An exclusive article written by Tom Bradbury, Head Bespoke Shirt Cutter at Dege & Skinner.
In the new world of a global virus crisis, where shopping habits are having to evolve, yet fashion trends continue to be ever-changing, it can be somewhat bewildering to know what is in style and what is not. Fortunately, when it comes to shirts, there is no such dilemma. Whether being worn at work or for a more casual leisurely affair, the simple shirt is a staple in everyman’s wardrobe.
So what are the six most dependable shirts, the absolute must-haves for any discerning man?
We asked Tom Bradbury, Dege & Skinner’s Head Bespoke Shirt-Cutter for his thoughts. As well as cutting shirts for this London-based, family-owned, 155 year old bespoke tailor and shirt-maker, Tom also travels around the world to measure clients for bespoke shirts that are then cut and made at number 10, Savile Row. His travels will resume once national restrictions are lifted.
1) Coming in at Number 1? It simply has to be the plain white shirt. Without a doubt the easiest shirt to wear and style. A crisp white shirt compliments all skin complexions and can be worn with most outfits. Paired with a French (double) cuff and stylish cufflinks, the wearer will impress with a sharp, clean business look. Alternatively, when made with a button cuff instead, the wearer can style it up, or down, even wear their plain white shirt more casually with some smart trousers or denim jeans.
2) At number 2, somewhat of a contentious choice, the ‘white collar and cuff contrast’. Often depicted in films and on TV, a white collar and cuff is considered to be a highly formal, statement shirt. In the 1900’s the then removable white collar led to the emergence of the economic terms ‘blue collar’ and ‘white collar’ to designate the socio-economic status of the working class. White collared shirts became synonymous with educated, more highly paid, prominent professions such as accounting, banking, finance, etc. Blue collared shirts were analogous with lower paid, manual professions such as construction and factory workers.
Normally cut with a spread collar and double cuffs, this formal shirt demands to be worn with a necktie and cufflinks. On Savile Row the most popular colour choices for this style of shirt are plain blue or pink with contrasting white collar and cuffs. Although only a touch different to its plain brother, this shirt exudes an air of confidence possibly unrivalled by any other style, but beware. Wearing this shirt will attract attention and comment!
3) The ‘button down’ comes in at number 3 and is arguably the most diverse shirt to have in your wardrobe. The buttoned down collar automatically creates a more casual look, yet can still be worn formally, and in any material. Consider a striped poplin that can be worn with a suit or blazer on those occasions where a neck tie is not necessary, or most popularly, in an Oxford weave fabric that can be worn with a pair of jeans, or even with rolled up sleeves and a pair of shorts.
4) And, the classic summer linen. Whether you are soaking up the sun on a yacht in Monaco or hosting a BBQ in your back garden, the cool ease and breathability of a linen shirt can enhance the enjoyment of those hot summer days. From bold and vibrant colours to more pastel shades, a linen shirt allows you to express a more playful side to your wardrobe. Individual taste can be taken to another level with the potential of having short sleeves, considering the casual nature of this fabric. Of course, linen can be a ‘Marmite’ cloth so for those that aren’t enamoured with it when it inevitably creases, then perhaps try a linen and cotton mix. Increasingly popular with shirting manufacturers and customers alike, this blend combines the cool lightweight nature of a linen shirt, with the stability of a cotton one, making it less prone to creasing.
5) The penultimate choice is the black-tie dress shirt, sometimes known as a tuxedo shirt. Although worn much less often than daytime shirts, the formal dress shirt is still a definite must for those social calendar highlights when black-tie is the dress code. Dress shirts are typically made with either marcella or hand pleated fronts, both of which are stylish and timeless and tend to be worn with a set of dress studs.
For those who are lucky enough to wear them often, perhaps having one or two of each dress shirt styles to hand will allow for a variety of formal evening looks. Perhaps the easiest adaptation is a fly fronted dress shirt, where the buttons down the front are covered by a fold of cloth under the front, maintaining a crisp and clean look whilst not requiring a set of dress studs. I can’t count the number of times we’ve had to rush a set of dress stubs to a customer who had forgotten his own set and only realised at the last minute!
6) And the final, possibly surprising suggestion from a traditional Savile Row shirt-maker? The over shirt. Although that may not have been first on your shirt wish list, once you’ve had the pleasure of owning an over shirt, you probably won’t know how you ever got on without having one. Often worn open and unbuttoned, over shirts can be used in summer as an alternative to a classic blazer, or worn over a T-shirt, under an overcoat for an extra layer of warmth. Details like multiple pockets make this a popular shirt to travel in. Whilst a blazer may be seen as overly formal, the over shirt can be worn with much more ease while still making this more casual garment step up to the grade and turn heads.
Read more in Regalier Issue 2