The answer is, of course, as many as you can afford and as many as you can store.
Another measure is at least 4-5 shirts per suit.
Because cotton must be laundered after each use and because most of us send our shirts out to be done, you need to have enough to tide you over when the others are at the launderers.
My basic rule is that every man who regularly wears suits needs at least two dozen shirts in his closet. Of these, the first 12 should come from what I describe as the Basic Dozen.
These 12 (actually 13, because Shirt Store customers get the 13th shirt free with each dozen they buy) basic shirts can, of course, vary from person to person. But, if you compare the wardrobes of well-dressed men, the basic shirts in those wardrobes are remarkably similar. Here’s my Basic Dozen:
THE BASIC DOZEN
- Six white shirts, six blue shirts and one burgundy.
- Nine with regular cuffs and four with French cuffs.
- One shirt with white collar and white French cuffs.
- Three collar styles: two button-downs, six classic collars, and five modified-spreads.
- Nine solid shirts and four with patterns.
- Three striped shirts and one with checks.
Fabric selection is up to you because comfort is such a personal decision. You may even choose to mix the fabrics, to give your collection more variety.
First we should include one button-down. We recommend a pinpoint oxford, because it can be dressed up or down more easily than any other fabric.
Second, we have three classic straight collars, one with French cuffs and two with button cuffs. We have chosen our button-cuffs in single-ply broadcloth and the French cuff in the more lustrous and dressy Egyptian 100’s two-ply broadcloth.
Last, we have two modified spreads, one with French cuffs in Egyptian again, and a pinpoint oxford in a button cuff.
We suggest the following fabrics and styles for these six. First we have one button-down. We have chosen a solid pinpoint oxford again, because it can be dressed up or down as the occasion demands.
Second, we have chosen one classic collared “end-on-end” with button cuffs because it too can be worn with the business suit and tie, or dressed-down with a sport coat and tie, or even worn open with jeans.
Next, we have selected two broadcloth stripes. One hairline stripe on white with classic collar and French cuffs, and one narrow stripe on white with a modified spread collar and button cuffs. These two, although the same color, are so different in appearance that the suit will change with each use.
Our other pattern is a mini-check in Egyptian broad-cloth. If you prefer a single-ply or glen plaid instead, that is fine. This shirt should be a modified spread collar with French cuff to add a distinctive touch to the wardrobe. Using the more casual pattern in a more dressy style says that you know what you’re doing and are not afraid of change.
Our last selection to complete the blue assortment is the classic white collar and cuff. We have chosen a Pinpoint oxford with a classic collar and French cuffs.
For our last shirt, we have chosen a burgundy pinstripe with a modified-spread collar and button cuff. This selection will complement any suit in your wardrobe and will round out your “Bakers’ Dozen”.