10 November 2011

On Business Shirts

Dress shirts are disposable and should not be a significant feature of a man's wardrobe. They are background. Not for me, the modern fashion for shirts in loud colours and curious checked patterns. A recent quantitative analysis of my business shirts revealed approximately 67% are strong white, with smaller percentages devoted to ivory, ecru, blue, pink, and various stripes. I have two striped shirts with a white collar (never with white cuffs!). I have a few checked shirts, too, but I tend to avoid them for office wear. Here is what Boyer says on the matter:

'Business shirts are traditionally restricted to light colours or plain white (historically, a white shirt indicated that the wearer was above manual labour and had the wherewithall to maintain a delicate wardrobe) and simple patterns. White and pale blue are the safest, with ivory and pale grey following in favour. Pale pink is not unacceptable, nor are shirts with white collars and cuffs and coloured bodies. The latter two categories, however, call for an added confidence and sense of colour coordination, since deviation from the tried-and-true hues always carries the double risk of appearing too studied and of clashing with the jacket and tie.'

Elegance, G. Bruce Boyer (1985)

11 comments:

Cyprian Korzeniowski said...

The profusion of colored dress shirts, from drab and ugly to the loud and obnoxious is confusing. Why go out of your way to wear something that looks bad, when looking good is as simple as white? Doubtless for the same reasons some men spike their hair and grow facial hair solely on their chin.

Dutch Uncle said...

A white broadcloth dress shirt with a tab collar has been my choice since the 1960s.

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with these sentiments. Nothing is more humourous than the iGent conventions that white shirts are boring, unflattering, etc. Given your affinity for the British dandy look, I am pleasantly surprised that you do not like the bold stripes and checks I see on some of the UK gents.

Anonymous said...

I presume that you only wear a spread/wide collar for business, Admiral. What are your thoughts on a button-down collar worn with a "business suit"?

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, I suppose if a man is in the business of being boring then plain white is a perfectly reasonable and obvious choice.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

A.E.F. ~ Fo sho, and shit.

Thirty Miles At Sea said...

A pale pink dress shirt is unacceptable, but a dark pink one is? I thought that a paler shade was more restrained, especially with an acceptable but edgy color like pink. Otherwise I agree 100%, an I am glad to see ecru get the credit it deserves.

Thirty Miles At Sea said...

On second reading it says pale pink is not unacceptable. I have trouble perceiving double negatives after a couple glasses.

MGM said...

Yes, the Fogey is absolutely right, yet again. I practice law, and, at least when I have to appear in court, I feel like I need to really dress conservatively and appropriately. This often means solid-color shirts and plain navy blazers. You can tell that a lot of these "style blogs" are really just commentary in a sort of fantasy-world. No one in the actual business world really dresses like this, or could even if they wanted to.

However, I will say this: Most people have absolutely NO idea how to dress --- their shirts, jackets and pants are way too baggy, the bottom of their pants too long and thus are terribly frayed, and their ties are almost always ugly. So, even when I do dress bolder than usual (bright shirts and ties, slim jackets and pants with NO break), no one would dare criticize me because it is obvious that I have style while they do not. Most people are totally ignorant of style, and so they wouldn't know how to comment on my stlye choices even if they wanted to.

But I agree: As a general rule, it is better to dress down in the business world.

v. Braun. said...

White and light blue dress shirts are indispensable not only for business attire but also as a good background to broadly checked and 'loudly' patterned country clothes.

Anonymous said...

Above all, NO horizontal striped shirts.