Dress Shirt vs Sport Shirt

I have seen this one too many times: someone wearing a silk tie with a sport shirt, thinking that sport shirts and dress shirts are interchangeable. It has a collar, long sleeves, and buttons all the way up- it must be a shirt I can wear with a tie, right? Wrong. Of course there are exceptions, which we will review. Differences between dress & sport shirts can be very apparent to very subtle, but if it isn't all correct then it's all wrong! Let's discuss.

Fabrics & Styling

Dress shirts tend to have more conservative styling, stiffer collars/cuffs, cleaner lines and are generally made with 100% cotton. Popular fabrics might include twills, pinpoint oxford, and broadcloth. Also, dress shirts might have a little sheen to them, which adds formality. Interfacing is what makes dress shirts have stiffer collars, cuffs, and plackets. It is an extra fabric that is woven on the backside of the fabric that you don't see. Casual shirts usually don't have this. 

Dress shirt fabrics:

Sport shirts tend to be more bold, possibly with patterns. They will have more detailed styling as well- pockets, stitching, button down collars, etc. There usually is no interfacing on these, so the collars, cuffs, and plackets will be less stiff.

If the collars aren't stiff, don't put a silk tie with it, and don't wear it with a suit. The only tie you can get away with wearing with casual shirts is a knit tie. Wear it with jeans and roll the sleeves up...you'll look good. Popular fabrics for sport shirts are cotton blends, wools, flannels, linen, & plain oxford.

Sport shirt fabrics:


This is fairly straightforward. Dress shirts are sized by neck size and sleeve length, while sport shirts are sized by small through extra large (and beyond). 


Some people think there is a different fit for the two options, with sport/casual shirts being a little looser. No. A tailored fit is important in all clothing- get something that fits your body type. Every company labels items differently, so just because it says "trim" doesn't mean it's actually trim. You typically don't want to have more than an extra 2-4 inches total on the sides of your shirt. If you do, get it tailored or buy a new one. If your shirt fits like the one on the left below, fix it. Remember to look at the sleeves as well. Don't have them too billowy; trim up the shirt everywhere. 


Typically dress shirts are made a little longer to help them stay tucked in (and yes, this does help a lot). But the longer length means you won't be untucking a dress shirt and wearing it out. Sport shirts are meant to be worn out for the most part, so this length should be appropriate to untuck and rock out. The back hem shouldn't fall past the back pockets or below the seat, while the front hem should fall somewhere below the front pockets but above the thigh crease (see below). 

Off topic: Colored dress shirts

If your dress shirt  collection looks something like these...throw them out. I beg you. Solid color dress shirts scream cheap, scream Kohls, scream Express, scream my fashion sense is stuck in high school.

The only solid color dress shirts that are acceptable are whites, blues (not navy), lighter pinks, and lighter purples. Outside of these options, go with checks and pinstripes. It's easiest to get a versatile patterned shirt when the foundation of the shirt is white, and matching ties is typically a breeze.

If you aren't sure about a shirt, post it and let's discuss. 

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