Along the spectrum of necessity, men’s white shirts sit somewhere between underpants and a toothbrush. They are a wardrobe essential that you should own and in fact, have several in your rotation.
Throughout most of the 19th Century, men’s shirts were actually classed as underwear, made from linen and designed to keep sweat away from the outer garments and protect the body from coarse outerwear materials. Only the collar and cuffs of men’s white shirts were visible. Up until the end of the nineteenth century, men’s white shirts were considered the epitome of male elegance, for it signaled that the wearer did not work with his hands and obviously had enough money to have his white shirts washed frequently. At a time when a large proportion of the population was poor, wearing a white shirt signaled prestige. Ever since, a beautifully made white shirt, more than any other item of men’s clothing, has served to distinguish a gentleman with style and elegance.
Men’s white shirts – a mainstay of the white-collar wardrobe
Men’s white shirts were a mainstay of the “white-collar” wardrobe for much of the mid 20th century, for wearing any other colour would have sent the wrong message. i.e. you’re an up-start or a rebel not capable of towing the company line. Have a look at the hit series Mad Men, set in the 1960s and you can see men’s white shirts dominated, so much so, Don Draper had a stack of them in his desk drawer at work (check out our style icon blog on Don Draper). For a dependable, everyday wardrobe staple, Philippe Perzi Vienna’s Alles Klar shirt fits the bill.
Men’s white shirts – refined, dependable, versatile
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. See some of the examples below showing the same white shirt, Edelweis paired with different ties and pocket squares.
Men’s white shirts – From black tie to boardroom to BBQ
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. Men’s white shirts are 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 a style icon well throughout the ages – see our style icon blogs dedicated to lovers of men’s white shirts, Harvey Specter and Gianni Agnelli. Check out Edelweis and Franz Joseph for men’s white shirts that are ideal for ceremonial occasions or for when you really want to distinguish yourself, Ferdinand with self satin stripes, pictured below. Trust us, the fabric drapes beautifully.
The only word of advice when choosing men’s white shirts, is that they can drain away what little natural colour men exude. So beware if you have a very pale complexion, and be sure to add some serious colour. See our blog on your complexion and matching colours for more details.
Whilst men’s white shirts certainly have evolved from being little more than linen undergarments, to the foundation of any respectable gentleman’s wardrobe, what hasn’t changed is the realisation by sophisticated dressers that a high quality white shirt is an integral and highly revealing gesture of style, and the cornerstone of a true gentleman’s wardrobe. Start shopping!