Why a shirt is not just a shirt.

Why a shirt is not just a shirt. - Thin Red Line

Even before shopping for a shirt, you must understand what you need it for.


If the dress code requires a jacket or suit, a formal shirt is a given.

For a social occasion that is a little more formal, but doesn’t require a black tie then a classic formal shirt is just the ticket. A Tee shirt that carries a history of dining accidents will just not cut it! A formal shirt worn out with the sleeves rolled up will serve well in a casual setting, though we would strongly recommend you take the tie off and unbutton the top button and of course the jacket stays off!


So you have determined that a formal shirt is what you require. What next?


The cloth is a critical element of the shirt, as this is what comes in contact with your body. You do not want something that is scratchy or stiff. Look for fine long staple cotton fabric made in a fairly dense weave, to ensure it is not see through. If you must, you may also consider a Polyester blend, but we only recommend cotton.


A good collection of formal shirts should include 2-3 white shirts, with at least one poplin for very formal occasions and some textured ones in an Oxford or a Dobby. Do bear in mind that a white shirt is tough to maintain especially if you have a penchant for accidents!


You can never have too many blue shirts, so start with a basic End on End or fine Bengal stripe. Remember that blues come in a range of shades, so pay attention to the shade that you are choosing. It should complement the colour of your face and eyes. After this, you can become a little more creative. Prince of Wales, Gingham and Large Herringbone Twill are just some of the classic formal shirts that are most recommended. A pink shirt is another wardrobe requirement. If a Large Gingham is a bit too much, an End on End or Oxford works well.


The collar is a very critical aspect of a well-made men’s shirt. A good collar will perfectly frame your tie knot and stand up without being so stiff as to be uncomfortable. Consider what would happen if you were to wear a tie for half a day or more with a stiff collar? It’s hardly the right thing to do for a serious meeting or even a casual event. The collar tips should sit on the collar bone and should not fold. This is what collar stays are for and they should be removed before laundering the shirt.


The fit is important but choosing a regular or slim fit is really a matter of personal choice. A good fit should be comfortable and not constraining. For a work shirt that you are going to wear for the most part of a day, comfort is important. A shirt that you wear for an evening out could have a more fitted shape. What you must avoid is a fit that is so close that the shirt opens in the front when you move your arms. On the flip side you do not want a shirt with so much fabric that it makes folds all over. Regardless of your choice of fit, the correct men’s shirt should be symmetrical, and also consistent in size regardless of fabric or pattern. 


With cuffs you have a choice of button cuffs and double cuffs.

You may think that double cuffs with cufflinks are just a bit too fiddly and stuffy. Imagine if you will, a pure white classic formal shirt, with a nice dash of bright colour in the cufflinks. As you build up a wardrobe we cannot emphasise enough, the need for a few double cuff shirts.

Button cuffs should be rounded. The sharply cut cuffs while being easier to make, tend to wear out faster at the edges. A rounded cuff will not fray quite so easily and will last longer.


And you thought a shirt is just a shirt? A good formal shirt is an investment in style. It will also make you feel confident knowing that you look and feel sharp.


The better shirts tend to last longer and therefore you will find that a few shirts become your regular choice, while some are left to languish in the dark.


Modifying Shakespeare’s quote - A shirt definitely maketh the man and a bit of care will ensure that they maketh him one for a long time!