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How to Choose The Best Dress Shirt

We deal with a lot of men’s dress shirts.  Many of our customers ask us, what’s the best shirt out there?  We wanted to give some tips on choosing the best dress shirt based on quality, value, and lifespan.  We know you put money into your clothes, so make sure they last!

Cotton vs. Synthetic Fibers

The best dress shirts are always 100% cotton, not a blend of fabrics.  Polyester is a man-made synthetic fiber that we’re seeing in more and more dress shirts.  For cotton/polyester blends the hand (softness or feel) of the dress shirt is different than a 100% cotton shirt .  Synthetic fibers are not as strong, breathable or comfortable as cotton and they drastically shorten the lifespan of a shirt.  For those of you who take starch, polyester blend shirts will not hold starch.  Starch cannot bind with fibers in polyester so those shirts will never feel crisp and starched like the normal 100% cotton shirt. If you’re looking to save money, these shirts are OK but realize they may only last for a year with regular wearing.

Is it really 100% Cotton?

More and more we’re seeing manufacturers selling “100% cotton shirts” that are not 100% cotton.  The regulations in the textile industry state that shirt-makers only need to say the fiber content if the additional fibers exceed a certain percentage of the entire shirt.  The biggest issue is 100% cotton shirts that are “non-iron” or “wrinkle-free.”

Non-Iron/Wrinkle-Free Shirts

Be wary of any shirt that is touting “no-iron” (and we’re not just saying that because we’re a dry cleaner!).  There are a few inherent issues with non-iron shirts:

1.  These shirts have a chemical resin applied hardens the fibers then dipped in formaldehyde which “embalms” them helping them to keep their shape. This isn’t a huge deal as there’s only trace amounts of formaldehyde on the shirt but it’s still can be an issue for the 9% of the population who are allergic to formaldehyde.  Also, we’re not entirely comfortable wearing formaldehyde on a daily basis.  (If you insist on buying non-iron shirts make sure you always wash them first!).
2.  Non-iron shirts are made with less cotton.  If you have an 100% cotton shirt and an 100% cotton non-iron shirt, there is actually more cotton in the regular shirt.  Creating non-iron variations allows the manufacturer to make the shirt with less cotton and therefore save money on materials.  The worst part is, many non-iron varieties are sold for more when they’re actually cheaper to make.  Because there’s less cotton, these shirts don’t live up to their normal lifespan and are very likely begin to fray and tear earlier than a normal 100% cotton shirt.
3.  Non-iron shirts aren’t meant to be exposed to heat.  AND it’s rare that a non-iron shirt comes out of the drier looking perfect.  That means either a). You’re ironing the shirt at home b). You’re taking it to the dry cleaner to be cleaned.  The problem is the resin on these shirts isn’t supposed to be exposed to high heat.  This causes discoloration of the resins and over time an extreme weakening of the fabric leading to frays and tears.

Our best advice is to buy 100% cotton shirts that are not “non-iron.”  Unfortunately, these shirts are becoming harder and harder to find.  Although some may be a little more expensive upfront, they’ll last longer in the and stay looking newer longer.