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Five tips on shirts

15 August 2011

Shirts are often underrated. Lying beneath tailored jacket and silken tie, they can seem less important than both. But in an age when men usually take off their jacket during the day, indeed often don’t even wear a jacket to the office, the shirt has assumed new importance. So read.

1 Fit is quite easy

A bespoke shirt is not easy to fit well. There’s the amount of give at chest, waist and hips, the width through the arm and balance. But it’s not as complex as a bespoke jacket. In fact, three aspects of fit are by far the most important: neck, wrist and waist.

Shirts come in neck sizes and often sleeve lengths as well, so as long as you know how these should fit (two fingers just about fit under the collar, sleeve stops at the base of your thumb) you’re most of the way there. Then, unless you can find a cut that’s exactly right, take the shirt to your tailor and get darts put in. Most do it and they can get the fit just right.

2 Spend time on washing

Put some extra detergent on the armpits, collar and double cuffs of a white shirt before you wash it. At least do the armpits on every other colour. Sweat stains are a poor excuse to rid of a shirt.

3 An open neck requires a strong collar

There’s nothing wrong with wearing a shirt without a tie. Just make sure the lack of a tie’s silk is made up with colour or pattern elsewhere. And that your collar doesn’t collapse.

Many things determine the ‘stand’ of a collar, which prevents it from folding up meekly below the lapel of your jacket and negating the point of wearing one. These things include the collar’s height, construction and spread. You know which of your shirts have it; only wear those ones without a tie. And if in doubt, get a button-down.

4 White versus blue

White is clean, crisp and smart; it should always be the default at a formal event, indeed traditionally would always have been changed into for the evening. Blue is more versatile and flatters more skin types. It can handle dark, pale and bright colours where some can make a white shirt look cheap. You will probably end up with more blue than anything else. Nothing wrong with that: experiment instead with cloth, weight and weave.

5 Nothing wrong with wear either

The first thing that will go with shirts (if you’re washing them properly) is fraying at the corners of the collar and the edges of the cuffs. If it is bespoke, the maker might be able to replace them, probably with white equivalents, at less than half the cost of a new shirt. But you don’t have to; fraying isn’t necessarily bad. Like distressed jeans, it’s something some designers even add to shirts to make them seem more personal. As long as the shirt isn’t a formal, double-cuffed and spread-collared affair, then continue to wear it but with jeans and tweed at the weekend.

Pictured here: Budd bespoke shirts being made. The refurb of Budd is coming along nicely and sounds like it will be a more welcoming place to buy and have shirts fitted. Looking forward to seeing the finished product.