Menswear

For the Love of Broadcloth

If you’re shopping for a dress shirt, you’d be forgiven for being confused by some of the choices in fabric. Twill? Oxford? Pinpoint Oxford? End-on-end? Dobby? Herringbone? Poplin? If you’re shopping in person, you can see and feel for yourself. If you’re shopping online, the website should ideally offer explicit descriptions and photos of their fabric offerings. Either way, it can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.

My preference in dress shirt fabric is pretty simple: broadcloth, which is a medium-weight plain weave of cotton. As of this writing, I have eight dress shirts. All of them are broadcloth. Other than black tie occasions, I have never encountered a situation that broadcloth didn’t handle gracefully. It’s light enough for warm weather, and robust enough in winter with an undershirt.

Another thing I like about broadcloth is its balance of soft comfort and durability. Sliding on a fresh dress shirt in broadcloth cotton is like sliding into crisp bed sheets. It feels great on the skin and breathes beautifully. As for the durability, my oldest broadcloth shirts are about 5 years old. Though I don’t wear them daily, they get pretty good rotation and they’re still in impressively good shape, Only now are they starting to fray just slightly where the French cuff folds.

While Oxford cloth is a popular weave both soft and sturdy, commonly used in Ivy-style button-down shirts, its heavier weight can be hot in summer.

So if you’re looking to start or reboot a smart dress shirt program with a versatile fabric that can take you more places, consider shirts made with broadcloth. And for fuck’s sake, stick with regular cotton. (My thoughts on non-iron/wrinkle-free Frankenfabrics are no secret. More about that here.)

Thanks for reading.

G

10 Comments

  1. Adam Bailey Reply

    Dear Mr Hahn,
    I discovered your blog and website last month and have thoroughly enjoyed your content.
    You have a new follower sir . I cannot agree more about the plague of the Non Iron shirt.
    I used to frequent T M Lewin but alas almost all their range is infected .Please keep
    up the good work .
    Very kind regards A Bailey From the UK.

  2. Larry Sutherland Reply

    I’m also a new follower and can’t agree more about that no iron shit. I remember the sixties when permanent press was hot. I was in middle school and hated it then. I was recently caught out of town with lost luggage and there was a J Crew Factory store across from my hotel. I slipped in and bought 3 dress shirts. They only had 1 option and the shirts fit was spot on. I thought I had hit pay dirt. Cheap and good fit. I never even thought about the non-iron thing until I wore one and have to say it nagged at me all day. I immediately threw them in the wash with hopes that would help. A belt sander couldn’t help those things soften up.

    Online now looking for replacements.

    Regards,
    Larry from St. Pete Florida

    • Thanks, Larry! I’m having success with custom shirts with Proper Cloth. Another good resource for more affordable shirts is Charles Tyrwhitt.

  3. I’ve recently found your blog and your podcast. Great article as always! Wondering which fabric would be best for wearing a white dress shirt sans undershirt? I really don’t like the feeling of undershirts, plus the additional unnecessary laundry, but hate having to worry about my nipples or chest hair showing through to my co-workers.

    Appreciate the advise and bring back the podcast!

    • Thanks, Matthew! The feeling of an undershirt isn’t my favorite, either, but I’ve learned to live with it in winter. The basic Fruit of the Loom or Hanes situation, with a longer body that stays tucked in, is pretty good, especially after a few washings. I also recently discovered Amazon Basics for undershirts. Good 100% cotton undershirts for a VERY good deal. But if you absolutely can’t with undershirts, try shirts made with Oxford cloth. It’s thicker.

  4. deanruffner Reply

    George – I agree on Charles Tyrwhitt, especially if you’re just putting together a wardrobe. I think they still do a ‘3 shirts for $99’ deal for new customers, which ought to give the budding clotheshorse a nice start.

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