What does it take to be a fashion-forward man?
Exquisitely warm and comfortable men's tweed jackets?
Gorgeous and soft silk ties?
A can-do attitude?
The answer is yes, to all of the above, but that's not all. While the dress shirts we wear tend to take a back-seat to more up-front, in-your-face choices like that new pin-stripe suit or flashy red wool tie, that doesn't mean they aren't important. In fact, while they may be the background to a stunning ensemble, they play an essential role: pulling together your entire look.
Do you have the right dress shirts hanging in your walk-in-wardrobe?
Dress Shirts you Can't Live Without
- The White Twill/Pinpoint/Poplin- The white dress shirt. It's an essential in all of our wardrobes; every man should own at least one. These shirts not only make men's suits pop with exquisite style, but can pull together almost any outfit, no matter how casual. It will look just as good under a suit jacket as it does below a v-neck worn with a pair of chinos. The white dress shirt is crisp, clean, and looks professional. Your walk-in-wardrobe should contain at least two, if not three of these shirts.
- Light Blue Twill/Pinpoint/Poplin- This shirt is another essential to a man's wardrobe, and offers some of the same benefits as the white shirt. It isn't as formal as white, but it allows the wearer to add a splash of colour to his ensemble while still looking 'dressed up.'
- Oxford Button Down Shirt- This type of shirt isn't technically considered to be a dress shirt, especially if it's cut in a more rumpled, thicker cloth. It still deserves a mention, however, because it is extremely versatile. To wear this type of shirt at the office, make sure to choose lighter hues, like white and light blue, and feel the cloth. The thicker is it, the more casual it will appear to be. If you aren't sure how thick the cloth should be to wear it at work, take a poplin shirt out of your wardrobe and compare the two. It should be no thicker than a standard poplin to be considered “dressy.” You shouldn't turn up your nose to those thicker options, however. They may not be right for the office, but they can easily dress up your casual ensemble so you look pulled-together even when you're dressed down.
- Tattersall Shirt- Tattersall shirts offer a special kind of check pattern, different than the normal go-to checks and striped dress shirts that we default to. They not only appear professional, but they also add colour and even depth when worn under a blazer or tweed jacket. Pay attention to the size of the squares when making this purchase. They should be no smaller than a pencil eraser and no bigger than the bottle cap on your favourite ale.
- Gingham- Having a go-to gingham in your closet is essential, as it can be dressed up or dressed down as the mood fit. It's the perfect shirt to wear when you have after-work plans. At the office, under the men's suit jacket, it will look professional. At the pub with your mates, you can take off the jacket and simply look smart-casual. Be bold with your colour choices. Black and white will give you the most contrast, but other colours like red, purple, and blue can deliver a great appearance as well. Keep your skin tone in mind when choosing the colours and opt for those that will look best on you.
- Micro Patterns- Micro pattern dress shirts don't limit themselves to a certain type. They can be tattersall, gingham, micro-laid, check, or houndstooth. The main feature of each of these shirts is a small pattern with two to three colours. In general, stripes are not used; the pattern is typically more geometric.
- Bengal Stripes- While this shirt has a white base, you might not be able to tell it from a distance. In fact, it may look as if the shirt is actually the colour of the stripe. This is because the stripes on this shirt are thick and close together. Wearing a bengal striped shirt beneath a sport coat or men's tweed jacket is the perfect way to add dimension and colour to your ensemble.
- The Pink or Subtle Red Patterned Dress Shirt- Be careful when choosing this type of shirt for your wardrobe. If your skin is naturally pale, you may appear flushed when wearing a pink dress shirt, even if it's worn with contrasting dark men's suits. If this is the case, opt out of the pink and instead choose a red-on-white micro-check.
- The Grey Dress Shirt- Grey shirts may not seem like they could offer any kind of life to your wardrobe, but they actually work well with navy suits, black sweaters, and black blazers. When you're going out after dark, this shirt will make you feel dressed up without much effort at all.
- Checks and Stripes- There's a reason these shirts are the go-to default for many men. They work. They look brilliant beneath suit jackets, but can easily be worn on their own with a pair of chinos for a more casual, but smart, look. Invest in at least one of each.
Choosing the Best Shirts for Your Suits
While you may not have all the money in the world to spend on the clothing that goes into your wardrobe, there are a few pieces that are essential to showing off your style. Your dress shirts may not get the attention that a stunning three piece suit does, but that doesn't mean they aren't vital to the success of an outfit. Choosing and investing in the right shirts can change your entire look.
That doesn't mean that you have to stick to these suggestions, however. Explore a little and let your personality help you decide what looks best on you. Once you have the essentials, try new patterns, colours, and styles with your other clothing options. This will help you find your own signature style that sets you apart from everyone else.