The White Shirt

The white cotton shirt is not a classic for nothing. Everybody from Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction to Meghan Markle last week is wearing it, it’s appropriate to wear anywhere, and almost without exception it looks good on anyone. Herewith a few hacks.

Go for 100% cotton

Stretch can work in jeans (just) and sportswear, but there’s absolutely no point in adding Lycra to white shirts. It does not add to comfort, it makes the fabric look and feel cheap and it absorbs sweat like there’s no tomorrow, massively contributing to the unsightly yellow armpits. There’s no amount of vinegar baths in this world to get rid of the yellow stains if the fabric contains elastane, I can tell you that much.

Take a size up

As a rule of thumb, a tight white shirt never looks good. Go up a size and you will exponentially increase the possibilities to wear it.

There are interesting and subtle ways to exhibit one’s underwear should that be your thing, but letting your bra flash between the gaping holes on the front panel of your too tight shirt is not one of them.

Wearing a bra in a bright colour underneath a loose-fitting white shirt can be a fun look. Ditto a camisole. A white t-shirt – less so. It ruins any attempts at a clean silhouette. You want to avoid any unnecessary bulk around the upper arms.

Buy a soap that contains ox-bile

Most chemists stock the green soap that contains ox-bile to remove stains. And stains there will be, dear reader. Your life’s mission will become the constant washing of collars and cuffs, which, like magnets, draw in all kinds of elements, such as foundation and powder.

It is not always necessary to wash the entire shirt after a wear, but most often the collar will need to be refreshed a bit. You can do this over a sink, rubbing in the soap, waiting for about 15 minutes and rinsing it.

Even if you take your shirts to dry cleaning, keep stain removers at home. In my experience the ox-bile soap does a much better job in removing grease and makeup than chemical treatments.

A few words about styling your shirt

Collar can be up or down, that’s your call. However do try to resist the urge to arrange the lapels on top of the collar of your blazer, should you be wearing one. This is a crazy look, unless you work for a security company. And frankly it looks crazy even then.

Same thing with knits. No need to flap the lapels over the collar. Unless, of course, you’re 5 years old and your headmaster makes you, so as to show off the embroidery of the school crest on the lapels.

Then we absolutely need to discuss the rolling of the cuffs. If we are going for the relaxed look of a slightly loose cotton shirt paired with jeans, for example, the sleeves sort of beg to be rolled up. Most people do the maddening folding cuff-roll, which then sort of limply hangs at the end of the sleeve like a lifeless rat.

For your ease of reference I am adding a picture below showing a very good, casual cuff-roll by the Duchess of the Cuff Rolls, and a short video-clip on which the Queen of the Cuff Rolls, Jenna Lyons demonstrates how one should go about this exercise.

Finally, to the question “but could I wear it to a friend’s wedding?” – Yes, you could, and absolutely should, like Jenna Lyons did few years ago.

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