if it’s monday then it’s possible you’ve popped on a white shirt to stave off those monday blues. besides, a classic white shirt is always office-appropriate and perfect for a nine-to-five look. have you ever wondered how this iconic classic earned the nickname white collar in reference to social class? it all started in the early nineteenth century or what is commonly called the Victorian Era. way back then the working class could not afford to have their clothes laundered as often as the upper class. it was a saturday chore for most and we all know a white shirt needs frequent washing to keep it in pristine condition. but a blue collared shirt more readily hides stains. these social conditions led to a distinction between the upper class and working class based solely on their apparel. the terms white collar and blue collar were born.
by the end of the nineteenth century, the white dress shirt with its stiff collar and fitted shape began to evolve and became more affordable. men were seen everywhere from church to the promenade sporting a classic white shirt. early in the twentieth century, the Prince of Wales(a fashion icon) exchanged white shirts in favor of fluid colored ones. now the simple white shirt was used less to distinguish class and began to take on a symbol of masculinity, power, and respectability. it wasn’t long before businesses like IBM mandated a dress code for their employees and utilized white shirts. but with better manufacturing techniques the stiff collar was replaced with a relaxed fit and the fit began to change yet again.
it wasn’t long before movie stars and musicians began to interpret the white shirt. anyone remember the Beatles wearing a black suit, white button-down, and tie? but how, exactly, did women begin to incorporate this classic into their wardrobe? again, we have coco chanel to thank when she combined an iconic menswear staple with one of her jersey suits. the difference this time was the collar was unbuttoned. but the white shirt was now a fashion statement for women. in the fifties screen actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Marilyn Monroe repurposed the classic white shirt, wearing their own versions and catapulting a simple button-down into an iconic classic.
today, there are so many versions of a white shirt – button-down, tuxedo, non-iron, silk, cotton, statement sleeves, the choices are endless. so i’ve pulled together a list of the ten best white shirts and shown a variety of ways to wear them from work to the weekend.
Signature Silk shirt. Poplin shirt. Black Crane shirt. Theory cotton blend. Everlane tuxedo shirt. L’Agence silk blouse. Everlane poplin shirt. Ralph Lauren silk georgette. J.Crew embroidered bell sleeve. Banana Republic Riley