The Collar as Frame
One of the most important but least understood functions of male attire is to lead the viewer’s eye toward the face, and no article of clothing is better able to enhance a man’s countenance than an appropriately sized and shaped dress shirt collar. Choosing the appropriate shirt collar requires a bit of experimentation and a little common sense. A small picture requires a comparable frame, just as a smaller man with delicate features requires a collar of more restrained dimensions. Conversely, when the content is more expansive, the frame must enlarge to afford proper balance without distracting from the intended focal point.
Similarly, if a collar sits too high on the neck, it will shorten it, while a collar sitting too low will awkwardly elongate it. Long straight-point collars will lengthen and narrow a wide countenance, just as the broadly spaced points of a spread collar will counterbalance a long and narrow face. The choice of a dress shirt should be guided first and foremost by the appropriateness of its collar to the wearer’s face, rather than the vicissitudes of fashion or personal whim.
Dressing the Wrist
The next most important, and often overlooked, element of a dress shirt are the cuffs. A sleeve should have sufficient length that the cuff doesn’t recede when the arms are raised, but a close fit at the wrist to prevents the cuff sliding down the hand when relaxed. It’s a fine balance which must also take into account the presence of a wristwatch, and it applies to both barrel (buttoned) cuffs and dressier French (linked) cuffs.
Nip and Tuck
Finally, there is the matter of how a shirt fits the torso. Traditionally, dress shirts were no less dashing for being cut quite full because they’d be tucked into trousers at the natural waist, and often covered by a waistcoat. As trouser rises have fallen, and jackets (let alone waistcoats) have become optional, men are showing more of their shirts and wanting them to impart a more tailored profile. Ready-to-wear manufacturers have responded to this demand with ever-slimmer fits, but many have gone too far. A properly fitting dress shirt should be trim but nowhere tight, with plenty of ease over the shoulder blades and in the sleeves to allow unrestricted movement.