Simple Clothing Item Takes Center Stage
David Donahue Dress Shirt Collection. Photo from www.daviddonahue.com.
With a new year looming, it’s time to reassess the contents of your closet and ask yourself if you are really as smart a dresser as you think you are. To help you answer this question, Epic Mens decided to comb the internet for the latest advice about the fashion particulars every man should own. Admittedly, we were a little taken aback when our search yielded 1.3 million hits, but the enormity of the task only solidified our resolve. Fortunately, we were just half a dozen articles into the effort when we noticed a common theme. At the top (or very close to the top) of each list we skimmed is a piece of clothing that has been around – well forever. In fact, this item probably took up valuable real estate in your father’s closet and his father’s before him. The single piece of clothing that wins the prize for timeless appeal is - yes, you guessed it - a crisp, wrinkle-free, long-sleeve white button-up shirt. Who knew making a fashion statement could be so easy?
If you’re feeling relieved and a tad smug because you already happen to have one or two hanging in your closet, you might want to think again. In today’s fickle menswear arena, the only men earning fashion points for incorporating this tried and true staple into their everyday wardrobe are the ones who know how to wear it well. This means no billowy sleeves, baggy torsos or droopy cuffs, and conversely, no strained seams, puckered button holes or vice-like collars.
Having second thoughts? Then go to the closet, grab your collection of white shirts and take the following fit test with us. According to the fashion maestros at Primer Magazine, a well-fitting shirt should accentuate the positive and de-accentuate the negative; in other words, the shirt should flatter your particular build. Starting at the top, choose a pointed collar to balance out the curves of a boyishly round face or wear a spread collar to strengthen a narrow face and jawline. Either way, when closed, you should be able to slide two fingers between your neck and the shirt collar. Incredibly versatile, a traditional button-down shirt features thick buttons on the collar that hold the collar tips in place. Leave the collar unfastened and pair it with jeans or khakis for a casual, relaxed look. Or for a preppy vibe, wear it underneath a sweater with the collar visible over the sweater neckline. Collars with hidden buttons or metal tabs underneath the tips also can be worn with ties and jackets for semi-formal occasions.
Moving on down, the seams of the sleeves (again per the folks at Primer Magazine) should be positioned directly over the shoulders at the point farthest from the center of your chest. Now, lift your arms so that your wrists are parallel with your waist. If that degree of movement causes your shirt to move upward more than an inch, the armholes are too low. Next, pinch a bit of material in the body of the shirt and pull it away from your torso. The amount of space between you and your shirt should not exceed three quarters of an inch – enough room to move and breathe freely, but not so much that your own shape disappears.
So far, so good? All right then, let’s keep going. To allow for shrinkage and movement, the cuff of your sleeve should fully cover your wrist bone and align with the top of your thumb. Now try bending your arm. Your cuff should not ride up your arm more than an inch. If you’re wearing a jacket, your cuff should protrude only about half an inch to an inch past your jacket sleeve. And remember, shirt cuffs are meant to fit snugly. If you can take your shirt off without unbuttoning the cuffs, then the cuff openings are too large.
At this point, you’re probably feeling quite pleased with yourself for being such a savvy shopper or you’re really disgusted with the pile of ill-fitting shirts at your feet and are ready to toss the lot and start over. Before you head out the door though, there is one more test to take. The accepted rule of thumb for an untucked shirt is that the hem should align with the bottom of the back pant pocket or the bottom of the front pant zipper. Any shirt with a tail or rounded hem is designed to be tucked in. Only a shirt with a flat hem all the way round is actually meant to be worn over pants. However, today’s style gurus do advocate untucking your rounded-hem shirts on those kickback days when you want to feel as comfortable as you look.
And there you have it – everything you need to know to appear striking in a plain white shirt. Anyone can transform this old standby into a trendy fashion statement simply by following a few easy guidelines. It appears that what you choose to wear sometimes takes a back seat to how well you wear it.