Once upon a time, your average Joe would have had around a dozen shirts – all in blue or white to go with his grey flannel suit. Sure, these trusty workhorses did the job, but men have become a little more adventurous and demanding when it comes to their dress shirts.
The right shirt should be the cornerstone of your wardrobe. It’s one of, if not the first thing, you put on in the morning and it’s your last line of defense, so it’s worthwhile having a solid rotation incorporating the classic white and blues, along with a healthy dose of stripes, checks and patterns.
Here’s our list of the essentials; the foundations of a solid shirting wardrobe that will safely take you from the boardroom through to the weekend without any blunders.
The White Shirt
Seldom is there an occasion when wearing a white shirt is not appropriate. From black tie to boardroom to barbeque, a man wearing a white shirt always looks good – as long as it’s made from 100% Egyptian cotton, is clean, fits well, has all buttons intact and has met an iron recently.
Whilst we’re certainly glad that tastes and dress codes have broadened to encapsulate other colours and patterns in men’s shirts, it can’t be disputed that there are advantages to a moderate, restrained look in the office. You could do worse than look practical, sober and disciplined. The beauty of having a few white shirts in your wardrobe is that they act as a great contrast with a dark suit and show off a colourful tie in any hue
Far from being an unadventurous choice, especially when channeling a professional look with a suit and tie, there is no shame in representing a fine tradition that has served many stylish men for generations. When you really want to distinguish yourself, we recommend Barberini, made from Sea Island Cotton and Chantrella, made from Loro Piana fabric. Trust us, you won’t want to wear anything else once you’ve tried these.
The Blue Shirt
Everything goes with a blue shirt. When white seems too plain, subbing in a blue shirt in anything from the palest of sky blues to the deepest cerulean hues will lift your outfit from pedestrian to pow!
Similar to the white shirt, the blue shirt is highly versatile when it comes to colour-coordination, but some of the best go-to combinations if you’re thinking of wearing a tie or pocket square with a blue shirt are: dark blue/navy, orange (a complementary colour), red (contrasting colour) for a powerful look, yellows (either in mustard or gold and even extending to browns) and green (particularly dark forest green).
For a particularly debonair look, try Rosatch (pictured above) made from Loro Piana fabric.
The Contrasting Collar Shirt
There are few items of men’s clothing that divide opinion like the banker shirt, but whatever your opinion, nothing says power dressing quite like a shirt with a contrasting collar.
Remember, one of the most important functions of male attire is to lead the viewer’s eye towards the face, and by virtue of proximity to the face and the alignment of angle, scale and mass, no article of male apparel is better suited to enhancing a man’s face than the white collar shirt. The contrast between the white collar and cuff and the shirting fabric is perfect for drawing attention to your face, especially if you have a high contrast complexion.
Because there’s already the sharp contrast of the white collar, these shirts call for a careful hand when choosing the right tie. If you go for stripes, just remember the rules: The stripes have to be contrasting in scale.
The Striped Shirt
The striped shirt is a classic. Whether you choose pencil, hairline or Bengal stripes, you should definitely have at least a few of these hanging in your wardrobe. As a general rule, the wider the stripe, the less formal the shirt becomes. But truth be told, a striped shirt is as at home on the business circuit as its plainer or solid coloured cousins.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when choosing striped shirts:
- Wearing a striped shirt is flattering to the figure, lengthening the torso, and can add extra dimension to a suit and tie.
- Scale is key when mixing patterns (check out our blog for more detail). Generally, when combining a striped shirt with a striped tie, the size of each pattern should be as different from the other as possible. However, if choosing a striped shirt with a different pattern (motif or paisley for example), the opposite is true; the patterns should be similar in size.
- To some extent, the amount of contrast found in a man’s complexion should dictate the degree of contrast found in a striped shirt. So for any of our low contrast complexion readers i.e. most fair headed gents with a lighter skin tone, tread carefully when it comes to multi striped shirts with more than a couple of colours, lest you draw attention away from your visage. Check out our blog for tips on dressing for your complexion.
The Checked Shirt
Not all checks were created equal. There’s a myriad of check patterns out there, from graph check to gingham, tattersall to tartan and everything in between.
Similar to the striped shirt, the larger the check and the more colours involved, the more casual the shirt becomes. The only exception perhaps is the windowpane check; even with its large scale, it is a classic design that still retains its formality.
The same rules for striped shirts regarding scale and contrast also apply to checked shirts. So if mixing checks with stripes, make sure the stripes are similar in size. If mixing checks with checks, the size of the checks should be substantially different. If in doubt, a solid coloured tie paired with a checked shirt will always have you emerging sartorially triumphant from the rest of the pack.