Sales of white shirts are soaring. Why? Well, the most versatile and enduring item in your wardrobe has got a few tales to tell...
The DNA of your daily sartorial choices
The white shirt is probably one of the most neglected garments in our wardrobes, when in fact it should be one of the most considered. Think of it as a building block, the DNA if you like, on which to construct your daily sartorial choices. And coupled with its very simplicity it’s a garment that works in any social situation.
A historical garment that will never be out of date
Historically, the white shirt has always had what you might call a high opinion of itself. The American writer Upton Sinclair - author of The Jungle - helped term the phrase "white collar" worker, instantly setting this item of clothing above its lowly cousin the "blue collar" the uniform of the manual labourer. Aiming high, it became part of the daily garb of the professional man that continues to this day. And in these somewhat financially straightened times it has replaced the bold stripes of the "greed is good decade". Today, a suit worn with a white shirt, is how power dresses.
Not all white shirts are the same
There should be though, depending on what you’re wearing it with, slight nuances in the style and cut of the shirt. A plain point collar, which sits wide enough to touch the lapels of your jacket, is the standard shirt to sport when wearing a lounge suit. Fans of the Duke of Windsor may want to opt for the more formal and much wider cutaway collar. Either way, the cuff of the shirt should always be closed with buttons. A single or double button fastening is entirely up to you.
With a white shirt you're never underdressed
At black or white tie affairs, the white shirt comes into its own with, among other things, detachable collars or, the piece de resistance, a French cuff. Here the extra length on the sleeve is folded back and fastened with a cufflink. Depending on your taste, this is probably one of the few occasions when a flashy cufflink is a must, bestowing a splash of showy pizzazz against a clean white canvas. However, under no circumstances should this incarnation of the white shirt be worn to the office unless, of course, your day job is at Eton.
It's an absolute winner, inside and outside the office
What really cinches the deal and makes the white shirt indispensable, is its seamless ability to meld into your casual off duty wardrobe. Just by the simple act of rolling the sleeves and keeping the neck open you can add gravitas to your denim jeans or chinos. Wear with shorts and a tan for the ultimate Mediterranean playboy attire. Button down collars come into their own here too, helping the shirt stand firm against an open neck. And always tuck the shirt in, otherwise you'll add unessacarry volume or bulk to your silhouette.
What lifts it from a white shirt to a good white shirt?
Perhaps though, the most important rule of thumb to consider when buying a white shirt is the quality of the cotton from which it’s made. Not all white shirts are born equal and as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. At Charles Tyrwhitt the white poplin slim fit shirt combines both luxury and durability. Made for strong but lightweight cotton it's the definitive multitasker of a shirt, to be worn underneath a suit or donned as a stand alone staple during your downtime. It’s an all-rounder that works with you, rather than against you. And who wants to argue with that?