your shirt. Buy one or two shirts from an actual men's clothing store or better department store, and get measured by someone who knows how to do it right. They can also advise you on how your shirt should fit (and what's in style, etc.)
posted by Doohickie at 3:42 PM on December 2, 2004

If they are nice shirts you should be getting them laundered and pressed professionally.

For the best fit, get your measurements done (collar, chest, sleeve) etc then buy/order shirts based on those measurements. There's probably a site online where you can do this yourself but I used to just walk into high-end shirt/tie shops and just ask them nicely if their tailor could measure me.
posted by vacapinta at 3:49 PM on December 2, 2004

I get mine laundered just because of that. Light starch on dress linen shirts, none on more casual or unusual fabriced shirts. Always dry-clean silk or wash it yourself at home... laundering it with the rest of the junk at a laundry, even if it says wash-cold-delicate, is a recipe for disaster.

As far as fitting goes, it should billow a bit in the arms, unless you're going for a very mod look and you're a skinny-assed hipster. Sleeves should rest at the point where your wrist starts to turn into your thumb. There should be enough fabric and the cut should be right for them to stay there no matter where your arm is. The top of the sleeves should start near your shoulder. This is the hardest to fit yourself, have someone in the store you're buying them in (assuming it's a botique-ish store) check your fit. You should make sure that the shirt doesn't leave a ton of excess fabric in your armpits. Again, it's tough to tel yourself, but if you're a skinny-but-barrel-chested guy like me, it's tough to find shirts like that unless you get specially made 'slim' fit shirts.
ALWAYS WEAR AN UNDERSHIRT with upscale shirts. They don't hang right unless you do; the backside of the fabric gets caught on your hair and looks lumpy as hell.
You can find 'fitted' shirts which will be like a 2nd skin, but they're kind of retro-mod and you'll usually only see hipsters wearing them two sizes too small.
I don't like wearing spread-collar shirts without a tie; I usually prefer button-down collars for shirts I'm going to wear with the top button unbuttoned.
posted by SpecialK at 3:52 PM on December 2, 2004

Google any picture of Hugh Jackman in a classic dress shirt. Note the puffs and billows. Mmmm...puffs and billows...agaggagagaaaahh
I second (Third? Fourth?) having them laundered, and I agree with SpecialK in that an undershirt is key. It will also save on trips to said launderer. In fact, listen to SpecialK entirely. Please also note that a tapered shirt must either be fit to your size exactly, preferably by a professional, or they make one look like a summer sausage.
posted by oflinkey at 4:08 PM on December 2, 2004

Ironing tip: Iron them damp. As in, so damp that they're close to wet, but not actually dripping. Just after a good spin cycle is fine. Much easier to iron.

Cuff, then one arm.
Other cuff, then other arm.
Other front side.
Hang up immediately.

Spray starch is optional, but go easy.
posted by bonaldi at 4:25 PM on December 2, 2004

I gotta disagree with the undershirt suggestion. Maybe I've just had bad luck but I've tried a number of brands and never found one that didn't totally mess up the way my dress shirt tucked into my pants. Either they are too short, and slip out of your pants the first time you sit down, making for an extra bulge in the waist, or (rarely) they are too long and make for extra bulges in your pants. YMMV, but watch out for that.

And yeah, get your shirts done professionally, it should only cost a buck or two per shirt, and makes all the difference in the world. Before travelling, ask for your shirts folded in boxes.

As for collars, I rarely wear ties, and mostly wear point collars or modest spreads, but have recently discovered that one of my ultra-wide spread collared shirts looks really good under a v-neck without a tie. I personally don't much care for button-downs, but that's mostly due to the fact that my father wears nothing but button-downs. If you are having problems with curled collars, invest in a set of brass collar stiffeners. Brooks-Brothers has a nice set with multiple pairs of three different sizes all in a handy leather case for like $35 that has been one of the best $35 I've ever spent on my wardrobe.
posted by rorycberger at 4:49 PM on December 2, 2004

A vote for undershirts: Yes.
posted by Doohickie at 5:08 PM on December 2, 2004

I gotta disagree with the undershirt suggestion. Maybe I've just had bad luck but I've tried a number of brands and never found one that didn't totally mess up the way my dress shirt tucked into my pants.

You may have been using the wrong undershirts. The ones I used were extremely thin, almost but not quite transparent, kind of wispy when you hold them. I agree with the others that undershirts are essential.
posted by vacapinta at 5:37 PM on December 2, 2004

Shoot, I get by just fine with regular old JC Penny cotton undershirts. And they're great for waxing the car with when they're pitted out.
posted by SpecialK at 6:00 PM on December 2, 2004

Undershirts are an extra layer of clothing. I look better wearing a coat over my shirt, too, but that's just too bad, as I'm not usually outside in the cold.
posted by bingo at 6:07 PM on December 2, 2004

Have shirts done. I only had to ruin one shirt by careless ironing to see the false economy of doing it myself.

I vote for undershirt. I think it makes the shirt fit better and it definitely extends their lifespan. Nothing's a bigger waste than having to toss a nice shirt because it has pit stains - and it doesn't take long for stains to show up. I'd rather wax the car with my old undershirts than with an expensive dress shirt.

Consider having a shirt or two made for you. You'll end up with some nice shirts, but more importantly you'll get an expert's opinion on how a shirt should fit you. I think it's worth the expense.
posted by TimeFactor at 6:26 PM on December 2, 2004

Undershirt, yes yes yes yes yes. Nipples: need I say more?
posted by redfoxtail at 8:25 PM on December 2, 2004

Jockey, and presumably other brands, make their undershirts in a tall version in most sizes so that you have extra length to tuck in to your trousers and don't have to deal with the problem that Rorycberger describes. This works pretty well for me.
posted by glyphlet at 10:21 PM on December 2, 2004

Here's a trick the civilian world seems to have forgotten, for when you're wearing a dress shirt with a suit, a uniform, or a tux: shirt garters. They clip to your shirttails front and back and to the tops of your socks, and keep your shirt tucked in and taut.
posted by nicwolff at 10:51 PM on December 2, 2004

Undershirts: they make me hot, which makes me sweat, which I think makes me look bad. Even when I'm here where it's cold, undershirt+shirt+jacket+gown (yes, I live in Harry Potter-land) is really, really warm.

I'll try to get some really thin ones though next time I'm back in the states.
posted by grouse at 2:58 AM on December 3, 2004

Ironing: have them done. Will save you acres of time and frustration and boredom.

Undershirt: man-nipples = very bad!
posted by mimi at 6:37 AM on December 3, 2004

A totally vain, fashion concious woman's opinion: men's undershirts are a must! Men who where tailored shirts without undershirts (we can tell if you're wearing them) look like slobs. It totally detracts from an otherwise nice look.

The only exception is bingo whom I've had the pleasure of meeting and looks quite polished with or without. Of course, he was wearing a coat . . .
posted by Juicylicious at 10:27 AM on December 3, 2004

Grouse - have you tried sleeveless undershirts?

Hanes makes some with the same material tank tops are made from - the ribbed cotton thing.

I use them, and I live in Arizona, so I can fairly say that it doesn't seem to add all that much to the overall temperature factor.

Of course, I'm habitual about my undershirts, it feels strange to me if I'm not wearing one; the only exception being if I'm wearing a T-shirt already.
posted by icey at 1:25 PM on December 3, 2004

You should get them laundered, but ask around and make sure that the place you're taking them has a good reputation. You run the risk of broken buttons and/or ironed-in stains if they're no good.

Everybody should know how to iron, though, just in case. I agree with bonaldi except that I do the collar first, and do both sides of the front last. If the shirt's not damp, you can mitigate the situation using a spray-bottle of water. I like collars and cuffs crisp, so I use a decent amount of spray starch on those things. Don't iron the cuff so it creases in half, stick it on the small end of the ironing board and rotate around as you iron.

Undershirts: yes.

If you can afford it, do get shirts made. It is a most excellent experience. I was given a gift of four custom-made Ascot Chang shirts several years ago and have unfortunately not been able to manage a repeat visit (damn minimum order).
posted by lackutrol at 2:54 PM on December 3, 2004

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