Difference Between Casual and Dress Shirt

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difference between casual and dress shirt

Dress shirts and casual button-ups may appear to be the same at first glance, but there are a few key differences.

What difference does it make?

Wearing a dress shirt with a casual outfit or vice versa might completely detract from your overall appearance.

It’s a mistake I see a lot of guys make out in the wild, especially at weddings and at bars and clubs.

I’ll explain the differences between dress and casual button-up shirts so you don’t make that mistake.

I’ll focus on the specifics, such as the fabric and colors, as well as the fit.

By the end of this essay, you’ll always know what kind of shirt to put on to look and feel your best.


The collar is one of the easiest ways to determine the difference between a dress and a casual shirt.

A stiff collar and small slots for collar stays are typical features of a dress shirt. It’s stiff since it’s sewn using hard interfacing.

Casual button-ups, on the other hand, will have softer, less structured collars, and will frequently be a button-down collar.

Keep in mind that not all casual shirts have button-down collars, and that some dress shirts do. A full cutaway collar is also something you won’t find on a casual shirt. This sort of collar can be found on some dress shirts, and it’s designed to be worn with a tie and a jacket. On its own, it’d be a little strange.

The majority of casual shirts have point or medium spread collars.


The fabric is another differences between these two shirt types.

Dress shirts are often constructed of fine, smooth cotton with a hint of sheen.

Casual shirts, on the whole, aren’t going to feel as smooth and sumptuous. They’ll be thicker and heavier, with greater texture and an open weave, and they might even use more of it.

Fabrics can be used to add interest to your dress shirt if you pay attention to them. You can use a herringbone weave instead of a basic poplin weave for a little more visual intrigue and appeal.

If your casual shirts are feeling a little too fancy, try a more casual fabric like a thick, robust Oxford cotton, flannel, or brushed cotton.

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The color is another difference between casual and fancy shirts.

White and light blue are the most popular dress shirt colors. These are timeless options, and white is always a good choice. For a dress shirt, this is the most traditional and formal hue.

You can use a variety of colors, such as a light pink or yellow. When wearing a dress shirt, however, you should avoid bright, saturated colors and striking patterns.

You may be tempted to wear a dark colored dress shirt, such as gray, charcoal, or black, but these are extremely difficult to pull off.

You don’t want to wear a black dress shirt with a dark colored suit to a wedding, even if it’s a black tie affair or a funeral. You run the danger of appearing more like a server than a visitor if you do this.

A black dress shirt looks well with a light gray suit, but it’s a bit of an advanced style, and if you’re wearing a dark color suit, such as navy, charcoal, or black, I’d just stay with a white shirt.

Casual shirts, on the other hand, allow you to play with a wide range of colors and designs.

A plaid flannel shirt, for example, is a terrific pattern for a casual shirt, but it would appear strange if dressed up.

Length of Sleeve

The sleeve length is another critical difference between dress and casual shirts.

Dress shirts should always have long sleeves and be formal. Short-sleeved dress shirts are available, but they don’t look terrific. You’ll most likely finish up looking like a 1960s NASA scientist, but not in a good manner.

Long or short sleeves are acceptable for casual shirts. For the summer, the short-sleeved variants are ideal.

You can tuck these in, but I believe they look better untucked if you have a casual button-up shirt with short sleeves. It’s a more relaxed aesthetic, and it’s more comfortable, to be honest.

Because you’ll be wearing such casual shirts untucked, the length is important.

The Hem

Dress shirts are longer than casual shirts, which takes us to our next topic.

This is due to the fact that they’re always designed to be tucked in. A dress shirt should never be worn untucked. It’s not a casual shirt; it’s a dress shirt that’s been worn incorrectly.

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This is something that a lot of males get incorrect. They’re headed to the club, so they put on their favorite button-down shirt, untuck it, and consider themselves ready to go. It goes well with jeans and boots.

But it doesn’t work.

A dress shirt is too long to be worn untucked, and the hem has a different form, even if it fits perfectly.

Your button-up shirts should never be worn untucked with a sport coat or blazer. That’s one of the worst looks I’ve ever seen.

Pay attention to the length of your shirt if you’re not sure if it’s casual or dressy.

It’s most likely a dress shirt if it extends past the bottom of your fly. It’s probably a formal shirt if it has a curved hem, like these deep wings on the sides and back.

Casual shirts, on the other hand, have a shorter length and a straight or slightly curved hem. They’ll come to a stop sometime around the middle of the fly.

Button-up shirts in hybrid lengths are now widely available from several brands. Shirts that can be worn with or without a tie.

These are ideal for business casual environments, and they’re a terrific way to extend the life of your button-up shirts.

Keep in mind, though, that the hybrid length isn’t always the best of all worlds. Many of my hybrid-length shirts are actually a little too long to be worn untucked, but not quite short enough to stay tucked in all day.

If you’re particular about how your clothes fit, you may want to avoid these hybrid shirts.  You’ll only need two sorts of shirts in your closet: dressy and casual.


We must discuss the issue of fit.

Dress shirts and casual shirts should fit similarly, with the exception of the length.

One error to avoid is being careful about the fit of your casual shirt but not your dress shirt since you expect you’ll be wearing a jacket over it all the time.

We’ve all got those dress shirts that are too big and loose, with sleeves that are too long, but we only wear them with a sweater over them, so we don’t mind.

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However, you should always expect that your jacket or sweater will be removed, so your shirt must fit properly on its own.


Finally, let’s get into the specifics.

There are so many different elements and styles to pick from when it comes to casual shirts. Short sleeve, flowery designs, and a double chest pocket may be found on everything from Western shirts to Oxford button downs.

Casual shirts are available in a limitless variety of features and styles. Dress shirts, on the other hand, have a fairly consistent style.

You can vary the collar design or material of the buttons, maybe add a chest pocket if you want one, and go with French cuffs instead of standard barrel cuffs, but these are minor differences, and most dress shirts appear similar.

The color is the major feature that distinguishes one from another. It’s not a dress shirt if it contains a lot of extra details like a double breast pocket; it’s a casual button-up.

Last Words

Any button-down shirt can be classified as a dress shirt or a casual shirt.

The idea is that once you understand the differences, you’ll always know which shirt to wear.

Casual button-up shirts are far more common in my wardrobe than dress shirts.

But I do keep two or three great fitted dress shirts in my closet for those occasions when you need to attend a wedding, funeral, or job interview.

dress shirt vs casual shirt


  • Christopher

    Christopher has 9+ years of experience as a creative fashion designer who stays current with the latest trends.

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