The perfect white shirt

White shirt

Author: David Morton, Men's Health Deputy Editor

There exists no more dependable utility player than the simple white shirt. It's only cotton and a few buttons, but such is the variety of cuts, weights, textures and details, that this perfectly blank canvas can be all things to all men. JFK wore one with a genial ease; Tom Ford imbues his with a louche decadence. And let's just say this once and leave it there: James bloody Bond.

It's not all formal posturing, though. The World's Best Shirt works equally well from the boardroom to the football stadium, an evening black-tie do to a Sunday barbecue. You can happily wear one with a blue suit, a tweed blazer, a round-necked jumper. Or just on its own.

Most of all – and this is what truly sets it apart – by arming yourself with only a few basic rules, you can wear yours with the sort of confidence with which the white shirt will always be synonymous.

Firstly, the fit. There should be no fabric flapping around on the shoulders, nor should the body be too generous. A tapered cut is more contemporary but always sit down somewhere when you're trying one on, to guard against the risk of gaping buttons. Long tails are designed to be tucked in; a scooped cut is not. Tuck a scooped shirt and it is liable to ride up and bare flashes of your stomach.

Then we have the material. You want as heavy a weight of cotton as is seasonally manageable. It is very much worth going thicker than you think – too sheer a fabric can leave body hair or, worse, your nipples, visible in certain light. As for the texture, a poplin has more sheen and is best for black-tie and formal events, whereas an Oxford weave is more useful day-to-day or dressed down.

To top it off, there is the collar. At one end with the button-down, which, as the most relaxed and unstructured, should never be worn with a tie. Next we have the cut-away collar, which looks as good with a tie as without. Finally, a narrow-point is the stiffest and your dependably formal option.

Wearing a white shirt should be that simple. But, done right, it is simply perfect.