The Dress Shirt's Big Moment
Women may have their shoes. But men have their shirts.
Men can be a little obsessed with dress shirts, owning loads and geeking out on such details as stitching on buttons or cuffs, fabric weight, and how stiff a collar stands up when worn under a jacket or sweater without a tie. Some men say they're just being practical: More shirts mean less laundry. Others just can't help themselves.
The man's shirt is having a moment. Stores are giving shirts more prominence. Barneys New York's Madison Avenue flagship store recently freed shirts from their plastic bags and boxes to display them colorfully on its shelves. British brands such as Thomas Pink and Charles Tyrwhitt have brought brighter colors, bolder patterns and slimmer fits to the U.S. Men are more free to go far beyond white and French blues into more daring territory like gingham checks and lilac hues.
Men tend to underestimate or play down their number. Shirt makers say the magic number of shirts the average man should have in his closet hovers around 20.
Their considerations include a man's need to wear a clean shirt for five business days and have another five for the next week, while the dirty ones are sent out for laundering.
The average life expectancy of a shirt is about 35 to 50 washes, or roughly two years, figures the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, a Laurel, Md., trade group.
The top 50 customers at Ledbury, an online shirt retailer, each own, on average, at least 60 shirts, says Paul Trible, who co-founded the Richmond, Va., shirt company four years ago with a friend after realizing how much they both loved shirts. One customer owns 242, he says. 'He buys two of everything.'
Ledbury, with its colorful and patterned shirts, caters to repeat customers with a new collection of five shirts each week, available in limited quantities for a limited time. Online, there is a day and hour countdown clock on each shirt.
The shirt is both a fun purchase and a wardrobe workhorse. In business-casual offices, the shirt is flexible enough to work with or without a sport coat. And for men who still wear suits, dress shirts are what colleagues see during the day when jackets come off. New shirts also give a suit worn more than once in a week or two a different look.
Sales of men's dress shirts rose 9% to $2.9 billion last year, according to market researcher NPD Group, even as sales of men's suits fell.
Mavis Kelsey III, a 35-year-old energy investor in Houston, has a closet devoted to dress shirts. He figures there are about 80 to 100 shirts in there. 'I really don't know,' he says.
He likes the variety. 'I hate laundry,' he says. 'I have enough shirts only to have to go to the laundry service three times a year.' When they come back from the laundry, he hangs each on a wooden hanger, organized by shade. 'It's like walking in my closet and seeing a rainbow of color,' he says.
Mr. Kelsey's shirts are custom made by Hamilton Shirts, a 131-year-old shirt maker in Houston. He orders 'maybe 20 shirts' about twice a year, sometimes six of the same shirt so that he can wear the style often without wearing them out.
He prefers slightly longer point collars. He likes the band on the neck to be on the high side and the cuffs to have one button, not two. A pocket is a must.
A pocket is the No. 1 request from men on their custom shirts, says David Hamilton, co-owner of Hamilton Shirts. Its shirts, from off-the-rack to bespoke, range from about $195 to $495.
'They want it that size for their iPhone, or that depth for their glasses, or a hidden interior pocket at the bottom of the shirt to carry cash,' says Mr. Hamilton. Some men want the thread color on the buttonholes to be different from the shirt. Others ask for horn buttons.
Terrence O'Connor buys so many shirts that his custom shirt maker has threatened to cut him off until he really needs new ones.
The 65-year-old New York judge recalls he replied: 'I said, 'HMMM, you've been talking to my wife.'' He says he owns 'more than 50 but less than 100' dress shirts.
Mr. O'Connor has his shirts made by Carl Goldberg, owner of CEGO Custom Shirtmaker in New York. Mr. Goldberg says some men come to his shop twice a year and buy a lot of shirts, which cost between $175 and $275, each time. 'A fellow who is buying 14 shirts, we might not see him for another year and a half,' he says.
Greg Root says he's drawn to colors or patterns that pop. The 45-year-old chief executive of SuperGraphics, a Seattle design company, owns about 120 dress shirts, 60 of which are in season and reside in his main closet.
His wife, Kiki, teases him often about his collection.
'It's definitely too much,' she says. Occasionally, he tries to shield new purchases from her. 'Sometimes he'll hide them in his car for a little while,' says Mrs. Root. 'They'll come out eventually.'
Mr. Root sends his shirts out to a longtime family-favorite dry cleaner. Yet he is so obsessed with the way his shirts look that he will re-press them after they come back from the cleaner.
Acclaimed shows including AMC's 'Mad Men' and Netflix's 'House of Cards' feature male characters in pristine, crisp dress shirts without a jacket when in their offices.
Jay Brown, a 35-year-old interim budget director for the city of Richmond, Va., found shirt love watching 'Casino Royale,' the 2006 James Bond film starring Daniel Craig. As the secret agent was getting ready for a poker game, Mr. Brown was struck by the fit and fabric of the shirt.
He watched the credits to find out more. Then he went online to research and watched YouTube videos on made-to-measure shirts.
'That's when my collection of shirts really began to grow,' Mr. Brown says.
He owns more than 40. Going to shops that offer made-to-measure shirts gave him more options than local department stores, and he began trying details like French cuffs, pockets, monograms and no-show buttons.
Mr. Brown tried shopping at Ledbury on a colleague's recommendation. He has purchased 15 Ledbury shirts in the past four months.
'I like options,' he says. In his closet the shirts are hung by color, from purple to lighter purples from dark pinks to light pinks, to blues and so on.
眼下男式衬衫正大行其道。商场把衬衫摆放在最突出的位置。前不久，纽约巴尼斯精品百货(Barneys New York)麦迪逊大道旗舰店将衬衫从塑料袋和包装盒中解放出来，把这些色彩绚丽的货品陈列在了货架上。Thomas Pink与 Charles Tyrwhitt等英国品牌给美国市场带来了更明亮的色彩、更大胆的图案以及更修身的款型。现在，男人们拥有了更大的选择自由，可在白色和法国蓝之外选择彩色格纹和丁香紫之类更为大胆的色调。
根据位于马里兰州劳雷尔(Laurel)的行业组织、干洗及洗衣协会(Drycleaning & Laundry Institute)推测，一件衬衫的平均使用寿命约为清洗35至50次，差不多合两年时间。
今年35岁的梅维斯·凯尔西三世(Mavis Kelsey III)是休斯顿的一名能源投资者，他有一个衣橱专门用来归置正装衬衫。他说，他猜测衣橱中大概有80到100件衬衫，“我真的不清楚（具体数量）”。
Hamilton Shirts的合伙人之一戴维·汉密尔顿(David Hamilton)称，口袋是男士定制衬衫时的第一大要求。该品牌的衬衫分成衣款和定制款，售价在195美元至495美元左右。
奥康纳的衬衫是纽约衬衫商家CEGO Custom Shirtmaker的店主卡尔·戈德堡(Carl Goldberg)制作的。戈德堡称，有些人每年去他的店里两次，每次都买上大量衬衫（价格在175美元至275美元之间）。他说：“一个人要是买了14件衬衫的话，接下来的一年半载我们或许就不会看到他再来了。”
在AMC电视台的《广告狂人》(Mad Men)与Netflix 的《纸牌屋》(House of Cards)等有口皆碑的电视剧中，男性角色在办公室中常常不套外套单穿干 挺括的正装衬衫。
现年35岁的杰伊·布朗(Jay Brown)是弗吉尼亚州里士满市的中期预算主管，他在观看2006年由丹尼尔·克雷格(Daniel Craig)主演的詹姆斯·邦德(James Bond)系列影片《皇家赌场》(Casino Royale)时迷上了衬衫。在看到那位秘密特工准备好赌牌的那一幕时，布朗被他所穿衬衫合身的款型与面料吸引住了。