How to dress well: picking the perfect smart shirt

Stephen Doig
Smart shirting at Canali

Stephen Doig on the wardrobe essential that’s a key part of every man’s wardrobe.

These column inches encompass the length and breadth of men’s style; from cobblers in remotest Italy creating just the right kind of loafer to what the grand houses of Paris are up to, as well as what questionable ensemble a politician has worn on his holiday (we’re looking at you, Johnson). 

But occasionally it’s worth drilling down and looking at the building blocks of a man’s daily wardrobe. As men's style editor of this parish, without fail the questions that readers – and men I meet who find out what I do – ask are about nailing wardrobe essentials rather than about Prada’s latest catwalk. And what could be more crucial to a man’s wardrobe than the shirt? A good shirt is a man’s go-to, whether it’s for corporate environs or weekend endeavours.

Hackett

Royal Oxford shirt, £95, hackett.com

And for a baseline item, it’s easy to get wrong; novelty linings, tricky collars and cuts that don’t quite sit right. The idea of bespoke might bring to mind a kind of Savile Row ceremony, and the price tag to match, but customisation in shirting isn’t relegated to the upper echelons of menswear.

A host of high street and mid-range brands offer custom-made shirts such Reiss and M&S, where details such as fit, collar, cuff and personal stitched details can be finessed and shirts can be crafted to your specification by a special adviser. Hawes & Curtis even offer a service online. And others have started shirt subscription services; Shirtsmart will craft a shirt to your spec and deliver it on repeat as and when you require a fresh one.

Mr Porter

Emma Willis brushed cotton shirt, £240, mrporter.com

And when it comes to choosing an off-the-peg, there are details to look for. First up, the component that the eye is immediately drawn to – the collar. Try and steer towards collars that comprise two separate layers of cloth stitched together and look for one with some give in the fabric as cheaper varieties glue the lining of the collar to the outside fabric with no leeway and the surface eventually bubbles.

A proper collar is designed to mold itself around your neck. Alternatively, a button down collar will hit a casual, workwear stance. Secondly, fit is essential; look for shirts that have darts in the back – usually two curving seams – they are designed to lend a tapered, streamlined shape and can be removed or altered depending on a fluctuating body frame.

Thomas Pink

Frederick short in cotton, £90, thomaspink.com

And in considering fabric, the rule of thumb is go for the best quality cotton you can afford. And as with putting on a shirt itself, the cuff should be the final element for attention. A mitred cuff, for example, is one with a 45 degree angle cut out of the cuff which gives it a more exacting, sharp stance, while rounded cuffs tend to wear less as the soft edges don’t rub as much. Alternatively, make like an Agnelli and have the cuff you wear your watch on taken up slightly so that it can sit happily with your timepiece. And that’s the long and the shirt of it.

For more in the How To Dress Well series visit https://www.telegraph.co. uk/men/style