Wednesday, 25 July 2012

5. Shirt buying guide - Part 2: Business Shirt

Welcome back, I've missed you.

Continuing on from last week's post, I bring you part two - the business shirt.

First and foremost, the primary difference between the casual and business shirt is the function. The main difference is found in the colour, patterns and detailing.

To recap from last week's post, the key factors for buying a shirt are:

- fit
- fabric
- colour, pattern and
- detail

Fit - the most important factor of all. Different brands will have different measurements, so it's important to try them on. The absolute key here is that the shirt fits neatly. It should hug your curves and should not bunch up and fold over itself around the torso. Most shirts will come in one of three styles, Classic, Euro and Slim:

'Classic' has little consideration for fit and is baggy as anything and horrible. Unless you're Jabba the Hutt, avoid 'Classic' style shirts at all costs.

'Euro' style shirts are an improvement. The sleeves and body are a bit narrower. Unless you have a gut, the bottom of the shirt will bunch up and overlap and it'll look messy. This style of shirt suits the bigger gents. It can also be labelled as 'tailored'

'Slim' fit shirts are your best option. They are cut to closely follow the shape of your body. In respect to the function, this style of shirt best suits the requirement. Try to avoid anything overly tight as well. 

Colour and pattern - Also an important factor. The colour and pattern of the shirt dictates its tone, and as a result the suitability for its purpose. For example, a bright yellow shirt with pink dots all over it wouldn't go down well at a funeral.

As a general rule for colour: opt for softer, lighter shades. They're easy to match. Baby blue, pink and lilac are good starters.  Avoid fugly colours like brown, grey and lime green. In fact, avoid darker colours altogether. I refer to these as 'Lowes' colours. See below:

If you're new to business shirts, keep it simple and stick with checks,stripes or no pattern. Make sure you avoid big and bold stripes/checks.  Instead go for smaller, more subtle stripes and smaller checks. It's understated and tasteful.

To combine both of the above, if you are going to wear a striped or checkered shirt, there can only be white and one other colour. If you have a striped shirt with black and blue, it will look more casual than business/formal. On the other hand, blue and white stripes will accomplish this. All you'll need is a latte and a Blackberry and the look will be complete.

Unideal - the crowding of colours can be confusing

Detail - this is more of a miscellaneous category.

Sleeves - French cuff (cuff links) vs. button cuff. French cuffs have a bit more prestige about them, but it shouldn't be the deciding factor when buying a shirt. If you do have cufflinks in, please don't wear novelty cufflinks. It's on par with wearing a Flinstones tie.* Be normal and express your eccentricities by talking about them rather than wearing something no one will notice.

Pockets - If you take nothing else from this post, please take this: business shirts should never have more than one pocketTwo pockets automatically qualifies it as a casual shirt. The general trend is no pocket, but one pocket is ok.

Fabric - these shirts will come in two fabric variants. 100% cotton or a polyester/cotton blend. The latter will usually come under some label like 'easy care' or 'no iron'. Polycotton blend doesn't breathe as well as cotton and subjectively, I find it less comfortable.  To speak its praises though, polycotton shirts last for years and years.

I feel like I could write on and on, but I think the basic point has been conveyed. Make sure it fits well, choose lighter colours with understated styling, and is 100% cotton .

I have an unusual body shape with broad shoulders and a skinny waist (modest too), so shirt shopping is a nightmare. With some patience, you'll find a label you like and stick with it. To get you on your way, some personal favourites of mine are:

- Nigel Lincoln (extremely comfortable)
- Jeff Banks Slim Fit (reasonably priced)
- Marcs (decent fabric)
- Herringbone (nice fabric, but overpriced)
- Rhodes & Beckett (nice prints)
- Oxford (super cheap when they're on sale)

Check in next week, I'll be posting a super easy recipe - as I had plenty of fans of the Naked Burrito.


*At an old job of mine, there was a candidate interviewed where he wore a tie covered in little anarchy symbols (the 'A' with a circle around it) on a black shirt. Guess who didn't show up the following Monday?

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