There are a few things you can look for. The AA blank comes with 25 different color options for you to choose from. The stiffness and weight of the collar is not necessarily a sign of poor quality, but rather an element of design. A high quality dress shirt should have at least 18 stitches per inch around the cuffs and collars. Feel it to believe it Try it on.
It is cheaper to produce and typically yields a lower quality yarn. Printing on regular carded cotton results in a grainy low definition print. The finer fibres are tightly twisted together, which results in a stronger, leaner, cable-like yarn. The t-shirts are slightly form fitting, but not fitted enough to really matter that much if you fit comfortably into your normal size. Most t-shirt fabrics are made on circular knit machines, which means that they are knitted in a spiral.
Twisting happens when t-shirts are cut off-grain, or when fabric quality is substandard. The knit, left to roam free in your washing machine, will remember its spiral nature and want to twist. This twisting effect is unavoidable, but some garments keep their shape better than others. Choose good quality t-shirts and go seamless.
We kept the armholes fitted at the shoulder but never restrictive. Shoulder-to-shoulder taping makes our protest-ready political t-shirts last longer than the current administration unless you happen to live in North Korea. Necklines are subtly reinforced and wide enough to ensure they retain their shape. Allriot crew neck t-shirts look good on their own or under a shirt, and boast shoulder-to-shoulder taping for lasting toughness. These annoying little buggers are enough to drive you mad.
To make matters worse, most clothing labels are sewn directly into the seams during the assembly process, which makes it difficult for people to cut them off. If you manage to cut out the tag and live to tell the story, you may be left with an annoying remnant that is still pretty scratchy. In the back below the collar the stripes will meet in a chevron pattern. Generally speaking, a split yoke requires more sewing and more expertise on the part of the shirtmaker and is a great sign of a hiqh quality dress shirt.
Going back to the collar, if the shirt has a dressy style business collar, then it will almost always require collar stays little pieces of metal or plastic that are inserted into the points of the collar — they keep the collar points pointing straight and looking sharp.
A high quality dress shirt will come with removable collar stays. Some shirts may come with sewn-in collar stays that you can never remove, or no collar stays at all. Both of these options are a sign of a poor quality dress shirt. But suffice it to say, the quality of the fabric is very, very important to the quality of the shirt.
Generally speaking, fabrics with thread count of 80s two-ply or greater are a great quality, though there are many exceptions on both sides of this rule.
That said, how the fabric looks, feels and performs is ultimately what really matters. The quality of the buttons is certainly a way to get a sense for the quality of the dress shirt. We generally favor high quality Mother of Pearl buttons for their depth of color and shine.
Mother of Pearl buttons are also very resilient to degradation caused by cleaners and heat, and as such can last a long time. That said, mother of pearl buttons are not the only nice buttons there are. Dress shirts can come with a variety of button sizes and the size and shape of the buttons is more a matter of style or design, than it is quality. Thicker or thinner, bigger or smaller buttons can be found on both poor or high quality dress shirts alike so be sure not to draw conclusions based simply on this parameter.
If there are loose threads around the button hole, or any sign of fraying, this is the sign of a low quality shirt. Premium quality dress shirts will have more stitches on the button hole and very clean openings with no sign of fraying. Like collars, you can get either fused or unfused construction.
The appeal of each is the same as it is with collars: They should be hand sewn and this is where experience, skill, and patience makes a difference. It takes a lot of focus, practice and time to get the details on the cuffs right and it will show the most in the pointedness of the corners and the straightness of the stitching. A high quality shirt will certainly have perfect pattern matching at the center back of the split yoke, as well as along the front of the shirt and at the pocket if the shirt has a pocket.
If the pattern matching is not precise, the stripes or checks will not align down the front of the shirt and look sloppy. Horizontal lines should run seamlessly from the left to right side of the shirt and vertical stripes should be spaced such that there is no stripe missing at either sides of the shirt placket.
The stripes on one side of a collar should be identical in elevation to the stripes on the opposite side of the collar. A really good sign of a high quality dress shirt is when the pattern at the end of the yoke matches perfectly with the pattern at the top of the sleeves. This is a really great detail that is difficult to accomplish consistently. Keep in mind that, the way the curves and angles of a shirt pattern go, it will be impossible to match all of the patterns perfectly.
In general, the stitching throughout the shirt should be straight or smoothly curved in the curves. A high quality dress shirt should have at least 18 stitches per inch around the cuffs and collars.
Some casual shirts may be sewn with thicker thread and less stitches per inch, which is certainly acceptable, although these shirts would not be acceptable for most business or evening wear. Another way to tell a high quality dress shirt is to check if it has single needle side seam stitching along the sides of the shirt and bottom of the sleeves.
This will produce an incredibly tight seam that is very narrow and elegant. Only one line of thread will be visible on the outside of the shirt and the tightness of the seam will make it such that no puckering can show when the shirt is washed and dried. The way to check for single needle stitching is to look at the front and back of this seam along the sides of the shirt and check if you can see one or two lines of sewing.
Sewing the side seams in this tight way is more difficult for the shirtmaker. If two lines of stitching are visible here it makes for a less elegant shirt and a side seam that shows more puckering after washing. One exception to this rule of thumb is if the side seam is sewn such that only one line of stitching is visible from the outside, but two lines are visible from the inside.
It produces a clean look and a tight seam without the cost and difficulty of the classic single needle side seam. Check closely to see how the buttons are attached to the shirt. The buttons should be firmly attached to the shirt without too much looseness.
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