since it’s no longer necessary to play by the old rule of “solid shirt with striped or patterned suit”, and patterns are mixed very freely, you are no longer forced to look like everyone else even though you, too, have a navy pinstripe suit. The navy pinstripe suit can take a conservative approach with a classic straight-collar shirt in white, or become dashing with a spread-collar blue stripe with contrasting white collar and white French cuffs.

A different collar style, or color, or pattern, can give the suit a new look. By rotating your shirts and ties with your suits, you can present a slightly different image at different times. It will change the look of that suit and make the old one look new.

When you choose your wardrobe, picking the patterns of your shirts can be your expression of individual taste and personality. The dress shirt is no longer just a utilitarian garment. It’s becoming a fashion statement on its own.

The style or color of one’s shirt can reflect a mood or make a statement. Having a number of different styles and colors in the closet allows the well-groomed individual to be able to achieve the right look for any occasion.

If you are feeling poorly and want to give your look a lift, try wearing a bold striped shirt in two colors on a white background with French cuffs, instead of that

solid blue pinpoint with button cuffs.

  • If you have a meeting where you are not sure of the tastes of the others attending, pull out the perfectly pressed white shirt. If you need to go out to dinner, make sure you wear one with French cuffs.
  • If you are being filmed for a TV spot for your company, the blue end-on-end would be a perfect choice.
  • If you have to leave the office and drive to the country, the button-down oxford would be the winner.

In business, you must remember to dress the part. Your choice of clothing determines which group you will be identified with. Make sure your shirt reflects your choice.

Dress-Down Days

In September 1994 we did a study on the “dress-down” trend. We found that the dress-shirt market is changing and the changes are, if nothing else, colorful.

Art Cooper is editor-in-chief of GQ, where fashion is the name of the game, yet he tells us that his magazine has a very informal policy with no dress restrictions whatsoever.

“Magazines, ad agencies, and other creative environments are a lot looser, when it comes to dress, than Wall Street, banking, real estate, and even the business side of publishing,” says Cooper. “Salespeople must dress the part to inspire confidence and so on, but inside, where people are sitting at their PC’s writing and editing all day, it’s important to be comfortable.

“I absolutely believe that people do better work when they are comfortable,” responded Cooper to our inquiry. But the fashion-conscious people at GQ are still very stylish, even when they are comfortably dressed.

This, however, is by no means the end of traditional business wear. There are still as many companies who frown on the dress-down looks as there are who promote them. Before making any decisions, check out the decision makers in your company and follow their lead.

WARDROBE OPTIONS

Solids

You should concentrate on building a wardrobe of solid shirts first (even if the solids are only white and blue) before concentrating on your patterned options. We’ve chosen nine solids in our Basic Dozen (page 76).

The rule used to be that when solid colors (other than white) were worn, you had to go light. The lightest colors you could find — ivory, ecru, pale blue, pale pink, light yellow, soft gray.

Because of the new freedom of the 90’s this is no longer always true. Depending on your position and the occasion the dark-colored solids can be very appropriate.

The colors that were only seen in patterns, such as navy, wine red, dark grey and even black can be seen in many offices during the day. The increased popularity of black can be attributed to the entertainment industry. Arsenio Hall and other TV stars sparked the interest in black, olive and greens.

My advice, however, is to buy your basics first. Add spice to the wardrobe later with the darks.

Stick to the white, medium blues, ecrus, and light grays first — they are the neutrals. You don’t have to worry when matching your suit and tie. Next, add the pink, yellow and helio. Be sure of yourself and the setting before wearing the dark shirt. There are still many people who dislike them and not everyone looks good in them.

Patterns

Patterns have always offered more leeway in colors for business shirts. Any pale color you would use for a solid shirt looks good in a patterned one. In addition, the dark colors are not only appropriate but very handsome for patterned business shirts. My favorites are on a white or very pale ground, or a pattern-on-pattern look such as the Glen Plaids, which simply look like interesting solids.

Save the dark plaids for the weekend.

Remember, however, pattern of any kind is considered less formal than a solid color.

Let’s look at the most popular.

Checks

Remember, checks (a pattern of squares) are always considered more casual than stripes. Here are some favorites.

Glen Plaid is a small, even check pattern. It is usually done in color-on-color, giving it the basic appearance of a solid shirt, especially from a distance.

Mini-check is a small check, usually one color on white. It is more casual than stripes, but more dressy than larger checks or tattersalls. This is the one we’ve chosen for our Basic Dozen.

Tattersall Check is a traditional check pattern of two sets of dark lines in a regularly spaced check design on a light ground. The classic coloring is red and black on cream, although many other colorings are found today. Blankets in this pattern were used on horses in the London market founded by Richard Tattersall in 1766. It soon became a pop-ular material for vests for sportswear and is now popular for shirting fabrics. The most popular colors today are red-and-black or blue-and-black on white.

Windowpane Check is a plain, barred plaid similar to the pattern of panes in a window. Its bigger pattern gives it a more casual look than the mini-checks or tattersalls. This larger pattern does have one drawback — it is harder to coordinate with ties and suits.

Stripes

Stripes are an important part of the business shirt wardrobe. We’ve chosen three for our Basic Dozen. Here are some of the more popular.

Hairline Stripes are narrow stripes, about the width of a hair. The effect is that of a solid, and can be worn without regard to its pattern when coordinating with suits and ties. Because of this flexibility it is part of our Basic Dozen.

Pinstripe is a very fine stripe, less than 1/16". Its name comes from the fact that the stripes are the width of a straight pin. You can’t go wrong with this stripe. It is a pat-tern that looks good with most suits and ties. It is also included in our Basic Dozen.

Pencil Stripes are a little wider than pinstripes—about 1/16". It is at this width that the fabric can be said to be a definite stripe, not just a patterned solid.

Wider Stripes are any stripes over 1/16" wide. Because every basic wardrobe should have a bolder option, the wider stripe is part of our Basic Dozen. Keep in mind that the wider the stripe and the darker the color, the bolder it becomes. For this reason, stripes 1/2" and wider tend to be used primarily in casual shirts.

Multi-Colored Stripes are usually seen in more expensive shirtings. It is wise to stick to no more than two colors plus white for shirts you wear for business. When there are more than three colors in a shirt, it is more appropriate for casual wear.

Other Patterns

Solid colored weaves are achieved by changing the arrangement of the weaving threads.

“White-on-Whites” is the term used for all-white shirts with patterned weaves.

Herringbone is a zigzag woven pattern suggesting the skeleton of a fish. This can be worn just like a solid shirt. This is a good example of the difference texture can make.

Colors

White is Always Right

White was reported to be the #1 best-selling color in dress shirts last spring, and is predicted to be #1 again this fall.

We did a customer survey to determine buying preferences and found that in spite of the ebb and flow of fashion trends, white shirts remain most favored by men.

Asked why they favor white shirts, more than two thirds of the respondents said that in addition to being “correct attire for every occasion,” wearing a white shirt can never be viewed as “upstaging” one’s clients who may not be fashion conscious. Because white is always right; it is always appropriate.

“The white shirt,” said one customer, “is totally non-threatening and makes no statement about the wearer other than that he is neat and businesslike.” One respondent stat-ed that a white shirt subliminally conveys “virtue” — quite a feat for the simple shirt!

“When it comes to new business meetings or client meetings,” said the CEO of a major PR agency, “it’s better to be safe and non-controversial.”

Another factor noted by my customers was that, if one is traveling and cannot change for the evening, a white shirt will carry its wearer through the day, especially if one is wearing French cuffs which bring a “dressed-up” look to cocktails or dinner meetings. Presented in the right style, it is considered dressy enough for the most formal occasions.

“Moreover,” said one of our Shirt Store customers, “if you want to keep the chore of packing down to a minimum, white shirts go with everything.”

For that classic look, a basic white shirt and standard collar will never let you down.

A white shirt is the perfect interview shirt. It will allow you to be judged for your own personal qualities not your choice of pattern or color. On the interview, you should never chance having your shirt make the statement instead of you. The white shirt is the easy answer.

White is the only color that goes with every suit and every tie in a man’s wardrobe.

Almost 50% of the shirts we sell each year are white and that’s why they make up 50% of our Basic Dozen (page 76).

In short, white is always right!

Choosing the Right White Fabric

Remember, when choosing white, fabric choice is very important. Each fabric will look and feel different.

Broad cloths and oxfords are the two fabrics that we see most in the white business shirt. You can tell the difference between the two if you remember that the broad cloths are smoother and more translucent and the oxfords are softer, heavier and less translucent.

Let’s take a look at the most popular choices. Broadcloth, whether single-ply or two-ply, is a fine

smooth cotton. It will have a sheen to the cloth and be perceived as a very dressy shirt. It looks best with the dressy suit and tie.

Broadcloth can come in many different qualities of fabric.

The tighter the weave, the silkier the cloth.

In the single-ply fabrics, pima will have the longest staple and, therefore, the nicest “hand”.

The 100’s two-ply will have the most body of the two-plies. Because of this, it will wrinkle the least. If you like starch, this is the broadcloth to choose. In The Shirt Store, we refer to this fabric as “Egyptian.”

Fabrics that are 120’s two-ply or more are usually done in broad cloths, and often referred to as “Sea Island.” They are the silkiest of weaves and the most luxurious on your body.

Remember that even the tightest woven of the broad-cloths — the Sea Island qualities — will be translucent. If you are concerned about this aspect, broadcloth, no matter how expensive, should not be your choice.

Oxford is a cotton shirting fabric with a small basket weave surface. It has a full texture. It is soft and comfortable. It is lustrous than broadcloth and considered less formal

Single-Ply oxford is usually done in button-down styles, because it has a more casual look than the two-ply oxfords. This heavy, beefy cotton is able to take more abuse than the lighter, finer weaves.

Pinpoint is two-ply oxford. It is dressier than single-ply and usually is done in 80’s two-ply. This oxford can dress-up the button-down, and when made into a tab collar with French cuff can take it out to a “night on the town.” French oxford is another two-ply oxford — this one with a weave. It is silky and lustrous.

Remember that all types of oxfords will wear at the friction points — collars and cuffs more than broad cloths.

Voile is a fine, plain, almost transparent cotton cloth.

For that classic look, a basic white shirt and standard collar will never let you down.

A white shirt is the perfect interview shirt. It will allow you to be judged for your own personal qualities not your choice of pattern or color. On the interview, you should never chance having your shirt make the statement instead of you. The white shirt is the easy answer.

White is the only color that goes with every suit and every tie in a man’s wardrobe.

Almost 50% of the shirts we sell each year are white and that’s why they make up 50% of our Basic Dozen (page 76).

In short, white is always right!

Choosing the Right White Fabric

Remember, when choosing white, fabric choice is very important. Each fabric will look and feel different.

Broad cloths and oxfords are the two fabrics that we see most in the white business shirt. You can tell the difference between the two if you remember that the broad cloths are smoother and more translucent and the oxfords are softer, heavier and less translucent.

Let’s take a look at the most popular choices. Broadcloth, whether single-ply or two-ply, is a fine

smooth cotton. It will have a sheen to the cloth and be perceived as a very dressy shirt. It looks best with the dressy suit and tie.

Broadcloth can come in many different qualities of fabric.

The tighter the weave, the silkier the cloth.

In the single-ply fabrics, pima will have the longest staple and, therefore, the nicest “hand”.

The 100’s two-ply will have the most body of the two-plies. Because of this, it will wrinkle the least. If you like starch, this is the broadcloth to choose. In The Shirt Store, we refer to this fabric as “Egyptian.”

Fabrics that are 120’s two-ply or more are usually done in broad cloths, and often referred to as “Sea Island.” They are the silkiest of weaves and the most luxurious on your body.

Remember that even the tightest woven of the broad-cloths — the Sea Island qualities — will be translucent. If you are concerned about this aspect, broadcloth, no matter how expensive, should not be your choice.

Oxford is a cotton shirting fabric with a small basket weave surface. It has a full texture. It is soft and comfortable. It is lustrous than broadcloth and considered less formal

Single-Ply oxford is usually done in button-down styles, because it has a more casual look than the two-ply oxfords. This heavy, beefy cotton is able to take more abuse than the lighter, finer weaves.

Pinpoint is two-ply oxford. It is dressier than single-ply and usually is done in 80’s two-ply. This oxford can dress-up the button-down, and when made into a tab collar with French cuff can take it out to a “night on the town.” French oxford is another two-ply oxford — this one with a weave. It is silky and lustrous.

Remember that all types of oxfords will wear at the friction points — collars and cuffs more than broad cloths.

Voile is a fine, plain, almost transparent cotton cloth.

It is popular in the hot summer months because of its light-weight attributes. It, however, is always perceived as dressy and, in my opinion only right for evening wear.

White-on-White is usually done in a broadcloth. It is a white pattern on white. It is always perceived as dressy and again, in my opinion, only right for evening wear.

Blue is Number Two

Blue is a neutral, and as such can be worn with most suits and complements most ties. It is as comfortable with the new green and brown earth tone suits as it is with the tried and true blues and grays.

It is the perfect TV shirt, and is seen on more anchormen because it flatters most complexions. If your picture is being taken, and white is not required, blue should be your color choice.

Because blue is still conservative, it has been chosen by many as the safe option other than white.

Blue shirts come in many fabrics and patterns. Let’s look at some of the options available.

The Blue Solid Shirt

All of the qualities talked about in white shirts will apply to blue solids. Some aspects of the cloth are different because of the color. Let’s examine these differences.

Broadcloth — Whether it be single or two-ply, broadcloth is a fine smooth cotton with a marvelous sheen to the cloth that makes it a very dressy shirt. It looks best with the dressy suit and tie.

It has lost much of its popularity because it is restricted to the formal look, while some of the other choices can be dressed up or down.

Chambray is a cotton shirting fabric with a frosted effect produced by weaving white threads lengthwise, blue ones crosswise. Once only seen on informal shirts, it is now a staple in the business wardrobe. It is often styled with French cuffs and in the deep rich tones looks great with contrasting collars and cuffs. A deep blue chambray is a powerful choice for the green-hued suits of the 90’s.

End-on-End is a madras cotton with a frosted or muted effect produced by weaving together white “end” (or length-wise) threads with blue-colored crosswise threads; the result is similar to chambray. It can be dressed up or down easily and is a very light airy comfortable fabric. Its white over-tones complement white collar and cuff styles. Because it is yarn dyed, it holds its color beautifully. Since the purpose of any good shirt collection is to give you options, this blue shirt is a part of our Basic Dozen.

Single-Ply Oxford in blue is more casual than white. The cross-weaves of white and blue are predominant and because of the texture, is limited to the casual suit or sport coat. Pinpoint is dressier than single-ply because the weave is tighter the cross-weave of white simply gives the cloth a luster and sheen that can be dressed up as well as down. depending on the collar and cuff style chosen. While the button-down still keeps it casual, a white collar and cuff can be a very elegant look.

Two of these blue shirts are included in the Basic Dozen.. French oxford has a two-ply weave which makes the color become more lustrous. This option really dresses up the oxford. For this reason, I like styling it with French cuffs.

The Blue Patterned Shirt

The most important color in patterned shirts is blue. No other color is as neutral with the business suit and tie.

It is for this reason why we have chosen blue as the color for three of the four patterned shirts of our Basic Dozen — a hairline, a narrow stripe and a mini-check.

Burgundy follows

We believe white and blues make up 80 – 90% of the business dress shirt wardrobe.

The other leading color is burgundy, done in a stripe or check on a white ground. This is another neutral. I can’t think of a suit color that it could not go with. Navys, grays, blacks, tans, browns and even greens are no trouble for this shirt. One thing to be careful of when wearing the burgundy shirt — do not wear a red tie. Even though you might think they are from the same color family, the brightness of the red is usually too much for the burgundy.

We have selected a burgundy stripe for our Basic Dozen. 

THE OTHER COLORS

There are many other options for your business wardrobe, but until you have satisfied your basics they should not be considered.

When you have your basics, however, if you like a color wear it. Enjoy your choices. Just make sure the color complements you, your suit and tie or your sport jacket.

Ecru

The ecru solid should be worn like a white shirt — it will go with everything and just soften the look.

Pink

Pink has experienced a resurgence in the business wardrobe. Men are no longer afraid of the color being too feminine. It is a color that can change the look of the blue or gray suit. It also looks good with the right shade of tan, brown, green or gray. It looks best with burgundy or helio accented ties.

Yellow

Yellow is easy to wear if it is a soft yellow. The brighter yellows look better when used in the pattern of the shirt. A yellow and blue stripe can be a wonderful addition to wear with the blue or gray suit. Yellow has always been a natural with the brown and green hues.

Helio

Helio, or lavender, is worn like pink. Most suits that would go with your pink shirts would be complemented by the helio shirt. This color still frightens many men and is considered a high fashion item.

Red

Red should definitely only be worn in a patterned shirt. Only the very narrow stripes on white would be considered a dressy shirt. The color usually means casual. Red looks best with the blue or gray suit.

Gray

Gray in a light solid shade is a neutral. It can be worn with most suits. As the gray gets darker, it gets to look more casual and it becomes harder to match with a suit. The gray stripe can be worn more easily than a black stripe. Because it is lighter in tone it will blend in easier with your suit. The gray striped shirt is a great option for the gray toned suit. The tie can be the brightest red or blue and still look great.

Green

Green solid, unless it is very pale, is not considered a dress shirt option. The green stripe, however, if it is not too wide can be a great change for the navy, gray, tan, brown or even green suit. Green comes in so many shades, before adding it to your collection, make sure the tone is complementary to your suits.

Black

Black has always been accepted if it is used in a narrow stripe. It is dramatic with the gray or black suit. It can complement the tan or green with the right tie that “ties it all together.” In a solid, it is definitely perceived as a dress-down look.

Brown

Brown should also be pattern-on-white to keep it in the business wardrobe. The suits that the brown shirt is best with are, of course, browns, tans or greens. Solid brown is too casual, except for the dress-down look.

since it’s no longer necessary to play by the old rule of “solid shirt with striped or patterned suit”, and patterns are mixed very freely, you are no longer forced to look like everyone else even though you, too, have a navy pinstripe suit. The navy pinstripe suit can take a conservative approach with a classic straight-collar shirt in white, or become dashing with a spread-collar blue stripe with contrasting white collar and white French cuffs.

A different collar style, or color, or pattern, can give the suit a new look. By rotating your shirts and ties with your suits, you can present a slightly different image at different times. It will change the look of that suit and make the old one look new.

When you choose your wardrobe, picking the patterns of your shirts can be your expression of individual taste and personality. The dress shirt is no longer just a utilitarian garment. It’s becoming a fashion statement on its own.

The style or color of one’s shirt can reflect a mood or make a statement. Having a number of different styles and colors in the closet allows the well-groomed individual to be able to achieve the right look for any occasion.

If you are feeling poorly and want to give your look a lift, try wearing a bold striped shirt in two colors on a white background with French cuffs, instead of that

solid blue pinpoint with button cuffs.

  • If you have a meeting where you are not sure of the tastes of the others attending, pull out the perfectly pressed white shirt. If you need to go out to dinner, make sure you wear one with French cuffs.
  • If you are being filmed for a TV spot for your company, the blue end-on-end would be a perfect choice.
  • If you have to leave the office and drive to the country, the button-down oxford would be the winner.

In business, you must remember to dress the part. Your choice of clothing determines which group you will be identified with. Make sure your shirt reflects your choice.

Dress-Down Days

In September 1994 we did a study on the “dress-down” trend. We found that the dress-shirt market is changing and the changes are, if nothing else, colorful.

Art Cooper is editor-in-chief of GQ, where fashion is the name of the game, yet he tells us that his magazine has a very informal policy with no dress restrictions whatsoever.

“Magazines, ad agencies, and other creative environments are a lot looser, when it comes to dress, than Wall Street, banking, real estate, and even the business side of publishing,” says Cooper. “Salespeople must dress the part to inspire confidence and so on, but inside, where people are sitting at their PC’s writing and editing all day, it’s important to be comfortable.

“I absolutely believe that people do better work when they are comfortable,” responded Cooper to our inquiry. But the fashion-conscious people at GQ are still very stylish, even when they are comfortably dressed.

This, however, is by no means the end of traditional business wear. There are still as many companies who frown on the dress-down looks as there are who promote them. Before making any decisions, check out the decision makers in your company and follow their lead.

WARDROBE OPTIONS

Solids

You should concentrate on building a wardrobe of solid shirts first (even if the solids are only white and blue) before concentrating on your patterned options. We’ve chosen nine solids in our Basic Dozen (page 76).

The rule used to be that when solid colors (other than white) were worn, you had to go light. The lightest colors you could find — ivory, ecru, pale blue, pale pink, light yellow, soft gray.

Because of the new freedom of the 90’s this is no longer always true. Depending on your position and the occasion the dark-colored solids can be very appropriate.

The colors that were only seen in patterns, such as navy, wine red, dark grey and even black can be seen in many offices during the day. The increased popularity of black can be attributed to the entertainment industry. Arsenio Hall and other TV stars sparked the interest in black, olive and greens.

My advice, however, is to buy your basics first. Add spice to the wardrobe later with the darks.

Stick to the white, medium blues, ecrus, and light grays first — they are the neutrals. You don’t have to worry when matching your suit and tie. Next, add the pink, yellow and helio. Be sure of yourself and the setting before wearing the dark shirt. There are still many people who dislike them and not everyone looks good in them.

Patterns

Patterns have always offered more leeway in colors for business shirts. Any pale color you would use for a solid shirt looks good in a patterned one. In addition, the dark colors are not only appropriate but very handsome for patterned business shirts. My favorites are on a white or very pale ground, or a pattern-on-pattern look such as the Glen Plaids, which simply look like interesting solids.

Save the dark plaids for the weekend.

Remember, however, pattern of any kind is considered less formal than a solid color.

Let’s look at the most popular.

Checks

Remember, checks (a pattern of squares) are always considered more casual than stripes. Here are some favorites.

Glen Plaid is a small, even check pattern. It is usually done in color-on-color, giving it the basic appearance of a solid shirt, especially from a distance.

Mini-check is a small check, usually one color on white. It is more casual than stripes, but more dressy than larger checks or tattersalls. This is the one we’ve chosen for our Basic Dozen.

Tattersall Check is a traditional check pattern of two sets of dark lines in a regularly spaced check design on a light ground. The classic coloring is red and black on cream, although many other colorings are found today. Blankets in this pattern were used on horses in the London market founded by Richard Tattersall in 1766. It soon became a pop-ular material for vests for sportswear and is now popular for shirting fabrics. The most popular colors today are red-and-black or blue-and-black on white.

Windowpane Check is a plain, barred plaid similar to the pattern of panes in a window. Its bigger pattern gives it a more casual look than the mini-checks or tattersalls. This larger pattern does have one drawback — it is harder to coordinate with ties and suits.

Stripes

Stripes are an important part of the business shirt wardrobe. We’ve chosen three for our Basic Dozen. Here are some of the more popular.

Hairline Stripes are narrow stripes, about the width of a hair. The effect is that of a solid, and can be worn without regard to its pattern when coordinating with suits and ties. Because of this flexibility it is part of our Basic Dozen.

Pinstripe is a very fine stripe, less than 1/16". Its name comes from the fact that the stripes are the width of a straight pin. You can’t go wrong with this stripe. It is a pat-tern that looks good with most suits and ties. It is also included in our Basic Dozen.

Pencil Stripes are a little wider than pinstripes—about 1/16". It is at this width that the fabric can be said to be a definite stripe, not just a patterned solid.

Wider Stripes are any stripes over 1/16" wide. Because every basic wardrobe should have a bolder option, the wider stripe is part of our Basic Dozen. Keep in mind that the wider the stripe and the darker the color, the bolder it becomes. For this reason, stripes 1/2" and wider tend to be used primarily in casual shirts.

Multi-Colored Stripes are usually seen in more expensive shirtings. It is wise to stick to no more than two colors plus white for shirts you wear for business. When there are more than three colors in a shirt, it is more appropriate for casual wear.

Other Patterns

Solid colored weaves are achieved by changing the arrangement of the weaving threads.

“White-on-Whites” is the term used for all-white shirts with patterned weaves.

Herringbone is a zigzag woven pattern suggesting the skeleton of a fish. This can be worn just like a solid shirt. This is a good example of the difference texture can make.

Colors

White is Always Right

White was reported to be the #1 best-selling color in dress shirts last spring, and is predicted to be #1 again this fall.

We did a customer survey to determine buying preferences and found that in spite of the ebb and flow of fashion trends, white shirts remain most favored by men.

Asked why they favor white shirts, more than two thirds of the respondents said that in addition to being “correct attire for every occasion,” wearing a white shirt can never be viewed as “upstaging” one’s clients who may not be fashion conscious. Because white is always right; it is always appropriate.

“The white shirt,” said one customer, “is totally non-threatening and makes no statement about the wearer other than that he is neat and businesslike.” One respondent stat-ed that a white shirt subliminally conveys “virtue” — quite a feat for the simple shirt!

“When it comes to new business meetings or client meetings,” said the CEO of a major PR agency, “it’s better to be safe and non-controversial.”

Another factor noted by my customers was that, if one is traveling and cannot change for the evening, a white shirt will carry its wearer through the day, especially if one is wearing French cuffs which bring a “dressed-up” look to cocktails or dinner meetings. Presented in the right style, it is considered dressy enough for the most formal occasions.

“Moreover,” said one of our Shirt Store customers, “if you want to keep the chore of packing down to a minimum, white shirts go with everything.”

For that classic look, a basic white shirt and standard collar will never let you down.

A white shirt is the perfect interview shirt. It will allow you to be judged for your own personal qualities not your choice of pattern or color. On the interview, you should never chance having your shirt make the statement instead of you. The white shirt is the easy answer.

White is the only color that goes with every suit and every tie in a man’s wardrobe.

Almost 50% of the shirts we sell each year are white and that’s why they make up 50% of our Basic Dozen (page 76).

In short, white is always right!

Choosing the Right White Fabric

Remember, when choosing white, fabric choice is very important. Each fabric will look and feel different.

Broad cloths and oxfords are the two fabrics that we see most in the white business shirt. You can tell the difference between the two if you remember that the broad cloths are smoother and more translucent and the oxfords are softer, heavier and less translucent.

Let’s take a look at the most popular choices. Broadcloth, whether single-ply or two-ply, is a fine

smooth cotton. It will have a sheen to the cloth and be perceived as a very dressy shirt. It looks best with the dressy suit and tie.

Broadcloth can come in many different qualities of fabric.

The tighter the weave, the silkier the cloth.

In the single-ply fabrics, pima will have the longest staple and, therefore, the nicest “hand”.

The 100’s two-ply will have the most body of the two-plies. Because of this, it will wrinkle the least. If you like starch, this is the broadcloth to choose. In The Shirt Store, we refer to this fabric as “Egyptian.”

Fabrics that are 120’s two-ply or more are usually done in broad cloths, and often referred to as “Sea Island.” They are the silkiest of weaves and the most luxurious on your body.

Remember that even the tightest woven of the broad-cloths — the Sea Island qualities — will be translucent. If you are concerned about this aspect, broadcloth, no matter how expensive, should not be your choice.

Oxford is a cotton shirting fabric with a small basket weave surface. It has a full texture. It is soft and comfortable. It is lustrous than broadcloth and considered less formal

Single-Ply oxford is usually done in button-down styles, because it has a more casual look than the two-ply oxfords. This heavy, beefy cotton is able to take more abuse than the lighter, finer weaves.

Pinpoint is two-ply oxford. It is dressier than single-ply and usually is done in 80’s two-ply. This oxford can dress-up the button-down, and when made into a tab collar with French cuff can take it out to a “night on the town.” French oxford is another two-ply oxford — this one with a weave. It is silky and lustrous.

Remember that all types of oxfords will wear at the friction points — collars and cuffs more than broad cloths.

Voile is a fine, plain, almost transparent cotton cloth.

For that classic look, a basic white shirt and standard collar will never let you down.

A white shirt is the perfect interview shirt. It will allow you to be judged for your own personal qualities not your choice of pattern or color. On the interview, you should never chance having your shirt make the statement instead of you. The white shirt is the easy answer.

White is the only color that goes with every suit and every tie in a man’s wardrobe.

Almost 50% of the shirts we sell each year are white and that’s why they make up 50% of our Basic Dozen (page 76).

In short, white is always right!

Choosing the Right White Fabric

Remember, when choosing white, fabric choice is very important. Each fabric will look and feel different.

Broad cloths and oxfords are the two fabrics that we see most in the white business shirt. You can tell the difference between the two if you remember that the broad cloths are smoother and more translucent and the oxfords are softer, heavier and less translucent.

Let’s take a look at the most popular choices. Broadcloth, whether single-ply or two-ply, is a fine

smooth cotton. It will have a sheen to the cloth and be perceived as a very dressy shirt. It looks best with the dressy suit and tie.

Broadcloth can come in many different qualities of fabric.

The tighter the weave, the silkier the cloth.

In the single-ply fabrics, pima will have the longest staple and, therefore, the nicest “hand”.

The 100’s two-ply will have the most body of the two-plies. Because of this, it will wrinkle the least. If you like starch, this is the broadcloth to choose. In The Shirt Store, we refer to this fabric as “Egyptian.”

Fabrics that are 120’s two-ply or more are usually done in broad cloths, and often referred to as “Sea Island.” They are the silkiest of weaves and the most luxurious on your body.

Remember that even the tightest woven of the broad-cloths — the Sea Island qualities — will be translucent. If you are concerned about this aspect, broadcloth, no matter how expensive, should not be your choice.

Oxford is a cotton shirting fabric with a small basket weave surface. It has a full texture. It is soft and comfortable. It is lustrous than broadcloth and considered less formal

Single-Ply oxford is usually done in button-down styles, because it has a more casual look than the two-ply oxfords. This heavy, beefy cotton is able to take more abuse than the lighter, finer weaves.

Pinpoint is two-ply oxford. It is dressier than single-ply and usually is done in 80’s two-ply. This oxford can dress-up the button-down, and when made into a tab collar with French cuff can take it out to a “night on the town.” French oxford is another two-ply oxford — this one with a weave. It is silky and lustrous.

Remember that all types of oxfords will wear at the friction points — collars and cuffs more than broad cloths.

Voile is a fine, plain, almost transparent cotton cloth.

It is popular in the hot summer months because of its light-weight attributes. It, however, is always perceived as dressy and, in my opinion only right for evening wear.

White-on-White is usually done in a broadcloth. It is a white pattern on white. It is always perceived as dressy and again, in my opinion, only right for evening wear.

Blue is Number Two

Blue is a neutral, and as such can be worn with most suits and complements most ties. It is as comfortable with the new green and brown earth tone suits as it is with the tried and true blues and grays.

It is the perfect TV shirt, and is seen on more anchormen because it flatters most complexions. If your picture is being taken, and white is not required, blue should be your color choice.

Because blue is still conservative, it has been chosen by many as the safe option other than white.

Blue shirts come in many fabrics and patterns. Let’s look at some of the options available.

The Blue Solid Shirt

All of the qualities talked about in white shirts will apply to blue solids. Some aspects of the cloth are different because of the color. Let’s examine these differences.

Broadcloth — Whether it be single or two-ply, broadcloth is a fine smooth cotton with a marvelous sheen to the cloth that makes it a very dressy shirt. It looks best with the dressy suit and tie.

It has lost much of its popularity because it is restricted to the formal look, while some of the other choices can be dressed up or down.

Chambray is a cotton shirting fabric with a frosted effect produced by weaving white threads lengthwise, blue ones crosswise. Once only seen on informal shirts, it is now a staple in the business wardrobe. It is often styled with French cuffs and in the deep rich tones looks great with contrasting collars and cuffs. A deep blue chambray is a powerful choice for the green-hued suits of the 90’s.

End-on-End is a madras cotton with a frosted or muted effect produced by weaving together white “end” (or length-wise) threads with blue-colored crosswise threads; the result is similar to chambray. It can be dressed up or down easily and is a very light airy comfortable fabric. Its white over-tones complement white collar and cuff styles. Because it is yarn dyed, it holds its color beautifully. Since the purpose of any good shirt collection is to give you options, this blue shirt is a part of our Basic Dozen.

Single-Ply Oxford in blue is more casual than white. The cross-weaves of white and blue are predominant and because of the texture, is limited to the casual suit or sport coat. Pinpoint is dressier than single-ply because the weave is tighter the cross-weave of white simply gives the cloth a luster and sheen that can be dressed up as well as down. depending on the collar and cuff style chosen. While the button-down still keeps it casual, a white collar and cuff can be a very elegant look.

Two of these blue shirts are included in the Basic Dozen.. French oxford has a two-ply weave which makes the color become more lustrous. This option really dresses up the oxford. For this reason, I like styling it with French cuffs.

The Blue Patterned Shirt

The most important color in patterned shirts is blue. No other color is as neutral with the business suit and tie.

It is for this reason why we have chosen blue as the color for three of the four patterned shirts of our Basic Dozen — a hairline, a narrow stripe and a mini-check.

Burgundy follows

We believe white and blues make up 80 – 90% of the business dress shirt wardrobe.

The other leading color is burgundy, done in a stripe or check on a white ground. This is another neutral. I can’t think of a suit color that it could not go with. Navys, grays, blacks, tans, browns and even greens are no trouble for this shirt. One thing to be careful of when wearing the burgundy shirt — do not wear a red tie. Even though you might think they are from the same color family, the brightness of the red is usually too much for the burgundy.

We have selected a burgundy stripe for our Basic Dozen. 

THE OTHER COLORS

There are many other options for your business wardrobe, but until you have satisfied your basics they should not be considered.

When you have your basics, however, if you like a color wear it. Enjoy your choices. Just make sure the color complements you, your suit and tie or your sport jacket.

Ecru

The ecru solid should be worn like a white shirt — it will go with everything and just soften the look.

Pink

Pink has experienced a resurgence in the business wardrobe. Men are no longer afraid of the color being too feminine. It is a color that can change the look of the blue or gray suit. It also looks good with the right shade of tan, brown, green or gray. It looks best with burgundy or helio accented ties.

Yellow

Yellow is easy to wear if it is a soft yellow. The brighter yellows look better when used in the pattern of the shirt. A yellow and blue stripe can be a wonderful addition to wear with the blue or gray suit. Yellow has always been a natural with the brown and green hues.

Helio

Helio, or lavender, is worn like pink. Most suits that would go with your pink shirts would be complemented by the helio shirt. This color still frightens many men and is considered a high fashion item.

Red

Red should definitely only be worn in a patterned shirt. Only the very narrow stripes on white would be considered a dressy shirt. The color usually means casual. Red looks best with the blue or gray suit.

Gray

Gray in a light solid shade is a neutral. It can be worn with most suits. As the gray gets darker, it gets to look more casual and it becomes harder to match with a suit. The gray stripe can be worn more easily than a black stripe. Because it is lighter in tone it will blend in easier with your suit. The gray striped shirt is a great option for the gray toned suit. The tie can be the brightest red or blue and still look great.

Green

Green solid, unless it is very pale, is not considered a dress shirt option. The green stripe, however, if it is not too wide can be a great change for the navy, gray, tan, brown or even green suit. Green comes in so many shades, before adding it to your collection, make sure the tone is complementary to your suits.

Black

Black has always been accepted if it is used in a narrow stripe. It is dramatic with the gray or black suit. It can complement the tan or green with the right tie that “ties it all together.” In a solid, it is definitely perceived as a dress-down look.

Brown

Brown should also be pattern-on-white to keep it in the business wardrobe. The suits that the brown shirt is best with are, of course, browns, tans or greens. Solid brown is too casual, except for the dress-down look.