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How to Fold Dress Shirts

Folding Dress Shirts: The Fight Against Wrinkles

If you’re like me, you probably hang up your dress shirts — or any collared button downs. Just throw them on a hanger and done. Now I get it,  folding them can seem a bit daunting. However, no one has to learn origami to get them folded right and ready for packing. There are a few different ways to fold  ‘good’ shirts so let’s walk through these easy methods.


Method #1: Folding Dress Shirts 101

This is my favorite method because it’s basically impossible to mess up. This is the foundation I built my professional style off of.

Simply lay the shirt button-side down on a flat surface, AKA a bed or counter or whatever.. 

Next, fold the right sleeve and side about ¾ of the way across the back, allowing the cuff to touch where the elbow would be.

Then, fold the sleeve down so that the cuff touches the hem. Now do the same thing on the other side. I like to try folding the sleeve and part of the side to the right, then folding the sleeve to touch the hem. Once those sleeves are folded, pull the bottom edge of the hem so it touches the top of the shirt, right under the collar.

Pro Tip: Run a hand over each fold to keep it smooth.

Now flip the shirt over and behold!

The  shirt looks brand-spanking-new like it just came off the rack!

Sure, this method needs a little practice to get perfect, but since it’s so simple, it can be practiced to perfection. The more precise the technique, the smoother the shirt. There’s something really meditative about practicing this. I know it seems weird to literally practice a shirt-folding technique, but getting really good at this method is one of those small ways that I make sure I’m telegraphing that I’ve got my life together. 


Method #2:  Folding Dress Shirts Accordion Style

The finished folded shirt in this method will look a lot like the first one. The major difference here will be except for the way the sleeves get folded.. Here is how this method works:

Put the dress shirt button side down, as in the first method. Then fold the right-side sleeve and a small part of the side of the shirt across until the cuff touches where the elbow would be.

Deep breath here—this part is where it gets a bit tricky. Fold the sleeve back until it’s in line with the collar of the shirt, folding back towards the left side until the cuff touches the last fold. It should look like an accordion fold as the sleeve is folded in 3 parts.

After  folding the sleeves, the shirt should look like a long rectangle, with the sides lining up with the collar. Then simply fold the hem of the shirt so that it touches the collar and flip the shirt over.

Sure, the first method is easier because getting the accordion fold can be frustrating. But, a lot of guys I know really prefer this method because mastering this technique can lead to faster folding. Try both of these a few times, and whichever one feels the most comfortable the quickest is definitely the right one.  

Now, If you’re packing your shirts instead of putting them in a drawer, you may prefer to simply roll the shirt. It reduces wrinkles and keeps things fresh, especially when done right. A lot of folks also swear that this saves room in their limited carryon as well.

So, what’s the best way to roll?


Method #3: Get Rolling!

Place the shirt button side down on a flat surface then fold the whole shirt in half so that the hem of one sleeve meets the other. It’s key to carefully crease the collar so it lies flat as can be. Put both hands into it to fold and smooth the collar, ensuring it won’t buckle in transit..

Next, fold those sleeves backward across the body of the shirt so that the cuff touches the hem. The shoulders of the sleeves should just touch the collar of the shirt. Smooth the shirt down -and make sure to keep smoothing as the roll gets tighter.  This is the biggest key to avoiding wrinkles.

Of course, wrinkles happen and no one can totally eliminate them, but the proper folding method helps, big time.

So what determines how much wrinkling a shirt will have?

There are a lot of factors at play here:  

  • The fabric type and weave of the shirt. Cotton and linen are notorious wrinklers. Shirts with some polyester in them definitely reduce wrinkles. Rule of thumb: if it doesn’t come from nature, it wrinkles way less.
  • How long the clothing has been folded. The shirts at the back of your dresser or closet, may be more wrinkle-y. The longer a shirt is folded, the greater the wrinkles. It’s that simple. That’s why road-warriors and travel hounds swear by rule 3. They never are in one place long enough for their rolled clothes to even have the chance to wrinkle. 
  • How much other stuff is in your suitcase or drawer. Packing clothes super tightly into a drawer means they will wrinkle much quicker. The easiest way to prevent wrinkles is to simply leave the clothes a little breathing room. 

Final Words on Wrinkles: 

When packing and folding dress shirts, a quick life saver is a small travel steamer. They work great and sort out the small mistakes that come with travel and commuting to work.

After you unpack, you can steam the wrinkles out of the clothing before hanging them up.

And of course there’s also the hot shower method: get a hot shower going and hang the shirt in the bathroom and the steam will remove the wrinkles.