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The 12 Best Performance Dress Shirts

Much-needed material improvements for the traditional style.


For the professional man with a proclivity for sweat, hope is out there. If you melt in traditional dress shirts, whether because they're too thick or simply too tight, there are other options available. Some trade their hefty cotton construction for a mix of breathable materials, while others simply add stretch so the shirts have a little give. But it isn't as easy as feeling whether the shirts stretch or not.

What Are Performance Fabrics?

Performance fabrics that were once exclusive to athletic apparel are now being made appropriate for business meetings and dressier nights out. These next-gen, high-tech shirts keep you cool and collected when the temperatures turn up, so while others keep a change of clothes close by, you’ll be dry, cool and unwrinkled.

That's the main draw, says shirting expert, and State & Liberty co-founder, Lee Moffie.

"First and foremost is going to be comfort," he says. "The 4-way stretch allows for guys to wear the shirt a little more fitted than a traditional dress shirt without sacrificing comfort. Next is going to be the performance aspect of the shirt. The fabric not only keeps guys cool and dry throughout the day but it also lasts longer and looks sharp over multiple wears and washes. Last is the easy care. The performance fabric is wrinkle-free and can be machine washed which means they travel well and guys can save hundreds of dollars a year by not having to dry clean their dress shirts."

Terms to Know

  • Performance: The "performance" denotation implies the fabrics used on this shirt were first used in athletic arenas. They'll likelier be better at moisture wicking, breathing and stretching.
  • Commuter, Traveler, Movement: Terms like these, which conjure long trips or busy commutes, imply the shirts they describe will be comfortable in these tight-quartered environments. Think of them as substitutes for terms like performance.
  • Stretch: Stretch refers to a shirt's ability to give to your body's natural movements. Maybe you lift your arms above your head to hold onto the subway rail, or your bike to work. Essentially, the shirt won't suffocate you — meaning you don't have to worry about it ripping at the seams.
  • COOLMAX: COOLMAX is a polyester-based fabric trademarked and sold by The Lycra Company. Although there are similar polyester blends out there, this one is a brand name. Look for it employed in the shirt's official name: like the Brooks Brothers Madison COOLMAX Dress Shirt.

    Materials to Look for

    "Traditionally a performance dress shirt is one that is made from technical, man-made fabrics," Moffie, our expert, says. Below you'll find a breakdown of these materials. "These dress shirts are meant to perform and withstand the wear and tear of everyday life. These dress shirts are stretchy, moisture wicking, wrinkle-free, durable and easy care."

    • Spandex
    • Polyester
    • Lyocell
    • Modal
    • Nylon
    • Bamboo
    • Elastane

      The Best Performance Dress Shirts for Men

      Rhone Commuter Shirt

      Best Overall Performance Dress Shirt
      Rhone Commuter Shirt

      • Can be machine washed, saving you a trip to the dry cleaner
      • Patented anti-odor technology prevents unwanted odors
      • Hidden button collar keeps the collar down

      • Comes untucked sometimes because of its short tail

      Rhone's Commuter Shirt saves those, as the name suggests, commuting — either cramped on a subway or slouched in the driver's seat — from the hassle of having to refresh themselves upon arrival. The shirt proves machine washable and interwoven nylon and elastane offer natural wrinkle release.

      Faherty Movement Shirt

      Best Upgrade Performance Dress Shirt
      Faherty The Movement Shirt

      • Comes in a number of colors and patterns to match your suit
      • Machine washable on cold with similar colors
      • Mostly cotton, which makes it more comfortable to wear

      • Spread collar isn't for everyone

      Founded by Mike Faherty, a designer who rose through the ranks at Ralph Lauren, Faherty produces an array of staples inspired by sun and surf — and New England prep styles. Cut from a proprietary blend of cotton, lyocell, nylon and spandex, their Movement Shirt appeases both camps by guaranteeing a good-looking, albeit traditional, fit but with plenty of stretch at stress points. Pick from a few plaid colorways, several gingham patterns or your usual solids.

      Gap Performance Poplin Shirt

      Best Affordable Performance Dress Shirt
      Gap Performance Poplin Shirt

      • Comes in a regular or tall size for folks with longer arms
      • COOLMAX technology helps the shirt breathe, keeping you regulated even in a hot office

      • Button-down collar is an annoying challenge for tie wearers

      Cut from a blended stretch poplin fabric with moisture-wicking CoolMax tech, Gap's Performance Poplin Shirt comes in two cuts and nearly a dozen colors. Plus, given the brand's inclination for ongoing sales, the shirt is usually under $50.

      Brooks Brothers Madison COOLMAX Dress Shirt

      Brooks Brothers Madison Performance COOLMAX Dress Shirt
      Brooks Brothers

      This option is the best of a Brooks Brothers dress shirt crossed with an "athleisure" item. It's non-iron, courtesy of its broadcloth base woven from 120s Supima cotton. You can choose between fits, sleeve lengths and collar sizes, but this style only comes in one color — the white hue you see here.

      Bonobos Jetsetter Stretch Dress Shirt

      Bonobos Jetsetter Stretch Dress Shirt

      Long flights guarantee at least a few wrinkles — and who the hell, in their right mind, would want to wear a dress shirt during one? (Writer David Coggins would argue otherwise.) Bonobos' Jetsetter option betters the experience by transforming the tailored shirt into a travel-friendly top. Cotton and spandex complement one another, and collar stays to ensure you'll stay intact.

      Mizzen and Main Lightweight Leeward Dress Shirt

      Mizzen + Main Leeward Dress Shirt
      Mizzen + Main

      The Leeward Dress Shirt looks like your typical sheer suiting staple, but its 88 percent polyester and 12 percent spandex construction promises comfortability, super-fast drying, steadfast anti-wrinkle support and zero pilling. It's also available in an array of colors.

      Ministry of Supply Apollo Shirt

      Ministry of Supply Apollo Shirt
      Ministry of Supply

      Cut from 57 percent polyester and 53 percent polyester infused with NASA's temperature-regulating Phase Change technology, Ministry of Supply's aptly named Apollo shirt offers the same performance abilities of athletic apparel with the look of something more formal. This iteration is slimmer through the body, moisture-wicking and boasts a curved hem you can wear tucked into pants under a blazer or undone — if you're striving for a more casual feel.

      State & Liberty The Springer Shirt

      State & Liberty The Springer Shirt

      State & Liberty's shirts are made from the brand's proprietary Athletic Performance Fabric, a blend of polyester and spandex. But most are cut with an athletic fit, which flatters without being too form-fitting. Sure, a lot of NFLers wear this one, but you don't need to be built like one to wear it. The shoulders are tailored, while a hidden button collar stay helps keep it upright.

      Twillory Performance Closer Shirt

      Twillory Performance Closer Shirt

      While most performance dress shirts come in standard shirt sizing — XS-XL — you order your Twillory shirts like true made-to-measure ones: by selecting your fit, size and sleeve length. This makes for a more personalized fit, creating a shirt that's less universal and more true to just you. Every single one, though, comes made from a 4-way stretch fabric made with COOLMAX's moisture-wicking tech. Plus, this one has a non-iron wrinkle-resistant treatment so you'll never look too disheveled — even after a red eye.

      All Citizens The Lightweight Performance Dress Shirt

      All Citizens The Lightweight Performance Dress Shirt

      All Citizens' performance dress shirt — performance is in the name — is surprisingly affordable considering the tech employed. You can pick from two fabric types, Lightweight or All-Weather, which emphasize breathability or water- and wrinkle-resistance respectively. Both come with 360-degree stretch and a tailored body that lends itself to being worn tucked or untucked. But there's even further personalization available, too: You can pick your size, fit and sleeve length.

      Untuckit Wrinkle-Free Performance Shirt

      Untuckit Wrinkle-Free Performance Shirt

      Untuckit's most popular performance dress shirt comes in three colors, white, navy and black. No matter which you choose, it'll complement a solid pair of slacks or a two-piece suit. Plus, you won't overheat, and the shirt obviously won't wrinkle. It's made from nylon and elastane, so it stretches, and you can order it in five different fits.

      ESQ Angelo Bamboo Blue Dress Shirt

      ESQ Angelo Bamboo Blue Shirt

      Bamboo — yes, bamboo — gives ESQ's performance fabric dress shirt its softness and breathability. Over a decade of tailoring done at their Chicago shop informs the brand's cuts, which are classic yet flattering. Plus, not only does its composition — 48.5 percent bamboo, 48.5 percent microfiber and 3 percent lycra — prevent wrinkles but it also deters odors and wicks sweat.

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