How to iron your shirt quickly and flawlessly

I'm not opposed to the increasing casualisation of office attire, but if you're going to wear a collared shirt to work, you should wear it properly – and that means ironing it beforehand.

Actually, even if you're wearing a shirt outside the office (say, on a date), it will look better ironed. And tucked in. Trust me.

Admittedly, ironing shirts is a bit of a chore. But once you master the technique, each shirt should only take a couple of minutes to iron start-to-finish. That's 10 minutes of ironing per working week – a small price to pay for sartorial excellence.

Ready, set, iron

Shirts iron best when they're a bit damp, so either remove them from the clothesline or dryer slightly early or use a spray bottle (or the spray function on your iron) to spritz them beforehand. 

This sounds obvious, but make sure your iron is set to the correct temperature for the garments you are ironing and ensure it's full of water. A too-cool iron with insufficient water for steam will slow you down.

Whether or not you use starch for an extra-crisp finish is up to you. But take heed: using too much starch can make your shirts stiff, which is uncomfortable and looks weird.

Popping collars

Never start by ironing the main torso of a shirt – it will just re-crease when you move on to the smaller sections. 

Instead, begin by ironing the collar. Iron the underside first, then flip over to the exposed side, working from the outer edge inwards. 

Next, iron the shoulder panels. Hang the shirt from the tip of the ironing board and roll the iron across the panel, adjusting the shirt as necessary. 

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Cuffing season

The cuffs come next. As with the collar, begin with the inside and then iron the outer side. Take care to avoid the buttons, which can be damaged by the heat.

Now, iron the sleeves. Lay the first sleeve on the board with the cuff opening facing upwards, ensuring the sleeve is flush against the board. Then, iron from the armpits to the cuffs in long, straight motions. Flip the sleeve and repeat.

The main game

It's now time to tackle the torso. Some ironing how-to guides will suggest ironing the inside of torso and then ironing the outside, but Executive Style's suggestion is to skip the inside entirely: it's time consuming and doesn't do anything you can't achieve by ironing the outside.

Start by laying one side of the front of the shirt on the ironing board, with collar at the tip of the board. The remainder of the shirt should be hanging off the side. Iron this section, then re-position the shirt so the outside back is lying flat on the board with both sides hanging down. Finally, iron the other half of the front of the shirt.

Finishing touches

Always hang your ironed shirts with the buttons done up right to the neck, so the collar keeps its shape. 

And don't be shy: wear a tie (there's a reason they've been on-trend for hundreds of years).

Dan's writing on style, travel and more has appeared in The New York Times, the Australian Financial Review, Condé Nast Traveller and others. He is based in Sydney.

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