Saturday, July 21, 2007

What to Wear: The Shirt (Part 3)

What to Wear: The Shirt (Part 3)

Sleeves & Cuffs

On to cuffs. This is the easy part. You have a few options, but it’s mainly built-in buttons or holes for cuff-links. Again, personal style. A note on cufflinks, though, in case you want to wear them: never wear cufflinks if you’re not wearing a jacket. Otherwise you’ll look like a pirate who forgot to hide his treasure.

Once you have your cuffs, size, and collar set, you’re left to fit and color. If you can wear them, always opt for a "fitted" or "athletic" style dress shirt. This means you’ll walk away with a garment that tapers toward your waist, as opposed to the kind that billows at your back like a galleon at full sail. A well-fitted shirt will look like it was sewn right on you. Except without the drops of blood.

Finally: colour or pattern. Men usually choose according to one of a few reasons: either they trust the colour (men whose shirts are all either white or blue), they need some new colours (the men we just mentioned who are now sick of white and blue), or a colour has become trendy (1999, Banana Republic, crimson red). Again, the most we can say is choose the style that’s right for your look, but don’t be afraid of expanding your repertoire. Remember: Shirts are where you get to have the most fun with your outfit, and it’s so easy to be boring.

But what about the sleeves? Good point. For places with summers in the warm to warmer range, you can get away with long sleeves for most of the year. And don’t be afraid to roll those sleeves up when necessary. Not only does it look great, but it also suggests you’ve been hard at work on something or other. Probably.

If, however, your summers sit in a neighborhood that’s no stranger to blowing the top off the thermometer, feel free to wear your dress sleeves short and sit sweat-free, knowing fashion didn’t give you two weeks of carefully tended re-hydration therapy in the hospital.

Now you have your shirt, and you’re ready to get dressed. What seems to change most in dress shirt fashion is how to wear them. Right now it’s alright to leave the tail un-tucked (unless you’re wearing a suit) assuming the shirt tapers to the waist and ends before it’s half-way down your ass. Still, with the un-tucked look so pervasive, tucking or not tucking doesn’t say much, assuming you don’t look like a slob. What people really want to know is, how many buttons are unbuttoned at the top of your shirt.

Zero buttons? You’re either a) the classic nerd, b) an out-of-touch New Waver, or c) a turn-of-the-century heartland obsessive. In all cases, buy a tie; you’ll do yourself a world of good.

One button? Average. Simple. No judgments to be made here. You’re not offending anyone; you’re making nobody wonder. This is probably good.

Two buttons? If you’re starting each day this way, you’re either a cocky bastard or European, and lucky for you, we admire both types. For an American, though, it’s worth waiting until after lunch before you slip that second button.

Three or more buttons? Hope you’ve got another shirt on underneath there, Rico Suave.

Now you’ve got your shirts, you’re wearing them, and people love you. At some point, though, you need to take them off. When it comes time for cleaning, the best method is hand-washing, followed by a nice, stiff press. But who’s got time for that? Instead, get them dry-cleaned (no starch) or have them cleaned and pressed.

When they get back from the cleaners, call that special someone, make drinks, lay a fire. Escort your lover to the closet and—slowly!—take down each shirt, unbuttoning every cuff (you can use your teeth), then throw them up so the air is a cloud of stripes, an ecstasy of cotton.

We love good shirts.

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