Last Updated Aug 28, 2009 5:10 AM EDT
Unsurprisingly, when times are tough people are doing their best to get noticed (for the right reasons), and how better to do that than in a crisp, classic and resilient white shirt. Purposefully striding around the office, sleeves rolled up does tend to send out the message that you're getting down to business.
However, if that pristine white shirt were to look rather tired, the collar a little curled and frayed and the cuffs less than spotless, it wouldn't be sending out the same message at all, so please take stock of your shirts and stick any less than perfect ones in the Oxfam bag (for fabric recycling) and treat yourself to some new ones.
Having said that, not everyone looks their best in white, and although I can see a host of men rolling their eyes at this point, bear with me and let me give you an example.
A dark-haired man with blue eyes and with either a high contrast between his skin and hair or with very dark overall colouring, looks immaculate in white, whereas a more 'muted' individual whose skin tone is warmer and even freckled, and perhaps with paler or strawberry blonde hair, would look better if he chose a less than Dulux-bright shirt, it could be off-white or very pale cream.
The bright white of a shirt can dominate him to the point where it is the shirt rather than him that makes a great entrance. White is a strong tone and if your colouring isn't strong then it makes sense not to overwhelm your image. You'll still look very 'business-ready' in your 'softer' white shirt.
Whatever you choose to wear, it's important to take care of your shirts, and please avoid washing them with your black socks â€"- ideally your shirts should be laundered, pressed, hung on hangers and be ready to go.
Right now the most iconic wearer of the white shirt has to be Barack Obama, he's a man who knows his style and recognises that he looks great in a white shirt. But look closely, his collars are immaculate and his tie is always securely knotted with no gap between collar and tie knot, this sloppier casual look may be ok after work in the wine bar but doesn't say 'in control' in the office.
When it comes to collars you've got a huge amount of choice from cut-away to regular to tabbed, not forgetting button-down collars, but in my opinion, the more casually styled button-downs are best worn informally with no tie â€"- rather like linen shirts, they aren't designed to go with formal suits.
If your business doesn't have a formal dress code then naturally this isn't an issue.
White shirts also look great with rich, dark-coloured, ties and jackets â€"- they give the 'high contrast' look that is very powerful and commands attention.
There's a point I'd like to raise here of which, in my experience, people are not generally aware. If you work in a 'formal' environment you may know that when wearing a jacket the correct look is to 'shoot' a Â¼" of cuff below the suit sleeve.
If you ever have a suit made, do consider having your shirts cut by the same tailor as he will allow for the correct shirt-sleeve length to achieve this look and also add extra volume to the cuff under which you wear your watch in order to stop it catching.
Here's a little factoid you may not be aware of: There's only one White Shirt Day in the world and that's on 11th February and it's in Flint, Michigan. It commemorates the day in 1937 when General Motors' manual workers won their sit-down strike, so now every year all workers wear white shirts as a reminder of their equal rights with their management.
Whether or not you want to wear a white shirt in the office, looking business ready and smart will go some way to make you differentiate yourself from the herd and make a positive statement about your own self-esteem.