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An Ode to the White Shirt

May 13, 2020
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It’s safe to say that if there is one common denominator running throughout men’s wardrobes all over the world, it’s the white shirt, that workhorse of a garment, slogging it out day after day with its unsung grace. It should be a monument to tailoring, a hero of minimalism, but somewhere along its long and not so winding evolution, the white shirt got sold out. We’re not exactly sure of the genesis of this moment, but 50s corporate America has a guilty look to it. Hoardes of diligent, hardworking salesmen in identikit suits, heads propped up on identikit white shirts, channelling a post-war energy that was all about uniformity and the upstanding nuclear family.

The crisp, clean white shirt came to be the poster boy for middle America, middle everywhere in fact. Brightening the faces of all it befriended, it was everything a man needed to go about his day looking and feeling good. Democratic to a tee, like the tide in a harbour full of boats, it raised all men and made even the most average of suits that slightly bit more respectable. But with the industrialisation of office work, came a cheapening of the white shirt. Once lovingly hand-tailoring in rich cotton poplin, the relentless march of the white-collar work catalysed the commodification of the white shirt to what is perhaps the lowest point of its sartorial existence: the multipack. 

My son, who is 7, wears multipack shirts, because his mouth and any form of tomato-based food react like repelling poles of a pair of magnets. Your mother bought you multipack white shirts when you were a teenager because you stunk, and your hormonal swings didn’t deserve any better. And if you wear multipack white shirts as an adult, then chances are you’re in the wrong job.

So we want to bring the love back for the white shirt. We want to take it out of the uniformity of the office and back into your casual life because that’s where the white shirt is at its slick, minimalistic best. Pared back of embellishments, a beautifully cut white shirt is the canvas to your outfit. Our white shirts will take on all-comers, no matter the colour, pattern, fabric or genre. They’ll do classic spread collar, tab collar, grandad collar, button-down, soft roll, Cuban, camp, Eton, the list goes on. The white shirt is like that handsome guy at parties, who speaks in soft yet confident tones to an eager audience gathered around him. He doesn’t shout, or gesticulate wildly, and yet everyone wants to know what he’s saying.

Ok, enough eulogising now. You get the idea. The white shirt is an intrinsic part of the modern wardrobe and shouldn’t be simply thought of as a part of your office uniform. At Oliver Spencer, all of this season’s white shirts have made from organic cotton so you also have the added bonus of knowing that your choice has been sustainably made. Don’t let anyone tell you that white is white either - each one of the different cloths we use have subtle differences in the hue, from slightly blueish finishes to more creamy white ones. 

Here endeth the sermon. Thanks be to the white shirt.

Right now we are pledging 10% of all lockdown sales to Shine Cancer Support.

From our earliest days, we’ve adopted a business model that incorporates environmental and social responsibility at every step. That means sourcing quality fabrics from sustainable suppliers wherever possible to planting trees with the Woodland Trust.

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