From the Mailbag: Stocking a closet with casual shirts
Originally published 9/14/11
For too long I’ve been wearing graphic tees and now I’m finally starting to open up to casual shirts. I’m a big fan of Madras and well-patterned shirts but I can’t seem to find any good ones for under a $100. What would you recommend to start my collection? Any help is appreciated!
– Alex P.
This isn’t as easy as you’d think it would be. There’s a lot of stumbling blocks along the way to building a collection of versatile casual shirts. First, a few suggestions:
- Be ready to tuck or tailor. The vast majority of shirts out there are too long to wear untucked. You don’t want a shirt tail that covers more than 2/3 of your fly. You can have a tailor chop a shirt shorter, but it’ll cost you.
- Start with simple patterns and solids. As great as Madras is, you’ll be much happier with a plain blue oxford over the long run. Start with the basics, then get nuts if you want to.
- Slots for stays or a button collar. You want shirts that can pull double duty under sweaters and blazers (which is how many wear our casual shirts most of the time anyway.) You’ll need some stability in the collar.
- Lose the visible logos. It’s too bad that American Eagle puts their logo on everything. Even though I’m way too damn old to shop there, a lot of their casual shirts fit great off the rack.
And as always, make sure they fit. Don’t be afraid to take a rumpled “I don’t care if I iron it” shirt to the tailor. You want something that fits close to your torso and doesn’t wing out on the sides. With all that said, here’s a few shirts Alex might want to consider building his collection around…
1. A bright white that’s not a neck & sleeve dress shirt: B.R. Slim Fit Poplin – $41.65* ($59.50)
It’s really hard to look bad in a well fitting white collared shirt. These will be used to dress up more casual outfits. Wearing a sweater, jeans, and boots? Skip the t-shirt and try one of these instead. These come in the standard sizes of Small, Medium, Large, etc… Mainly cotton with a touch of stretch fabric like lastol or spandex woven in is ideal. It might seem too dressy at first, but you’ll get used to them and look all the better for it. *Use code BRMAD30 for 30% off one full priced item. BRMAD40 gets you 40% off two full priced items. Hat tip to JToom723 for the reminder.
2. A light blue plain oxford cloth: Old Navy – $20.96 ($29.94)
Old Navy is starting to trim down their silhouettes, but this one will probably need tailoring. It’s heavier, but certainly not crazy heavy oxford cloth. Cheap enough that you can spring for some tailoring to dial it in perfectly.
3. A lighter striped oxford cloth: L.L. Bean Signature – $49.99 ($55.00)
Light grey is as good as it gets here. Lands’ End Canvas also used to make one of these, but it looks like thatone has since been discontinued. Ships free through L.L. Bean and should have a slightly more tailored fit.
4. A darker two-tone Gingham: Calibrate Black and White – $59.50
Keep it simple with just one base color, the lighter contrast, and that’s it. Maybe a black and blue if the checks are small. If you start mixing in too many bright colors things get real technicolor circusy real quick. Plus it makes it harder to layer. If you want something even more casual and washed, try this option from French Connection.