Why White shirts are the real heroes of an outfit

Like the Little Black Dress for women, a white shirt is key to a man’s wardrobe. And at EJs’, we can even have an option for beer bellies.

For decades’ women have used the Little Black Dress as their go to piece of clothing for any occasion. For lads, there is one item just as versatile - although less celebrated.

That’ll be the white shirt.

At EJ’s, we think white shirts are the real heroes of an outfit, unappreciated, underestimated and underutilised.

“There’s a pretty good reason why for us 80% of our shirt sales are white,” admits Mark Cunningham, one of our eagle-eyed style advisors.

“White shirts will never go out of fashion, a good white shirt shows off the colour of the suit because of the contrast,” says Mark.

Not to mention that white is easy to accessorise with any tie or bow tie, any colour, any pattern, any style. “There’s nothing that doesn’t go with a white shirt,” agrees Mark.

“They suit any occasion from weddings and interviews to funerals. A lot of the time customers will come in looking for something different but often than not end up leaving with a white shirt. It’s the old reliable.”

This might sound simple, but there is a skill to picking out the perfect white shirt.

In simple terms, they can look sharp and they can look dull. You might think white is white – but believe it or not it’s a colour with tone that can change before your very eyes.

When buying a white shirt and you want to look less like Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder, remember these steps:

Colour: it’s important to choose a sharp white to highlight the contrast of colours, especially when buying to match with a suit.

Touch/Feel: Mark explains what to look for when buying a high quality white shirt. “You need to search for a crisp white shirt with a nice soft touch/feel to ensure maximum comfort.

Collar: There are many different styles of collars, from grandfather collar to wing collar to semi cut away, full cut away to name but a few; but the safest bet to go with when choosing a shirt to wear a tie with is the semi cut away collar to create the perfect shape for the tie to sit neatly.

Weave: “Another key factor is the weave. You need to look for a two-ply cotton shirt, as it’s a slightly heavier weave and is superior to single ply fabrics. A lot of men are conscious of chest hair; tattoos etc. when attending formal or a family event, choosing a two-ply cotton shirt will eliminate this problem/worry.

Trimming: If you’re looking for a shirt to cover formal and casual wear then there there’s even more to look out for. “Trimming and colour stitching on the button holes or on the inside of the collar can make a shirt work for a suit or jeans and blazer,” says Mark. “A basic plain white shirt won’t work without a tie, so you need some trimming and detail around the collar and button holes to make it interchangeable.”

Casual look: For a more casual look there are button down shirts with softer collars for a more relaxed feel. Mark says “this works well with a smart casual blazer and chinos. A popular feature these days for a casual white shirt are coloured buttons with a glassed effect, which will give the shirt an extra lift under a blazer and really have a positive affect on the whole outfit.”

Fit: Finding the fit that suits you is extremely important, there is nothing worse than a shirt hanging out at the back, sloppy on the sleeves and too big on the neck, equally there is nothing worse than a shirt that makes a guy look like he is wearing a straight jacket!!! i.e. – do not wear your shirt too tight! In general there are three fits; slim, tapered and regular. Finding the fit that suits you best is key, so next time your out buying a new shirt (at EJ’s of course) it is essential that you try it on before you purchase.

Beer belly: Uh oh…only kidding. Mark informs us that in most tapered fit shirts there are two darts stitched in at the back to give the shirt a neater fit around the mid section, however these darts can be released, free of charge by EJ’s in-store alterations team, for any lad packing a bit of a beer belly, while keeping a good fit around the chest, shoulders and sleeves. Result!

So all in all, we reckon a good quality white shirt will pay you back time and time again, but for those of you who do not hold a masters degree in white shirtology, how can you ensure you buy the right white shirt for you?

According to Mark, there are three main styles that cater for different body types. “A slim shirt is a fashion piece for a man who wants a fitted shirt, a tapered shirt is smart, but not body hugging – that suits a work environment – and then a classic shirt has a more comfortable fit. And don’t forget the darts! Following these tips will ensure you get the perfect white shirt that is right for you in terms of colour, feel, fabrics, trimming and look.

White shirts are versatile and can be worn with anything.. with one big exception. but Mark says under NO circumstances should you ever team a short-sleeve shirt with a suit.

Not even EJ himself can pull that off.