While suits and shoes are commonly considered as the most essential, central, parts of a man’s wardrobe, the item that is closest to the person is often overlooked. The cut and fit of the shirt is central to the comfort of a gentleman and its colour and pattern set a frame to the jacket and accessories.
Using the collection of a German shirtmaker, Ignatious Joseph, as some of the examples, we wish to turn the focus on some different shirt styles and to give suggestions and notions about their use. While the shirts presented here go all under the “dress shirt” label, their use is not limited to formal situations.
We’re horribly sorry about the image quality of this article. The battery of our DSLR died just before the photoshoot so we had to resort to our camera phones. Hopefully we can replace the current images with more high quality ones as soon as possible.
1: A pure white dress shirt
Every man should own a white dress shirt. When the fabric and cut is chosen carefully, the white shirt is also the most versatile of all – it can be worn with the formal dark lounge suit and also to complement a nice sweater and jeans. All men need a crisp, beautiful white dress shirt in their wardrobe.
2: A blue shirt
The blue shirt is an everyday basic. Being less formal than the white shirt, it forms a more subtle contrast with several suit and jacket colours. It can be worn with almost any colour of jacket, tie or other accessories and complements most complexions beautifully.
White and blue shirts should, generally, be the first ones to purchase and also the most numerous shirts in the wardrobe, in several textures, thicknesses and collars. They are a backbone for a classic style and a gentleman can get by without wandering to other colours or patterns. However, they aren’t the only traditional styles.
3: A striped shirt
The striped shirts come in various styles. A rough, hard-wearing oxford cloth button-down is an American classic and especially nice worn with heavier suits, khakis and even jeans. On the other end of spectrum, a delicate striped poplin shirt works beautifully in business environment and in warmer climates. Adding white collars and cuffs to a striped business shirt creates an attractive version of a “banker shirt”, a classic from several movies, which makes a striking appearance by using surprisingly simple accents.
4: A checked shirt
The checked shirt has its origins in workwear and rural styles. However, nowadays, with lighter fabrics and more subtle checks, it can be also worn in serious business situations. The checked pattern is, however, always more relaxed than solids and stripes, so it is advisable to tread carefully in conservative surroundings. In more casual situations, however, the checked shirt lends an easygoing air for many outfits. Perhaps its most natural use is as a “Friday shirt”, worn casually with a relaxed suit or a blazer. During summer weekends, a checked shirt with rolled sleeves works perfectly with khakis and other odd trousers.
5: A patterned shirt
Patterned shirts are best when they are worn casually. The colourful patterns are often best when the tie is left away from the outfit completely – the pattern has all the flair that is needed. The pocket square should also remain rather simple, as there is a danger for the clash of patterns. A solid, white linen handkerchief shows its true force here – it calms down the overall appearance.
An outfit to experiment with: A patterned shirt, a blue blazer, light-coloured summer trousers, and brown suede loafers.
6: Special shirts
Shirts to be used with white tie and black tie situations can be considered as special shirts. While the same shirt – a nice, crisp shirt with a cotton pique front – can be used in both styles, it is advisable to have different shirts for both. A good, white dress shirt can be used with a black tie without any problems, but a specific shirt with a pleated front and French cuffs is a nice addition to a wardrobe.
As a general advice, the shirt rotation should be vast enough to allow the shirts to be washed after a single use. That requires a shirt wardrobe of at least five shirts, if you only wear the dress shirt to work, but it is advisable to have a rotation for at least two weeks. 20 well selected shirts – 10 white, 5 blue and 5 others – can be seen as a good rotation that won’t inadvertedly fray or fade the shirts.
So, choose your shirts well and they shall last for years!
Text and images: Jussi Häkkinen, Anu Rautalin