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The dress shirt, as we know it, is a fundamental part of men’s fashion. And as with any trade mastering the fundamentals is key before adding your own twist and tastes. Today, the soft cotton shirt remains the bread and butter of the well-dressed caballero, yet much too often one fails to conquer this core part of their wardrobe. Here, then, are a few tips for selecting and maintaining this closet staple:

Style

There is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to this style of shirt even though manufacturers make shirts in standard sizes that will fit the average man. Depending on the look and feel you want to convey, pay attention to what cut and fit look best and work with your body type.

If you’re lucky enough to have a fit and trim trunk (no belly or overhang), a tailored or slim-fit shirt should be considered an option since they fit tighter around the chest and sides. If you’re working on reducing your gut or need some extra give throughout the day, a standard-fit or full-cut shirt will hang differently—a bit looser around the chest and sides. If you’re genetically blessed with broad shoulders and barrel chest, an athletic cut shirt which is cut wider on top and fitted at the waist, is your best option.

Fabric

Cotton is king. While Jay Gatsby’s color palette might be a bit much for the conservative-minded gentlemen, you’ll want to stick with cotton shirts for the most part. Flannel is fine for fall or winter and linen will work well in the summer. But if you’re looking for a basic shirt fabric that can be worn year-round, cotton is the way to go.

For something a bit more high-end that wears a bit lighter, try offerings made from Turnbull & Asser’s Sea-Island cotton – a kind of long-staple cotton from Egypt that is grown in the Caribbean as well as some islands off the coast of the South East United States.For something more durable try an oxford shirt, a cotton fabric that features a basket weave.

More on dress shirt patterns and a primer on collars after the jump…

Man showing cloth at a tailor's.
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