Dress shirts and casual shirts may seem like they could be interchangeable; however, we’re here to tell you that just because a shirt has buttons, it doesn’t mean that it can be worn with formal outfits. Dress shirts and casual shirts actually have a few huge differences between them, so if you find yourself wondering what in your closet is considered a casual shirt, what’s considered a dress shirt, and what you can wear each garment with – especially ahead of the holiday season – don’t fret, because we’ve laid out everything you need to know about dress shirts and casual shirts. From colors, patterns, and cuts to how to style them, here’s everything you need to know about dress shirts and casual shirts.
What Is a Dress Shirt?
A dress shirt is a button down shirt, almost always long sleeve, that you wear with semi-formal and formal outfits. Dress shirts typically come in lighter and understated colors, like white, blue, and light pink; however, they can also come in darker colors like maroon, black, or charcoal, and you can even find them in more luxurious jewel tones. Dress shirts are usually made of high-quality and breathable materials, like cotton.
What Is a Casual Shirt?
A casual shirt is also a button down shirt, but can come in a variety of cuts, colors, prints, and fabric. From button down flannels to printed short sleeve Hawaiian shirts, casual shirts are incredibly versatile, but they are not under any circumstances interchangeable with dress shirts, which we’ll get to below.
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What Are the Main Differences Between a Dress Shirt and a Casual Shirt?
There are a few key differences between dress shirts and casual shirts, the first and most important being the length of each shirt. Dress shirts are longer than casual shirts, and that’s because dress shirts need to be tucked in – and stay tucked in – while sitting, dancing, or doing any type of movement; the sleeves on dress shirts are also a bit longer than those on casual shirts.
Casual shirts are usually a bit shorter since they don’t need to be tucked in and/or aren’t worn with formal outfits – which brings us to our next key difference. While you can wear a dress shirt with a more casual outfit (think smart casual looks), you can’t wear a casual shirt to an event or occasion that requires a semi-formal or formal dress code. Think about it: would you wear your coziest flannel underneath a suit coat? No. But can you wear a white button down dress shirt with a pair of bright colored chinos? Absolutely.
As previously mentioned, dress shirts typically come in solid, understated colors; however, casual shirts can come in a variety of prints, sleeve lengths, fabrics, colors, and more, making them way more versatile and giving them the ability to be dressed up or down. An easy rule of thumb to follow if you’re unsure whether a garment is a dress shirt or a casual shirt is that if it’s plaid, short sleeved, has more than one pocket, or is made of denim, linen, flannel, chambray, or any other fabric other than high-quality cotton, it’s probably a casual shirt.
How To Style a Dress Shirt
While we’ve been boasting about the casual shirt’s versatile properties, the dress shirt is also pretty flrexible. First, though, it’s important to note that every man should have at least one crisp white dress shirt in the closet that can go with everything. Try the David Donahue Trim Fit Cotton Dress Shirt for a go-to style that’ll suit every occasion, whether you’re wearing a suit and tie to a big business meeting or pairing it with trousers or slacks to meet your family for a holiday brunch.
If you’re looking for a dress shirt in a color other than white, try the Banana Republic Slim-Fit Non-Iron Dress Shirt, which will look super-stylish when paired with a patterned or solid grey suit, brown leather brogues, and a brown leather belt.
How To Style a Casual Shirt
The best thing about casual shirts is that you really have a lot of freedom when it comes to styling them, as you can wear casual shirts with chinos, denim, slacks, cargo pants, and even tailored shorts. For a funky and fresh style that’ll have all eyes on you wherever you go, try the Paul Fredrick Easy Care Paisley Casual Shirt, which pairs well with khakis or neutral colored linen pants when the weather is on the warmer side.
If you’re looking for a short sleeve casual shirt that can be worn to the office, on a date, or when you want to look a little more put together, try the Bonobos Riviera Short Sleeve Shirt, which comes in a variety of solid colors and prints.
For an everyday casual shirt that can double as an overshirt or jacket, try the Everlane Men’s Heavyweight Overshirt, which comes in a whopping 10 colors and can be layered over a hoodie, plain or graphic tee, or a henley. Throw on a pair of chinos and jeans, add some sneakers or boots, and you’ve got yourself one stylish casual outfit that’ll take you from the coffee shop to the wine bar in no time.
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