Most men would accept that, during a first encounter, they are sized up quickly by others based on their physical appearance and dressing etiquette. Yet, not many of them spend as much time and effort in this rather important department, which besides sending positive vibes, also reflects subtly many of your traits, preferences to the other side. Therefore, it is certainly an advantage to come across as well dressed. But what constitutes acceptable and what does it mean to dress professionally?

Once upon a time, a man was taught this lesson by his father and the men he grew up around; unfortunately the generation since Woodstock has had to find this information on their own. This journey of understanding the right dressing etiquette can begin in many places but the man’s dress shirts holds the major key. The Shirts are the single most defining piece of a man’s attire. So how does one go about choosing the right selection of dress shirts? How does he combine with his trousers to a large extent and further with ties and suits if they are part of his everyday attire.

The paradox of choice (also known as choice overload) is the phenomenon by which having too many options exhausts us, makes us unhappy and generally leads us to making terrible decisions (if any decision at all). Nowhere it is more obvious in the male wardrobe than when it comes to his choice of shirts and ties.  A quick glance around your workplace will confirm this for sure. Either there is too much of same colours and patterns which barely change or really awkward combinations that is an eyesore. Is it possible that all these men have no interest or poor interest or lack of courage to experiment and enhance their presentability?  Or they simply suffer from a decision fatigue?

We get it, colours and patterns can be difficult to master individually, but when you start mixing them together, (particularly discussing shirts and trousers), you can really making your wardrobe look a lot more broad and your appearance a lot more richer and memorable. The combinations you build must be lasting enough to stand out every time. In a world when a lot many men do not make much effort to stand out, the few who try make a huge difference. When all else between peers are same, the positive vibes your dressing etiquettes send last longer than you can imagine and helping you much more than you wish to attribute to the silent clothes  of yours.

What are the Colours & Patterns For The Working Man’s Dress Shirt and how to choose them?

Men’s dress shirts are available in a wide range of colours and patterns. From my experience of having seen hundreds of nattily dressed men across races and continents making choices over the decades, I feel the more you experiment the more is your confidence to carry yourself beyond the safe colours. The more you make right choices of mixing and matching colours and patterns the more you stand out to be remembered and perceived as someone who thinks and makes intelligent choices. Not just for clothes but across all aspects of life. It sets you apart from the crowd as the confidence to carry yourself is both visible and inspires many to look up to you. It gives you enough room to subtly display your individual and trademark streak as a professional.

How do you build your wardrobe and how many shirts are good enough?

A wardrobe is best built well when you have the ability to combine several shirts to a trouser and several trousers to a shirt with ease. One can begin the wardrobe by equipping it with broad range of trousers. These would be Black, Dark Blue(2 shades), Brown(2 shades), Grey, Beige, Camel, Khaki etc.  Around 8 to 10 pair of trousers will almost allow you to play with all shade, patterns of shirts for every occasion. On number of shirts, it can vary but at around 12 to 15 you ensure that you are not spotted repeating shirts too often. People who are in the business of meeting many clients, partners etc as part of business and travel often tend to easily have 18-24 shirts. Ties are another subject and is best reserved for another day and time.

Some essential thumb rules for choice of colour combinations are here.

  1. Choices of colour combination are not always suitable on every man. The man’s complexion plays a role. Follow the basic combos and does and don’ts as in the chart below.
  2. Always build on a contrast between your trousers and shirts. Refer to the colour wheel. Complementary colours are diagonally opposite and such combos are a clear 100% NO. The ideal choices are colours which are separated by three colours and tend to be contrasting. Always go for perfect contrasts and they must have a balance between light and a dark tone. Try wearing a lighter shade for your shirt and a darker tone for your trousers.   
  3. Avoid tonal outfits. Outfits with the same tone throughout or too close make you unnoticeable. Example Black pants and shirts with shades of black, brown pant with brown shirts

Type of shirts to choose from:

Solid Shirts

Solid colour dress shirts, especially white and blue, are the common stay in most professional’s wardrobe.  These are more suitable when your office culture seeks large amount of conformity. Unless you wear ties and suits to work, sticking to solids esp. only to white and blue is robbing you of an opportunity to be noticed. Blue and shades of blue are considered safer by many men because it tends to go well with all complexions alike. But today, most wardrobes are inundated with blue reducing the opportunities for dressing up to stand out.

If solids are indeed your comfort zone, a great deal of choice and opportunity to stand out comes with colours like Powder blue, City Pink, Cheese Cream, Classic Pistachio Green, Light Purple, Umber. Even within the few colours that you want your choices to be restricted, you should play with the weaves. While oxfords are the standard weave in solid colours adding some designs with weave by playing twills, herringbone, diamond or a sateen weave brings some variety. Quite some variety is shown below for imagining the options better.

Careful Dressers will avoid brilliant white especially if you drink a lot of coffee, or smoke and do not bleach your teeth. Consider off white solid colours instead of brilliant white. Nothing will highlight a yellow smile like a white collar!


Striped Shirts

A striped shirt helps you build variety with its many variants like pin stripes, broad stripes, multi-pin stripes, multi-coloured stripes etc. It conveys a sense of business and traditionally very popular with outgoing people, bankers (rainmakers). If you wear a tie, a piece of caution is to ensure that the patterns on the tie or suit are of a different scale/size to make the combination look appealing. Nearly unlimited choices makes this pattern a favourite. Very subtle differences in the density of lines, thickness etc can make it appear refreshingly new.

Checked Shirts

A man’s checked dress shirt doubles up for semi-formal/ casual pattern as well. It is a good choice for ambiences where a relaxed dressing sense is prevalent. It looks well on men with a thin or athletic build and is not very advisable for large men as it tends to exaggerate their width and weight. For large men, big checks with innovative weaves are preferable. Similarly, very large checks on small men are not a great option either. If you do wear a tie, do ensure that the pattern on the tie is of different scale and size than on the shirt. It is very noticeable on a checked shirt hence some care is advisable.

Some general guidelines that can help to pick colour of shirts (shades and with all patterns, stripes, checks included) for a given colour of pant.

  1. Black Trousers – This trouser suits a vast number of shirts and is hence a preferred trouser colour. White, purple, blue, light pink, maroon, light gray, red, light yellow, turquoise green, light orange go well with a pair of black trousers.
  2. Cream Trousers – This trouser works best with contrasting navy blue, pink, purple, maroon, black and sea green.
  3. Navy Trousers– Another popular choice of trouser for its ability to suit all skin complexions. This works well with shirts in white, yellow, pink, peach, light green, purple, royal blue, brown, maroon, magenta, aqua, cream, khaki, Red, Gray, black, rust orange, crimson and sunny yellow colours.
  4. Grey Trousers – Light Pink, Blue, Purple, Black, White, Aqua, Green, cherry, and Red shirts are good to go with Grey Trousers.
  5. Khaki Pants – Colours of shirts that work for a Khaki trousers are Blue, Maroon, Red, Green, Black, White, Purple, Aqua/teal, Pink/Magenta, Contrast brown, Peach and Gray.
  6. Brown Trousers – The best choice of shirts are in white, tan, bone, cream, ivory, gold (not metallic gold), Mustard, Orange, reds, and light pink.

Lastly, the quality of your attire is something that defines your personality. Clothing is not just a cover but a complete packaging of your internal self. The packaging is the visa for your entry to the most eventful occasions in your life. It deserves as much importance as your inner being which includes your skills, attitude etc. Good quality needs to be understood and appreciated. It is a myth that only luxury brands with strong celebrity endorsements are heir to good quality. Choose what you buy for yourself – a great product or a well known tag. A good product is one which on using makes you remember and cherish the experience more than the amount you paid for it. Know well to choose wisely. Set aside some time and effort to build good combinations so that every combination makes you stand out. Your will be surprised that your wardrobe may seem to be unending large if you decide to stock it with enough variety to allow limitless combinations every day.

Try confidently and feel great. The positive vibes of dressing well is sure to cause a great impact all around you.