Seams Plausible: The Difference Between Men’s Shirts

A semi-regular column answering your questions about clothing

Your writer has recently become aware of some confusion among our friends and customers regarding different types of men’s shirts.

Some have queried, “What is a dress shirt?” Others have asked, “Isn’t a polo shirt a sport shirt? Or is a sport shirt a sweatshirt?” Still others have asked, “When is lunch?”

Here’s a brief overview. (You may wish to print and post it on your refrigerator for future reference.)

Dress shirts are very often white or blue in color and may have a button-down or straight collar. They are commonly worn by men like me who sit behind a desk all day complaining that no one understands how much we have to do, what pressure we’re under, how cold (or hot) our office is, and wouldn’t it be nice if someone would fetch us a cup of coffee about now?

Sport shirts button down the front and usually ‘sport’ a pattern so loud it’s difficult to hear what the wearer is saying. A ‘Hawaiian’ shirt is a sport shirt, as is a ‘camp shirt’ – although in most cases the wearer is neither in Hawaii nor at camp, but sitting at the desk next to yours truly loudly eating an onion and sardine sandwich on rye while checking his Instagram again to see how many ‘likes’ the picture he posted this morning of his cat in the bathroom sink is getting. (14 ‘likes’, but no comments yet.)

A polo shirt pulls over the wearer’s head like a T-shirt, but has a collar. It is usually worn to play tennis, not polo as the name suggests. Similarly, a sweatshirt is worn to repaint the dining room walls for the third time this weekend because your wife can’t find the exact shade of eggshell she was looking for – even though you were planning to watch football, a sport in which the players wear shirts called ‘jerseys’, named after a type of cow and a place in England where most men wear rugby shirts. (I may have made that up.)

No one can explain what a shirt-jac is or why you should wear one.

You’re welcome.

By way of a brief introduction to ‘your writer’ – Bob Jacobs is Copy Director for all things menswear based at Lands’ End HQ in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.