Business Today

What makes the perfect white shirt

Real luxury is pure cotton. It is not even linen because white linen shirts are more appropriate for casual wear.
David Abraham        Print Edition: Sept 28, 2014
David Abraham outside the Great India Place mall in Noida
'White' hot: David Abraham outside the Great India Place mall in Noida. Photo: Vivan Mehra

A white shirt, at whatever cost you buy it, is a luxury. That is because it is the most difficult colour to maintain. It has a shorter life span than any other coloured shirt. It usually cannot be dry-cleaned very well; it has to be properly washed at a particular temperature. You need to whiten it.

If it is a high-quality white shirt, it cannot be woven from manmade fibre - no polyester or polyester blend can be used. Real luxury is pure cotton. It is not even linen because white linen shirts are more appropriate for casual wear. The classic white shirt has to be woven from long staple cotton - very fine, lustrous cotton. The best cotton in the world is either Egyptian or Sea Island. The yarn is smooth and has a silky feel to it. Of course, you get good cotton in India and one can do without the imported ones. However, the cotton fabric has to be made from very high quality long staple yarn and be tightly woven for stability.

Cherishing a legacy: A view of Jermyn Street, London, July 1, 1948. Jermyn Street is home to some of the world's greatest shirt makers.
The second factor in the luxury white shirt is the type of weave used. The classic men's shirting fabric usually comes in two forms. One is a Poplin weave, which is flat and smooth and crisp looking. The other is an Oxford cloth, which is a weave with a more grainy texture and is, in purist terms, considered a little more casual. It is, however, perfectly acceptable in America.

FULL COVERAGE:Luxury Special 2014

The super-luxurious shirts are bespoke, tailored preferably at Jermyn Street in London - the hub of some of the world's greatest shirt makers. When it comes to the fit and cut, oversized and baggy shirts are not acceptable options. The well-made shirt has to be cut to your size. One can have a pleat at the back for ease of movement. It should not blouse over or bunch up when you tuck it in. Europeans tend to cut the shirt a little slimmer, slightly narrower. The American shirt cut is often boxier. A custom-made white shirt in England may cost between 120 pounds and 250 pounds. A lot of people buy designer brands and the brand can add to the price.

Nevertheless, if you want a classic beautifully cut shirt, go to a shirt maker, not a designer. The shirt maker, unlike the designer, does only this one thing and has perfected it over many, many years. Leave it to the expert.

The writer is the owner and creative director of design label Abraham and Thakore.

As told to Goutam Das

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