Ok, we need to talk about another menswear basic. I started with undershirts and underwear because those are important details that are easy to overlook. Black suits? Common mistake. But this is so basic that it looks ridiculous to even write it: I want you to wear white dress shirts.
That’s really all I’m asking. Just take a step back from your stripes, checks, gingham, houndstooth, banker shirts, and dear god just burn your dark solids. Wearing a button down? Just wear a white one.
If you need supporting evidence for why, then just open your eyes and look at every well dressed man. Let’s take a look at what pattern or color is on most of James Bond shirts…
How about the models for suit supply?
Oh look, is that Idris Elba?
And I’ll just leave this pictures of Stanley Tucci looking like a god damn boss here for you :
All of these pictures are of guys who probably know more than you, me, and everyone reading this blog combined about style. Those guys also probably have stylists who are literally professionals at this. So, when everywhere you turn the experts are saying “guys look best in white shirts” what possible reason could you have to ignore that advice?
Unfortunately the reason is obvious: retailers. Just as most retailers will offer black suits to prey on uninformed men, retailers can make more money by offering a variety of shirt patterns so that you feel inclined to buy them. White shirts look kind of boring laying on a table or up on a hanger. Colors and patterns will catch your eye on the shelf. If you already own a white shirt you might think “one white shirt is enough , I should get something else.” If retailers only offered white shirts they would miss out on sales. That isn’t your problem though. Your problem is looking good. Wear white shirts.
The only exception is once you have mastered the white shirt. Really you should feel free to break style ‘rules’ once you really understand them and have a good reason to do so. Want an easy baby step away from the white button down? Light blue button down. Woah. Nice. Congratulation. Got that figured out? Then yeah, it is totally fine, start mixing up your look and get creative with whatever pattern or color you want . Want to see how the pros do non-white shirts? Take a look at the Rose & Born blog for some inspiration. Yes, there are clearly a ton of ways to do non-white dress shirts very well. But I can promise you that all of the guys on the Rose & Born blog have already mastered the white shirt.
All of that said, I learned this lesson the hard way just like everything else I write about. I bought white crew neck undershirts, I own a black suit, and I absolutely have a closet full of dress shirts with stripes and gingham . I haven’t given up on learning to wear those shirts but at least now I’ve learned how much more challenging they are to work with. I rightly fear my non-white shirts. So, for now, I’ve been focused on finding great white shirts and making those work.
I wish I could tell you where to buy the best white shirt for you, but there really isn’t any one single answer. Every company makes shirts that fit differently and every guy has his own unique balance of neck size, arm length, waist line, and build . I recommend trying shirts everywhere you go. Who knows, maybe uniqlo will fit you perfectly, or J. Crew, or Zara, or I don’t care maybe Express will have the magic size that is perfect for you. If you can find a white shirt that fits well at an affordable store then I envy you.
There are also made to measure options all over the internet that seem to all do an equally poor job of delivering on what they promise. If you have actually found a good made to measure shirt option that you will honestly swear by then I would be interested to hear about it in the comments.
That said, I’ll wrap up with the place that happens to work for me. Kamakura Shirts offer beautifully made shirts with an eye for detail. They deliver on their promise of being slim fitting, so much so that I don’t even have to buy their slimmest size . Because the shirts are sized originally in metric it means that, by pure luck of unit translation, their 15.5in neck shirts are offered with 35.5in sleeves. That extra half inch on the sleeve makes Kamakura shirts a perfect fit for me. This is a great example of how what works for me may not work for you. Sorry. Your best bet really is to go to every single store you can find and see how their shirts fit. Good hunting.
I would actually argue that ladies look strong in white button downs just as much as men. So, for once, this advice could be gender neutral…. but I don’t have the spine or the hubris to try to convince ladies how to dress on the internet ↩
it isn’t. That is super wrong ↩
honestly, I’m still working on mastering the light blue ↩
Just, please, don’t be that asshole who wears a black shirt under a black suit. Really just don’t own a black shirt at any time ever in life at all. You will look like the villain in a movie where the stylist hates his/her job and is just screwing the director over with every opportunity. Or like goddamn Quentin Tarantino. God dammit, that guy really must just be trolling everyone always with his clothes ↩
no dark solids though. I’m not an animal ↩
those are just a handful of specifications that will make a shirt fit you, there is also armhole placement, where the neck sits, shoulder width, etc. ↩
they have a Tokyo slim that force me to accept that I have an American build. I buy the New York Slim Fit ↩