The best white dress shirts are always going to be indispensable. Maybe you just bought your first suit. (Congratulations, and good luck at that interview.) Maybe you just bought your 50th. (Congratulations, and enjoy that office with the complimentary coffee-pod machine in the corner. Love a good coffee pod.) Or maybe you’re somewhere in between. But wherever you are in your suit-buying life, and no matter your suit-buying budget, this much is true: you can definitely use another white dress shirt to wear with them.
They’re what you need for every conceivable life event. Don’t believe us? Here, watch. First day of work: wear a white dress shirt. Last day of work: white dress shirt. Wedding? White dress shirt. Bar mitzvah? Confirmation? Graduation? White dress shirt. Funeral? Condolences, flowers, and a white dress shirt. You get the idea. And the white dress shirt is what you need in relatively advanced fashion situations, too. Pitti Uomo peacocks, red carpet heroes, and charity-dinner all-stars all have one secret weapon—besides the animal-pelt jackets and shawl-collar tuxedos and floor-through apartments. They have perfect white dress shirts. But what separates the perfect from the workaday?
Here’s your answer: The perfect white dress shirt only needs to do a couple of things, but it needs to do them perfectly. Rule number one: no wimpy collars. Our favorites can all support a thick knot if that’s your thing, or will stand tall on their own sans tie. Rule two: They’re cut the way any shirt should be cut in 2022 (or 2021, or 2020, or 2042), which is slim but not super tight. They stay tucked without the ballooning mess most “regular/classic/easy/comfort” fit shirts offer above the waist line. Some of our picks are 100% cotton, some have a little stretch in the mix, but all of them are designed to stay crisp and are built to breathe. That August steam-room of a wedding? You’ll stay cool.
And that, really, is reason enough to buy one, two, or all of the dress shirts we’ve picked out here. They’ll help you stay cool in every conceivable way—whether you’re on suit number one, 50, or somewhere in between.
The Best All-American (by Way of Japan) White Dress Shirt
The Japanese have a knack for adopting elements of American culture, obsessing over it, and then selling it back to us better and purer than we do it ourselves. Blue jeans became a real thing over there beginning in the postwar ‘50s; now brands like Kapital are leading the pack in the denim game. On the culinary side of things, they saw our greasy cheesesteaks and raised us immaculate wagyu sandos. And after Ivy League style took hold in Japan, labels like Kamakura Shirts emerged to pick up the slack once the Brooks Brothers and J.Presses of the world began to wane in quality and veer from the true preppy-trad path. For a quarter-century now, Kamakura has been turning out top-notch, unmistakably American shirts with a price-to-quality ratio it’s sometimes hard to find stateside these days. This one is cut trim and streamlined from a pinpoint Oxford cloth, with the kind of perfectly-sized point collar guys like Paul Newman used to dig. It’s the sort of dress shirt you pick up and look over and mutter, “They don’t make ’em like this anymore.” Only they do—just not here.
The Best White Dress Shirt For Your Next State Dinner
If pedigree is a thing you care about—or, more precisely, can afford to care about—in your dress shirts, then Charvet is the move. The Parisian institution opened the world’s first shirt shop in 1838, conceived the first-ever shirts with attached collars and cuffs, and have dressed everyone from JFK and Obama to Proust and Matisse. Today, their shirts are meticulously constructed by a team of only 50 tailors—each trained for at least four years—from the most beautiful fabrics in the world, like this ultra-soft cotton number with an understated sheen and real-deal mother-of-pearl buttons. If you don’t think a plain white dress shirt can scream “PURE LUXURY,” it means you haven’t the privilege of slipping on one of these old-world grails.
The Best Unfussy, No-Frills White Dress Shirt
Maybe you like to keep things as uncomplicated as possible. You Marie Kondo’d your wardrobe not too long ago, and all that you kept were some black jeans, a couple pairs of white sneakers, maybe a chore coat. This is the shirt that completes your austere ensemble. Even by white shirt standards it feels stark and minimalist, with a laser sharp slim cut and a well-proportioned collar. And, because it clocks in at just under $100, you can afford to buy a handful to repopulate your almost-bare closet.
The Best High-Fashion-Flex White Dress Shirt
Think there’s no room left to innovate on a white dress shirt? As per usual, the great Virgil Abloh wanted you to think again. The late Louis Vuitton head honcho applied his signature a-couple-degrees-off-center vision to the most classic of all classics and, as was his wont, made it feel spectacularly new without stripping away any of its timelessness. To pull that trick off, he started with the collar—strong, pointed, made for wearing sans tie—and then worked his way down, subtly embellishing the body of the shirt with the maison’s legendary monogram via an intricate weaving technique that lends it a distinct, almost frayed texture. You can absolutely suit it up to give your formalwear a freaky luxe twist, but more than any other option on this list it can stand entirely on its own—an attention-grabbing fit all in one package.
The Best-in-the-Mall White Dress Shirt
The gold standard of affordable dress shirts, thanks to its sturdy mid-size point collar, flattering trim cut, and opaque-enough-to-hide-your-nipples fabric. Take J.Crew up on their crazy-good deal and pick up three: one white, one pale blue, and one striped pink. ($175 for three.)