Dress Shirts Vs Casual Shirt – Understanding The Difference (And When You Should Wear Each One)

Many men have difficulties understanding the difference between dress shirts and “casual” shirts – particularly when they first begin to have an interest in fashion. After all, both types of shirts have collars, long sleeves, and a button-up design. What’s the difference – and why aren’t they interchangeable?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between dress shirts and casual shirts from major menswear companies like J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, and Banana Republic. Let’s get into it!

  1. Length (And “Tuckability)

As a rule, dress shirts have a much longer front and “tail” – and this makes them much easier to tuck in, without the shirt riding up and requiring re-tucking.

Casual shirts, on the other hand, are meant to be worn primarily untucked, and have a shorter front and back, which is often cut straight across, rather than “scalloped”.

One good rule of thumb is to see where the front of your shirt hits when you’re wearing a pair of pants. If it’s below the crotch inseam, it was probably meant to be tucked in – and it will look billowy if you wear it with a pair of jeans or chinos, and don’t tuck it in. 

  1. Materials

Dress shirts are more formal than casual shirts. This means they are usually made from a more “smooth” and closely-knit material. The weave is very rarely visible, and very small threads are used.

Compare this to a casual shirt, like an Oxford Cloth Button Down (OCBD), or a chambray/linen shirt. Oxford cloth has a highly visible, thicker weave and material, and the same is true of chambray and linen.

In a sentence, dress shirts use a more smooth and less visible material, while casual shirts tend to have a more “rough” appearance – because they are meant to be less dressy.

  1. Patterns

A dress shirt may have a subtle pattern like a windowpane or houndstooth, or striping, but it usually will be quite subdued and low-key.

Casual shirts, though, can be found in a huge diversity of patterns, such as flannel checks, “madras” patterns and much more. Again, this helps them feel a bit less “stuffy”, and make them more appropriate for casual wear.

  1. “Extras” (Button Collars, Epaulets, Pockets)

High-quality dress shirts rarely have “extras” such as patch pockets on the front of the shirt, or epaulets on the shoulders. Again, they are meant to be formal and streamlined, unlike casual shirts.

If a shirt has a button collar, patch pockets, and other such features, it’s usually considered to be a more casual shirt, as these features help reduce the formality of the shirt.

Know What To Wear – And When!

Knowing which of your shirts are “casual” and which are more “dressy” is key to putting together an appropriate outfit. So take another look at this guide now, and make sure you understand the differences between these often-confused styles of men’s shirts!

 

 

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