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Shirt glossary

A

Acrylic

An entirely synthetic fibre, often used as a low-cost replacement for wool, although it is of inferior quality.

B

Batik

A technique that originated in tropical countries that involved making smudges on a fabric using wax before dying. Nowadays batik is made using silk screens or regular printing.

Batiste

A kind of transparent or semi-transparent fabric that can be made from linen or cotton, and generally used in luxurious shirts. These fabrics generally originate in Egypt.

Butterfly collar

Appeared in the 1970s in Europe and the USA, these excessively long and wide collars (sometimes referred to as disco shirts by retro clothing sites) are sometimes worn open at the chest.

Button-down collar

This collar style was invented by the American Brooks Brothers company. The soft collar is attached to the body of the shirt by two small buttons.

C

Calico

A rustic cotton fabric used for work shirts and uniforms. Printed patterns used to be applied to the fabric using wooden blocks.

Chambray

A fabric named after the town of the same name. A “denim”-style fabric used for casual shirts, made from one coloured thread and one white thread.

Changeant

From the French word for “changeable” this term refers to weaves where the warp and weft threads feature strongly contrasting colours, with an appearance that ranges from shiny to a somewhat dull sheen.

Cloque

With a name that comes from the French word for “blistered,” this term originally referred to two fabric layers that were shrunk in different ways, giving a wrinkled effect after washing. The name is currently applied to many different fabrics with a pronounced relief effect.

Collar stay

This refers to the pieces used to stiffen and straighten the edges of a collar so that a shirt collar retains its shape. They can be built into the collar or removable. The benefit of removable collar stays is that they can be removed when the shirt is washed to prevent deterioration over time, when they can furl at the edges. The disadvantage is that they can easily be mislaid.

Cotton count

A number allocated to a thread when it is spun, depending on its weight by length, with higher numbers representing finer yarns. The cotton count of shirt fabrics varies between 16 and 200.

Corduroy

A fabric with variable thickness, creating distinctive ridges, which can be made from all kinds of material including wool, silk or cotton, and can even be a stretch fabric.

Crêpe

A crêpe look is obtained by weaving the warp threads extremely tightly, resulting in a texture that is extremely resistant to creasing.

Cuff

The cuff is the part of the shirt at the end of the sleeves, typically available in “classic” or “French” forms.

Cufflinks

Name given to accessories that allow so-called “French cuffs” to be done up. Cufflinks are among the few accessories that men can wear with a suit.

D

Denim

A fabric used in jeans that originated in the city of Nimes. The tight weave is generally made from cotton fibre, with a dyed warp thread (generally indigo blue) and the weft thread is white, with a diagonal, herringbone pattern.

Detachable collar

A removable collar that is attached to the shirt via a button at the base of the collar. It is used very rarely nowadays, although the American writer, Tom Wolfe, still favours this style.

E

End on end

A fabric for shirts, where two coloured threads are alternated. This technique is used to create plain fabrics, giving a distinctive mottled effect.

Eyelet

A technique where any areas cut out of the fabric are surrounded by stitching. An old technique that has regained some popularity with particular stylists.

F

Flannel

A cotton or woollen fabric with two combed or carded sides. Generally used for casual and particularly checked shirts.

G

Gingham

Gingham is a fabric, as worn by Brigitte Bardot, with small checks that alternate between white and another colour.

H

Half Windsor

A tie knot that, one tied, assumes a triangular shape. It is generally worn with traditional collars with a smaller space between the pointed edges compared to spread collars. Thinner and easier to tie than the Windsor knot, it is particularly suitable for thinner neckties.

Handwoven

Handwoven fabrics are made by hand and can generally be recognised by irregularities in the weaving.

Hem gusset

Strengthening added to the bottom of the shirt at the specific point where the front and the back of the shirt are joined (generally longer at the back to ensure that the shirt remains tucked in to the trousers).

I

Interlock

A double weave with the front and back

Irish linen

An extremely light linen fabric used in Irish shirts.

J

Jacquard

Fabrics or weaves with inbuilt patterns or designs. The name comes from the inventor of the first machine capable of creating these designs. When the design is formed by alternating shiny and matte variations of a single colour, it is known as Damask.

Jersey

A generic name for knitted materials, originally applied to cloth produced on the island of Jersey. In the 1960s and 1970s, very fine jersey fabrics were created that allowed shirts to follow the contours of the body extremely closely.

L

Lamé

A fabric in which simulated gold or silver threads are incorporated.

M

Made-to-measure

A shirt made to the customer’s specific measurements. All parts of the shirt can be personalised along the lines offered by Swann & Oscar, specialists in men’s made-to-measure shirts.

Madras

A very colourful plaid fabric that originated in India.

Moiré

A fabric made from silk or a silk blend, with a wavy appearance obtained by pressing two layers on top of one another in a roller press.

O

Openwork

Aerated fabric, made by removing threads or cutting away fabric pieces to create a design.

P

Paisley

Originally a term that referred to ladies’ shawls only that followed a design created in India (hence it was also known as Cashmere), later linked to Paisley in Scotland. Nowadays, Paisley print is also used for shirts.

Peau de pêche

A cotton fabric with a velvety surface that resembles the skin of a peach – its name means “peach skin” in French.

Pin Point

Pin Point fabric combines the durability of Oxford weave with the flexibility of poplin. It is therefore a thinner fabric than Oxford, due to its unique weave, with the weft yarn passing over two warp threads then below the next two warp threads. Like Oxford weave, only the warp threads are dyed.

Piqué

A fabric with raised cords that make it look like the fabric has been pricked with a pin. It also refers to geometric shapes or Jersey patterns with a similar appearance.

Popelin

Poplin is a cotton fabric with warp threads that are more tightly woven than the weft threads, giving a diagonal ribbing effect.

R

Ribbed twill

A cotton fabric that shows off the diagonal structure of the weaving

S

Satin

A name given to fabrics where “floating” threads are not constantly criss-crossed by other threads, giving them their sheen.

Seersucker

A cotton fabric that is partly treated with a shrinking agent, giving it a lumpy appearance. Previously used for nightgowns (where there was no need to iron them) and nowadays for shirts, shorts, and jackets.

Shirt Collar

The shirt collar is the top part of the shirt, used to do it up around the neck. It is available in a variety of different shapes.

Sleeves

Parts of the shirt where the arms are inserted. They can be long or short.

Spread collar (also known as a cutaway collar)

This is easily recognisable due to its flare: instead of converging, the two outer points face away from each other.

Suede

Leather made from the underside of the skin, which is on the outside of the garment.

T

Tab collar

The tab collar is a short collar, typically four centimetres high, that falls almost vertically. Its most distinctive feature is the way that the outer edges are linked to each other via a standard button or a popper.

Terry

This is a wool or cotton fabric, also known as ratine, with a thread that is curled on the outer edges, giving a fuzzy effect.

Tie

A tie is an accessory to men’s outfits, tied in a knot around the neck beneath the shirt collar.

Towelling

A fabric made from curled threads, usually used for bathrobes but also for some polo shirts.

Two-ply

A spinning technique, with the yarn being wound around itself to add strength to the thread while tightly binding the fibres to one another. Two aspects can influence the final result when a using twisted yarns: the number of twists, which can range from 100 to 200 per metre, and the direction of the twist. In effect, most twisted (two-ply) yarns are spun in the opposite direction from the single-ply threads that they are made from. This technique enhances the quality, resistance, and thickness of the thread. A true two-ply fabric is made up of a two-ply weft thread and a two-ply warp thread.

V

Velvet

A tufted, double warp yarn fabric made from cotton, wool, or a mixture of the two.

Viyella

A fabric made up of 45% cotton and 55% Merino wool.

Voile

A very fine, transparent cloth with a name that comes from the French word for sail.

W

Weave

The weave describes the way in which the warp and weft threads that make up a fabric cross one another. The warp thread is the vertical thread and the weft thread is the horizontal thread. There are three basic types of weave: twill, satin, and plain weave. All other weaves are derived from one of these three types.

Windsor

The Windsor knot is a way of tying a tie, invented by the Duke of Windsor. It is bulky and must be worn with a wide collar, such as a spread collar, in order to ensure that there is enough space. It is also known as a double knot.

Wing collar

A wing collar is generally only worn with a dinner jacket (also known as a tuxedo) and only ever worn with a bow tie.

Y

Yoke

The part of the back of the shirt, immediately beneath the neck, over the shoulders.