While the traditional suit might be in for a fight, the collared shirt is one thing in the wardrobe that never really goes away. Between a job interview, first date, or one-in-a-lifetime gala, there’s plenty of contingencies where a shirt (and a good one at that) is a must.
Its importance aside, buying shirts should never be an ordeal and between made-to-measure e-tailers and traditional shopfronts with full shelves, finding the right one has never been easier.
The following eleven picks of shirt brands are our favourites for every contingency, from another Monday morning to the rowdiest of staff parties.
Turnbull & Asser
Established in 1885, Turnbull & Asser are the UK’s undisputed premier shirtmaker with an exclusive clientele across the aristocracy, political class, and entertainment circles. Their shirting is characterised by fastidious production – using 34 pieces and 13 mother-of-pearl buttons – and premium cloths from Egypt and Italy. They offer three RTW house blocks, a variety of colours, and the odd unusual pattern or splash of colour, so they are by no means a stubbornly traditional retailer that doesn’t appeal to a younger audience.
Turnbull & Asser have the enviable (and well earned) privilege of a Royal Warrant, bestowed by HRH Charles, and they outfitted the stylishly brooding Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. They know their business. As a result, they are an aspirational brand for most of us and charge for the premium they know they deserve. They do, however, run a cheeky sale here and there so keep an eye out.
Brooks Brothers are one of the principal architects of preppy style, and one of the few brands left that still offer an authentic oxford button-down that doesn’t come from a sweatshop. Their collections have staple business shirts in addition to their venerated oxfords, combining corporate sensibility with a respectful nod to their heritage as preppy stylists and the oldest men’s clothier in the United States.
Aside from crisp business shirts, look out for their popular Red Fleece collection and sporty variations of their classic button-downs. While much of their manufacturing is now outsourced to reduce costs, they’ve reinvested in local production and thus you’ll see Made in America labels on more of their kit going forward.
Founded in 2000, Dutch suiting label Suitsupply has become widely celebrated as an affordable alternative to pompous high-street tailoring. In addition to suiting, Suitsupply shirts start at $80 through one of their three lines.
You’ll find crisp white shirts for the nine to five, or soft chambray pieces to wear outside the office. They also offer long and short cuts, in addition to their regular, slim, and extra slim blocks. If that’s not enough, you can design your own online, picking one of several collars, cuff options, and personalised embroidery. Their fabric selection is more limited than Tailor’s Mark but for everyday business it’s hard to beat.
If you’ve done a lap of DJ’s or had a sneaky once-over of your dad’s wardrobe, you’ve probably seen Thomas Pink. Launched in the UK in 1984, Thomas Pink are known for traditional Jermyn Street shirting: premium cloths in classic, understated patterns, and the quiet confidence to rely on tradition and custom over trendy innovations.
They offer easy-care Traveller shirts for those of you who don’t have time to iron, or never grew out of getting your mum to do it. Their shirting will fit in comfortably with most office dress-codes, so you can bank on some serious longevity. However, there’s a price for the privilege to wear Thomas Pink, as most of their shirts start well over one hundred bucks.
Charlies Tyrwhitt originated as a mail-order shirting label in 1986, before joining the illustrious Jermyn Street scene in the late nineties. It didn’t take long for them to achieve global reach, with a sizable audience in both the UK and its former colony.
CT collections boast easy-care shirting for the daily grind, but they also offer superfine two-ply cotton shirts and dinner shirts if you need to dust the tux off. They run four cuts – classic, slim, extra slim, and super slim – across a range of patterns. Charles Tyrwhitt are accessible for both the well-heeled and those just starting out. A plain white dress shirt will set you back $69 and if you buy four in most varieties, you’ll be paying $220 or less.
Despite their history as the primary outfitter of some of Hitler’s nastier cronies, Hugo Boss enjoys a well-deserved reputation in both tailoring and premium shirting. Hugo Boss shirting includes both the essentials – plain whites and blues for the office – and casual shirts in heavier, textured weaves.
The Hugo Boss aesthetic is very clean and understated, appropriate for a traditional power suiting look that relies on crisp simplicity over busy patterns and colours. Their shirts are 100% cotton and made in any number of workshops across Europe and Asia. Expect to pay for the prestige of the brand, but persuasive sales happen more often than you’d expect.
The plainly-named Suit Shop are a young subsidiary of Sydney’s P Johnson, servicing more of the corporate crowd in contrast to PJ’s famously slouchy, relaxed look that makes you wish you were on the Amalfi coast.
In addition to the slick tailoring that begets their name, SS offer custom shirting that allows you to select the usual specifications – collar, cloth, embroidery – in concert with their in-house blocks. They do require measurements in-store for this reason, and shirts start at $175. You can find Suit Shop in Crossley St, Melbourne, and in both the Strand Arcade and Chifley in Sydney.
Multi-channel retailer H & M was founded way back in 1947, opening a whopping 3,000 stores between then and now including steady expansion across Australia. Their menswear is known for being affordable and never far from contemporary trends.
H & M shirts offer great versatility, from plain white business shirts to short sleeve floral resort shirts, and at around 30 bucks per shirt they’re an absolute steal. If you need a last-minute job interview shirt or something to thrash for grand final weekend, H&M is the ticket.
Founded by designer and entrepreneur Matt Jensen, M.J. Bale takes the best of Saville Row and Neapolitan tailoring and adapts it to the unique demands of the Australian climate.
Their business shirts are 100% cotton, and constructed in various weaves to suit the season. You’ll find heavier oxford cloth shirts for winter, and lighter linen numbers for the scorcher November to March period.
Check out their floral shirts in their spring/summer collections and make sure you get a few of their easy-iron white shirts to pad the work wardrobe. These guys offer various multibuy packages – between $180 to $240 – so their value for money is highly competitive.
American retail giant J Crew do everything, so if you’re having trouble finding the right shirts for the job you don’t need to look much further. J Crew shirt collections have it all – from casual gingham shirts, to businesswear and dinner shirts.
J Crew don’t discriminate based on a precise aesthetic; you can find lively patterned shirts next to sombre, plain numbers. Furthermore, their Tall range accommodates hard-to-fit body shapes and you can choose between a couple of different cuts otherwise. Shirts retail from around $99, but there’s plenty to choose from for tightarses in the clearance section of their online store.
Heading on holiday? End of year bash? If it’s an informal, zero care factor occasion, Gitman Vintage has got your number. Originating in 1932 as a family enterprise, Gitman Vintage specialise in casual shirts for days where you don’t have to clock in or bring your work face.
Their floral camp collar shirts are a popular favourite, recalling retro 60’s styles. They’re made from 100% breathable cotton and are cut to a slim line that still leaves a little bit to the imagination. While these are definite party shirts and not for the office, they’re not cheap – don’t go too hard and you might get away with wearing it more than once.