The Semi-Spread Collar Dress Shirt

The Semi-Spread Collar Dress Shirt is *the* holy grail of dress shirts. When I was conceiving the idea of this series, this was the article of clothing that started it all because it embodies everything an Essential means to me:
  • It works for everybody – regardless of age, face shape or body type.
  • It works in all scenarios.
  • It will never go out of style.

A semi-spread dress shirt will look great dressed up or down, with or without a tie, with the sleeves rolled up, underneath a v-neck sweater or even a leather jacket.

In all your outfits, but especially when dressing up, you want to put your best foot forward, and a pillar of a sharp outfit is the dress shirt.

If you’re new to dressing, looking and feeling better, it’s extremely easy to get bogged down by the minutia. So let me save you the time and just say don’t worry about other collars until later on in your style journey.

What is a Semi-Spread Collar?

Let me show you via the simple image below. There are other types of collars such as the club, mandarin, tab and contrast collar, but those have extremely specific use cases and won’t work for most people, so let’s stick to the most common ones below:

DressShirtCollarTypes

Why A Semi-Spread and Not..?

The collar is very important. It makes or breaks an outfit. The collar of a shirt borders your face, so this is the first thing people see when looking at you since our natural tendency is to look at the face/head and move down.

Also, the type of collar informs the viewer, often unconsciously, what the rest of your outfit should be and how to perceive you.

Point vs Semi-Spread

A point collar, the most common one you’ll see in stores, simply doesn’t look good on most guys because it doesn’t fit most faces or body types. I rarely dress my clients in them because it’s just not worth the hassle when there’s something that looks good on all men. Whenever I see someone wearing a point collar, they almost always shouldn’t be wearing it because it’s not for them. I’ll do a more detailed post about this later, because I can go on forever about my dislike of the point collar.

Full Spread vs Semi-Spread

The full spread collar is similar to the point collar in that it is acceptable in only specific contexts and body shapes. These have gotten more popular over the last few years and I’d choose them over a point collar, if given the choice.

They’re great if you’re wider or broad shouldered, but I see a lot of guys wearing them who really shouldn’t be. These are also the same guys who have a full windsor knot to fill in the space of a spread collar, and on thinner guys, this is style suicide! Don’t do it!

What Colors Should I Get?

You’ll want to stick with white and light blue because like the gray suit, it’s a blank canvas that goes with anything you pair it with and you can easily add your personality via accessories (ties, pocket square, etc). Later on, you can play with the color and pattern, but for right now, these two colors are timeless, sharp, and don’t require any thinking when you put an outfit together.

How Should a Semi-Spread Collar Dress Shirt Fit?

I’m glad you asked. Head over to my Fit Guide for details about how all your dress shirts should fit.

The Best Semi-Spread Collar Dress Shirts

Budget Friendly

J Crew Ludlow Semi Spread-Collar Shirt
Zara Semi Spread Collar Shirt 

For the price and quality, I love J.Crew’s and Zara’s semi spread collar dress shirts. The collars are just the right spread and height, and the fit is nice and tailored. It’s a staple shirt that they always have year after year that I can always count on.

Designer

Burberry London Slim Fit Stretch Cotton Blend Shirt
Brooks Brothers Milano Fit Shirt 

My, hands down, favorite dress shirts come from these designers. The quality and fit is spot on. Burberry London and Emporio Armani’s collar height is perfect for most men, while Brooks Brothers’s tends to be a tiny bit taller so if you’re slim and under 5’7′, then I’d advise to go with the former brands. Side note, the Brooks Brothers dress shirt says it’s a spread collar, but it definitely fits like a semi-spread.

3 Ways To Wear

Ashley-Weston-Semi-Spread-Collar-Dress-Shirt-Look-1-Full Ashley-Weston-Semi-Spread-Collar-Dress-Shirt-Look-1-Detail

True Vintage Revival TVR504Burberry Lightweight Lambskin Bomber Jacket 
Brooks Brothers White Milano Fit Spread Dress Shirt
Brooks Brothers Milano Fit Plain Front Flannel Trousers
The Tie Bar Knitted Tie
The Tie Bar Brushed Straight Silver Tie Bar
Brooks Brothers Calfskin Belt
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe
True Vintage Revival Glasses

*NOTE: You choose the type of lenses (shaded, etc.) during checkout for the sunglasses above.

Ashley-Weston-Semi-Spread-Collar-Dress-Shirt-Look-2-Full

Ashley-Weston-Semi-Spread-Collar-Dress-Shirt-Look-2-Detail

Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Trousers
Brooks Brothers White Milano Fit Spread Dress Shirt
The Tie Bar Grenafaux Midnight Navy Tie
The Tie Bar Solid Pocket Square with Navy Border
IWC Portugieser Automatic Watch
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe

Ashley-Weston-Semi-Spread-Collar-Dress-Shirt-Look-3-Full

Ashley-Weston-Semi-Spread-Collar-Dress-Shirt-Look-3-Detail

Burberry Prince of Wales Virgin Wool Suit Jacket 
Brooks Brothers White Milano Fit Spread Dress Shirt
J Brand Tyler Taper Fit in Rasalas
The Tie Bar Solid Pocket Square with Burgundy Border
IWC Portugieser Automatic Watch
Brooks Brothers Calfskin Belt
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe

Outfit Inspiration

 

Model: Michael Tribby

The Gray Notch Lapel Suit

If you’re over the age of 15 and don’t own a 2 button Gray Notch Lapel Suit (sometimes called medium gray, grey or charcoal), we have to rectify this – immediately! It is the most important suit you’ll own and is the quintessential foundational piece that will work for you no matter your age or body type.

FashionBeans.com put my love for a gray notch lapel suit perfectly:

“It can take you from your first interview all the way to your final address to the board – including all those weddings, funerals and formal events in between. There is nothing it can’t do. Even if you’re only going to need your suit for weddings/funerals/special occasions, this is still the one suit you should always have in your wardrobe.”

The suit is a perfect blank canvas from which to experiment with. You can imbue your personality easily into an outfit via colorful shirting and accessories. If you’re going to play with shirt colors outside of white or light blue, keep the tie a basic/neutral color – black, blue or gray. Same goes for a colorful tie, keep the shirt neutral – white or light blue.

“But a Gray Suit is Boring”

A lot of my clients say this when I first start working with them and building their wardrobe. The reason we choose gray is because it is a neutral color and works with everything in virtually every occasion. If you want colors and/or to spice it up, it can easily be done with the colorful & patterned accessories and shirting. There’s a reason painters start with a white canvas and not a colored one, because you can make it your own!

The classic rookie mistake is thinking that suit colors = more fashionable or stylish. Menswear is all about the details. So leave the large pieces “boring” and spice up an outfit with subtle details and punches of color.

Trust me on this one.

What is a ‘notch lapel’?

It’s the style of lapel that has a little “notch” on each side of the lapel. See the below graphic for the different lapel types. You want a Notch lapel because a Peak lapel is very aggressive and doesn’t work on everybody and a Shawl lapel should never be part of a suit. A Notch lapel is as classic and timeless as it gets.

lapel types

How Many Buttons?

Two buttons, nothing more, nothing less.

Sometimes you’ll see 3 button suits and 1 button suits, but trust me, you NEED a 2 button suit because it never goes out of style, every other variety will come and go as fashion dictates.

Vent Type?

Ideally, you’ll want to go with a double vent. This style of vent has been around for quite a while and is flattering on every body type. With that being said, a single vent is not a poor choice, but it’s definitely second in my book. Just make sure that, no matter what, you never go with a suit that has no vent.

suitvents

Can I Break This Suit Up Into Separates?

My suggestion for now, is to avoid breaking this suit up unless you really understand fabric weights and texture pairings.

I see a lot of sites saying that a gray suit is great because you can break it up – wearing the pants and jacket separately with other pieces – like jeans.

While this can work sometimes, in my experience, pairing suit items with other non-suit clothing, like jeans, looks great on camera, but really weird in-person if the fabric is too lightweight. You should really know what you’re doing to pull this off. If there’s any doubt, go without.

Fabric

Depending on how much you’ll be wearing this suit, I’d highly suggest getting a wool or wool-blended suit because it’ll last much longer than non-wool or polyester blends and just looks better and will be more comfortable.

It’s also important that your suit not have too much of a sheen or shine to it. You can tell a cheap (or really tacky) suit by how shiny it is. Don’t be afraid to compare suits while at a store to see which ones are more matte finished.

How Should My Suit Fit?

Fit is the most important part of a suit. Head over to my Suit Fit Guide and see how every suit you own should fit.

The Best 2 Button Gray Notch Lapel Suits

Budget Friendly

Topman Grey Twill Cotton Slim Fit Suit Jacket
J.Crew Ludlow Suit in Worsted Wool

If you’ll be wearing a suit less than a handful of times a year and/or are budget-conscious, I’d go with Topman’s Slim-Fit or Skinny-Fit suits or J.Crew’s Ludlow wool suit. Don’t let the horrible image of the Topman suit fool you, it looks much better in person. For the price, they’re constructed well and as long as you make sure the fit is spot on, it’ll look great.

Designer

Emporio Armani Single Breasted Suit in Worsted Wool
Z Zegna Gray Super 110 Wool Suit
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 

My preference, if you want high quality, is to go with Emporio Armani, Z Zegna, or Brooks Brothers wool suits. My clients have topped GQ and Esquire’s “Best Dressed” lists in these and I use them often because the construction, fabric, and overall quality is impeccable and well worth the investment.

3 Ways To Wear

Ashley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Full-LengthAshley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Detail-Short-Edge-650

Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Trousers
Brooks Brothers White Milano Fit Spread Dress Shirt
The Tie Bar Grenafaux Black Tie 
The Tie Bar Solid White Cotton Pocket Square 
IWC Portuguese Automatic
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe

Ashley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Look-3-FullAshley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Look-3-Detail

Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Trousers
Armani Exchange Pima Crew Tee
IWC Portuguese Automatic
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe
Brooks Brothers Calfskin Belt

Ashley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Full-Length-Look-2Ashley-Weston-2-Button-Gray-Notch-Lapel-Suit-Look-2-Detail

Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Jacket 
Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit Trousers
Brooks Brothers White Milano Fit Spread Dress Shirt
The Tie Bar Grenafaux Satin Dot Tie
The Tie Bar Silver Shot Tie Bar
The Tie Bar Solid White Cotton Pocket Square  
IWC Portuguese Automatic
Allen Edmonds Carlyle Dress Shoe

Outfit Inspiration

Graphics: FashionBeans | Model: Michael Tribby

The Leather Jacket

This post is part of my Men’s Wardrobe Essentials Series. In the series, I give my tried-and-true men’s wardrobe essentials/basics/must haves that every guy, whether a teenager, in their 20’s, 30’s and well past their 50’s should own in order to be a classic, stylish, well-dressed man.

For well over 70 years, leather jackets have represented individuality and a rebellious, manly side throughout American history. Marlon Brando, The Ramones, WWII fighter pilots, and Springsteen all come to mind when I think of leather jackets. A well-made leather jacket is an essential addition to a man’s wardrobe because it will never go out of style, can be dressed up or down, will generally last a lifetime and fit like a second skin.

Watching a man put on a leather jacket is like watching a prize-fighter standing over his opponent after he’s been knocked down. There’s just something about it that harkens back to a classic, badass, bygone era.

What Type Of Leather Jacket Is Right For You?

There are many different types of leather jackets available, some better than others. The biker jacket, what Marlon Brando is known for, is what usually comes to mind when thinking about a leather jacket. As iconic as this jacket is, I don’t recommend it for most guys. The buckle straps, zippered cuffs, and buttoned collar and lapels are a bit much in my opinion. Unless you’re going for the ’50’s greaser or heroin-chic rockstar look, it’s best not to go this route. It often looks much better in print or on the screen than it does in person.

If you like the classic ruggedness of the biker jacket but want a cleaned-up version, the motocross jacket is perfect for you. It has a tabbed collar and less… stuff all over it, which makes it much more versatile. I prefer this style over the biker jacket because the clean design won’t add additional bulk to your frame, so it’s a great choice for all body shapes.

My hands-down favorite of all leather jackets is the bomber style jacket. It has a clean, timeless body style and the elastic, ribbed cuffs, collar, and waist allow the jacket to hug your body nicely, while adding more comfort than the more traditional styles. The leather on these jackets is usually very soft and supple compared to the other styles, so it makes for a perfect everyday type of jacket.

Best Ways To Wear It

The Biker Jacket

If you go the biker jacket route, I highly recommend this AllSaints ‘Conroy’ leather biker jacket ($670). It has all the classic biker details and an awesome slim fit, which is important since you don’t want it to add bulk to your frame. I’ve personally worked with this jacket, and like all of AllSaint’s leathers, the quality and attention to detail is exceptional. The jacket a steal at this price.

Going on a date? Pair with a white button-up shirt, wool trousers, and lace-up leather shoes and watch her salivate the whole night. Switch out the dress shirt with your favorite t-shirt and a pair of dark washed jeans for beers with the guys.

The Motocross Jacket

I’m recommending this Zara jacket for its awesome fit, super clean design, and perfect cognac shade of brown. You may be wondering why it costs less than $100. That’s because this is actually a synthetic leather jacket. But I can assure you, no one will notice. If anything, this jacket is softer, both in feel and in the hit to your bank account than real leather, which is a plus in my book. A brown jacket pairs well with shades of blues, so go with a light blue striped dress shirt, solid navy tie, light brown v-neck sweater, and a pair of dark jeans and brown dress boots to pull this awesome look off. Nix the v-neck sweater if it’s a little warm out or you tend to run warm-blooded.

The Bomber Jacket

If you want something that looks great, is super versatile as well as comfortable, then look no further than the bomber jacket. Whether going out at night or running errands during the day, I’d pair this jacket with a white t-shirt, charcoal or dark brown wool trousers, and lace-up black leather boots. You’ll look put together and not like you’re trying too hard.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, a well-made leather jacket is an essential addition to a man’s wardrobe because it will never go out of style, can be dressed up or down, will generally last a lifetime and fit like a second skin. When you throw one on, like a well-tailored suit, it’ll make you feel and look better. You’re not just investing in a leather jacket. You’re investing in yourself. Remember that and let’s see those leather jackets!