Pleats are folds in the fabric of your clothing that give the garment shape.
You may be wondering right now why you need to know anything about the back pleat of your dress shirt.
Well, one reason is that back pleats affect the reach and movement you have in a shirt.
So there may be times that you want one particular style over another based on what you do in your dress shirts.
Your back pleat style can either make a shirt more comfortable to wear or downright uncomfortable.
Another reason is that pleats can also alter the entire appearance of your dress shirt, causing it to be either baggy or tapered, thus making it dressy or casual.
When you understand the different pleat styles, you may have an easier time shopping for dress shirts.
Rear Side Pleats
You may hear these pleats called “knife pleats.” Don’t be fooled; they are the same thing.
Rear side pleats sit directly under your shirt yoke near each shoulder blade.
Each rear side pleat is half an inch wide, which gives the top of your dress shirt two inches of extra fabric, making it roomier in your chest area.
This is an excellent pleat style for when you need to move your arms a lot.
The pleats are hardly noticeable, creating a primarily smooth back of your dress shirt. They allow the fabric to drape and follow the curve of your back.
Because of the subtlety of the rear side pleat, you’ll find it’s a nice style for your most professional business suits.
Center Box Pleat
The center box pleat is the most traditional form of back pleat, and you are likely to already own a few shirts in this style.
This pleat type is found mainly on store-bought button-up dress shirts.
It’s a more casual styling for your shirt, making it perfect for day-to-day and business-casual outfits.
Still, it is an acceptable pleat for dress shirts that you wear with a suit, too, especially if you keep your suit jacket on the entire time.
The center box pleat is formed by two folds next to each other in the center of your shirt, right under the yoke; they are so close they seem to form a square. Hence the name, box pleat.
Each side of this pleat is ¾”, adding three extra inches of movement to your shirt fabric!
If you tend to move a lot in your dress shirts, for example, lifting large boxes of files at work and dancing the night away after, you will do well with this type of dress shirt pleat.
The center box pleat is a perfect shirt style for men with sloped shoulders because they could use the extra room.
No Back Pleats
This dress shirt style is very straightforward; it has no back pleats at all.
Not including pleats in your dress shirt gives it very clean lines and results in a sleek appearance.
It also is tighter fitting because you get no extra movement from your dress shirt material.
No back pleats is a contemporary shirt design and is very dressy.
This isn’t a style you often see on dress shirts you buy off the rack.
Aside from the gorgeous cut, one of the best perks of this style is that it’s effortless to iron!
These shirt pleats aren’t located at the top like the others but on the lower back sides.
Rather than expanding and providing more fabric, dart pleats take away some of your shirt fabric.
A dart is created when the fabric is folded together and completely sewn down to the hem. It’s different from a pleat because a pleat is open at the bottom.
The result is a slim and tapered waist, giving you less room for movement.
This dress shirt style looks modern and quite structured.
Dart pleats will make you happy if you are into slim-fit dress shirts.
Locker Loop Box Pleat
You can’t top the locker loop box pleat for a sporty button-up shirt.
This box pleat version includes a loop directly above it, originally intended for hanging your shirt from a hook when you take it off to play sports.
The locker loop is paired with the box pleat because they are both naturally very casual, so they make a good pairing.
Western Yoke Back Pleat
No pleats to see here, folks!
This casual shirt style is all about the yoke. It’s a strip of fabric that runs from shoulder to shoulder across the top of your back.
Most yokes run across a straight line, but not the Western yoke.
This shirt has a distinctive curve on each shoulder. Then, it slopes down to meet in the center and form a point. It looks a bit like a very wide letter M.
Adding this stylization form means the Western yoke shirt can’t accommodate pleats.