The humble shirt is arguably the cornerstone of any professional gentleman’s business attire, yet many of us pay little attention to this vital wardrobe staple. But I say enough is enough and believe like any foundation a well fitted shirt is an essential complement to your suit. Get it wrong – well you know what would happen to a building!
Below are my top six tips to help you nail buying work shirts, and for good measure I’ve also thrown in a few pointers on how to pair a great tie too.
- Fabrics – mens’s shirts come in a variety of fabrics (cotton, blended cotton, twill, oxford etc) and each has its advantages. But for me cotton is king because anything less potentially risks being too casual e.g. linen or flannel and anymore is too flashy – think silk shirts.
- Collar size – this really comes down to comfort. Some men prefer a closer fit whilst others go for a looser collar. Either way, you don’t want to choke yourself unconscious nor do you want to create a ‘chicken neck’ look. My suggestion would be something in between. If in doubt about your size, ask the sales assistant to help.
- Collar style – whether you go for Classic, Cut-Away or Extreme Cut-Away collars will largely be dependent on the shape of your face. If you have more defined features and look like Super Man, the cut-away options are likely to flatter you the most. If you have a rounder face, pointy classic collars should help sharpen up your facial structure. In my opinion when worn with a suit, shirts with button-down collars are a big no, no and leave the tab collars for James Bond.
- Sleeves – fit/length is sometimes overlooked. You’re not a Knight attending the court of Henry VIII so you don’t want big baggy sleeves (watch re-runs of “The Tudors” TV series and you’ll know exactly what I mean). Most quality retailers will have a selection of sleeve lengths. Speak to the sales assistant and ask them to measure your arms. Now that you’re equipped with the correct sleeve length add this to your list along with collar size and you’re good to go. When it comes to cuffs you can choose buttons or double, it’s entirely up to you. But, personally, I prefer the button cuffs look.
- Fit – much like your suit jacket the fits start from the boxier Regular all the way up to Extra-Slim. Whichever you go for, depending on your body shape and size, always remember you want to achieve a comfortable flattering look. So, please avoid any gaps in between the front buttons to expose bare flesh / a bulging tummy at all cost.
- Colours – this can be a biggie. A well fitted classic white shirt will easily achieve a dashing look for most men and is also timeless. I’d therefore recommend adding a few to your arsenal and ditching any that have turned grey(ish). When it comes to other option’s I’d suggest plain light/sky blue or light grey as they will match brilliantly with a dark blue or dark grey suit. You may, however, want to steer clear of printed shirts – Bengal stripes for instance can make you look like a giant boiled sweet. Leave the fancy patterns and graphics for your ties.
- Ties – if your budget stretches far enough, aim for 100% silk ties. They’re not only softer in texture and last longer you can also create a much neater knot. And whilst they are the slightly more expensive option, usually starting at around £30, they do also look great. Try not to go too crazy with patterns, you don’t want to look like someone has been sick on you. Create a good mix of solid single colours and patterned ties. Most retailers will sell a selection of both.
Get your shirt and tie combo right so the next time you slip of your perfectly fitting suit jacket and roll up your sleeves your team and your Boss will know that you mean business.
Next time I’ll be discussing men’s leather shoes.
Sanu – Founder, CheekyLittleCareers