POTW: The Best Affordable Dress Shirts For Men

One of my favorite companies for ties, tie bars, and pocket squares – that I’ve been using way before I had this site – recently released a line of affordable dress shirts for men and I was… skeptical, to say the least. Well, I finally had the chance to test them out this past week and I’ve got to say – WOW! These really are the best affordable dress shirts for men that I’ve seen in a long, long time. Let me explain why in the video and below. Now I’m really excited for whenever they start expanding their offerings to include oxford button down dress shirts, too!

 

why I’m a fan

  • Two different fits are offered: Trim or Classic. Dorian tried the Trim fit (he has a lean build) which was the best fit I’ve ever seen in a budget-friendly brand. The sleeves and body of the shirt lightly hugged his body – it was as if the shirt was custom made for him. If you’re in larger man, whether from fat or muscle, then go with the Classic fit.
  • Two different collars: Semi-Spread and Point. I always recommend semi-spread for all body types.
  • The 100% cotton fabric is soft, but has just the right amount of thickness so it wasn’t see-through – which plagues a lot of cheap shirts (especially noticeable with white shirts!).
  • The price: $55. All I have to say is: This is a steal!
  • Sizing Tip: I did notice the sizing for the neck ran a little big, so go down 0.5″ of your regular neck size.

My favorites

$55 – The Tie Bar Pinpoint Solid Shirt in white
$55 – The Tie Bar Textured Solid Shirt in blue
$55 – The Tie Bar Chambray Shirt
$55 – The Tie Bar Multi Tone Gingham Shirt

3 Outfits Every Guy Needs

My articles and videos almost always center around a specific piece of clothing or accessory, so I thought it would be fun to switch it up and talk about 3 head-to-toe foundational outfits every guy needs. Once you have these 3 outfits, you can build an entire wardrobe around them. And here’s the beauty of them: from these 3 outfits, you can switch things in and out to add your own personal touch and truly make them your own.

Outfit 1

The first outfit is a casual one, comprised of a black polo shirt, a well-fitting pair of dark wash jeans and some white low top sneakers. This is a solid casual outfit that will always look great and put together on every man, regardless of your age or body type.

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$198 – John Varvatos Collection Hamptons Silk & Cotton Polo Shirt in black or charcoal (Best luxe polo shirt!)
$13 – H&M Polo Shirt Slim Fit in black (**THESE ARE THE BEST POLO SHIRTS!!!!)
$165 – J. Brand Tyler Taper Fit in slate resin (Love that the color, stitching, and hardware are similar color)
$55 – Levi’s 511 Slim Fit Stretch Jeans in dark hollow
$410 – Common Projects Achilles Leather Sneakers in white
$60 – Adidas Originals Stan Smith (colorway: white/white/fairway – Also available @ Footlocker)
$415 – Tom Ford ‘Snowdon’ Sunglasses
IWC Portugieser Automatic Watch

Outfit 2

I like to call this outfit ‘dressy casual’ because it transitions well from day to night. Throw on a leather or cotton black bomber jacket with a black t-shirt, dark wash jeans and black leather chukkas.

If you’re thin to average build, you can also wear a white t-shirt. However, if you’re a broader man that’s not in shape, and you decide to take off your jacket, then a white t-shirt will actually spotlight how big you are (and not in a good way). Also, the reason why you want to go with black chukkas is because black is the dominant color in your jacket. I went with leather chukka boots over suede and lace-up boots because the latter options won’t look appropriate for every season.

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$670 – All Saints Mower Leather Bomber Jacket in black (LOVE how minimal this jacket is – definitely a BIFL!)
$88 – Everlane Cotton Bomber in black
$60 – James Perse Clear Jersey Crew in black
$10 – H&M Crew-neck T-shirt in black
$170 – Diesel Buster 0607A Tapered Jeans (I’ve bought my fiance 3 pairs of these – they’re that good!)
$55 – Levi’s 511 Slim Fit Stretch Jeans in dark hollow
$175 – Johnston & Murphy Conard Cap Toe Chukka in black

Why a bomber over a blazer?

A bomber is a very stylish, modern alternative to a blazer that works in almost all the same occasions and looks great for every man, regardless if you’re a teenager all the way to a retiree. A younger gentlemen in high school or college, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily need a blazer, so that’s why I’m not recommending it over a blazer. If the occasion does call for a sport coat or blazer, in a pinch, you can use the jacket in my next recommendation and dress it up like I did in the picture below.

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Outfit 3

Lastly, my classic go-to formal outfit is a charcoal or navy suit with a white semi-spread collar dress shirt, black or charcoal tie, white pocket square, and oxford dress shoes. If you’re going with a charcoal suit, then pair with a black tie and black dress shoes. For a navy suit, pair with a charcoal tie, and dark brown dress shoes.

I love these two suits because it’s very easy to go formal by adding a tie or dress them down by forgoing a tie or swapping in a t-shirt instead of a collared shirt.

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$1395 – Burberry Modern Fit Wool Part Canvas Suit (charcoal)
$498 – Brooks Brothers Red Fleece Grey Suit
$115 – TopMan Grey Slim Fit Suit (alternative for warm climates: Topman Charcoal Linen Suit)
$280 – Allen Edmonds Carlyle Plain-Toe Oxfords (black or brown)
$120 – Aldo Bandolla Dress Shoe (black)
$19 – The Tie Bar Grenafaux Tie (My, hands down, favorite solid tie – go with black or charcoal)
$10 – The Tie Bar Solid White Cotton Pocket Square

How To Roll Up Sleeves

This article is part of my Quick Tips series.

I’ll just cut right to the chase – there’s really only 2 good ways for how to roll up sleeves. Do one of these and never think about it ever again.

How NOT To Roll Up Sleeves Ashley WestonA quick note:

The images for how to roll up your sleeves below are from Esquire, whom I love and work with, but they’re rolling their shirt sleeves above the elbow. You should NEVER do this, because, while it looks great in pictures, it usually looks like the image to the left in person – lumpy and just, not good. It will never look as good as the pictures, I promise you.

 

The Basic Roll

How To Roll Up Sleeves - The Basic Roll - Ashley Weston

  1. Unbutton both buttons of the cuff. If there’s a button in the mid-forearm area, unbutton that one too.
  2. Flip the cuff over. Your cuff will dictate the width of your roll. If you have a stiff cuff, normally found on dress shirts, do not fold the cuff in half to make a slimmer roll. It will ruin that shirt’s cuff forever. If it’s not stiff, like with an Oxford button down dress shirt, then you can fold it in half for a less wide roll, although I wouldn’t advise doing a half roll. It usually looks better with the full cuff.
  3. Roll it again, and again, and one more time so that the top of the roll should stop just below the elbow, or mid to upper forearm (see the video for details).
  4. If you go above the elbow, the roll starts to get really bulky and it’s just not a good look. As a woman, I love when the shirt cuff hugs the muscular part of the forearm. It looks very… raaaaawwrrr!

The Italian Roll AKA The GQ Roll

How To Roll Up Sleeves - The Italian or GQ Roll - Ashley Weston

  1. Unbutton both buttons of the cuff. If there’s a button in the mid-forearm area, unbutton that one too.
  2. Fold the sleeve up, so the entire cuff is an inch or so above your elbow.
  3. Next, roll your sleeves up onto the cuff, using your thumb to sort of tuck in the shirt into the roll, but still allow a little bit of the cuff to be exposed at the top.
  4. The top of the roll should hit just below the elbow, by about half an inch. Then you hopefully have about an inch of shirt cuff exposed above the elbow.

How Should A Dress Shirt Fit?

This article is part of my Men’s Clothing Fit Guide.
After being asked “How should a suit should fit?“, the next question I get is how should a dress shirt fit. So I put together this dress shirt fit guide for you. My friend Andrew, over at PrimerMagazine put together a great graphic for the proper dress shirt fit below.

Shirt_Diagram

Collar

The collar should just graze your neck without constricting it when buttoned. If turning your head causes the collar to turn with it, it’s too tight. You should be able to comfortably fit 1 finger inside of your buttoned collar without it choking you. Two fingers is too much (even though the image says otherwise) and looks a little sloppy to me.

Shoulders

The shoulder seam should be right where your shoulder starts sloping down to your arm. Somewhere above the armpit, basically. If the seam starts creeping past where your shoulder slopes down, its too big. If it lands before your shoulder slopes, it’s too small.

Armholes

Armholes should be comfortable in motion – they should not be so tight that they cut into the underarm. However, they shouldn’t be so loose that there’s a bunch of excess fabric around the armpit. An easy way to check this is to tuck your shirt into your pants – if lifting your arms 45 degrees lifts your shirt out of your pants more than an inch or so, your armholes are probably too low.

Sleeves

They should not be so tight that you can see the details of your arms, but they should also not be so loose as to billow and bunch at the wrist. When you bend your arm, your cuff should not move more than an inch up your wrist. If it does, it’s likely too tight.

The sleeve/cuff should end right at the bend of your wrist.

Cuffs

When speaking of cuffs, there’s two major types: French and Barrel. They should both fit about the same.

With the cuffs buttoned, and your arms at your side, when you bend your wrist so your palms are facing the ground, the sleeves should barely touch the top of your hand (see the video above for details). Ideally, they should be able ¼” above the top of your hand, but if it’s just lightly grazing, that’s OK. Anything more than that and the sleeves need to be hemmed. You want this length so your shirt sleeve slightly peeks out from under your blazer or suit jacket sleeve.

Your cuffs should be tight enough to not restrict movement, but not so loose that your thumb notch at your wrist doesn’t stop the cuff from moving up your hand. It should be a bit looser than a properly fitting watch.

Torso/Body

You shouldn’t be able to pinch more than 2-3” of fabric on either side of the waist. The body of the shirt should fit closely around your torso, no matter what your shape or size. A billowy shirt is no excuse, especially if you’re a larger man.

Length

Untucked

If you’ll wear the shirt untucked (not really what I’d recommend with a dress shirt) but either way, it should end around the mid-crotch area. Any longer than that and it’s too long and should only be worn tucked in. Shorter than that just doesn’t look good.

Tucked In

If you’ll always be wearing the shirt tucked in, which I recommend for dress shirts, then the longer the better. Traditionally, dress shirts were made very long – usually ending at the bottom or past the crotch. If you have this type of shirt, NEVER, EVER wear the shirt untucked. I can’t tell you how many times I see older guys wearing these types of shirts untucked and I vomit a little inside my mouth whenever I see it. It looks horrible.

My Dress Shirt Recommendations

Check out my Semi-Spread Collar Dress Shirt article for my favorite dress shirts.

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.

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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

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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