One small change: Wear a patterned shirt
Exactly why you could go for patterned over plain
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The cornerstone of most men's wardrobe (unless you're more of a t-shirt guy), shirts are obviously incredibly easy to wear—as long as you choose the right one at the right time. "Formal shirts, for example, are made to be worn with a tie—and don't look great without them," says Thread senior stylist Sam Monaghan. "On the other hand, chambray shirts look best after they've been broken in; they can be stiff on the first wear."
Below, Sam talks us through some of Thread's essential shirt types and what to look out for.
Why we like it: "A chambray shirt is a great alternative to your usual white or blue Oxford. The texture and colour make these shirts slightly more interesting but they still go with a range of clothes, from suits to chinos. Plus they get better with age, as the fabric softens and looks more and more 'yours'. Find one you like and you'll be wearing it for years."
What to look for: "Choose an easy blue colour in a subtle texture. There's no need to complicate things when it comes to a chambray shirt."
... and avoid: "Skip the bells and whistles—like eye-catching buttons or pocket details."
Wear it with: "The beauty of this piece is its versatility. Throw your shirt on with pretty much anything, from a jacket to chinos to shorts. You can even use a chambray shirt to make a suit or smart separates look more relaxed."
Why we like it: "A dark shirt can look more sophisticated, and even more expensive, than a white or pale blue shirt. Wearing one is an easy way to subtly stand out: A dark shirt can breathe new life into your same old suit, for instance, but the nature of the colour means it's not too eye-catching."
What to look for: "Pick a shirt in a colour that's almost the same as your favourite blazer or jacket. In the case of dark shirts and jackets, near-identical tones can look really sharp."
...and avoid: "Dark shirts look best when they're layered under even darker jackets. The difference between a light jacket and a dark shirt can look too stark."
Wear it with: "Clothes that are also dark-coloured, from black chinos to a navy suit."
Why we like it: "A bit of pattern will make an outfit more interesting, but only slightly. It's stylish without being shouty."
What to look for: "If you're getting a shirt in a bold colour like red, go for a simple pattern, like a pin dot. But if you’re going for a fairly regular colour like navy, you could opt for almost any pattern—navy check is a particular favourite."
...and avoid: "Anything too crazy. Go for easy colours and small repeating patterns that you couldn't distinctly make out from six feet away."
Wear it with: "Break up the pattern by wearing a casual jacket over your shirt—a denim or field jacket looks great. If you're pairing a patterned shirt with a suit or blazer, it's a bit more casual: you can skip the tie."
Why we like it: "The collar on a formal shirt is one of the most important elements. If it's too wide (two inches or wider) it can look retro, but too narrow can be hipstery. Try for an inch or an inch and a half in width, and to keep yourself comfortable, make sure you have a finger or two of space between your neck and the collar."
What to look for: "If the mere idea of a formal shirt makes your neck itchy, make sure you get one that's 100 percent cotton. The itchiness can come from synthetic fabrics like polyester. Two other itch culprits: a too-tight collar, or your dry cleaner's detergent."
...and avoid: "Pick a shirt without a chest pocket, as under a blazer this can look distracting. And don't try to wear a formal shirt casually with jeans. The styles are way too different—it very rarely works."
Wear it with: "Always a tie! Other than that, a white shirt will go with pretty much anything. Blue and pink shirts are a bit more limiting, and work best with navy and grey suits."
Photographed: Gant formal shirt (£120)
Why we like it: "Stripes have to be the easiest pattern to wear. From smart to casual, there's a striped shirt that will work in every outfit."
What to look for: "Thinner stripes are more versatile and will work well with smarter clothes like suits. Shirts with a wider stripe or stripes in highly contrasting colours are best worn casually with jeans or chinos."
...and avoid: "Make your life easier by sticking to vertical stripes rather than horizontal ones. They're always more flattering: vertical stripes make you look leaner, while horizontal stripes can make you look wider."
Wear it with: "If you're wearing a striped shirt with jeans or chinos, leave it untucked. Or you could even try wearing one as a light jacket over a plain t-shirt."
Why we like it: "Check shirts feel functional and durable but have a sense of style about them, too. And they're more versatile than you might think."
What to look for: "The bigger the check, the more casual the shirt."
...and avoid: "Keep an eye on the fit. Especially because it's patterned, you don't want to be drowning in it."
Wear it with: "Check shirts are ideal for layering up: wear one open over a t-shirt and under a jacket, for example, so that you just see a bit of the pattern."
Why we like it: "This is the ultimate smart-casual piece: you could wear the same shirt with a suit or shorts and nobody would notice."
What to look for: "Oxford shirts come in some great colours, and they never look too bold because of the way the fabric is woven. Look for details like a button-down collar and chest pocket for the most standard version of this shirt."
...and avoid: "This shirt is only versatile if it fits well: baggier styles will bunch under blazers."
Wear it with: "Honestly, however you like. I wear mine with a denim jacket and jeans, but you could just as easily go for a blazer and chinos."
Photographed: Gant Oxford shirt (£80)
Why we like it: "It doesn't get more classic than this—the ultimate in men's formal style."
What to look for: "You want to keep things traditional: a sharp wing collar—i.e., one that resembles two small triangles—if you’re wearing a bow tie, and double cuffs so you can wear smart cufflinks. Get a shirt in a nice fabric that fits really well—for these really smart occasions, you want to make sure it looks as if you've pulled out all the stops."
...and avoid: "When it comes to tuxedos, you've got to keep it simple—so, for instance, no cartoony cufflinks."
Wear it with: "You can't go wrong with a black bow tie and silver cufflinks."
Denim shirt. They're a bit less versatile than chambray, since you can't really wear them with jeans (unless you're feeling particularly brave). But a denim shirt and chinos or shorts is a great look.
Granddad-collar shirt. These shirts, like the one photographed above, have thin, flat collars. They're more casual than the versions with point collars, so they're great for dressing down a blazer or suit.
Overshirt. Slightly heavier than a standard shirt, an overshirt makes an easy alternative to a jacket.
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