Alexandra Woods' Guide to Men's Casual Shirts.
What is a casual shirt?
A casual shirt is a man's 'off duty' shirt or 'something for the weekend' (Ooh sir) and is also made from more casual fabrics such as brushed cotton or denim.
The Hawaiian shirt is well known as a casual shirt for men and classed as 'The Clown' in a man's wardrobe, allowing men to have a little more fun with their style. This shirt style has now been further extended to patterned and floral shirts that show you have a fun, cheeky side.
The lowdown on Men's casual shirts
Casual shirts are generally a little less rigid than business shirts and feature softer, looser cuts and coarser fabrics.
Casual shirts features include:
- Long or short sleeves
- Single cuffs – cufflinks are a casual 'no-no.'
- A wider variety of lower thread-count fabrics
- Fewer collar styles that favour comfort
- Straight or slightly rounded hems so they can be worn untucked.
- A greater variety of colours, styles, and prints than business shirts
- Contrasting fabrics on the inside collars, cuffs, plackets, or gussets
- It may have extra details like pockets, epaulettes, or tabs.
Styles include checked shirts (both in cotton poplin and flannelette lumberjack style), linen and linen mixes, tabbed short-sleeve shirts, polo shirts, denim, chambray, and cord shirts.
What are the best men’s shirts for casual wear?
Some dress shirts with single cuffs can be 'dressed down,' but we recommend having a separate wardrobe for those casual occasions when you want to relax and have fun.
Short-sleeved shirts with tabs, long or short polo shirts, prints, and checks all scream casual but can still look smart when paired with dark, well-fitted denim jeans and the right shoes.
Linen, bamboo, and seersucker shirts are strictly casual-only, as are the dreaded Hawaiian and lumberjack shirts (only if you must).
If you're a man who likes a shirt to navigate gently between something more formal to casual than overly casual, then a chambray, pique, or cord shirt can look really great.
What collars are used on a casual shirt?
In general, the collar on a casual shirt is more relaxed. Unlike a business shirt, where the coupling is rigid to show formality, a simple shirt collar has little or no interfacing, meaning that the overall look is softer.
A casual shirt can be designed with any collar style other than the very formal wing-tipped collar. From a tiny collar to a grandad collar to a Windsor, the world is your oyster. Our favourites, however, are either a tiny collar or a Windsor collar.
What are the different types of casual shirt fabrics?
At Alexandra Wood, we use the highest quality fabrics available in natural fibres. Depending on the season and the collection, the materials we use include:
Pima Cotton (also Super Pima)
Pima or Super Pima is soft as butter and feels incredible on your skin and is considered a luxury shirt fabric and comes in a premium version - Super Pima. This type of cotton is grown in the USA and represents 1% of cotton raised globally. What makes it unique is the extra-long staple fibre that gives the cotton its premium properties, strength, and softness, along with its colour retention, allowing the design and pattern of a shirt to really pop.
Chambray is characterised by white threads running widthways (weft) to give it a slightly inconsistent appearance. This fabric is soft and is mainly worn in a casual sense. Although, if you're one for experimenting, a chambray can work well with a cotton or cord suit, worn with or without a tie.
Denim is made of cotton and is constructed like a twill with two different coloured threads (usually indigo and white). This means that the fabric inside is a different colour from the outside. The denim used for shirts is softer and lighter than the version used for your favourite jeans and is perfect for winter. Denim works really well with contrasting fabrics such as a leather jacket. We tend to steer our customers away from choosing to do 'double denim.'
Seersucker is recognisable by its puckered texture that promotes airflow. Seersucker is used to make light and airy summer shirts and comes in several colours, but the most popular is a blue and white stripe. Seersuckers' qualities are that it is lighter than air and incredibly soft on the skin. This shirt is an excellent choice for a laid-back weekend look or to travel or to take on holiday.
The poplin is woven tightly for a smoother, crisp finish. Poplin is the most comfortable shirt fabric and is one of the most popular and practical of shirt fabrics. A lighter-weight, 100% cotton poplin in funky colours or patterns makes excellent casual wear shirts for Summer. We advise choosing heavier-weight poplins if you'd like easier-to-iron shirts.
This loose weave fabric is synonymous with Summer. It does crease easily, which can be frustrating and look like you've spent the night in it. However, linen/cotton blends are a popular choice for having the relaxed, laid-back look of linen without the overly creased look. Linen is for casual use only and is best suited for cruises or laid-back summer wear.
These can be a perfect alternative to 100% linen which can look like you've camped out in it for days on end. With a blend of linen with cotton and or silk, it makes the overall fabric a lot softer, and therefore the creases drop out far more leisurely.
Dimpled cotton is much like a Marcella style fabric, yet soft, stretchy, comfortable, and most commonly found on polo shirts.
Cord or baby cord
Cord (or corduroy) is a soft winter fabric with raised ribs outside the material. The baby cord version is exceptionally smooth and looks great with smart jeans or layered up and even worn open with a crisp white T-shirt. As with all of our items, we encourage you to experiment with your style.
How to wear a casual shirt (properly)
A casual shirt doesn't necessarily mean that it's worn in a 'non-smart way. You can either tuck it in for a sleeker look or leave it out if you want a more laid-back look, and if the shirt is thick enough, you can even wear it over a T-shirt.
This also depends on the length of your shirt; if a shirt is long, then nothing looks worse than when it is worn out, whether smart or casual.
What are cuff styles used for a casual shirt?
One thing for sure is that you will never see a double cuff on a casual shirt and only a single cuff. There are, however, a few cuff styles that are seen:
Straight cuff –The classic style which has sharp edges
Bevelled cuff – The same as a straight cuff yet has an angled cut out on the corner of the cuff
Curved cuff – Smooth and rounded on the outer edge
Stitching on casual shirts
The stitching detail around a shirt collar is used to reinforce seams and create detail and a finishing touch. A business shirt would have a 1mm stitching detail, a casual shirt would have 5mm.
How many casual shirts should you own?
The number of casual shirts you have depends on whether you prefer wearing shirts or T-shirts for everyday wear, or a mix of both.
Anything from three to 10 shirts, again in varying weights and colours, will give you enough choice to create multiple outfits when paired with different bottoms, jumpers, and jackets.
What styles of casual shirts are there?
There are likely more styles of casual shirts than you may first realise. A shirt can offer great flexibility to your wardrobe, and even an everyday shirt can be made into a more fashionable look with some experimentation and fun had. For example, wearing a navy cord shirt with a silk tie can look great when worn with confidence.
Denim shirt –Possibly one of the most common casual shirts for men. Just like jeans, a denim shirt can offer great flexibility to your wardrobe. Just remember – No double denim! i.e., a denim shirt is worn with a pair of jeans.
Chambray shirt- A brushed cotton shirt that can feel so lusciously soft and comfortable to wear, yet it's still relatively uncommon. Brushed cotton shirts can come either plain or in checked patterns. Our personal favourites are navy, denim style, and crisp white.
Cord shirt- Another unusual but great casual shirt is the cord shirt. You may be mistaken into thinking that this might be a little rigid, being that it's made from firmer cotton. However, a baby cord shirt is so soft, it'll even feel more comfortable than wearing a pair of PJ's (albeit a lot smarter!)
Checked shirt- This shirt style is definitely a shirt that can only be worn casually unless you're a man for extreme experimentation. Initially worn by lumberjacks, the shirt was thicker and chunkier and worn over a T-shirt. These styles can, of course, come in lighter forms, and the earthier colour tones can be worn as part of shooting attire.
Floral shirt – Playful and so perfectly casual. From bold, bright, and large to fewer, daintier florals, this shirt is a great option to be worn with a pair of trousers or tailored shorts in the Summer. The larger framed you are, the smaller the florals should be, and vice versa; if you're very slight, then you can afford to go bolder.
Striped shirt- This style of shirt works perfectly for anything from a boardroom to a lunch out with friends to a stylish holiday in St. Tropez. The trick is all about how it's worn.
You can wear a striped shirt with a suit for an elegant look, and for casual, simply unbutton it and wear with a tailored pair of beige chino style shorts for optimum cool.
Hawaiian shirt- The ultimate clown of the man's wardrobe. Fun, playful, and a little 'bachelor like (Perhaps because it's so heavily worn on stag doo's and holidays). This shirt can only be worn casually and because it's so wild, simply wear it as you please.
Pique shirt- This is one of our personal favourites. It's soft, bouncy, stretchy, and perfectly casual. It's made from the same fabric as you would find on a polo shirt, entirely made from cotton (Well, it certainly should be), and available in a multitude of colours. This style looks great with jeans, trousers, and shorts.