Mr. Jenks ponders that wardrobe basic. Where do you start….?

The shirt. A staple of the working and casual wardrobe for men. Given the sheer profusion of choice where do you start? Much depends on the breakdown of your wardrobe – are you in an office bound, suit required environment and do you naturally veer to the smart casual when not at work?

Given this varied problem, we shall look at two options and baseline shirt wardrobes. For the office workers amongst you, we could argue the minimum number of shirts required is 12. Seven of these will be for work – one for each day and two to see you into the following working week and five casual for the weekend.

For work, much will depend on the company. If you work in the corporate world, it is highly likely Pax Americana will rule; the white shirt. Unfortunately in work, standing out is sometimes not recommended so look at how your bosses dress – are blue or pink shirts worn and deemed acceptable – before you begin to structure your own shirt buying. If coloured shirts are allowable, consider a work shirt split of roughly 50:50 – you can never go wrong in the white shirt when presenting to your divisional head – and whichever colour naturally suits you (blue in this writer’s case).

Once you have done that, key points to consider are the collar and cuffs. A Cutaway or Windsor collar has traditionally been seen as more formal and correct when worn under a suit. Shirts with pockets should not be worn in the office environment. Most cut back collared shirts usually come with double cuffs for cuff links, this is again deemed the most formal and is a discreet way for a man to show a little taste when at work. However, double cuffs are by no means compulsory; a button cuff can be worn, if you desire something a little off beat consider a cocktail cuff – made famous by Sean Connery’s early James Bond – but these are very tricky to track down unless you have the means to go made to measure or bespoke.

President Cutaway by Proper Cloth.

English Spread by Proper Cloth.

Cuffs are more a personal choice, the collar will frame your tie and your face so will be more critical as people will note it (even subconsciously) if it’s wrong. Fit is also important; with the trend to slim cut shirts, check and try at various shirt makers to see how the shirt moves when you sit, twist and point. Nothing is more unbecoming than seeing a very tight shirt at breaking point in a presentation. Even if you like very slim fit shirts away from the office, consider a slightly loser tailored cut for work just to give you a little leeway.

Away from the office the sky’s the limit. However, there are certain points to bear in mind. Work out with colour works best with your complexion, eye and hair colour and so on – don’t be afraid to ask people about this as this palette choice is going to influence a major wardrobe item. Once you know this, this is a kernel to buy – and experiment – around. Outside the office, Oxford cotton, linen, button down collars are all there for playing with. For the office bound amongst you, out of your 12, you have five (or more) to see you through a weekend or two.

There are one or two points to bear in mind once you’re looking at patterned shirts. Stripes are great for elongating the body, if you quite small and slim go for a narrower stripe to avoid being overwhelmed; likewise checks, a larger check will just not be in the right proportion to the smaller chap.

Clearly those not needing the suit and tie between Monday and Friday have more leeway in what you wear. You favourite colour can be indulged every day of the week. You may not need quite the number of shirts to see off the daily commute – nine to ten should make to decent wardrobe. Though it clearly depends on your working environment, always keep a couple of single colour, formal collared numbers somewhere. You never know if you need to go cap in hand to your bank manager……

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