At some point in our lives, most of us have had to take an English composition class. More often than not, that (dreaded) class involved a little book by Strunk & White called The Elements of Style. The book condenses the rules of good prose down to a short read not much longer than a daily commute. Within those pages, is dictum number 13: “Omit needless words.” It’s a rule that can apply as much to life — and certainly in style — as to writing.
The white shirt is a fashion metaphor for that rule. Stripped of color or pattern, a white shirt, like a good sentence, has to be well-constructed, balanced, and able to stand on its own. It’s a challenging statement too; wearing a white shirt means there’s no allowance for coffee spills, errant salad dressing, or, well … sweat. A good relationship with a laundry, a significant other with laundry talents, or a stain spray is a requirement. But it’s all worth it. The right white shirt can telegraph authority, confidence, and insouciance — and it doesn’t make a great tan look bad, either.
As temperatures warm up, here our are our white-hot choices for best men’s white dress shirts.
Brooks Brothers Original Polo Button-Down Oxford Shirt – $140
Introduced in 1896, John E. Brooks (a Brooks’ grandson, not a brother) noticed that polo players’ collars were pinned down to prevent them from flapping around. John substituted buttons and a classic was born. But even classics can use an update, so Brooks Brothers recently made some adjustments for added comfort and reintroduced mother-of-pearl buttons. Side gussets and a longer shirttail were also added to prevent untucking (see below for our waiver on that). Most noticeably, the front shirt pocket, a feature of the shirt since 1968, was removed to more closely mirror the original style. The shirt is made in Garland, North Carolin, from pure American Supima cotton. USA, baby!
Gitman Vintage Classic Oxford Shirt – $165
While we’re studying the classics, Gitman Vintage reached into the brand’s archives, making this button-down from durable, 100-percent cotton Cambridge Oxford cloth that softens when washed, but remains virtually indestructible. The fabric that was used for the first non-custom shirt the company made in 1978 is the very same cloth they use today. Gitman’s model features a higher armhole, narrow sleeve, and a slim, tailored fit, as well as chalk buttons. The added strength of double-track stitching was pioneered by Gitman Brothers while making shirts for the United States military.
Hamilton Shirts 1883 Club Collar Pullover Shirt – $195
The pullover lies somewhere between a great button-up and a comfy T-shirt. It’s perfect for travel, subbing for a casual dress shirt, tucked into khakis with a blazer and feels right at home at a summer wedding. It’s also kind of a perfect thing to throw on as a little extra bit of SPF while at the beach. Hamilton’s offers a soft, sporty version with a rounded club collar. It’s also hand-cut and sewn in the USA out of Italian fabric.
Michael Kors Slim-fit Stretch-Cotton Shirt $178
The designer Michael Kors is renowned for sending sophisticated minimalism down the runway. We turn to him for a shirt that takes our quest for simplicity to a whole new level. Stripped of detail, this men’s white dress shirt is rendered in breathable stretch-cotton in a modern and sophisticated slim-fit. It feels like wearing the future.
Eton White Herringbone Twill Shirt – $255
Again from The Elements: “… we approach … style in the sense of what is distinguished and distinguishing.” What could be more distinguishing than this herringbone pattern play from Eton? After all, the Swedes know a thing or two about good taste. Plus, a bit of texture takes the edge off an otherwise severe obligation to perfection.
Abercrombie & Fitch Banded Collar Poplin Shirt – $58
Continuing with our sins of omission, Abercrombie eliminates the collar with a banded collar model that evokes a sort of austerity, but retains comfort and charm. It’s a little Western without the glitz, a little country without the grit. Wear it with a pair of button-fly jeans or Spartan black pants and let your personality do the talking.
UntuckIt Crianza in Wrinkle-Resistant White Linen Shirt – $98
Then there are the guys for whom brevity comes naturally. For them, there is the upstart brand, UntuckIt, featuring a shorter tail for guys who don’t believe in tucking in their shirts. The brand’s “Travel Linen” has a wrinkle-free treatment, easing the minds of most men’s discomfort with wearing linen in the first place.
Onia Kai Linen Pullover Hoodie – $125
Departing from the traditional, a great white shirt is a great white shirt — even when it’s super casual, like this woven hoodie from swimwear brand Onia. It’s lightweight linen and garment-washed, so it’s as cool as can be in both temperament and temperature. The sleeves have a tab closure to keep them in place and out of the way when rolled, which you should definitely take advantage of.
Plain white shirt not doing it for you? Check out these more colorful, spring dress shirts for a bit of style swerve.