Dress Shirts for Men: How to Keep your Cotton Shirts Looking their Best
Photos from www.daviddonahue.com.
Is your best white dress shirt starting to look dingy and lackluster? Not sure? Try holding a white linen dinner napkin up to it or ask yourself how it compares to the crisp white pocket square tucked in your breast pocket or to the white polka dots on your navy tie? Be honest. A yellowish cast is the first tell-tale sign that your favorite long-sleeve button down has seen better days. And if a closer inspection reveals unsightly collar, cuff and armpit stains, frayed edges, strained seams, and cracked or chipped buttons, then it’s probably time to bid your collection of button down shirts adieu and make a fresh start. Granted, dress shirts are the workhorses of any man’s professional wardrobe, and replacing them can be a pricy proposition. However, there are steps you can take to protect your new investment.
At Epicmens.com, our David Donahue dress shirts for men are made of fine long staple 100% cotton yarns, which, with the right attention and care, will look and feel as luxurious a year from now as they do today. Of course, this begs the question “What is the correct way to care for a high-end dress shirt?” For an answer, we turned to the blogs and columns of a few of our favorite men’s clothiers, most notably fashion consultant and writer Antonio Centeno of Real Men Real Style. So, if you (like us) feel a need for clarification when it comes to those cryptic washing instructions sewn into the side seams of fine clothes, be sure to read on. The following shirt-care tips just might come in handy.
Washing Men’s Dress Shirts
- Don an undershirt so you can wear cotton button down shirts three-to-four times between washings.
- Launder (versus dry clean) cotton shirts to remove gritty ground-in soil.
- Pretreat collar, cuff, and underarm grime with stain remover and lightly scrub before washing.
- Machine wash, warm, with like garments, using light agitation. Do not add bleach (causes discoloration).
- Hang to dry on plastic hangers.
Ironing Men’s Dress Shirts
- For a full body, crisp creases, and beautiful draping, choose 100% cotton over non-iron fabrics.
- Iron shirts only after they’ve been cleaned to avoid setting stains.
- Cottons and linens require high heat to hold their shape, so invest in an 1800-watt iron with 300+ holes for steady steam delivery that will evenly moisten fabric and smooth out tough wrinkles.
- Fill iron with drinking water, as opposed to hard water. The latter contains magnesium and calcium, which can damage your fabrics.
- Allow yourself five minutes to iron each shirt.
- Place aluminum foil under ironing board cover to reflect heat back onto fabric, allowing you to iron the inside and outside of the shirt at the same time.
- Use starch sparingly (or not at all) to avoid damaging fabric.
- Begin with collar and cuffs, laying each out flat and ironing both sides, pushing wrinkles to edges. Fold, don’t crease French cuffs to retain body and fullness.
- Iron around, not over, buttons to avoid leaving impressions.
- Iron shirt front, beginning at top of shoulder and working your way down on both sides. Use point of iron to press under placket folds and then over the folds for a finished look.
- Iron shirt back by placing sleeve head on square edge of board and again working your way down on both sides.
- When pressing sleeves, use a sleeve board or rolled towel to avoid ironing two layers of material at once and leaving creases.
- When finished, clean iron reservoir with water and white vinegar to eliminate mineral buildup that can impede steam distribution.
Storing Men’s Dress Shirts
- Keep your shirts bacteria- and insect-free and protect against color fading by storing them in a dry, clean, dark environment with adequate ventilation.
- Leave at least ½ inch between garments when hanging to increase air flow and avoid crumpling.
- Use hangers that are at least ¼ inch thick to avoid causing creases to form across the shoulders.
Admittedly, adhering to the steps above on a weekly or even biweekly basis sounds like a lot of work – probably because it is. The question is how much effort are you willing to invest in order to keep your $100-plus shirts in tip-top shape. Yes, the right care and attention can extend the life of your garments – significantly. And yes, when your wardrobe looks sharp, you look sharp. And yes again, routine expenditures of time and energy on the finer details of your appearance can be therapeutic. As farfetched as it sounds, there’s actually comfort to be had in knowing you are in control of at least one aspect of your busy life. Of course, if “busy” is an understatement, and you don’t have one minute, let alone five, to spend ironing each of your umpteen button down shirts, take heart. It’s a good bet that you pass a dry cleaner on the way home each night. And you would hardly be the first man to gladly hand over a dollar or two in exchange for a freshly laundered and pressed shirt. After all, the goal is to arrive at work each morning looking fresh, polished, and ready for whatever the day has in store for you. How you do it is up to you.