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A Guide To Picking Out The Perfect White Shirt

A white shirt is a timeless wardrobe essential. Here's how to know when all signs point to "yes". (Plus, some possibly perfect white shirts that you can shop right away.)

Ask any designer, stylist or style icon about their top wardrobe essentials and the all-important white shirt almost always turns up in the mix. Timeless, simple and ridiculously versatile, the white shirt is the one thing that you can easily dress up or down without breaking a sweat. No matter the season, no matter the year. We honestly doubt that there’s anything that the white shirt doesn’t go with.

If every white shirt you’ve bought over the years hasn’t quite met the mark, we’re here to lend a hand with our list of five things to look out for the next time you’re on the hunt. Now, this is our criteria for the most basic and simplest of white shirts. The essential white shirt. White shirts with a little bit more oomph – say, an open back or extended sleeve cuffs like the Anna Quan one above – are a whole other story. May your search for the perfect white shirt to call your own be smooth sailing from this day forth!

1. The Wrinkle Test

You’re going to be wearing the white shirt a lot and sometimes, there just isn’t time to get it properly pressed out. A shirt that doesn’t crumple easily goes a long way. It is good for all those #OOTDs and handy when you’re travelling and there isn’t a clothing steamer conveniently lying around.


Joseph oversized silk-trimmed cotton-poplin shirt (shop it here)


2. The Shape

You want a size that is just right for your body – not too fitting yet not too loose. It shouldn’t hug, but it shouldn’t hang off your body like a giant white tent, either. Just that right amount of space in the sleeves and torso area. The length should go no further than the edge of your derrière. Any longer and you’re going to have problems tucking it in.


Balenciaga herringbone cotton shirt (shop it here)


3. The Collar & Cuff

Look for a firm and smart looking collar that isn’t too narrow. There are some collars that tend to go limp after going through the wash. That, you don’t want. The cuff shouldn’t be too narrow as well.


Junya Watanabe cotton-poplin shirt (shop it here)


4. The Material

Cotton is always best if we’re talking about the essential white shirt. Not silk, not satin, not chiffon. Thin and lightweight is good for layering – comfortable, too – but you don’t want it to be see-through. Like we said, that’s a different kind of white shirt altogether. Slightly, just slightly sheer to tease the crowd is a-okay.


Jil Sander cotton-poplin shirt (shop it here)


5. The Buttons

This is entirely our opinion, but we think that a white shirt with a hidden button placket looks just a tad more luxe. It reduces the details on the shirt, amping up the versatility factor and giving even more room for you to play around with.


Burberry stretch cotton shirt (shop it here)


Originally posted on November 29, 2016. Photo: Loewe sunglasses (shop similar here), Anna Quan open back shirt with contrast piping and extended sleeves (shop it here), Vetements jeans (shop similar here and here) and belt with hoop/Phil Oh via Vogue.com

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