Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a cheap dress shirt and an expensive one?
What warrants a dress shirt’s nearly $100 price tag? And if one costs so much, how can another brand sell a shirt for less than the price of 10 inflatable rubber chicken?
In this case study, we’re comparing these two products: the H&M Easy-iron Slim Fit Shirt (retail price $14.99) and the Brooks Brothers Non-Iron Milano Fit Spread Collar Dress Shirt (retail price $92).
First, a note on the pricing:
More often than not, you can find Brooks Brothers shirts on sale for much less than the retail $92 price. If you purchase 4 shirts, you can usually get each shirt for about $50. If you wear dress shirts every day at work and you know a size that fits you well, it only makes sense to buy 4 or more.
As for the H&M shirt, it costs retail $14.99. There are occasionally sales as well, but I’m not privy to exactly when.
I’ve purchased both of these shirts with my own money. The H&M shirt was purchased in slim fit size Small and the Brooks Brothers in neck size 14.5 and sleeve length 32 with the Milano Fit. At the end of the article, I’ll share which one I prefer and which one I feel is the best value.
Fit and Sizing
You’ll notice the first difference between the two shirts before you even purchase them. H&M follows the XS through XXL sizing system, whereas Brooks Brothers sells shirts by neck size and sleeve length. For first timers (myself included) it’ll take a tape measure to get the fit right. The neck/sleeve sizing system allows you to get a more accurate fit.
H&M’s fit is more contemporary, and their slim fit is slimmer than Brooks Brothers’ Milano Fit (formerly known as Extra-Slim Fit), which is Brooks Brothers’ slimmest fit.
- H&M: 65% polyester, 35% cotton
- Brooks Brothers: 100% Supima cotton
Both shirts have a poplin weave. The Brooks Brothers shirt’s material, however, is thicker and less translucent. The Brooks Brothers material all round seems to be a much brighter, vibrant white. With the H&M shirt, you can see the outline of an undershirt, even if it’s white. I haven’t worn the H&M shirt that often, but it looks like its almost pilling on the shoulder area.
The H&M shirt would have an opacity of 2 on the scale above, whereas the Brooks Brothers shirt would be about a 3 or 4.
I will note that not all Brooks Brothers shirts are made from the same material. While purchasing the Milano Fit Spread Collar Dress Shirt, I also purchased another Milano Fit dress shirt with French cuffs. I was surprised to see that material shirt with French cuffs was much thinner, and just felt cheaper – it would be a 2 on the opacity scale above.
The H&M slim fit shirt has thin plastic collar stays, but the collar still feels a bit floppy. The Brooks Brothers also has plastic collar stays, however the collar is larger and feels much more substantial and is very crisp. Both shirts have spread collars, but ties look much better with the Brooks Brothers shirt.
Have you ever wanted a dress shirt that you could throw in the washing machine like all your other clothes?
Check out our Ministry of Supply Future Forward Dress Shirt review. This shirt from Ministry of Supply is basically an athletic polyester running shirt with buttons and a collar. It feels like a t-shirt and I’ve even gone to sleep wearing it. In my opinion, it doesn’t look as sharp as a Brooks Brothers shirt, but it is much more comfortable and is easier to maintain.
Buttons and other shirt details
- Both shirts have barrel cuffs
- The buttons on both shirts are plastic. You’d expect a $92 shirt to at least have mother of pearl buttons.
- Both shirts are made in Asia; Brooks Brothers from Malaysia and H&M from Bangladesh.
- The Brooks Brothers shirt has a breast pocket, but the H&M shirt doesn’t. It doesn’t make much difference to me, as I find breast pockets to be completely useless.
Update for 2020
I started a new job which requires for me to dress up and ended up purchasing a total of 6 Brooks Brothers dress shirts. 5 in white (4 barrel cuffs and one French cuff), and one in a very subtle blue stripe. (I really like white shirts even though they’re a nuisance to maintain.) Most were spread collars and a couple button down collars. I spent about $50 each with Brooks Brothers’ multi-buy deal.
I’m a big believer in the “don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you have in your portfolio” principle, and I’ve spent about $300 on Brooks Brothers shirts, so there you have it.
Pricing aside, if I had to choose between the two, I would choose the Brooks Brothers shirt – it’s far superior to the H&M shirt in every respect, as I’ve detailed in the above comparison. The H&M shirt feels more casual and had a slightly better fit (for my frame), though. The main differences between the two were the materials and collars.
But which is the better value?
First, let’s be real: how often do you ever wear dress shirts?
It’s often the case that the expensive item in a man’s closet is the item he wears the least.
The H&M shirt is good for occasional wear for a season or two, but not much more. I haven’t had my Brooks Brothers shirt for very long, but I expect for it to last much longer than the H&M shirt. If you can get the Brooks Brothers shirt on sale for less than $60, I would say that it is a better deal than the $15 H&M shirt. At the full $92 retail price it’s overpriced.
What are your thoughts? Which one would you choose? Leave a comment below.