6 Essential Formal Shirts For Men That Should Be In Your Wardrobe

Essential Formal Shirts For Men

When in doubt, go English.

It All Begins With A Shirt

The most important pieces of your lean minimalist wardrobe are your dress shirts. There is no better feeling than a well-ironed, crisp shirt that fits perfectly. It sets the mood for the day and makes you feel good. Ready to conquer the world.

Whether it is an important meeting at the office, a client meeting or a formal after-work event, your dress shirt is your trusted lieutenant and will never fail you.

When it comes to office wear our mind jumps immediately to plain white and blue colours. That is perfectly fine, but the younger sartorial gentleman knows that he can play a bit with patterns or lesser used colours that are perfectly appropriate for business environments.

The difference between style and fashion is quality.
Giorgio Armani

In today’s article we will discuss the 6 essential formal shirts for men that should be in your wardrobe because fashion fades but style remains timeless.

6 Essential Formal Shirts For Men

As a general rule lighter shirts are more formal and acceptable. Interestingly, the exact opposite applies to both suits and dress shoes. The same applies to patterns. Patterns are generally lower in the formality hierarchy and bigger patterns are less formal. A general exception is the classic navy/blue striped shirt or a more conservative micro-checked shirt.

If you are looking for business appropriate shirts the most appropriate weaves are Oxford, Twill and Poplin. As a rule of thumb avoid flannel and denim shirts and wear them in a more casual setting. Remember that fit is king.

Let’s start with #1.

#1 The White Shirt

Essential Dress Shirts For Men

Think about any dress shirt. I bet you that the image of a white shirt was the first that popped in your mind and for good reason. It doesn’t matter if you have a minimalist wardrobe or if you are revamping it and starting from scratch. If you had to choose only one shirt for your outfits that would be a white Oxford.

This will be the cornerstone of your wardrobe and you should have one ready to go at any moment, ironed and clean. Why? Because it is classic, timeless and most importantly: It goes well with literally anything.

Irreplaceable for funerals and black tie events, it looks immaculate with a navy or charcoal suit and exhumes professionalism. It matches virtually any tie and can be worn in any occasion. A white shirt will be your best pal from 9-5 and beyond that. Since it is a classic, I would add at least one white shirt with a regular collar.

Pro Tip: If your teeth are a bit yellow, avoid using a completely white shirt. It will draw unnecessary attention to your teeth. Instead, use a slightly off-white colour. You are welcome.

#2 The Plain Light Blue Shirt

Essential Formal Shirts For Men

If the white shirt is Batman, the plain light blue shirt is Robin. A fantastic versatile colour, light blue is a way to add a splash of colour in your shirt. However, you should stick with lighter tones such as sky or baby blue and avoid darker shades for formal settings.

A light blue shirt will look best with a navy blue suit and can be paired with a navy tie but will really stand out with a red, burgundy or even orange and brown tie. Nonetheless, it will look equally as impressive with a charcoal or medium grey suit and will show that you have put some effort and have colour coordination abilities. In other words, you have put some effort to look good.

I would choose to have at least two light blue shirts with slightly different colours since our eyes are very good at perceiving details. Even if you show up with the same suit, changing slightly your shirt colour and adding a different tie can make you look like you wear a completely different outfit.

On the same note, each shirt could have different collars. Don’t forget to match the width of your tie knot to the style of your collar for that added sartorial flair.

Pro Tip: Try some Egyptian Cotton and you will never want to wear anything else.

#3 The Light Pink Shirt

Essential Formal Shirts For Men

One of my personal favourites is the light pink shirt. It is a fantastic versatile colour often associated with women and femininity. Little do people know that men wore pink in the past because it conveyed masculinity since it was a shade of red. Red is the colour of passion, fire and strength. After the second World War society had designated the colour blue with boys and pink with girls.

To pull off a light pink shirt requires some confidence but what makes it great is – you guessed it – versatility. It can work with a plethora of suits but feels more at home with a navy suit. They compliment each other very well and you will receive compliments on your choice or at least some looks. Add brown shoes to the mix and you are ready for the red carpet.

My best shirt comes from ETON of Sweden, a brand with very expensive dress shirts of superb quality. I would advise you to check them online and wait for their annual 40% sales. Read more about ETON here.

#4 Τhe Blue Striped Shirt

Essential Formal Shirts For Men

Stripes. They show power and have been a classic in the wardrobe of men for decades. Why do you think pinstripe suits command so much attention and were the choice of gangsters and important people?

While not as formal of shirts as the first two, striped shirts are perfectly acceptable in a business environment. It is a fairly simple pattern and once you master mixing different shapes and sizes it will become second nature to you. Stay with the more classic colours such as white and blue/navy stripes or even pink but avoid larger and more spaced stripes since they are more casual.

Pro Tip 1: Stripes tend to make a man look slimmer so if you are a bit bigger stripes will be a great choice.

Pro Tip 2: If you wear a pinstripe suit or tie, remember to use stripes of different proportions.

#5 The Blue Plaid Shirt

Essential Formal Shirts For Men

Chequered shirts have a more casual appearance but we live in a world where business casual and smart casual have been taking over. They are an excellent pattern that can give some much needed flair to your outfits. Reserve them for less important days at the office and prefer smaller chequered patterns or micro-cheques.

Shades of light blue are perfect for these shirts and will work in harmony with any type of suit.

#6 The Oxford Button-Down Shirt

Essential Formal Shirts For Men

This is essentially a more casual version of the oxford shirts and has a button-down collar that keeps it in place. Button-downs are less formal than the previous choices but acceptable in most workplaces. They are great when you need a change from the normal or you want to project a slightly more casual, relaxed aura.

Colours and styles may vary and come from the previous 5 categories. It has become a staple in a man’s wardrobe and you should definitely invest in a plain light blue/white version. Hard-wearing and elegant with our without a suit, the button-down shirt is here to stay.

Runner Ups – The Contrasting Collar Shirt And The Denim Shirt

Essential Formal Shirts For Men

Nothing can cause more controversy than the contrasting collar shirt. It is quite polarising and for good reason as the cuffs and collar have different colour. Often called a banker shirt, it has the advantage that it points out more to your face and that is exactly where you want people to look you at. I would go for a solid blue with white collar or a similar blue striped version. It is not my cup of tea and needs confidence to pull off. It is not going to be in my wardrobe anytime soon.

The denim shirt on the other hand is something that I really like. It looks great with a beige jacket and brown earth tones but it surely helps dress down your outfit. Not your definition of formal, the denim shirt has shown a surge in popularity over the last years and is accepted in many workplaces. Avoid if you have a white collar office rule.

Dress Shirts: The Foundation Of Every Outfit

While the shirt should not be your standout piece when it comes to business attire, it is of utmost importance. This is how you build a good wardrobe for every occasion. It is a quintessential cog in the wheel.

The choices are not so different from the older times with the exception of a few pieces such as the denim shirt. Light shades of blue and pink dominate and you can never go wrong with a white shirt of any kind. If you have to keep advice from this article is to buy quality over quantity and that fit is king. Few things will stand out worse than a stained, wrinkly shirt that does not fit your body properly.

Brands exist in different tiers and depend on your budget but here are some quick examples:

And the list goes on and on. This concludes our article on the 6 essential formal shirts for men.

That being said, I hope you are all having a wonderful week full of smiles, productivity and sartorial expression. The reception of my latest review articles was incredible and I am very proud to expose those “fashion trends” that float around the web and aim to sell you products of lesser quality like Vincero. If you missed my review, check out my article.

Do you have any favourite shirts? Is your workplace more relaxed or do you work in a white collar environment? Would you consider wearing the contrasted collar shirt? There are so many questions worthy of discussion, so comment down below and let us know what you think!

Thank you for reading,

Kostas Mandilaris,
Misiu Academy

Written by Kostas Mandilaris