Shirts That Last, & The Ones To Avoid

Posted by: Bill Rothrock, III
Posted: Oct 30, 2014
UPDATED: Get the latest information on the best shirt brands. Read "Dry Cleaners' Guide: Dress Shirts That Last!"

Every day at Yale Cleaners, we clean, starch and press several thousand men’s dress shirts.  Over the years this adds up to hundreds of thousands of shirts processed.  Some shirts we only press once, while others will be cleaned numerous times.  But did you know manufacturers design and construct shirts to only withstand being worn about 35 times?  Their intended purpose is for a shirt to be worn every other week for about a year.  I tell you this not to boast about how many shirts we clean, nor how long you should wear a garment, but rather to express the importance of selecting the right shirt that best fits your specific needs. 

So, the question becomes…What’s the best shirt for me?

This is a question I wish I heard more often!  I take great pride in how nice a shirt looks fresh off the press.  But no matter how hard we try, some shirts just refuse to look good.  With thousands of different brands in today’s market, it becomes very hard to make an informed choice.  Consumers are left to base their decision on budget, style, price, fit or even what their favorite celebrity wears.  While these are important factors to include in your purchasing decision, serviceability (i.e. how many times it can be cleaned pressed and worn, before it looks worn) should not be overlooked. 

For the past 25 years, I have spent 6 days a week inside the back of a dry cleaning plant.  From that experience, I can tell you all shirts are NOT created equal.  This doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of $$$$ to get a stylish shirt with a long life cycle.  Below you will find my list of great shirts for the individual on a budget, shirts for the trendsetting hipster or shirts for anyone else in between. 

Without a doubt the best shirt on a budget is JCPenney’s Stafford line.  These shirts start at just $25.00 and their 80% cotton / 20% polyester construction makes them built to last.  Their low price point, classic style and long life cycle make them a good choice for anyone’s wardrobe. 

For those guys that want to wear the latest trend without breaking the bank, I highly recommend looking at Banana Republic.  This line starts around $80 but can often be found on sale for less.  It’s a great option for those individuals who want to make a fashionable impression in a well-constructed shirt.

No Budget?  Thomas Pink and Rufs are without a doubt my favorite brands.  These lines are constructed with some of the highest quality fabric on the market.  The shirts are built to last and never go out of style.  Unfortunately, these brands are not sold in the Tulsa area and can only be purchased online or in a bigger city.  That being said, Robert Graham is another designer brand with a good serviceability that can be found at a few retailers locally. 

Although I don’t dress the part, I’ve wrangled enough western wear to know which brands cowboys can depend on.   Week in and week out Cinch brand shirts are a cowboy’s best bet to withstand heavy starch and his rugged lifestyle.

Over the years, I have definitely come across a few brands of shirts that would never find in my closet.  No matter the price point, Roundtree & Yorke is not a wise decision.  I see way too many of these shirts with interfacing problems.  Inevitably the interfacing will shrink, causing the shirt to pucker.  Once this occurs, the shirt becomes almost impossible to clean, press and restore to wearable condition.   Another brand I avoid buying is Van Heusen.  Their shirts contain too much polyester which causes it to lose color and fade after just a few cycles.

I could go on and on about which shirts are the best value for your hard earned dollar but that would probably bore you.  Please check out my list of favorite and least favorite shirt makers below.  This isn’t the be all, end all of lists.  It’s just the brands I have found to be consistently good or bad over my many years in the dry cleaning industry.  Christmas is just around the corner, and many of us will be purchasing new shirts for the special people in our lives.  Before you grab a shirt off the rack, take a closer look to insure it was made by a brand that will live up to your expectations.     

Recommended Shirt Brands
JC Penny Stafford
Banana Republic
Robert Graham
Thomas Pink
J Ferrar
Brooks Brothers
Hart Schaffner
Tommmy Hilfiger
Ralph Lauren
Gitman Brothers

Brands Not Recommended
Roundtree & Yorke
Van Heusen
Pan Handel Slim
Joseph Feiss
Jos A Banks
Apt 9


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