Chances are you know far more about style than the man in your life. Instead of rolling your eyes when he wears the same ill-advised outfit again and again, remind him that the key to a great wardrobe begins with the basics. And there's no better, more versatile staple than the button-down dress shirt.
We sought out experts Manuel Guardiola and Racim Allouani (pictured above) of New York City's ManuelRacim to provide tips for selecting the perfect top. As custom shirt designers whose products are handcrafted with a French atelier that has excelled at shirtmaking for more than a century, ManuelRacim knows a thing or two about classic menswear.
Step 1: Inspect the material
Fabric quality is the first place to look. You should touch it and feel the softness. Head over to the composition label and make sure it is 100 percent cotton with no polyester. If you want to dig deeper, inquire about the yarn count (which should be over 80), and if the cotton thread is "two-ply" (softer and more durable).
Step 2: Observe the construction
Solidity of the stitching is the first line of defense. Observe the seams especially between the front and back parts of the shirt and around the sleeves' attachment. Look for regular and close enough stitching points as well as for two parallel lines of stitching inside and one on the outside (known as French seams).
Additional signs of construction quality are in pattern matching: For a striped shirt, make sure the stripes are continuous across the different pieces (from shirt body to sleeves for example). This shows that pieces have been assembled with care. Take a look at the buttons quality (real mother of pearl or horn are best) and their stitching.
Step 3: Get the fit right
Fit is key. You'll probably get a good idea by just looking at how your man looks in the shirt, which he must try on or better, get measured for a custom fit. First, check out the shoulder stitching, which should fall exactly on his shoulder tips and not 2 inches further down the arm.
Similarly (though this is somewhat counter-intuitive), the armholes should be narrow and high enough to allow for better arm movement. When the shirt is tucked in, it should not come out of the pants when your man tries to raise his arms sharply. Also, make sure that fabric doesn't bunch out in the lower back and around the waist.
4. It all comes down to style
For guys, style is more understated and there's less need to be playful than with women's fashions. A great fit with a solid white, pink, a subtly checkered, or striped shirt makes a much more sophisticated statement than an over-bright eyesore. There's a saying in French that a man's outfit shouldn't have more than 3 colors, so keep that in mind when choosing the shirt!
ManuelRacim Flagship is located in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood. For more information, call (212) 233-0417 or visit them on the web.