A Businessman and the Dress Shirt

by Rachel Yeomans | February 3rd, 2010   

By Timothy Broderick

Most men understand that, during a first encounter, they are sized up quickly by others based on their physical appearance. Thus it is to their advantage to come across and professionally dressed.  But what constitutes acceptable and what does it mean to dress professionally?  Once upon a time a man was taught this lesson by his father and the men he grew up around; unfortunately the generation since Woodstock has had to find this information on their own. Understanding business attire and what is professional appearance can start in many places – today we’ll begin with the man’s dress shirt.

Colors & Patterns for the Working Man’s Dress Shirt

Men’s dress shirts are available in a wide range of colors and patterns; however the smart businessman will limit himself to the tried and true colors that embody professionalism while giving him room to display individualism.  In addition, the observant businessman always pays attention to his surrounding and the unspoken dress code he finds himself a part of.  A conservative Law Firm in Washington DC is going to have different allowances than that search engine company in Mountain View California.

Solid Shirts

Solid colored dress shirts, especially white and blue, are the bedrock of the businessman’s clothing. He needs to have several of these and always an extra one at the office in case of an accident.  The solid white has a deep history; in summary the man who wore white did more work with his mind than hands, thus he could wear this color without soiling it. Great business colors, in no particular order, are light blue, light pink, gold, off-white, french blue, lavender, and just about any of these woven into an oxford.  One quick tip – if you drink a lot of coffee or smoke and do not bleach your teeth, consider off-white instead of brilliant white.  Nothing will highlight a yellow smile like a white collar.

don draper A Businessman and the Dress Shirt
Jon Hamm as Don Draper in a solid white dress shirt

Striped Shirts

The more design that sits atop a dress shirt, the less dressy it is. More casual than a solid white or blue, a striped dress shirt will fit well in almost every workplace in North America and the world.  It conveys a sense of business (hence why the New York Yankee wear them), and the thinner the stripe usually the more formal the shirt. Be sure to ensure that the stripe patterns are a different size than any other patterns there may be on the tie or suit though.

dr. eric foreman A Businessman and the Dress Shirt
Omar Epps as Dr. Eric Foreman in a striped dress shirt

Checked Shirts

A check shirt is the most casual pattern of the three, and is an excellent choice on the weekend or when a man is looking to create a relaxed appearance.  It matches naturally with the button down collar, and looks best on men with a thin or athletic build.  Large men should avoid this pattern as it does exaggerate their width and weight.

andy bernard%20(2) A Businessman and the Dress Shirt
Ed Helms as Andy Bernard, almost constantly in a checked shirt

The Beginning of a Solid Business Wardrobe

I would like to point out that a dress shirt, no matter what it’s pattern or color, is only the foundation for a well dressed outfit; however it should not be the dominate piece.  You see the dress shirt is at heart a piece of clothing meant to be worn under a suit or sports jacket; thus it can never be complete without one.  But you may answer “everyone else wear a dress shirt without a jacket” or “the weather doesn’t permit me to wear a jacket”.  But ask yourself this – when you’re introduced to a new group you’ll be working with, all similar in age, who do you perceive to be the team leader?  The guy wearing a polo shirt and khakis or the gentlemen dressed smartly in a well fitted dress shirt and sport jacket?  We have expectations of our leaders, and one of them is to dress like the successful people we believe them to be.
dr. donald mallard A Businessman and the Dress Shirt
David McCallum as Dr. Donald Mallard

Source: www.cbs.com

Tim Broderick is working with A Tailored Suit to help men dress with real, permanent style and fashion. He assists clients with presenting the image of the man they want to project. Do you know how hard it is to find clothes off the rack that both fit well and look good on you? Tim helps men purchase custom menswear while guiding them toward clothes that will make them look better than the men around them and giving the man confidence in his personal style.