Button Down Woven Shirt Buying Guide


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Dress Shirt

Dress Shirts

They go by a trifecta of industry names including dress, button down and woven shirts and are featured in virtually every modern wardrobe.  Many people wear these shirts every working day of the week and when buying one, there are multiple options to consider including material, finish, style, size and occasion.


Dress Shirts are generally made from the following materials:

  • 100% Cotton, Pima, Supima, Sea Island or Egyptian Cotton:  For practical purposes, they all refer to the same cotton plant: Gossypium Barbadense.  This is a more desirable cotton for its longer staples which allow it to be threaded into finer, stronger threads.  In our experience, Sea Island cottons are usually higher thread counts around 120s+ and Egyptian, Supima and Pima cottons can be found in more rugged 80s and 100s.

    100% cotton is the most comfortable fabric to wear and is breathable, allowing for perspiration evaporation in warm environments.  However, without additional treatments, it wrinkles easily and has stain retention characteristics.

  • Cotton / Poly Blends:  Mixing polyester with cotton, creating a poly-cotton blend, makes the material easier to wear and iron.  What polyester offers in stain resistance, it loses in warm weather breathability.

  • Silk and Linen:  Silk and linen crease easily, although both are breathable and comfortable to wear.  Silk is used in dress shirts and will need to be hand washed or dry cleaned.  It is not recommended for most as the maintenance costs are high and long-term durability low.  Linen is only occasionally mixed with other fabrics for easier garment care.

  • Thread Count:  If everything else is the same (weave, ply, mill, and type of cotton), higher thread count means a smoother, silkier, more expensive fabric.  Thread count is often referred to with a number like 50s, 80s, 100s, 120s, 140s 160s, etc up to 200s.  These numbers refer to the yarn size. 140s means there are 140 hanks (1 hank = 840 yards) of yarn in one pound.  While thread count can be an indicator of quality, remember that ply, mill, and type of cotton will have just as much to do with how luxurious the fabric is.

  • Two Ply vs Single Ply:  Ply is how many yarns are twisted together to make a single thread.  Shirting fabrics are most often two-ply or single ply.  Two-ply means that two yarns are twisted together to make a single thread that is then woven into the fabric.  Two-ply fabrics are generally superior to single-ply fabrics.


Woven Fabric Styles

  • Broadcloth:  Is generally perceived to be the highest quality dress shirt material, as it is very tightly woven with an over under weave, lightweight and offering a smooth and slight sheen finish.  It is great for those looking for as little texture as possible in their fabrics.

  • Dobby:  The material finish can vary widely.  Some versions are quite similar to broadcloth in terms of thickness and weight, while others can be thicker or woven to almost look like twill.  Many dobby fabrics have stripes woven into them, although some are solid colors.  The solid colors tend to have a faint stripe or dotted patterns woven in the same color as the base cloth.

  • End-on-End Broadcloths:  This material is a very popular type of dress shirt fabric with a distinct contrast coloring.  Woven with colored thread in the warp and white thread in the weft, it looks like a true solid from a distance, but has more texture when seen from up close.  Typically a lighter weight fabric, it s a great choice for those living in warmer climates.

End on End
  • Twill:  Is heavier than poplin and pinpoint, also offering as smooth finish.  Twill could be the perfect dress shirt fabric.  Twill is easily recognizable because it will show diagonal lines or texture. It is generally slightly shiny.  Twill is an extremely tight weave,  that can come in extremely high thread counts, some of which might be mistaken for silk.  Because of the diagonal texture twill is a bit softer than broadcloth and will drape more easily.  Twill won t give you the same crisp look that freshly pressed broadcloth can, but it s relatively easy to iron and resistant to wrinkles.

  • Oxford:  Is a dress shirts with a slightly elevated basket weave, is a heavy, durable material generally used in combination with the button-down collar.  Oxford Cloth is very similar to pinpoint oxford, except it uses a slightly heavier thread and looser weave. It has a slightly rougher texture but is more durable than most fabrics.  A symmetrical basket weave where one yarn may cross two yarns.  Originally developed for sports, so it s the least dressy, and (in some circles) not considered appropriate for office or formal wear.   Oxford cloth has recently become quite popular used in casual button down oxford shirts.  It can be worn slightly wrinkled straight from the dryer.

  • Pinpoint Oxford:  Is a two ply material that is lighter and finer than oxford.  Pinpoint (also referred to as pinpoint oxford) has the same weave as oxford cloth, although it uses a finer yarn and tighter weave. It is more formal than oxford cloth, but less formal than broadcloth.  Pinpoint fabrics are generally not transparent and are slightly heavier and thicker than broadcloths.  Because of their heavier construction, pinpoints are fairly durable fabrics.  A great choice for business shirts, but opt for a twill or broadcloth if you re looking for a formal shirt.

  • Poplin:  Is the same quality and weight as pinpoint, but with a smoother finish.  Poplin is also similar to Broadcloth.  For all practical purposes you can equate the two.  They are both a plain weave fabric that is going to be quite thin, smooth and flat.   The amount of shine on a poplin can vary from fabric to fabric.  That said, technically Poplin is different than Broadcloth in that Poplins can have different weight yarns in the warp and weft while broadcloths will have a a symmetrical construction.  For example, broadcloths could be 100/2 x 100/2 (meaning 100s two-ply in the warp and weft) while a poplin could be 100/2 x 60/1 (meaning 100s two-ply in the warp and 60s single-ply in the weft).


Finish Treatments

The finish applied to a shirt will improve the fabric and its inherent longevity.  Common finishes include the following:

  • Wrinkle Free finish given to non-iron 100% cotton shirts.

  • Stain resistance.

  • Mercerization makes the material more comfortable adding a luster and added fabric strength.


Dress Shirts for men are sized via the circumference of the neck and the sleeve length.  The neck measurement is particularly important when purchasing more formal shirts, where two fingers should fit comfortably between the collar and neck.  Classical or traditional fitted shirts are cut like a box and can have extra material in and around the waist.  Fitted shirts on the other hand are tapered in the chest, waist and arms for a slimmer appearance. 

Swatches by Proper Cloth of New York

Providing excerpts for this article and additional insight into the woven dress shirt buying experience. 


In general, narrow collars tend to lengthen a persons face, which benefits those with round faces or more robust physiques, while wide collars broaden thin or long faces.

  • Pointed Collar:  This dress shirt collar does not feature any buttons; you use collar stays to keep it straight.  It is cut so that the collar points are reasonably close together.  The advantage of this collar style is that longer, more closely set points tend to draw the eye down which elongates the face. It tends to leaves a relatively narrow opening for a tie and is versatile enough to blend comfortably with both formal and casual attire.  Wear with a traditionally cut suit and small tie knot for a refined yet composed look or dress down with a blazer, twill trousers and loafers for a more off-duty approach.

  • Spread Collar:  A spread collar or cutaway collar.  features a very wide opening between the points.  These collars have the points cut away thus the name, revealing more of the upper shirt area.  Due to the distance between the collar points (some almost horizontal), the spread collar is rarely worn without a tie and is reserved for business/formal dress only.  Gaining popularity in recent years, the spread collars width complements those with a slim build by balancing the body's vertical lines.  Spread collars are excellent for the those with a medium to long shaped face, as they do the opposite of the point and spread out a person's features.  Collar stays are also used to maintain the shape of the collar.

  • Button-Down Collar:  As the name implies, button-down are collars that can be buttoned to the dress shirt.  The spread for this type of collar may vary, just as with non-button ones.  This type is also more suitable for casual occasions as they are considered to be less formal and can be worn with or without a tie.  Naturally suited to more casual surroundings, the button-down was initially introduced by Brooks Brothers in 1896 based on the sports shirts worn by polo players.

Check out all the brands we offer under the "Staff & Event Apparel" area of our website.
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Dress Shirts