…Plus some rules on the ties you should wear with them.
The White Shirt
When it comes to professional wear, this is the ultimate blank canvas, allowing you greater freedom with colour when it comes to ties and, if you’re so inclined, pocket squares. Plus you can wear a white shirt with any of the popular masculine suit colours – black, grey, navy and even tan. Usual style rules apply – make sure your shirt is well-fitted, of a decent quality cotton, with all buttons intact, non-tatty and pressed.
The Blue Shirt
Also essential in a working man’s wardrobe, the blue shirt is almost as versatile as the white, but can make both complementary and contrasting tie colours look even more powerful. You need to consider the hue of blue – lighter is more versatile and will work with more suit and tie colours than darker blues. If your white shirt is plain cotton, consider a more textured option with your blue shirt – an Oxford cotton shirt with a dense pique weave, for instance.
The Striped Shirt
Every man needs a striped shirt in the wardrobe… but which sort? There are pinstripes, butcher stripes, mattress stripes… The answer may be somewhat determined by your understanding of how to wear the striped shirt with a tie that “works” i.e. does not jar or look mis-matched. It’s a timeless style rule: the stripes in your shirt and the stripes in your tie should not be the same width as, when it comes to stripe-on-stripe, it’s contrast that works (i.e. a thick-striped tie against a thinner striped shirt). You can be safe – a colour-blocked tie will also always work – but don’t be afraid of pattern. If you’re wearing a fairly bold butcher striped shirt, for instance, a tie with smaller, subtle patterning like a polka dot or repeating motif, can work beautifully.
The Checked Shirt
As with stripes, while every man needs a striped shirt in the wardrobe, decide on the type of stripe you’re most confident with. Small gingham check (below, top left)? Large? Windowpane (below, top right)? Pin check (below, bottom right)? Houndstooth (below, bottom left)? Whichever you choose, with a checked shirt the emphasis falls on your tie choice … it allows you to be bolder with tie print and pattern, but ensure the tie is darker and stands out more than your shirt to set the check off to best effect.
The Pink Shirt
Many men may not regard a pale pink shirt as part of their work armoury… but that’s a mistake. Like white and blue, pink is endlessly versatile and works beautifully against a suit of navy, or grey, or tan, or even black (depending on the tie). It does restrict your range of tie choices – you need to stick to something complementary on the colour wheel, like purple or violet, or go for a contrasting colour that traditionally goes well with pink, like navy.