Have you ever paid attention to the pleats on the back of your dress shirt?

Like most people, you have probably noticed them dozens of times and dismissed them without a second thought.

However, it is helpful to know about your different back pleat options and how they affect your shirt and your experience of wearing it.

Rear-Side Pleats

A classic traditional style dress shirt will have rear side pleats. It’s also known as the knife pleat, located directly under the yoke, just at the edge of the shoulder blades.

rear-side shirt back pleats

The real side pleats are a very subtle addition that looks pretty natural.

These pleats are half an inch wide; in total, this gives you an extra two inches for your arm movement.

The beauty of these discreet pleats is that they increase your range of motion without making the rest of your dress shirt more oversized or even baggier.

Center Box Shirt Pleats

A center box pleat is typically a casual shirt style, best used for everyday wear.

center-box shirt back pleats

This style is two folds of fabric next to each other underneath the shirt’s yoke, right in the center. As a result, the two folds create a square or rectangular-shaped box.

This style adds up to a total of three extra inches to the back of your shirt, essentially making the back of the button-down shirt larger.

Center box pleats are not suitable for slim-fit shirts because it makes a baggier shirt.

However, the excess fabric is a perfect choice for people with sloping shoulders because it provides the most range of movement.

Dart Shirt Pleats

A dress shirt can’t get more slimming than having dart pleats. These are two long darts along each side of the back of the dress shirt.

dart shirt back pleats

This style removes fabric rather than increasing it. Therefore, it doesn’t increase your ability to move freely but can restrict movement somewhat.

As a tradeoff, it creates a very streamlined garment. This would be an ideal structure for a slim-fit dress shirt.

Dart pleats are very trendy, and many contemporary dress shirt brands use this back pleat style. They are popular among tuxedo shirts, as well.

Locker Loop Box Pleat

You’ve probably seen this style hundreds of times. It’s a very casual, popular style for the back of casual, button-down shirts.

locker loop shirt back pleats

The locker loop box pleat is essentially your standard box pleat with the addition of a small loop of fabric sewn at the top of the box.

It is located in the same place as a center box pleat, right at the yoke’s seam.

The loop was initially there for a simple hanging of the shirt in a locker or hook.

Western Shirt Pleats

Most button-down shirts have a yoke along the back that cuts a straight line across the top.

Western Yoke shirt back pleats

A western yoke is different, however. This style is curved, often coming to a point in the center. Picture a cowboy shirt.

This fashion has no darts or pleats. It wouldn’t be possible to include these with this type of yolk.

No Back Pleats

For an incredibly sleek-looking dress shirt, choose one that has no back pleats. This is a very modern style; it is best suited for slim-fit dress shirts.

No back pleats

Also, because it doesn’t have any folds of fabric, you won’t find any extra range of motion with this dress shirt style.

Generally, the only shirts that do not have back pleats are ones that have been tailored.

It would be incredibly complicated for a pre-made dress shirt to get sizing right without pleats or darts, so they avoid the possibility of a poor fit.

You’ll appreciate a dress shirt that has no back pleats if you do your own ironing! That makes for a much easier job.

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.