It isn’t uncommon for dress shirt fabrics to trip you up when assembling an outfit.

Just when you think you’ve found the perfect dress shirt for your suit, you may discover that the material isn’t dressy enough. Or sometimes it’s too formal.

Either way, you could look (and feel) out of place.

Use this guide to ensure you wear the dress shirt fabric that looks the best and feels the most comfortable.

Broadcloth

Broadcloth is one of the most professional, lightweight dress shirt fabrics.

broadcloth dress shirt fabric

You’ll sometimes see broadcloth called poplin, but it’s an entirely different material. Both have similarities, but the weave of a broadcloth dress shirt is tighter and untextured.

Broadcloth has a low sheen and is suitable for warm weather wear because it’s not at all heavy.

However, because it’s so thin, it can be somewhat see-through, particularly for white dress shirts. Also, the material isn’t very soft and has a heavy drape.

This dress shirt fabric is typically woven from wool.

It’s not constructed on a loom, as many materials are, because the loom cannot get the fibers woven as tightly as broadcloth requires, creating a subtle pattern.

So because the fabric is untextured, the design is beautifully visible.

Broadcloth dress shirts are formal and excellent for your most professional business dressing needs.

Twill

Twill dress shirts are softer and easier to work with than broadcloth.

twill dress shirt fabric

This fabric is often constructed with a tight weave, executed on the diagonal. The result is a very small and subtle texture.

However, it can also have a broad and bold weave, making it much more noticeable.

Twill has a slight sheen to it, and the amount can vary based on variables such as color, cotton, and weave. It’s a durable fabric that doesn’t stain or wrinkle easily.

Twill has a right side, called the “technical face,” and a wrong side, called the “technical back.”

Twill is also a very flexible shirt fabric and covers a variety of occasions. These shirts can be used for casual styles or are also suitable for businesswear.

Poplin

As I stated above, poplin is remarkably similar to broadcloth with some slight differences.

poplin tuxedo shirt fabric

However, poplin is a shirt fabric that feels almost silky and is more delicate than broadcloth. It also drapes better.

Poplin is woven using both a thin and thicker yarn, both of cotton. As a result, it is easy to care for and requires little ironing.

Poplin is the ideal dress shirt fabric, widely worn for formal events and all types of business settings.

Therefore, these dress shirts look best with dark colors and barrel cuffs.

In addition, poplin dress shirts usually have a design that includes a longer bottom in the front and the back to help it stay put when it’s tucked in.

Herringbone

Herringbone is that rare breed of material that can cross the spectrum into both dressy and casual shirts.

white herringbone dress shirt fabric

It is similar to twill, but it doubles back on its weave, creating a distinct zig-zag look to the texture.

This design is best for solid color dress shirts; a pattern in herringbone might look too busy.

Despite its noticeable texture, herringbone shirt fabrics feel smooth and come across as elegant.

The herringbone detailing is a faint aspect of this dress shirt and has a slight sheen.

Wear herringbone dress shirt fabrics for business settings or with your casual outfits where you want to look smart.

It shows that you dress with care and pay attention to detail.

Oxford Cloth

Oxford cloth dress shirt fabrics are very soft to wear, even though the texture has slight roughness.

Oxford cloth dress shirt fabric

Additionally, it has a heavier weight than many other dress shirt fabrics and is highly durable. With proper care, oxford cloth dress shirts can last a long time.

This very popular material was initially designed for sportswear, such as button-down polo shirts.

Therefore, it isn’t a good choice for formal or business settings. It is acceptable for semi-formal, however.

Since oxford cloth is considered a relatively casual dress shirt material, it’s acceptable to have some visible creasing in your shirt.

Oxford cloth is often constructed with two threads of different colors crossing over each other, creating a two-toned look. This is called a “basket weave” and is particular to this dress shirt style.

Royal Oxford

They may both contain “oxford” in their name, but royal oxford is actually very different from oxford cloth.

royal oxford dress shirt fabric

Royal Oxford is a formal material with both a sheen and a visible texture. However, because most royal oxford shirts are solid colors, the texture is best viewed close up.

The weave is very noticeable, and the material is exceptionally delicate and soft.

You’ll be able to wear a royal oxford dress shirt for many different events, from business to casual all the way to formal.

It is even a perfect dress shirt to wear with a tuxedo. For a superb touch to this dress shirt, add French cuffs.

Pinpoint Oxford

Pinpoint oxford dress shirts are woven in the same way as oxford cloth.

pinpoint oxford dress shirt fabric

The main differences lie in the details; the weave is tighter, and the yarn is finer. The result is a higher thread count; therefore, pinpoint oxford dress shirts are softer.

Pinpoint Oxford is a more dressy fabric than oxford cloth but more casual than both royal oxford and broadcloth.

It is the perfect dress shirt fabric for the office but not suitable for black-tie events. It’s rather “middle of the road.”

The lack of sheen in this material is partly what makes pinpoint oxford less dressy. It isn’t translucent like broadcloth material because it’s not as fine and delicate.

Cotton

Cotton is the number one material for dress shirts, being one of the most durable, resilient, and comfortable fabrics available.

blue cotton dress shirt fabric

It is also very breathable; it’s essential to have temperature regulation throughout your day, so you don’t get overheated.

Cotton can be turned into many different cloth types depending on how it’s woven and the thickness of the yarn used.

In addition, it is frequently blended with other materials for various effects.

There are different types of 100% cotton fabrics. These don’t refer to the weave; instead, these kinds of cotton come from different parts of the world.

You’ll find American Pima cotton, Egyptian cotton, and Sea Island cotton, the rarest of the three. All three are luxury materials.

Linen

Linen is the best dress shirt fabric for warm weather.

linen dress shirt fabric

Its loose weave is cooling. Also, this fabric made from the flax plant wicks sweat away from you, so it’s quick drying.

It’s a beautiful dress shirt fabric, yet it wrinkles if you so much as look at it. Therefore, it doesn’t work for the most formal settings.

Linen dress shirts are perfect for semi-formal and casual events. However, while it’s ideal for a summer wedding, it isn’t suitable for the office.

Unfortunately, linen is not the easiest fabric to care for. Cleaning it isn’t easy; you must be very gentle with the material and only use lukewarm water.

Seersucker

Seersucker is another tropical climate fabric.

seersucker shirt fabric

This dress shirt material is instantly recognizable. You can spot it a mile away, with its unique puckering.

The puckering makes this fabric such an excellent option for hot weather because it helps the air circulate around your body. That’s what makes you cooler.

You’ll typically see seersucker fabric in two colors, commonly in stripes or checks. This dress shirt must fit you very well.

Thanks to the natural bunching of this material, it may quickly look sloppy if your dress shirt is too large.

Seersucker dress shirts are not formal but will do for nearly any outdoor event in very warm weather.

Plain Weave

Look to this plain weave fabric for the most basic type of weave.

plain weave dress shirt fabric

The weaving method in this is a very basic, simple process, and it’s one of the three fundamental types of textile weaves.

However, what makes this process stand out is that it uses two colors.

The two threads are typically one white and one dark shade; these create contrast when paired together.

They are very tightly woven together, so the contrasting tones are only apparent when you see the fabric close up.

This type of dress shirt fabric is one of the dressier fabrics, suitable for formal and professional business outfits.

Flannel

Flannel is a very popular cold-weather fabric that is most suitable for casual shirts.

flanner dress shirt fabric

It has a slight brushed, fuzzy effect to the material, which lends to its feeling of coziness.

Flannel has a very thick weave that is usually entirely cotton but can also be a blend.

You may be able to dress up flannel shirts to a degree, using the proper accessories, but it can never be formal.

However, a solid flannel shirt paired with a dark pair of trousers and leather dress shoes can make a perfect outfit for a date or night out.

Chambray

Chambray is not a dressy material. Instead, it’s similar to woven dress shirt fabric; it is a plain weave but heavier.

chambray shirt fabric

In another similarity to woven fabric, chambray includes a white thread plus another color, typically blue. The result is that it resembles denim.

Though it’s a heavier material than woven fabric, it is still a thin cloth. Its lightweight nature makes it a good choice for people who are doing physical labor.

Fun fact: chambray shirts is where we derive the term “blue-collar” from. In the early 1900s, American workers frequently wore chambray shirts.

They were easy to spot, thanks to their blue collars!

Dobby

This dress shirt fabric has many variations. Its appearance can vary since manufacturers might use a multitude of fibers, weights, and patterns.

dobby dress shirt fabric

For example, polo shirts and pique dress shirts are types of dobby fabric.

Because of the weaving technique for dobby shirts, the fabric has a visible patterned texture.

Therefore, it generally is most suitable for businesswear, but it can also be modified to be an excellent tuxedo shirt.

However, other modifications can make it more casual and ideal for polo shirts. It’s a very versatile fabric!

Melange

Melange is best known as a heathered look for your fabric.

melange shirt fabric

The process for creating this cloth uses any type of weave but is done with threads of many different colors. The result is an uneven and inconsistent look.

However, you can create an individual, random style with this fabric.

Melange is a classic look and can be very casual. However, you can dress up melange shirts with the proper fit and color spread.

It isn’t appropriate for formal suits but can look dashing for a business-casual day at the office.

Alexander Stoicoff
Author: Alexander Stoicoff

Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.

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