Note: this shirt was provided at no cost for review.
I am a huge fan of the Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt (our review) and think it is easily the best business casual shirt you could travel with. They are also some of my favorite shirts to wear to work even when not traveling — so when the Zenith shirt came out I couldn’t wait to try it.
Surprisingly, this is a very different shirt, so let me dive into it.
The Zenith shirt is a light weight shirt made out of 94% Polyester and 6% Spandex. Bluffworks states: “The fabric in this mens travel shirt is made from a high-performing polyester with wrinkle resistant properties and just the right amount of stretch. Plus, moisture-wicking and odor control keep you feeling fresh throughout the day. And, of course, it’s machine washable and easy to care for.”
I can vouch for the stretch, as it is surprising, given how the shirt drapes, that it has that much stretch. The handfeel is slightly rough with a crispness to the fabric itself. This makes is a complete opposite to the Meridian which has a softer drape and a very soft hand feel. There is no sheen to the material at all.
Fit and Style
Bluffworks offers a range of cuts and sizes, so you should be able to get a shirt that fits you well. The Large Slim Fit is a good fit, but slightly boxier than I would like through the waist.
What really makes this shirt stand apart is the drape and the collar. I think Bluffworks nailed this in their description of the shirt:
“So it’s versatile, styling well with a blazer for more formal occasions, layered under a vest for cooler weather, or worn over a t-shirt for a casual look. This blue dress shirt is our answer to the demand for a solid business shirt — this blue micro check reads as a solid color, perfect for dressing up or down.”
I think that’s an apt description and really nails it. This collar is fantastic, it is like a rotomolded collar that sits exactly where you want. That sounds bad, but truly my only complaint might be that it is too crisp. Which, on a scale of what annoys me more, is at the least annoying side of things.
There are three aspects to evaluate this shirt on: wrinkle resistance, odor resistance, and breathability. I already mention the shirt has great stretch, so there’s no need to dive into that more: it will move with you and be comfortable.
Breathability: here in hot and humid Houston, I can get a really fast sense for how well a shirt breathes. The Zenith shirt is the best breathing shirt I have as far as synthetic shirts go. Only light merino breathes better in my dress shirts. In fact, when the AC is blowing strongly this shirt can wear a bit cool at times.
Wrinkle Resistance: the Meridian is impressive with wrinkle resistance, you can pull it out of the wash and wear it as soon as it dries, or wad it up in your bag and pull it out and put it on. Sadly that’s not the case with the Zenith. You need to steam the wrinkles out after washing, and you can do so with the dryer. It doesn’t take a lot of work, but wrinkles do happen and take a slight bit of humidity to fall out. Seatbelts will also cause wrinkles. It’s on par with a wrinkle resistant cotton shirt. Not great, but not linen.
Odor resistance: again, this is not an area the Zenith excels at. It is not an odor magnate, you could certainly do an 18 hour day in it without finding odor to be a main issue, but not a fabric you can wear multiple times either.
From a performance stand point I think this makes for a very good business casual shirt, but is beaten out by other offerings for a travel shirt.
If this shirt had a touch better wrinkle resistance, I would by buying up all the colors of it. As it is, at $98, I think it represents a heck of a value. The closest competitor is the Ministry of Supply Aero Dress Shirt (our review) and I think the performance is slightly better than those shirts, while also being less expensive.
For shirts you wear to the office, and wash every day, the Zenith is certainly among the top ranks. For a travel shirt, I would pick the Meridian over the Zenith for any situation because the wrinkle resistance is far better on the Meridian.
That said, I will be looking to grab another Zenith, because come summer, I am going to be thankful for the light nature of this fabric.