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Your Guide to Dress Shirts With or Without Pockets

by Jamie Wilson
Your Guide to Dress Shirts With or Without Pockets

Should a dress shirt have pockets or no pockets? It’s one of those questions that we all wonder, but never get around to answering. Read on to find out whether you should be picking up pockets or not, and what difference they can make.

Dress Shirts are one of the most practical and versatile items of clothing to own; they can be worn throughout the year and in pretty much every eventuality. This particular guide however, takes a look at the aspect of the pocket on a dress shirt and how this can alter their appearance and suitability.

Mens Dress Shirts With or Without Pockets

Mens Dress Shirts With or Without Pockets
@Joon Tae Kim via pexels

The dress shirt easily falls into the category of one of the staple pieces that every man should have in his wardrobe. It’s an item that can be dressed either up or down depending on the setting, whether it’s work or just chilling at the pub. Interestingly, it’s the presence or absence of a pocket that is often the indicator of how casual or formal the dress shirt is.

A dress shirt with no pockets should be worn at a black tie or white tie event and should never feature a breast pocket, as opposed to when you choose to wear a sports shirt or work shirt, then having a pocket adds a cool casual touch.

Shirt pockets are traditional and functional and definitely make the look less dressy. Whereas shirts without a pockets certainly have a more formal affect, and are usually a bit more fitted and considered to be bespoke.

Dress Shirts with Pockets

Dress Shirts with Pockets

Pockets are a common feature on a shirt and essentially adds another function. As well as increasing definition to the shape of your shirt, breast pockets are a convenient place to hang your sunglasses from in the summer, to stash business cards or any other small objects.

Although, a lot of the time pockets aren’t always used, it will add a certain depth to the shirt and also imply a more active look on the wearer. Prior to what was said earlier, dress shirts with a pocket were once worn to formal occasions, specifically in America.

As such, there are really only two definite reasons for opting for a formal dress shirt with pockets in the modern day. The first reason being that you want to dress smart without looking overly formal, so you wear a dress shirt with a pocket which adds that casual aspect. Sports shirts as well as military shirts have a patch pocket which may also be worn to smart-casual events.

Otherwise, you may want to wear a dress shirt to work. In that case, a dress shirt with a pocket increases practicality, especially in summer when you are less likely to wear a jacket to work and so the pocket may actually be of use.

How to Style a Dress Shirt with Pockets

In time, as the dress shirt has become less reserved for formal occasions or business wear; the rules of what to wear with a dress shirt have also become more relaxed.

Dress Shirt with Pockets
@Edgar Serrano via pexels

If you do choose to wear a dress shirt with a pocket in an office environment, then you should typically stick to a white or blue shirt. However, this may further depend on the office you’re in and how corporate or practical it is, which therefore effects how relaxed your dress code is. In some offices, a checked or bolder colour may be permitted, so it’s worth checking that out as well.

Stick to lighter cooler coloured trousers for office wear such as cream, beige or pale grey. You can afford to try out different colours, especially if you choose not to wear a blazer or suit. To complete the look choose brown or black shoes with pale socks. Avoid wearing a tie, as the breast pocket makes up for the loss of this accessory and you don’t want to overcrowd the look.

It’s sometimes hard to figure out how to dress in-between a smart and casual look. In the summer, if you’re going somewhere where that kind of dress code is present, then a dress shirt with a pocket is the perfect option. You may also be able to pair it with jeans or an alternative type of casual trousers.

A mismatched suit or a patterned or plain shirt is a great idea and can be worn with pale coloured trousers or even jeans. Finish the look with slip-on shoes, brogues or loafers.

Dress Shirts without Pockets

Dress Shirts without Pockets
@Samad Ismayilov via pexels

As mentioned before, a dress shirt with no pocket is evidently more formal and, similarly, the more high-end or corporate your job is the more likely it is that you wear a dress shirt with a suit and no pocket. Besides, a pocket would be covered by a blazer anyway during meetings or conferences.

Furthermore, if you chose to remove your blazer, the symmetry created by a tie would be at loss by the addition of a breast pocket.  Therefore, a dress shirt with a pocket will look unbalanced.

Something else to bear in mind when considering the pocket/no pocket conundrum is that shirts without a pocket can be more fitted as well. Of course, you have your personal preference and there are styles that range from regular to slim. But when choosing, you should be considering the fit and comfort around the chest, shoulders and collar.

How to Style a Dress Shirt Without Pockets

There are many ways of wearing a dress shirt; from casual to formal and with different colours, fits and accessories to choose from. They can also be worn alongside many things, which is what makes them so versatile.

Dress Shirt Without Pockets
@Keanen Geego Kilian via pexels

As always, in order to create your outfit, you must first consider where you are going. How formal is the event or how flexible is the dress code for instance, this will help you contemplate the colour, whether you choose a classic white, a bolder colour or perhaps patterned shirt.

Dress shirts are formal, so you’d usually stick with a basic white because it’s smart and can literally be paired with anything. From a crisp black or blue suit, or during the summer months – you can try out other colours such a beige or maroon.

Pale blue or light pink are other colours you could consider and would look great when paired with a dark navy suit. Both colours add a cool vibe and a hint of colour to your formal look.

Because you’ve chosen a dress shirt with no pocket, this allows you the option of a tie. The tie will need to be matched accordingly to the colour of your shirt. It’s most straight forward if you’re wearing a white dress shirt, because any other colour will match it.

Another reason to opt for a plain white shirt is that it’ll give you the option of having a patterned or bolder coloured tie. When it comes to the size and width of the tie however, it’s completely your choice. The footwear should also be kept formal and preferably in black or any other dark colour. In summer, you may have more choice in styles such as brogues or loafers and even the colour may extend to a tan.

Types of Dress Shirts

The dress shirt hasn’t yet ceased it’s dominance in being a must-have in every man’s wardrobe. What was once considered only practical now varies in many styles suitable to numerous occasions.

The Fit

Dress Shirts
@furkanfdemir via pexels

The most important trait of the shirt is the fit. Whether you choose to purchase a ready-to-wear or a made-to-measure, the fit should suit both your taste and your body type.

  • The Classic Fit: The original style is comfortable yet features a boxier shape. It also provides more movement and is a little roomier than others.
  • The Slim Fit: A little bit more fashionable than other styles and appreciated by younger men for this aspect. The higher armhole allows a more fitted shape on the body without being tight. This style is also considered more appropriate for slimmer bodies.
  • The Modern Fit: This look is probably the most popular because it represents a more contemporary look out of the three. It’s evolution has allowed it to gain the best parts of the Classic and Slim Fit’s regarding style and comfort.

The Collar

The collar is possibly the second most important element to consider on a shirt, and again, has evolved over time. From once only having to choose between lengths and the tie gap, it’s now transformed as the result of high demands from customers and the designers creativity.

We have narrowed it down to the most contemporary and important as to avoid confusion.

  • Evening Collar: Usually detachable and a little stiff. Most tuxedo shirts have a small attached wing collar. When attending a black or white tie event, you should definitely always stick with a detachable collar
  • Spread Collar: The most popular and contemporary of styles because it’s considerably versatile and can be worn with both casual and classic shirts, and with or without a tie.
  • Button-Down Collar: It features a small button on each collar tip and can also be worn with or without a tie.

Shirt Cuffs

A small but very important aspect of the dress shirt. The cuffs should extend one half to one inch past the jacket sleeves. Some shirts have two buttonholes and two vertical which is a more formal option called the barrel cuff. Shirt Cuffs are divided into two types, the Button and the French.

  • The Button: the more traditional of the two which are commonly found on ready-to-wear shirts. They have single cuffs that wrap around the arm and are buttoned into place.
  • French Cuffs: the most formal option but can still be worn for everyday use, if you want to look really smart. It features a double cuff that folds back and fastens with cufflinks to create a distinct look.

D.I.Y: How to Put a Pocket On a Shirt

As mentioned before, it was the norm to wear a dress shirt with a pocket to a formal occasion, and sometimes men asked for a pocket to be sewn onto their shirts. If you’re up for trying this out yourself, watch the video below to get an idea of how to cut and shape the pocket and sew it onto your shirt.


Best Dress Shirts for Men

Check out some of our best dress shirt for men, both casual and a little more formal, with and without pockets.

How to Choose a Dress Shirt With or Without Pockets

  • Typically speaking; for formal events – no pocket, for more casual settings – feel free to add a pocket
  • Shirt pockets are traditional and functional and definitely make a look less formal
  • If you wear a dress shirt with a pocket at the office, stick to a white or blue shirt
  • Pocket or no pocket – a good fit on a shirt is fundamental

On that Note

Buying a dress shirt or two is definitely a good investment. They can be worn throughout the year and to pretty much every occasion. And now you are all clued up on how to wear a dress shirt, and what style you should be picking according to the occasion. Pockets on a dress shirt definitely have more positives weighing out the negatives so don’t be afraid to switch it up a bit regardless of whether you’re at work or out with your mates.

Feature image from Pexels

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