Menswear designer Kunal Rawal’s guide to the white shirt: design, collar, fit, right down to the buttons
Summer’s here. And while we’d like to think that everyone’s summer buys are different, more often than not, we end up going for some element of white. Mine were a pair of sneakers that I picked up recently. I am certain most of you will end up picking a white shirt, one of the most versatile items in our wardrobes. So, here’s a guide to rocking a white shirt.
For a white shirt to be versatile, it needs to be super clean. I love prints, but anything that builds recall works against versatility. I strongly recommend buying a new piece this season rather than recycling an old one because fabrics wear out, collars change and so does your body.
An ideal white shirt is something that treads a tight rope between your different avatars — basically something that takes you from a formal to a casual look. Small collars and collar bands work best unless you have a long or chubby neck. A bit of stretch in your fabric is good. And the sheen on your fabric complements both casual and formal dressing. Remember to focus on sheen, not shine. The right kind of white shirt should sport mother of pearl, body-matching buttons. French plackets are simple, but bring elegance to the outfit. And remember, the lesser the details, the more the usability.
4 WAYS TO WEAR A WHITE SHIRT
• Formal: For nights, a white shirt works well for a clean, crisp look under a black suit. It is also a great way to ease up a pattern-heavy jacket. Team your shirt with greys or navy blues for a business setting.
• Black tie: For a classic look, the white shirt works with suits in almost every colour and pattern. Add a tie/bow tie/lapel pin/tie bar.
• Semi-formal: Wear the white shirt with dark chinos (pin roll the bottom if longer). Add a waistcoat, a blazer or a bomber if needed. Brogues are classic with this look, but with so many good shoes on offer, some rules can be broken. Sneakers and rubber-soled shoes add a bit of fun to this look.
• Casual: A white shirt is perfect for weekends. It works well with denims and sneakers. Also, my favourite look is the white shirt as an overshirt. It can be worn over a vest, a solid tee or even a graphic/slogan. Shorts and espadrilles complement this look as well. Another way to style a white shirt would be with a casual waistcoat undone. I’m not a fan of cardigans but a white collar looks great under a knitted sweat shirt for a preppy look.
HOW TO BUY THE PERFECT WHITE SHIRT
-If you wear bandhgala suits and bundis often, a Chinese collar will work for you.
-When buying wrinkle-free, invest in a trusted brand because some of the chemicals used to make these shirts can bother you more than you’d imagine.
-In our weather, sweat marks are a permanent problem. Some people can get away with deodorising. For those who can’t, sweat pads may come in handy. My solution: wearing a crew neck inside almost always works.
-Nothing complements a white shirt better than a good pair of sunglasses or an equally good tan.
Kunal Rawal is a leading men’s fashion designer. He tweets as @kunalrawalvibe