Note: some of these shirts were provided at a discount or for free, please see the original reviews for more information.
Finding the right shirt, a good performance shirt, for wearing into a business casual office environment can be quite the task. This guide walks you through each of the shirts we have tested, and how we think they fit into office environments. For this guide, we assume you are washing shirts after each wear, therefore odor resistance is less of a factor.
Outlier NYCO Oxford
The Good: The pivot sleeve on this shirt is fantastic, the material is very durable, the collar is solid, and it has a flattering cut.
The Not Good: The look trends more casual, the short body length makes it hard to tuck in, and the heavy material can make it a non-starter in warmer climates.
Overall: While this is no longer made, it is worth mentioning as it is the perfect smart casual shirt, but doesn’t blend well with business casual. The body is cut shorter making it hard to tuck in, but the pivot sleeve is worth noting alone. The best way to think about this, is that if you can get away with wearing your shirt untucked, this shirt should be near the top of your list.
Proof Performance Oxford
The Good: The collar stands up nicely, the stretch is very impressive, and the price is worth noting.
The Not Good: The colors are less than ideal, the buttons don’t quite contrast correctly, and the material is slightly too stiff to pass for a standard oxford.
Overall: Take a standard cotton oxford, add some DWR to resist light water and stains, and then add a ton of stretch. That’s what you get with this, and it is impressive. It doesn’t perform as well as the others in general, but it does have that cotton look to it that many do want if you can be OK with a stiffer (like starched cotton) drape. If you want to stay as stealth as you can, this is perhaps the best option, but I do wish they had a larger selection of colors as I find the offering very limited.
Wool & Prince Button Down
The Good: Comes in a variety of classic styles and sizes, the merino wool is thin and wrinkle resistant, and the performance of the fabric to manage your body temperature is amazing.
The Not Good: While good, the wool is still wool and not as luxurious feeling against your skin as other options, the shirts look great, but don’t quite look standard. Overall the cuts also trend towards a boxier look, which can be tough depending on your body shape. No white option.
Overall: Classic style and a classic cut, this is the most conservative of the options and the most odor resistant. It’s 100% merino, but not obviously something non-standard so it blends in quite well. It is perfect for travel and multi-day wear. It resists wrinkles well, and unlike some of the others I have yet to see it actually look dirty. It is the most performant shirt here.
Ministry of Supply Aero
The Good: The shirt is incredibly light, and the vented armpits really make a difference. The material looks fantastic and blends in well, a wide variety of styles and cuts. The collars are top notch and unmatched on this list. The cuts are very flattering and more modern.
The Not Good: It picks up odors faster than others on this list, and can often start smelling after an active 10 hour day, so if you commute that’s something to note.
Overall: The cuts, collar, and style options are robust and cannot be ignored. The shirt is also extremely comfortable, especially in warmer environments. The only downside with these is that they pick up smells quickly, but if you can, or are OK, with washing a shirt after each wear, these are hard to beat. They never wrinkle and the collars always look crisp as do the bodies of the shirts. Great shirts.
The Good: There is no better fabric on this list, it feels amazing against your skin and drapes and looks perfect. There is a large offering of cuts so that you can find something that fits you well.
The Not Good: The collars tend to lay out after prolonged wear and don’t stay as perky as others on this list, and the lack of styles is a big issue.
Overall: If someone can tell by looking that this is not cotton, then they are someone worth talking to. This is a quietly performant shirt. If the collar was button down this shirt would be at or near the top, but as it is it doesn’t hold its place as well as others. The comfort of this shirt is fantastic and it won’t stink too bad after a day, but will require a quick rinse to rid the smell if you want to wear it again.
The Good: Lots of size and style options, with a larger variety of louder styles and brighter colors. The stretch is awesome in these and makes the shirt quite comfortable.
The Not Good: The cuffs and collars are overly thick, and the material has a synthetic look and the shirts pick up odors very quickly — even odors from exterior smells like a BBQ place.
Overall: Looks crisp, but also doesn’t look like cotton. The collars and cuffs are thick and a turn off for many. While the shirt stretches well, there are better options out there.
Outlier S140 One Pocket
The Good: Luxurious feeling merino wool, smart cut, and pivot sleeve.
The Not Good: Expensive, limited color options, and a very causal look.
Overall: The cut and styling is perfect for the office, as are the color options. However the fabric is soft and has a heavy drape which makes it look more like a pajama shirt than a crisp office shirt. While I like the fabric and the fit of the shirt, it is almost athleisure levels of casual.
Outlier Albini Hidden Placket
The Good: The material is amazing, and odor/wrinkle resistant. The cut and fit is fantastic.
The Not Good: The price is very high, and the style of the shirt overall lends itself to a more casual untucked environment.
Overall: The fabric is amazing, but the style pulls it more towards casual and an untucked approach which doesn’t work well in offices. The shirt is very thin, and silky smooth, so it is worth considering if your office is more jeans and t-shirt levels of casual.
Bonobos Tech Stretch
The Good: It’s cotton, so you can get it in crisp white, and there is also stretch so it is slightly better than a standard cotton shirt.
The Not Good: There is a general lack of wrinkle resistance despite it claiming otherwise, and it can be more difficult to get the shirt to press flat.
Overall: If you are scared by everything else, this is a cotton shirt with stretch and a more comfortable option, but not worth the up charge over a standard cotton oxford.
My pick is the Ministry of Supply Aero without a doubt. The cut and wide variety of options while keeping the price in check makes these shirts a good bargain for any office worker. They offer both button down, and poplin styles which increases the versatility of the shirt. While they are designed more to keep you cool than warm, they still layer quite well.
Bluffworks would give the Aero a run for its money if they offered a wider selection of patterns, and perhaps added a button down collar option. Likewise, Wool & Prince would be hard to beat if they offered trimmer cuts to their shirts.
When I want to look sharp in the office, I grab an Aero dress shirt and pair it with my Futureworks.
Some Other Options Not Reviewed
- Ministry of Supply Composite Merino: Not tested, but looks rather casual. If this is the same fabric as the Composite Polo, it is definitely too casual for a business casual environment.
- Ministry of Supply Apollo 3: I previously had one, and found the drape to make the shirt look too casual. However, the fabric is stellar from a performance and comfort perspective.
Getting Started: What to Buy
I would recommend starting with three shirts, with this base you should have no problem handling a full work week and could even get away with only washing a load of laundry once in the week. Here’s what I would buy:
- Bluffworks Meridian in Highland Gray Check: this is one of my most worn shirts. The coloring will stand out a bit but it goes with everything and hides any potential stains/dirt well. It can be dressed up a touch for business or dressed down easily for evenings.
- Ministry of Supply Aero in White: The thing about this shirt is that it rocks in the heat and dries insanely fast. You could have just this shirt and wash it every night and hang it to dry and wear it the next day. That’s the bonus of a white shirt, everyone assumes it is a different one because they assume you own a few. I linked to the polyester not the nylon version, as I have yet to try the nylon.
- Wool&Prince Button Down in Light Gray: versatile color which will work well for the evenings and the day. This shirt can be worn 3+ times in a week without washing and still smell and look fresh. My only complaint is that I bought a patterned color when solid would have been a smarter choice.
Those are the shirts and colors I would start with to build a wardrobe for business casual — they will serve you well.