The History of Dress Shirts for Men

September 21, 2023 4 min read

The History of Dress Shirts for Men

Men's dress shirts and formal shirts, the epitome of refined elegance and style, have an enthralling history that spans centuries. The evolution of this iconic garment showcases not only changes in fashion but also societal norms, manufacturing techniques, and individual tastes. Join us on a captivating journey through time as we explore the fascinating history of men's dress and formal shirts.

The Origin of dress shirts (16th and 17th Century)

The roots of the men's dress shirt can be traced back to the 16th century, where shirts were initially conceived as undergarments. Crafted from linen or wool, these early shirts were designed for practicality and were usually loose-fitting. They served as a foundational layer, protecting the wearer's more intricate outer garments. As time progressed, so did the role and design of these shirts, eventually transitioning from a hidden layer to a permanent fashion garment for men.

Elizabethan (16th Century) Men's ShirtElizabethan (16th Century) Men's Shirt. Image from

18th Century

The 18th century marked a turning point for men's shirts. Shirts transformed from being merely practical garments to becoming symbols of sophistication and refinement. Ruffled fronts and cuffs emerged as fashionable features, embodying the wearer's social standing and affluence. The extravagance of the 18th-century dress shirt underscored the luxurious tastes of the era's elite, emphasizing the growing importance of fashion and personal style.

In the 18th century, dress shirts were predominantly made from linen, a material highly valued for its breathability and durability. Linen was also chosen for its ability to absorb moisture, making it a practical choice for dress shirts for men. The wealthy elites, however, favored dress shirts made from fine cotton and silk, materials that symbolized luxury and high social status. The choice of fabric thus served, not only a practical purpose, but also as an indicator of the wearer's social standing.

19th Century

The 19th century brought about significant innovations in shirt design, particularly concerning collars. Detachable collars gained immense popularity during this period (invented by Orlando Montague of New York City). This breakthrough of the detachable collar allowed for more convenient laundering and provided a range of style options. Men could mix and match collars with their shirts, giving rise to a more versatile and customizable look. The evolution of collars played a pivotal role in defining the aesthetics of men's dress shirts throughout the century.

White French Cuff Shirt for MenWhite Dress Shirt for Men with French Cuff 

It is also in the 19th century when the French cuff of a formal shirt developed and were popularized by the French nobility. And due to this, cuff links became popular and a standard accessory for men.

Did you know?

The button down collar shirt became came to the US during the end of the 19th century, when an American man visiting the United Kingdom and noticed that British polo players wore shirts with fastened collars to stop them flapping around during play. He then went back to the US and introduced the collar style to the world of menswear in America.

Button Down Shirt. Image from: Real Men Real Style.

20th Century

The twentieth century witnessed a transformation in men's fashion, with dress shirts evolving to suit the changing times. Advancements in tailoring and mass production made shirts more accessible to the masses, leading to a diverse range of fabrics and styles. Now more men, no matter background or position, could afford and own a dress shirt / formal shirt.

Shirts became more streamlined and tailored, embracing a modern aesthetic. The century also saw the rise of casual shirts, offering a departure from the traditional formal styles, catering to a more relaxed lifestyle. The 20th century was filled with fantastic subcultures and fashion trends. And due to this, the dress shirt for men came in many different styles, fits, patterns and colors.

The Modern Shirt

Extreme Cutaway Collar Shirt

In the modern era, men's dress shirts have reached a pinnacle of tailored sophistication. One standout innovation is the extreme cutaway collar shirt. This contemporary design embodies the perfect fusion of classic elegance with a modern, bold twist. The defining feature of the extreme cutaway collar shirt is its broad collar spread, significantly wider than traditional collars. This style showcases a more pronounced collar angle, allowing for a more prominent display of the tie knot.

The Extreme Cutaway Collar Dress Shirt complements various tie knots, making it a versatile choice for the fashion-forward individual. It adds a dash of flair to formal occasions while retaining an air of professionalism. The clean, sharp lines of this collar style create a striking visual impact, making it a popular choice among style enthusiasts seeking to make a statement.

This innovation reflects how men's dress shirts have evolved to meet contemporary preferences and showcase individuality. The extreme cutaway collar shirt is a testament to the endless possibilities and creativity in men's fashion, emphasizing that a small tweak to a traditional design can result in a fresh, distinctive look.


White Extreme Cutaway Collar Shirt from Dandy & SonWhite Extreme Cutaway Collar Shirt from Dandy & Son

Contrast Collar Dress Shirt

The Contrast Collar Dress Shirt is another distinct variation in the realm of men's formalwear. This unique design, often regarded as the 'Wall Street' shirt due to its prevalence in business settings, features a body and sleeves of one color, but with a distinctly different collar and cuff color. The striking contrast between the collar and cuff and the rest of the shirt breaks the monochromatic continuity, making a bold statement. This shirt style has been popularized by various influential figures in pop culture and business, embodying a sense of power and confidence.

Limited Edition Extreme Cutaway White With Blue Contrast Shirt

Check in Dandy & Son's collection if white dress shirts HERE


The evolution of men's dress shirts from their humble beginnings as undergarments in the 16th century to the modern and stylish extreme cutaway collar shirt showcases the dynamic nature of fashion. As fashion continues to evolve, we at Dandy & Son are committed to offering you a blend of timeless elegance and contemporary style in our meticulously crafted dress shirts. Join us in celebrating this remarkable journey of men's dress shirts, where tradition meets innovation, and style meets sophistication.

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Would you like to read more about dress shirts for men, different collar styles and men's fashion? Then check out The Dandy & Son Blog!