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What your shirt says about you

Men’s colour guide to what your shirt is projecting and when you should select certain colours, stripes and patterns.

They say you can tell a lot by a man’s shoes and wallet, but I’d say the shirt is crucial too. I always think of the shirt as a canvas on which an outfit is built, so the canvas has to be worth working on.

Plain white
As far as shirts go, the most crucial item in any wardrobe is the plain white shirt. White goes with anything from a black suit to blue jeans and will never let you down. I did some research years ago when I started my business that asked women how the most attractive men dress; unanimously, they agreed it was a man in a plain white shirt. The crucial point being that the shirt must fit well and be well maintained. What does this garment say about you? Much more than your shoes do in my opinion.

Brands to try: Hackett, Alfred Dunhill and Savoy Taylors Guild

man white shirt blue suit
As far as shirts go, the most crucial item in any wardrobe is the plain white shirt

Light blue
Next to a white shirt in this list I would say the plain light blue is the next most crucial to have. Much favoured by Italian tailoring, this colour works better for business than casual, but can be styled up to wear with chinos or jeans just like a white shirt. What does this say about you? Styled incorrectly you’re just another banker unfortunately. Styled correctly and you’re an Italian dandy.

Brands to try: Paul Smith and Alfred Dunhill

A striped shirt can go either way, outstanding or… out with the rubbish. I have never been a fan of finely striped colourful shirts, I think they look cheap and a bit ‘last-minute panic buy’ or ‘style by numbers’ in a way. Be bold, go for two colours in the pattern with some contrast but don’t go as far as a crazy butcher stripe.

Wearing a striped shirt with a tie is always a clash if you get it wrong. There are some ancient adages on the internet by self-titled style gurus who offer the advice of ‘only wear striped shirts with striped ties’. That’s nonsense. Wear striped shirts with a knitted tie, a Prince of Wales check tie or even bold polka dots – it works.

What would this say about you? That you damned well know what you’re doing when you get dressed.

man in shirt
Shirts come in all shapes, sizes and styles

Be bold – but don’t be bright.

Men always seem to jump to the conclusion that patterned shirts have to be bright, bold, noticeable and usually in a paisley pattern (not good). But I’d recommend a different approach. First up, get away from gingham – there is nothing wrong with it but everyone chooses it.

Try a Prince of Wales pattern, a windowpane check or even a tartan. Stay with me here, here’s the rule; only ever two colours in the pattern or ‘tone on tone’. Lets take the idea of a white shirt with a grey Prince of Wales check over the top – that sounds bold. But add a grey knitted tie in a slightly darker shade than the grey on the shirt – you have a stunning look. Tone on tone, every time.

What does this say about you? Not afraid to look outstanding, but not a cry for attention.

This article is published in conjunction with Bicester Village in celebration of Bicester Village’s partnership with etiquette experts Debrett’s and the launch of the Guide To British Style, a beautiful pocket-guide to the season, dress-codes and much more.