How To Buy A Casual Summer Button-down Shirt

Summer dressing can come with its own set of challenges.

For one, there’s the matter of options.

Besides your standard t-shirts and polos, what else is out there that makes you look good, feel great, fits you well, and also shows that you care about how you look and want to present a professional appearance?

Besides that, you also want this item of clothing to be casual enough, while still allowing you to look clean and feel great.

If you ask me, for this tall order, the best option that you have is the summer shirt!

The perfect casual summer shirt is what we’ll be talking about today, and I’ll give you a breakdown of important shopping tips to remember when picking one out.

However, before we really dive into that, I want to reiterate that for this post, we will be talking about the ideal casual shirt, and not the dress shirt.

The truth is, not many men actually know the difference between the two.

Fortunately, if you’ll check the Real Men Real Style Archives, you’ll find a post that’s solely dedicated to dress shirts.

With that out of the way, let’s continue to talk about the casual summer shirt.

Tip #1: Pay Close Attention To The Fit of Your Casual Shirt.

350-shirt-casual-rolled-sleeveThe main thing to remember for this first tip is that casual shirts are supposed to fit differently compared to dress shirts.

When shopping for a casual summer shirt, you’ll want to start by looking for something with a looser, more relaxed fit.

Specifically, look for something that has an extra inch in the waist and the chest, and about a half an inch extra in the shoulder area.

The reason for the looser fit is that you really don’t want to have any “hot spots”. The “hot spots” that I am referring to are areas in a tight shirt that may be prone to irritation and sweat, especially in the summer time.

Trust me when I say that you do not want to be sporting this look, as hot spots will never look good.

In addition, do remember that you will probably not be wearing a jacket over your casual shirt, as the summer weather may not permit you to.

Therefore, there is no way to hide or cover any hot spots that may develop, or a general bad fit of a shirt. This is why you need to fit a casual shirt that sits well on your shoulders, and doesn’t have excess fabric in the chest area.

If you find that your summer shirt of choice does tend to have these flaws, you definitely want to take it to a tailor to have it adjusted.

Tip #2- Go With a Fabric That’s Light and Breathable

Having a shirt with a looser fit is not the only thing that can prevent hot spots.

Fabric choice also plays a part. So, how can you tell if a fabric is light and breathable? Besides the obvious, which is feeling the fabric, you can also try to put the fabric of a shirt against your mouth and attempt to breathe through it.

If you have trouble pushing air out through the fabric, then it is most probably not breathable.

When shopping for a casual summer shirt, I advise you to pick out two to three different shirts and perform this “breath test”.

This is a really easy and quick way that you can use to determine which shirt is most breathable, and have air move through it quite easily.

Another quick tip closely related to this is to never assume that a lightweight fabric is automatically breathable.

Take note that there are lightweight fabrics that have very tight weaves, like twill. Air doesn’t easily move through twill, despite it being lightweight.


Wearing a shirt that doesn’t “breathe” could present a lot of problems during the summer time. You can pretty much count on this shirt functioning like a plastic bag, which if you’re not familiar with, will definitely make you start sweating profusely.

Again, this is something that you do NOT want, so definitely make sure that you pick out a fabric that’s both lightweight AND breathable.

chambray-350If you’re not too familiar about weaves, I invite you to check out another blog post that I put up dedicated to weaves. That should cover the basics and provide you with a general idea on the differences and nuances between different fabric weaves.

If you’re still not sure if a fabric is light or breathable despite conducting the “breath test”, then there is another way to figure out if it would make for a good summer shirt.

Hold the fabric up against the sun or a light and check to see if you can see little holes within the weave. If you do, then that is good indication that a fabric will breathe well.

Should you want to narrow it down to specific fabrics, here are my personal recommendations; Chambray is my top choice, followed by End-on-end. You can even take a gander at some cotton choices, provided their weaves are light and breathable.

Also, it is worth mentioning that I’ve actually found some good options in the athletic wear department for fabrics that wick away sweat. When picking out shirts here, be careful that you don’t choose something that looks too sporty, as you may not be able to use this for your original purpose.

Tip #3- Narrow Down The Style of Your Casual Summer Shirt

epaulette-shirt-example-350There are certain styles that give off a more casual feel to any shirt.

A great example of this is pockets. A shirt with two pockets up front is a detail that was actually borrowed from the military.

There was a time when these pockets were actually put to use, to place different things in, which may have helped to contribute to their casual feel. Generally, pockets found in shirts, be it on the chest area, or even on the sleeves, denote a casual look, so they are perfect for casual summer shirts.

Epaulets are another shirt details that have come out of the military.

Used to place rank and even awards in, epaulets served a genuine function.

Recent trends though have allowed epaulets to be used in a more casual setting, so I also encourage looking for shirts with epaulet details, provided that they lay well.

Another perk to wearing an shirt with epaulets is that they can actually help to beef up the shoulders, and for men with larger mid-sections, epaulets can actually help to draw attention away from the problem area.

350-rolled-sleeve-shirt-linenThe third style detail that is worth paying attention to in a casual summer shirt is in its sleeves and cuffs.

Before buying a shirt, find out if the sleeves are actually meant to by rolled in.

Never assume that all shirts are made like this as shirts with French cuffs, for example, are NOT made to be rolled up.

Generally speaking, shirts with softer cuffs, as well as those that have a button up the sleeve, along with a little strap, are meant to be rolled up, and are ideal for warm weather dressing.

Now, just because your shirt comes with a button and a strap doesn’t automatically mean that you have to use these little details. My advice on the matter is this: If you have toned and muscular arms, then you can definitely use this strap, but if you don’t want your arms to appear small and puny, then don’t use them and simply roll your shirts, stopping right below the elbow.

Tip #4 Don’t Forget About The Length Of Your Shirt

While a shirt’s length is supposed to fall under the category of fit, I though that it was important to discuss this at length, which is why it separated here.

Summer shirts are meant to be worn untucked so every man must make sure that his casual shirts do not end up too long. A shirt is too long when it fully covers your backside.

In addition, if your shirt is covering all of your crotch area, then it is probably too long.

In saying this, you definitely do not want your shirts too be too short either. A simple way to determine if it is too short is to raise your arms with the said shirt on. If your midsection ends up exposed, then your shirt is too short.

Longer shirts can actually be taken to a tailor to be readjusted. So do consider doing this if you’ve found a shirt that is perfect in every way, except the length.

Tip #5 Pay Attention to the Collar and Button Placement

My last tip for your summer casual shirt has to do with the collar.

Even if you are wearing a casual shirt, it is still important to make sure that the collar looks good, lays well, and isn’t too sloppy.

Button placement will also determine if a shirt will look good or not. For casual shirts, it is perfectly acceptable for the top two buttons to be left unbuttoned.

Some men may prefer to have one extra button unbuttoned, and this is acceptable too, just as long as your shirt doesn’t expose too much of your chest.

While button placement can be adjusted, I want to point out that this is necessarily not an easy job, and that it may be better for a qualified seamstress to do it.

In closing, I just want to leave you with quick tips on how to buy a great summer shirt.

Always keep in mind that great deals are always out there, provided you know what you are looking for.

If you know what goes into a great summer shirt, then it will be easy for you to make smart purchases.

Another option, although not necessarily cheaper, is to consider having a custom made shirt. Of course, the choice is dependent on you, and your budget!