Placket or no placket? That is the question. For myself, I prefer a placket. 

But first, let’s address another question: What is a placket? The placket is a strip of fabric sewn onto the front of a dress shirt where the buttonholes live. Some shirts have them, some don’t. The option without the sewn-on placket is often called a French placket or French front, where the fabric is just folded over. 

A classic white dress shirt with a placket from Turnbull & Asser.

My preference for a placket has to do with aesthetics and versatility. Aesthetically, I just like the look. Plackets aren’t ornate or over-the-top flourishes, but they do add a little textural interest to an otherwise plain garment. To me, shirts without a placket look unfinished, like they’re not done. With a placket, it’s not so blank, especially when wearing a dress shirt without a tie. 

And speaking of wearing a dress shirt without a tie… Technically, dress shirts are designed to be worn with a tie. But when you’re wearing a shirt without one, whether you leave one or two buttons undone (or three if you’re Tom Ford), the front of the shirt needs a little support to hold up the collar, giving it a nice shape and height that doesn’t fall flat. It frames the neck and throat better. The placket provides that support, giving a dress shirt more versatility with or without a tie. Without a tie, French placket shirts fall flat in the front and look… well… limp. And who wants limp? 

My own custom shirt from Proper Cloth.

I do have a few French placket shirts that I purchased, quite honestly, by mistake. They were custom shirts, and I wasn’t paying attention to the options when I customized them, which meant a return wasn’t an option. I keep them in case of emergencies because they’re fine with a tie. But if I ever had to really pare down my closet even more, the shirts without plackets would be the first to go. 

One of my “emergency” French placket shirts, worn with a tie, of course.

So if you’re in the market for dress shirts, I strongly recommend demanding shirts with a placket. They look great with or without a tie and – practical bonus – they are, for some reason, easier to button. 

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12 Comments

  1. John McDargh, Ph.D. Reply

    Placket…who knew? Thanks.. and on a more serious note, your memories of “a very special dog” brought me to tears.I also opened me up to an awareness of how friendships can happen in New York… through the mediation of shared love of dogs…
    Hope this continues to find you flourishing in both ” Leben und Arbeiten.” as Dr. Freud reminded us. warmly, John

  2. To me it’s about detail, and detail is everything. I have always been jealous of mens dress shirts because they are made to last, the buttons always stay on, generally better made than the equally-priced women’s shirts. And the tweed jacket in the last pick reminds me of one I owned years ago and loved. Wool, and these soft grey, beige and light blue flecks. Fit and felt like a dream. Ah, menswear…

  3. Placket? French placket? Thanks for the lesson. Now going to look for opportunities to impress someone with my new knowledge (and give you full credit, of course).

  4. All good points… Perhaps I should reconsider, but my preference has always been (since the 80s) no placket. It’s the minimalist in me, maybe the mod influence as well. I’ve just prefer the relaxed look sans tie, even with suits. For structure there’s always starch! And one of the reasons I like Eton shirts is that the distance between the collar and second buttons is short, which I think helps the shirt to better hang and cinch the chest. {They also have a very low bottom button, which is great if you’re one of those people that likes to wear a dress shirt untucked}. And if you often wear a tie… who would know anyway?

  5. Philly Trad Reply

    Loved the texture of the necktie. Could you please provide details? Thanks.

  6. fran canisius Reply

    the world treasured ANDREW LEON TALLEY and this little column is reminiscent of him…..

    the great great great A.L.T.

  7. I agree! A shirt without one is just a cheaper construction. When I was dressing several decades ago I finally gave up on off the rack and went semi custom. Robert Talbott spread collar French cuff. Always white cuff and collar and any choice of shirt body( white , blue, pink , any combo there of) . I think they were $90.00- $110 back then.Too bad that 15 1/2 neck is way gone…

  8. Agree regarding the texture (I would call it dimension) added by the placket. It also feels like the button on a shirt get lost without a placket.

    Whenever I wear a shirt with a French placket (and I own a couple) I feel like I am wearing a pajama top.

  9. Pockets! But only those with hard corners. Hate pockets with rounded off corners, defeats the aesthetics of being in shape.

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