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How to wear a white shirt

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Manton, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. hpreston

    hpreston Senior member

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    +1


    Personally, I think this is a good look. I bought a "wedding tie" for my wedding, and after letting it sit in the closet for a while, started wearing it again. It looks clean, and is a nice change of pace from my mostly solid tie collection.


    Depending on the shade, I like a blue OCBD with seersucker, or if adventurous, a pink OCBD. Either one works with a navy silk knit tie.


    +1000

    This is one of the best things I have learned from SF, and various #menswear blogs. It's one of those misconceptions prepetuated by salespeople with little knowledge. I have about a dozen varieties of blues shirts, solids, stripes, mini checks, etc. and only three white shirts, one FC, one BC, one OCBD that is usually for very casual wear (with navy shorts in the summer, or under a sweater in the winter)

     
  2. aw82

    aw82 Well-Known Member

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    Can I get some clarification here: where do shirts that have a white ground with very narrow checks, stripes, or windowpanes fall? I would assume these don't offend these rules...
     
  3. Geezer

    Geezer Senior member

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    I must be satorially de-evolving. When I was younger, I probably owned one white shirt. Now I have around a dozen, and appear to have worn one yesterday and today (with a suit of course: I only wear white shirts with odd jackets in blazer/summery mode and even then rarely).

    I like the "crispness", the implied formality, the traditional aspects (50 years ago, almost everyone wore white shirts with suits). I think the colour palette issues are not as clear-cut as has been suggested (a tan helps). And there is a certain CBD simplicity that I increasingly find attractive about a plain suit, subtle tie, white shirt and white square, where the charm is in the details of texture, pattern and weave (I am growing fond of white shirts with a bit of texture to them, like herringbone twills). Or maybe it's just being too lazy to try to match more complex combinations at 7AM.

    After white, my staple is light blue. But I am very picky about light blues and mildly dislike half my blue shirts. Most of them are a fraction of a shade too dark, or have the merest hint of RAF blue-grey. A light blue shirt with a bright, warm, sky blue colour is a rare and prized item.

    I abhor cream and yellow shirts - on me, they make me look ill, or like I am wearing a white shirt that wasn't washed properly. I buy one every five years or so in the hope that it will be different, and it never is.
     
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  4. Fuuma

    Fuuma Senior member

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    You and several others, maybe including some of the “forum elders”, are fundamentally misunderstanding what is going on here and in other similar threads started by the aforementioned elders. While you may see these threads as imparting some sort of absolute, objective and universal set of rules and practices without providing any justification for why it is so (let’s call this the Platonic approach, nothing to do with not getting laid) what you have is in reality similar to Aristotelian ethics. Instead of scrapping what is currently believed to be true and what is put in practice and trying to end up with a new set of absolutely proven rules demonstrated through a long and tedious argumentative chain we start with the end result and work backward, resolving contradictions as we go along. This is called methodological conservatism and is very appropriate for MC. The way it goes is that you acknowledge that you live in a certain society, in a certain time and at a certain place but that what you are trying to do is to give people the tools to deal with that specific context anyway, you make no pretense of going for the absolute and universal (like Plato did) and you don’t attack the whole social edifice anyway but systematize what is the good in this specific context. You go with what the wise (those that are respected and have well thought out opinions) and the many (consensual statements that the populace can easily go for like “we dress to look good”) believe in and work from there to develop a coherent set of principles that others may adopt to have a praxis of dressing well. Now Aristotle was quite adamant that your values were the result of your education and that you weren’t fundamentally virtuous or lacking in virtue, he however basically thought that it was pretty useless to try to change the non-virtuous as they were fucked up for life or something equally silly. It is also why he doesn’t care about justifying certain statements he makes, if you’re an ok dude you’re supposed to agree with him and go along.

    Applying this to what is happening in MC should be quite easy but let me spell it out for you: people that are generally recognized as dressing well and making well thought-out points about dressing are dropping knowledge to help the mass of awful to decent MC dressers dress better in an MC context (so no claim to universality, timelessness or any other drivel should be believed to be anything but rhetorical), this also serves them to resolve their diverging opinions and coalesce MC-knowledge into a coherent set of practices that is relatively easily applicable. They will probably fail to help most of you because your aesthetic education was a failure and these things are hard to rectify. Stuff is still interesting. There are several important problems with Aristotelian ethics and the subject/object Cartesian distinction of someone from outside looking in rationally and methodically at the world and making dispassionate observation about objects to learn their properties (Heidegger basically destroyed the whole thing in Being and Time), they also apply here, this isn’t really too important right now as most MCers need such help to grow into looking like something beside Christmas trees of fabric.
     
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  5. globetrotter

    globetrotter Senior member

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    ^ I think, from following threads over the years, that shirts follow a theory of art history - that something will start of simple and austere, become baroque over time, and then return to a neo-austerity. people seem to start with white shirts, go to patterns, slowly return to whites and then shift to patters again. if you live long enough, I guess you can do this several times.
     
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  6. R.O. Thornhill

    R.O. Thornhill Senior member

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    I just can't get behind white shirts outside occasions where they are absolutely called for.

    That is not to say that I don't think others can look good in white shirts - In theory I share Manton's liking for a navy suit, a white shirt, and a conservative tie. Especially for an evening event

    Nevertheless I hardly ever turn to my white shirts (not that I have many). As a very fair-skinned, and blonde person a white shirt always seems to drain the colour away from me (for much the same reason I don't wear light grey suits). But it is not just that. I also find white shirts much less versatile than a blue shirt (plain, striped or check) in terms of creating an interesting dialogue with your tie. Next to a white shirt, most blue ties represent - to my mind - too much of a contrast. Being able to play around with different shades and tones of colour is what I enjoy the most - and white being the absence of colour adds very little

    That is also why I would, for a evening, be much more inclined to opt for a pink shirt than a white one. Pink next to navy,is to me, one of the best combinations

    The only time white feels like this only option is for evening wear. Wearing black, everything else would just feel wrong. That said - when I have my new midnight blue dinner jacket made this autumn i may also have a cream silk dinner shirt made

    R-O-T
     
  7. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    That is all correct, and really amazing, if I may say, only I for one do not take it for granted that Heidegger was right and Aristotle was wrong. But then, I am a Straussian.
     
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  8. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    What I wrote applies to solid white. Checks with white ground are a whole nother can of worms that perhaps will be addressed later.
     
  9. TM79

    TM79 Senior member

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    I only have one white shirt right now. It's an american oxford with a semi spread collar and I haven't worn it in a while because I don't need to wear suits for work.

    In my 20's I probably owned 3-4 white shirts and wore them too much in a business casual environment. Light blue is my go-to shirt now.
     
  10. Fuuma

    Fuuma Senior member

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    I am asking that those reading me leave this part aside anyway as I do believe an ethics of dressing is exactly what is needed in MC and, in a sense, what out readers are asking for.

    A decent ( and non-Sartrean, that dickhead) approach to Heidegger is that he didn't so much destroy philosophy that came before him, especially the Descartes/Subject-Object thread that lead to phenomenology/Husserl but rather point that that while the subject/object way of observing the world was appropriate and possible (*that's the hard sciences approach) there was a pre-conscious sociological process at play that 1) meant we didn't need to go for Husserl's (perfect) idea that our perceptions were very real and enough 2) didn't need to question if the world was real because we were already in it and it was an integrated whole and we made sense of it that way (we didn't observe the hammer but used it without much thought toward a purpose and perceived it in relation to certain objects, social processes and end goals, being a carpenter, using nails, going to work etc.). You will in fact, coming back to Aristotle, note that he has in common with Heidegger a profoundly modern approach that is linked to the social sciences and not to the hard sciences like Descartes and his ilk. Aristotle can be used as both the father of very logical conservatism and a useful reference for the very modern to post-modern social sciences approach so he is much richer and valuable in my mind than I usually give him credit for.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
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  11. Geezer

    Geezer Senior member

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    Fuuma lost me at "praxis", probably because I am a bit thick and don't speak French.

    But the return of the "forum elders", the Hidden Imams of SF, in the last few days has made this forum into what I thought it was when I chanced across it three years ago. A post-graduate seminar in clothing studies, rather than a nursery school class on stacking plastic blocks.
     
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  12. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Where's itsstillmatt, RJman and RSS?
     
  13. Fuuma

    Fuuma Senior member

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    Praxis is def not french but I assume you were joking. Whenever you see praxis just replace it by "set of practices used to attain the goal of dressing well". To use a religious analogy I don't believe the current crop of thread starters/forum elders really care that you understand the intricacy of the religious discourse or that you are a true believer, they are giving you a few things you should do if you believe dressing well is possible and your socialization has at least given you a somewhat approximation of what "dressing well" means in the western world (aesthetic harmony, social recognition, respect for the ritual of various situations).
     
  14. ballmouse

    ballmouse Senior member

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    I mostly agree with Manton's points on the white shirt. However, for readers that also sometimes err on the SW&D side of fashion (jeans, sneakers, etc.), the white shirt is probably the best shirt to wear. I'm not completely sure why, but I think the contrast of color and narrow color scheme it provides are key factors of the white shirt over the blue shirt. That's not to say the blue shirt isn't fine for SW&D too, but a white shirt is oddly enough a great asset for street wear.
     
  15. Adarael

    Adarael Well-Known Member

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    Well... I'm certainly self-conscious about my love of white shirts, now.

    So, two questions, then: I own a lot of odd jackets, generally with a windowpane check or a rough texture. I've generally avoided patterned shirts with them, because I feel like mixing small pattern with large pattern or small pattern with small texture is a horrible idea. Is this a good place to rock the lightly colored shirt, or a non-busy checked shirt, or both?

    Second question being: What color shirt with a cream-colored odd jacket?
     
  16. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Sigh.

    In terms of historical precedence, I can, if necessary, post pics of English nobility in their tweeds and white shirts at the turn of the last century. Or a sea of sportcoated prep school students in the '60s. Endless Ivy League shots from the post-war era. Or Manton's beloved AA drawings ... depicting casual suits worn outside the city with white shirts. In short, every period of the 20th century.

    Admittedly, white shirts are not always the best choice. Sometimes white's too high contrast. Sometimes blue simply works better. But white shirts are never the worst choice, either. A lot of the horrible combos we see here would be improved by the simple background afforded by a white shirt.

    Do not wear white shirts if you do not like them. But do not be confused: There is not a single place or function in America today at which a non-SFer would think twice about a white shirt.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
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  17. Adarael

    Adarael Well-Known Member

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    Oh, I own too many white shirts to straight up STOP wearing them. I've already taken that plunge, to be sure.

    I was simply curious what Manton's suggestion would be, for the same reasons I always like seeing what people suggest on SF: I may not do what they suggest, but I like to know why they suggest it, and what their rationale is.

    Edit: Also, I have been thinking lately "I need more non-white shirts." What a convenient excuse you are, threak. I knew you had promise when I opened you.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
  18. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    Manton, I'm not sure I agree. I think a white shirt is often the best choice when it comes to blue jackets and grey trousers, even if worn in the day. Rather than "schoolboy," I think "Old Money." In any case, I think this thread needs more photos.

    These seem to work fine, IMO. Even optimally so

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    Whereas these seem like they could be better with a blue or patterned shirt (Edited: Took out a photo, as someone corrected me and told me one of the shirts was actually cream. I'll try to find other examples later)

    [​IMG]


    Finally, here are two interesting photos of Alden, who looks to be wearing two different shirts, even though it's the same outfit, purely because of the lighting. In this case, I think you're right that blue works much better.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    I'll leave it to someone more motivated than me to Photoshop the first set of photos with blue shirts, should we care to make better comparisons.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
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  19. MyOtherLife

    MyOtherLife Senior member

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    Mantons thoughts are interesting but they appear to me as conjecture mixed with some (cherry-picked) fact. Doc Holliday provides irrefutable fact. Wealthy gents wearing a white shirt to a black tie event may be an unrecognized faux pas. All classes of gents wear (wore) a white shirt to sunday church service, funerals and weddings. History is being lost in the originating post. White represents (or at least represented) purity; blue, fidelity; purple, royalty, etc. Perhaps a dedicated thread to the historical meanings, importance and usage of colour in clothing is in order?
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
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  20. Jackie Treehorn

    Jackie Treehorn Senior member

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    For the most part, I find the Manton school of thought intriguing. It's highly opinionated, though usually well reasoned.

    That said, Manton tends to conflate the topics of social-correctness and aesthetics. For instance, when I encounter a sentence that begins with "It's never okay to...," I assume this sentence is about social correctness. "It's never okay to" connotes to "It is incorrect to," or "It is improper to." But in this case, Manton does not appear to be calling something "never okay" on the criterion of social etiquette. Rather, he's justifying his proscription by way of aesthetic principles. "It's never okay to" wear a white shirt in X context, per Manton, because a white shirt looks bad in X context. Or is he saying that it's never okay to wear a white shirt in X context because it's not proper to do so? Or is it both?

    Making this even more confusing is the fact that Manton will base a lot of his opinions on subjective preferences. (And he will even admit as much). Nevertheless, he states these preferences in generally the same tone as he states his social rules, in generally the same tone as he states his aesthetic ideals. That tone is peremptory by default, as if intended to be both the first and final word on any subject.

    Manton, I don't believe you intend to be this way. In some ways, I even think this makes you more charming and more interesting as a thinker. But I do wish you'd take more time to differentiate between your aesthetic opinions and your social proscriptions, or else to draw a connective thread between them.
     
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