Dress Shirts: What Are You Really Paying For?


To splurge or not to splurge, that is the question. Some of you browsing here on Fittery may be asking yourselves: "Is it worth it pay $50-200 for a dress shirt?" After all, at stores like Walmart you can find dress shirts on the cheap. Believe me, I'm living on a tight budget myself, so I can understand the impulse to buy very cheap clothes. My quick answer to your question is a resounding yes, but you guys deserve to know why. When it comes to cheap stores versus the brands we carry on our site, the differences between products are easy to spot. Let me walk you through them.

Our first and foremost concern here is fit. Cheap dress shirts in the $10-20 price range tend to stay within the typical S-XL field when it comes to size, with no custom fits available. Now, if you're Joe Average, this isn't really a problem. But for all of you guys out there looking who need a fit that falls outside a traditional sizing chart, cheap shirts just aren't going to cut it. You may be able to find a shirt that "just sort of fits enough," but you won't able to create that perfect-fit, confidence-building look we know you're looking for. Moving up that price scale to better, if slightly more expensive, brands gives you a greater number of options to help you build the right look for your body.

You’ll save more time and money in the long run by investing in quality dress shirts.

Another important factor is fabric. The more expensive the shirt, the better the fabric quality tends to be. Higher quality fabric is more comfortable to wear and more durable than the lower quality fabrics used in the cheapest shirts. Brands like J. Crew fall into a more affordable range but still use high-quality fabric to build their clothes, like this Indigo Windowpane shirt. Other brands like Club Monaco may be pricier, but carry the brand promise of top quality fabrics with a renowned name; a great example is this sky blue Italian dress shirt (which is still machine-washable!). A shirt made with superior fabric will last you for years, while cheap shirts will begin to show signs of wear and tear after a much smaller number of wears and washes. This means you'll save more time and money in the long run by investing in quality dress shirts.

When you pay more, you also pay for a shirt that is 100% cotton, gingham, or any other natural fabrics. Cheaper shirts use man-made fabrics like polyester with cotton to lessen production costs, creating the dreaded "cotton poly-blend". Stores will try to sell you on the supposed greater durability of poly-blend fabrics, but personally I find that poly-blend shirts are scratchy and uncomfortable. Imagine trying to give an important presentation while you feel itchy all over. Not fun. Remember: A fashion-savvy guy focuses on style and comfort.

So far there's a pretty noticeable difference when you move up price points from the cheapest shirts to name-brand designer clothes. The shift in quality is substantial. But, when you compare shirts in the $50-200 range to shirts from more expensive high-end designers, the contrast becomes a little murkier. Shirts from luxury designers can easily reach prices in the high hundreds. But here you're not just paying for quality (though such shirts are incredibly well-made), but also brand-name exclusivity . After all, you won't encounter as many guys wearing Dolce & Gabbana as you will J. Crew. While it can be cool to strut your stuff in a luxury shirt that none of your friends own, the rise in quality doesn't always match the jump in price. Shirts from more affordable brands are still of designer quality, even if they don't carry luxury name.

When it comes to dress shirts, you really do get what you pay for. Being stingy will leave you with an inferior product. Take it from a penny-pinching post-grad: a name-brand, high-quality dress shirt is a smart splurge. You'll get a shirt that fits your body well and feels comfortable to wear all day.