(a) stuffed shirt meaning & examples

The image shows three elderly gentlemen in formal attire raising their hands as if they are saying something important, portraying the concept of stuffed shirts. "I work with a bunch of stuffed shirts who believe they're more important than everyone else and constantly compete for attention and recognition."

Idiom - a stuffed shirt meaning

(a) stuffed shirt meaning

  • A person who is very formal, serious, and thinks they are very important.

Idiom notes:

  • Singular and Plural:  This idiomatic phrase can describe one person (a stuffed shirt) or several people (stuffed shirts).
  • Criticism and disapproval:  This phrase is used as a way to criticize someone who cares too much about following rules, looking proper, and being overly serious. So, this is a negative term that expresses disapproval for people who may seem fake or pretentious (someone who tries to make themself seem more important, sophisticated or impressive than they really are).
  • Figurative meaning of stiffness and inflexibility:  If we look at the words themselves, we think of a shirt that is "stuffed" or filled with too much of something. If someone is wearing a shirt that is completely filled then it would be stiff and difficult to bend or move. Remember, idioms are not literal and have figurative meanings, so the idea here is that the person is stiff and inflexible; someone who is rigid and stuck in their ways.
  • Gender neutral:  The term "stuffed shirt" can be used to describe both men and women but it is most often used to describe men. And, remember, idioms are fixed phrases so you cannot say a "stuffed blouse" - unless you want people to be confused and look at you with a puzzled face. ;-)

Example sentences

— The office party was so boring because I was seated at the table with all the stuffed shirts.

— The junior staff secretly referred to our senior accountant as "SS" or "S Squared" as a code word for "stuffed shirt" because he constantly insists everyone follow rigid company protocols.

— My brother has always been a stuffed shirt. He mentions he graduated Harvard University no matter what the conversation is about to remind everyone how important and smart he is.

— The stuffed shirts I used to work with cared more about their egos than fostering a collaborative and supportive work environment.

— Aunt Petunia is such a stuffed shirt! She keeps nitpicking about proper table manners for our two-year old. We just want her to eat!

— Just keep in mind that Dr Bartley is a stuffed shirt and if you want a good grade, don't try to be creative with your assignments.

— I was thrilled to get a job as an administrative assistant at UBS but I had to spend my first six paychecks buying expensive suits to meet the dress code of the stuffed shirts in HR.

— I realize everyone hates me and calls me a stuffed shirt but I have standards and they do not.

— What's a good gift to give a stuffed shirt? A pocket watch? A bow tie? A Mont Blanc pen?

— It's frustrating to deal with a team of stuffed shirts who act as if they're above everyone else due to their titles and positions.

— My colleague is a real stuffed shirt. She always stops us in the middle of meetings to correct our grammar and vocabulary.

— Let's just invite some of the laid-back people from the communications department to join us for Happy Hour. I know the stuffed shirts might find out but I can't stand being around them all the time.

— Our new manager is such a stuffed shirt who insists on everyone wearing ties, even on casual Fridays.

— The stuffed shirt salesman lost many customers with his condescending attitude.

— Believe me, you're not going to be happy working for bunch of stuffed shirts who will demand you attend pointless meetings where they talk endlessly about problems but offer no solutions.

— I used to work for a bunch of stuffed shirts who cared more about their titles than actually getting the job done. The only thing I miss about that office is the better pay.

— I've never seen a police officer be such a stuffed shirt. He pulled over three drivers and reprimanded each of us for a different minor infraction.

—  I finally quit my job today because the director is a stuffed shirt and will never change:

  • Receptionist: The building's manager just informed us that the internet and power will not be restored today. Can our staff leave an hour early? 
  • Director: I'm sorry but I'm not bending the rules. We'll work until 5:30 PM as standard. 
  • Receptionist: Don't be such a stuffed shirt! I can take this anymore. I quit!


  • pompous windbag
  • high-and-mighty
  • holier-than-thou
  • stick-in-the-mud
  • a fuddy duddy
  • an empty suit

You might like these idioms

More idioms will be added in the future so check back frequently or sign-up for my free newsletter to learn about new updates to my website.

  1. Home Page
  2.  ›
  3. Idioms List
  4.  ›
  5. Idiom: Stuffed shirt meaning