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Guide to Button Down Dress Shirt Styles, Materials and Fabric Types

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Before I started to learn about fabrics, I never paid any heed to different materials, especially when it came to dress shirts. All button down shirts were more or less the same in my mind. If it looks good, then the material should make no difference.

Button Down Dress Shirt Syles Materials and Fabric Types


But as my understanding of fabrics grew, I was introduced to the traditions that govern casual and formal wear. These traditions, cultivated over hundreds of years, come from European history, and are tremendously important in some contexts. Every occasion implies a different material, and choosing the right one is a way to demonstrate social and sartorial competence. Choosing poorly can be embarrassing.

When you choose a custom button down shirt, these are very real concerns. Consider how formal or casual you want to appear with these shirts on, because there are people out there who notice the difference. Your choice of shirt signals your grasp on the importance of material.

DFC has a versatile range of materials for button downs, suited for a variety of occasions.


Twill and Broadcloth Dress Shirts



The term twill refers to the weave, not the fabric, though twill shirts are usually pure cotton or a cotton blend. DFC uses a cotton polyester blend. The diagonal pattern of twill comes in many thread counts, and the finest weaves are so soft and tight that they are sometimes mistaken for silk.

There are so many twill fabrics, and each is suited to different occasions. These fabrics run the gamut from durable work shirts to finely textured, formal wear. Look closely for details about garment fabrication and thread count for more guidance.


Broadcloth falls more on the formal side of button downs, with its soft, silky texture and sharp appearance. That doesn’t mean it’s delicate. Broadcloth gets this fine appearance from a very dense, simple weave. It’s strong enough to handle the stress of daily use, with the look of a formal shirt for an elegant dinner party, or even a wedding. Most users save broadcloth for the most formal of occasions.


Oxfords Dress Shirts



The following fabrics are all variations on a theme named Oxford, which has nothing to do with commas or universities. Oxford is a very basic pattern, employing a simple over/under weave. The difference comes down mostly to thread count, yarn weight, and weave density.

First in line is Oxford, the coarsest of these fabrics. The Oxford shirt got its start as a shirt for polo players, and has never really escaped a casual atmosphere. This is the kind of shirt to wear when sailing your yacht around the harbor, and is perfect for business casual wear. It is the classic button down shirt, with a very plain texture.

Pinpoint Oxford

Pinpoint oxford, with the same weave pattern, is a step up in the world of button downs. With a higher thread count and finer weave, these shirts have a shinier look and softer texture. On the scale of formality, place the Pinpoint Oxford above Oxford shirts, but below Broadcloth.

Royal Oxford

With Royal Oxford shirts, you are now in the range of very formal attire. Royal Oxford employs an ultra-fine weave and has a shimmery, elegant texture. This is the kind of shirt that demands pairing with a fine Italian business suit, for the most formal business occasions.


Dobby Herringbone Gongham Dress Shirts



Any material created with a dobby loom receives the name dobby. The rich variety of patterns, fibers, and weights make it difficult to classify dobby shirts. They are generally on the more casual side, including flannel and striped patterns.


Gingham also refers to a famous checkered pattern identified with its weave. It was most famously worn by Brigitte Bardot for her wedding, although most people associate the pattern with the culture of the American Wild West. Gingham projects a humble image and makes a great restaurant uniform shirt, for instance.


Herringbone is another take on twill, where alternating diagonal lines change every quarter to half inch, making a distinctive chevron pattern on the cloth. Wool Herringbone weaves are usually reserved for outerwear, such as Sherlock Holmes’ overcoat. On the other hand, a tight Herringbone weave of cotton blend makes an excellent formal business shirt with an alluring, shiny texture to it.




Pima, Sea Island, and Egyptian Cotton

All three of these fabrics make some of the softest cotton garments you can find. They don’t have the crispness that you associate with more formal wear, and are great casual attire.


Poplin is a soft, durable material that lends itself to sportier button down scenarios. For instance, DFC offers this as an excellent shirt for fishing, not exactly a business application. Poplin is a great choice for somebody who slips easily between the office and outdoor locations on a frequent basis.

Button down shirt choices, as you can see, are dictated by their natural environment. Some of these are great for contractors, some for executives. What kind of statement do you want your button down shirt to make? That’s your call, and an important one to consider. We’re just here to make your vision a reality.

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