The classic white shirt will never age and while you may update yours annually to suit fashion’s current status quo, the clean style basic will never let you down.
The white shirt has a long history, and like everything in fashion, had references to what was happening socially, politically and economically when the trend first originated.
Menswear was where it all began and prior to becoming the hard working essential, it was long considered an undergarment for men to only be hidden under a jacket or men’s suit until the 19th century. As fashion evolved, it became an indicator of social distinction, as it represented being a “white collar” employee, meaning a man was higher up the food chain in terms of what he did for a living, while blue collars were mostly intended for the working or labor classes.
In the 1920s and 30s as the emaciated, thin, short-haired, boyish, flapper body became the beauty ideal, so did androgynous style. Women began to appropriate men’s fashion, and the men’s white shirt paired with a well-tailored pant became the mode. The earliest moments of the white shirt beginning its journey as a fashion statement, was when Hollywood starlets such as Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich made it one of their very own style essentials.
Not only did the white shirt make waves on the fashion scene but also became a symbol of gender equality for women who were fighting for their rights – it wasn’t until a couple of decades later that it was seen as a fashion staple. It was the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn who reinvented the white shirt, wearing it open to the cleavage, tucked into slacks, midi skirts and denim, giving it a feminine flair.
Since then, the white shirt has been transformed time and time again, and has made a comeback every season in one way, shape or form. Labels including Carolina Herrera, who made the white shirt a part of their brand identity, have led the way in taking the staple from day to night. According to the designer herself, there isn’t a right or wrong way to wear a white shirt – how you like to wear it is the right way!
Paired with a trench coat and jeans, or like to layer it with jewelry and a jaunty boho necktie, or even keep it chic for your looks for the office, the white shirt is for everyone.