When we think of high quality, we generally expect to pay a higher price. If a shirt is much more expensive than other similar shirts, we assume that it must be of a higher quality. In truth, we might be paying either for Quality or Brand Marketing.
So how do you tell which shirts will not stretch out of shape after a wash? Which shirts will stay symmetrical? Which shirts will last you a long time and be resistant to tear?
The difference is in the details, and you must understand what a quality dress shirt is before you can confidently choose a quality shirt.
1) Split Yoke
A sure-fire sign of a high quality shirt construction is the split yoke. The shirt yoke is the panel of fabric that runs across the shoulders, just behind the collar. A “split” yoke is where the yoke is made of two different pieces of fabrics. The benefit is that when a fabric is cut at this angle (also referred to as “cut on the bias”), the fabric stretches more length wise. This means you’ll have a greater range of motion when you’re reaching forward.
Generally speaking, a split yoke requires more sewing and more expertise on the part of the shirtmaker and is a great sign of a hiqh quality dress shirt.
2) Fabric Pattern Matching
This isn’t always noticeable. But for shirts with designs or patterns, you’d want to make sure they align correctly. The image above shows a shirt that has clearly unaligned patterns. Try to look for aligned, matching patterns at the following areas:
- shoulder to sleeve
- split yoke
- sleeve to sleeve placket
- shirt fronts and front placket
Matching the fabric pattern in all these areas demands great skill of the manufacturer and hence it is usually only achieved by experienced professionals, who know how to assemble a shirt with the utmost skill, care and attention. Most shirtmakers use needle tables, where each shirt component is aligned individually and placed one by one on top of the other, to achieve this kind of perfection. Of course, this isn’t always possible to spot, but if you do spot it, it’s a strong sign of a quality shirt.
3) Premium Fabric
We won’t go into this too much in this post, because dress shirt fabrics is a deep subject with varying opinions on thread count, ply, country of origin, mill, type of weave, yarn treatment, materials, etc. But suffice it to say, the quality of the fabric is very, very important to the quality of the shirt.
Generally speaking, go for all-natural fabrics. Avoid things like polyester or polyester-blends. Cottons with thread count of 80s two-ply or greater are a great quality, though there are many exceptions on both sides of this rule.
That said, how the fabric looks, feels and performs is ultimately what really matters. If the dress shirt’s fabric is at all rough to the touch, wrinkles particularly easily, or shrinks a large amount with normal washing then you likely have a poor quality fabric.
4) Cleanly Finished Button Holes
If there are loose threads around the button hole, or any sign of fraying, this is the sign of a low quality shirt. Premium quality dress shirts will have more stitches on the button hole and very clean openings with no sign of fraying.
We recently posted one of our freshly made suits on Facebook, showing more than 200 stitches on its button hole.
5) Stitch Density & Consistency
Example of POOR stitch density
Stitch density, as well as consistency, are a good way to judge the workmanship of a shirt. Tightly woven fabric should have a very high density of stitches, which results in an elegant look and durability.
Example of HIGH stitch density
For custom shirts, you can also determine how far away you want the stitching from the edge. Most classic shirts feature 8mm stitches, while formal tuxedo shirts sometimes only have 1mm or 2mm stitches to create a more elegant look. As a rule of thumb, whatever you choose, ensure that the top-stitching on your collar and the cuff are the same, otherwise it looks unfavorable.