The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to live a life less ordinary and embrace classic style in the broadest sense. it's time to rise above the trite, the boring, the predictable, the mundane, the banal, and the commonplace. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. It's time to learn once again how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication. And here is where you can learn how.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dress Shirt Basics. . .

A grouping of fairly basic dress shirts hanging in the basement here at Stollen Central.  A mix of button-down and straight collars, in cotton oxford cloth and lighter weight cotton poplin.

For average guys looking to kick up their dress shirt style a few notches, I'd suggest keeping things fairly simple.  That means you want to have more than just a couple of ugly, smelly man-made fiber shirts hanging in your closet.  We aren't cheap, Eastern European street thugs scoping out the blond babes in a Norwegian disco after all!  And yes, before you ask, I've actually observed this a few times in another life.  Clearly, even the remotest possibility of money, ill-gained or otherwise, talks to some women.

Returning to the point at hand though, stick to basic mid- to light blue and white with most of your shirts.  These colors look good on just about anyone and provide a fairly neutral palette on which you can hang busier neckties and/or jackets without too much thought or angst about standing out in the wrong way.  Regular visitors to The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style might recall that I am a fan of Land's End shirts.  The company offers decent quality, off-the-rack, cotton shirts in an array of colors and patterns, plus Land's End offers regular sales, promotions, and overstock at sometimes ridiculously low prices.  

For my money, the Land's End Hyde Park Oxfords, while a bit pricey, are very good heavy cotton shirts that iron up well and look good all day.  Best of all, they are not treated with the same chemicals as the rest of the  current, non-iron dress shirt offering from Land's End.  Sadly, their original oxford, which was a steal at US$19.99, no longer seems to be available.  No matter.  You can still come away with some extremely good deals on new shirts if you shop the website routinely.

I'll be the first to admit that I like shirts and have too many of them really, but let's keep things very basic as suggested already.  Six or seven long-sleeve dress shirts in your closet, pressed and ready to go for the week should do the trick for most guys who don't absolutely need to wear a jacket and tie everyday.  If you want something a bit sportier for Fridays or the weekends, add a shirt with a windowpane pattern, a classic pink oxford cloth model, or muted plaid to the mix, all three with button-down collars.  

Plan on making these shirts work with a sports jacket and tie, however, so don't get too outlandish in your choice of patterns.  And make sure you've got a solid color necktie or two hanging on your tie rack.  Navy, dark green, and/or gray wool will work nicely.  By the way, the sort of shirts I describe here (the button-down collar sort) look super under a navy blazer -- worn with or without a necktie --  that is paired with jeans, khakis, or creased wool dress pants. 

What about those more formal occasions, which do arise from time to time even though much of work and social life in the United States has become so. . .  What's the word?  Ah, yes.  There it is.  Slovenly.  For those more formal times, add two plain white shirts with straight collars to the mix.  Spread collars are equally acceptable.  Again, stick to cotton shirts here.  It's just best to avoid anything else, blends or otherwise, for comfort reasons.  Yours and the people around you.  Why risk stinking like you ran ten city blocks on a late August afternoon -- in 90% humidity -- from the office building to the train station on your way home when it's only 9:30am? 

There are lots of more expensive, higher quality shirts out there than those offered by Land's End.  But for average guys, who don't necessarily have heaps of money to spend on just shirts alone, yet still want to kick up their everyday style and leave the sweatpants and cargo shorts behind forever, the company offers a quality product.  Of course, depending on where you are, there are many good long-sleeve, cotton dress shirts to be had in thrift shops too.  I seem to find a lot of great Books Brothers shirts in my neck of the woods, but sadly these are almost always far too big for my own 15"x33" dimensions.  But I digress.  Stick with the basics outlined above, and those 7-12 cotton shirts will serve you in good stead for a long time.  

One final thing.  To minimize wear and tear, I also suggest that you launder the shirts, hang them to drip dry from plastic hangers, and press them yourself.  Dry-cleaners don't do a reliably good job in many places, their detergents and chemicals are very harsh on natural fibers like cotton, and then there is the cost over time for below par services.  You'll just be happier with the results long term if you do it yourself.  So, it might be wise to invest in an iron and an ironing board.  Yep.  You heard right.  You're a big boy now.  And it's not 1950 anymore either.  About time you learned how to use an iron, son.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


Mark Hollingsworth said...

Well said - dress shirts are important, but quality dress shirts are essential. Try T.M. Lewin online. They are a shirt marker from Jermyn Street in London and offer global shipping (they even have a USA website). Egyptian cotton shirts often sold at 5 for $100 - amazing value and the highest London quality (I now have over 20 of them in my collection!).
Great post - keep it going
My best wishes


Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Thank you for the tip (and encouragement), Mark! I'll look into it forthwith.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.