Picking a shirt for work or a formal event, especially when pairing it with a suit and tie, is not so easy at first glance. But if you're an adult male chances are you'll spend most of the working week and weekend in a shirt, so feeling comfortable and looking sharp is certainly important.
Knowing what to look for and how to wear it are the first steps to choosing the right work shirt. But where to begin?
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First decide how big you’d like your rotation to be and what is currently missing from your wardrobe.
Then look at how you’d like to pitch yourself through styling options. Are you looking for simplicity and comfort, or perhaps something to make a statement?
Whether you’re hunting for inspiration or ready to step up your power dressing game, below is a round-up of the best work shirts for men.
How to choose the best shirt
First of all, you've got to decide what type of shirt you're after. We've selected the best formal dress shirts, business shirts, and casual shirts here, to cover you for every occasion.
Dress shirts are the most formal, intended to be worn with a tuxedo and black tie. You'll want to have the best steam iron for these, or get them professionally cleaned and pressed. Business shirts are perfect for the office, while casual shirts are ideal for more relaxed environments.
We'll detail what to look out for in each section.
The best business shirts for men
There might be a dress code at your office or perhaps you’re free to choose what you like.
With that in mind, the most basic type of work shirt is a simple white or blue long-sleeved shirt. You can’t go wrong with these. A simple long-sleeve will carry you through most professional environments and also carry to events outside of work.
Never be tempted by short-sleeve shirts. They may seem like a good idea when it's hot outside, but ultimately they make you look like a school boy. Instead opt for a lighter fabric, such as linen.
Colour is an important consideration when buying a work shirt. At the very least, if you stock up on neutral colours like black, white and navy then you’ve got a versatile setup with shirts that can transition between seasons and events.
Going for a printed design can also change your style up. The aim with printed shirts is to add character to your ‘fit.
While this can make matching with suits a little trickier, it’s worth the effort for a more vibrant look. But if you’re unsure, an easy workaround is to go for printed shirts with neutral colours.
Shirtmaker Charles Tyrwhitt is a favourite of ours due to its range of sizes, designs and the option to build a custom shirt. We're big fans of this cutaway collar shirt, which has wide collar points angled outwards instead of pointing down – it suits men with slim, long faces. It's a modern twist on the traditional garment. The shirt is made from 100-percent cotton and features a Cambridge Weave texture which adds subtle yet interesting detail.
This crisp white shirt epitomises Hugo Boss' modern, razor-sharp tailoring. It should be a staple of every gentleman's wardrobe. The Jilias is cut from pristine cotton Oxford, it has subtle darting through the back that ensures the slim shape fits comfortably and doesn't sag.
Shirt maker Turnbull & Asser was established in London in 1885, and has supplied many British icons, from Sir Winston Churchill to James Bond. Its men's shirts are made in England to the highest standards, using Italian fabric and mother-of-pearl buttons. This subtly striped shirt has been tailored slim from lightweight cotton-poplin and has a cutaway collar to accommodate larger tie knots. Perfect when paired with a navy suit.
Tom Ford is the current king when it comes to ultra-luxurious tailoring, and this deep midnight-blue shirt is a perfect example of that. Tailored for a slim fit, this crisp cotton style has a lustrous finish that's complemented by iridescent mother-of-pearl buttons. It would pair well with a dark and light suit.
Here’s a classic from Hugo Boss. The 'Jenno' is a sharp, formal shirt that works well as a professional piece or for formal occasions. On the more affordable end of the scale, this shirt has removable collar stays and a slim fit that will hold its shape over time.
This classic shirt from Canali is cut from cotton twill and features double cuffs. Its slim-fit styling and details lend itself to more formal settings, so this is best worn when you want to look sharp. A good shirt to have to get your basics right, you should bear in mind that this is more of a suit and tie shirt, so you probably won’t be rolling up the sleeves too often.
Showcasing a distinctly British vibe, the Paul Smith collection illustrates the designer's immaculate tailoring skills, faultless construction and brilliant eye for detail. Each considered piece fuses heritage craftsmanship with a distinctive, alternative edge. We love the shade of pink used in this shirt, and the rainbow-striped lining in the cuffs sets it off perfectly.
Polo Ralph Lauren is all about quintessential American style, and nothing exemplifies that better than this preppy Oxford shirts. It can be worn with a suit, or paired with chinos for a more relaxed look. Cut from crisp cotton-poplin with the brand's trademark button-down collar, it's embroidered at the chest with the iconic player motif.
Founded in 1977 and built around Mr Michael Drake's philosophy of 'relaxed elegance', Drake's 'Easyday' collection is filled with timeless designs. This shirt has been made at the brand's dedicated factory in Somerset from gingham-checked cotton-poplin and has a cutaway collar that's perfect for wider ties.
Hackett's shirts are an affordable and reliable option. The brand's meticulous cuts, quality fabrics and classic palette ensure its pieces are truly timeless. The 'Mayfair' style of this shirt is cut slim from light-blue cotton-poplin and has a smart spread collar which can be stiffened or relaxed using the removable collar stays.
This Kin by John Lewis shirt comes with a geometric pattern that lends itself well to professional styling. It’s constructed from cotton and features a point collar and mitred button cuffs for a clean-cut look that works with or without a blazer. However, this leans towards a more relaxed fitting overall.
The best formal dress shirts for men
If you're going to a formal event, with a black tie, or maybe even white tie dress code, you'll need something a little dressier than your usual business shirt.
Formal dress shirts are quite similar to white business shirts, but set themselves apart with stiff detachable collars, wing-collars, double cuffs, a front panel or "bib", and studs rather than buttons.
Although black tie is a semi-strict dress code, there are no required features from the list above, so you can chose which design flourishes match your style and the look you're going for.
Below is a selection of our favourite formal dress shirts.
If you're looking to set off your tux, a wing-collared bib-fronted shirt is the ultimate companion for formal events. This shirt from Tom Ford is especially suited to summer formal occasions (such as weddings or summer ball) as it's cut from lightweight cotton-voile.
Dolce & Gabbana's Italian-made cotton-poplin shirt has a smart piqué bib punctuated with black enamel studs. It's great if the dress code is black-tie, but you don't fancy the extra formality of a wing-tipped collar. The shirt is darted at the back to achieve a streamlined fit, and finished with a classic collar that's ideal for any tie of your choice.
The best casual shirts for men
All rules are out of the window when it comes to casual shirts, you can pick whichever matches your style.
These can worn as a single layer, or paired with a t-shirt and left unbuttoned.
If you want to be bang on trand for SS18, opt for a camp collar, or bold patterned shirt.
Support your favourite rugby team and look good while doing it (if you support England Rugby, that is) in Charles Tyrwhitt England Rugby Supporter's shirt. This a wonderfully comfortable shirt which gives a nod to England Rugby with a little embroidered rose on the left chest. The shirt is crafted from breathable cotton and garment-washed for extra softness. A distinctive weave adds a little texture to your look, while the button-down collar adds a more casual air. We love the relaxed 'Classic' fit, but you can also opt for a slim fit, if that's more your style. The Supporter's shirt is available in three colours, all of which feels light and refreshing. Team with a pair of navy trousers or chino shorts and you're match-ready for the weekend.
If you want that preppy look but don't want to go with the obvious Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, Maison Kitsuné's classic shirt is the ideal alternative. It is made from cotton that's crafted in an end-on-end weave for greater depth of colour. It's cut for a slim fit but a box pleat at the back creates a more roomy feel.
Camp-collar shirts (collars which are made from a single piece of material) are very popular right now, and we love this example from Prada, printed with Western-inspired details. The scene features cacti, tepees and Native Americans in full headdresses riding horses. The shirt is made from lightweight cotton-poplin, it's cut in a boxy silhouette and has lustrous mother-of-pearl buttons. We'd suggest you wear these with smart trousers or to a barbecue with shorts.
Another camp collar shirt, this time from Hartford. It's printed with painterly shots of glamorous summer hotspots Cap Ferrat and Menton, and is cut from breathable cotton and has plenty of room in the sleeves and body to keep you cool.
This bold palm-print shirt from Club Monaco is cut for a slim fit from lightweight, breezy cotton and looks cool buttoned up or left open over a tee. The dark background of the pattern makes it feel appropriate for the cooler months, too.
Orlebar Brown's striped 'Travis' shirt is ideal for a cool, relaxed holiday outfit. Inspired by styles from the 1960s, it's cut from soft, absorbent cotton-terry and has white stripes flecked with turquoise and blue threads. Store your debit card and room key in the patch pockets on trips to the poolside bar. Pair it with a pair of Orlebar Brown trunk (opens in new tab)s for the ultimate holiday outfit.
Polo Ralph Lauren's Oxford shirts are the epitome of preppy style – the brand started making them back in the 1970s and they've hardly changed since. This grey mélange shirt is woven from cotton and cut slim with a classic button-down collar.
When summer gets scorchingly hot (like we've experienced so far in 2018) there is only one fabric you should be wearing - linen. This Clerkenwell shirt from Oliver Spencer is is easily dressed up or down, and made from linen to keep you feeling as cool as possible. It's cut with the brand's signature tab collar and gusseted sides.
Looking for a checked shirt? Burberry's 'London check' is iconic - and when rendered in other colours (such as red and navy) becomes a little more subtle, yet still recognisable. You can wear this smart cotton-poplin piece with dark jeans and sneakers on dates or at smarter weekend events.
Norse Projects (opens in new tab)' 'Anton' shirt is twice indigo-dyed for a really rich colour; it'll take on a subtle patina over time, so the fabric will only get better the more you wear it. Detailed with a relaxed button-down collar, it's got elegant mother-of-pearl fastenings that'll keep it looking sharp.
This relaxed but rugged madison shirt from workwear brand Carhartt WIP is a great all-rounder. Shown here in understated dark navy, this is a staple shirt that is affordable and works in a variety of work contexts. Comfortable and with a more loose fit, this is one shirt that won’t be going out of fashion. Best worn with jeans and boots or trainers.