The Solid-Color Dress Shirt

Although pure white traditionally been the color of choice for a basic dress shirt, medium blue actually flatters more men’s faces than white. Pure white can drain away what little natural color men exude. Television producers will advise male guests to don a blue dress shirt to compensate for the studio’s strong lighting, which tends to flatten and weaken the complexion.

 American actor/dancer/singer Fred Astaire owes part of his fame to his attire

American actor/dancer/singer Fred Astaire owes part of his fame to his attire

 Comedian Fred Allen and colleagues with typical 50's suits

Comedian Fred Allen and colleagues with typical 50's suits

Just as a mahogany table lends a more expensive aura to the items placed on it, medium blue enlivens all men’s skin tones. Any color or texture placed on or near a fine-quality medium blue dress shirt automatically appears warmer and richer. At least half of a man’s dozen or so dress shirts should ideally be in some shade of solid blue or in a predominantly blue pattern; these provide the most versatile backdrop to coordinate a tailored ensemble.

Naturally, some blue hues offer complexions more help than others, but there are at least several shades of medium blue that notably invigorate every man’s skin tone and luster. The trick is to find the deepest shade of blue that highlights the face without distracting from it. And let’s not be misled by those overcast, almost royal numbers that have been promoted of late with similar-toned solid neckties. They are yet another naïve aberration from good taste and permanent fashion fostered by the industry’s need for short-term novelty and profit.

 Sean Connery as James Bond wearing a classic light blue shirt

Sean Connery as James Bond wearing a classic light blue shirt

 Light Blue Dress Shirt with Cutaway Collar tailored by De Oost

Light Blue Dress Shirt with Cutaway Collar tailored by De Oost

A man with strong contrast in his complexion can enjoy a larger range of colors, including deep-tone blues like the Cambridge or Wedgwood shades found in fine two-ply broadcloth, royal oxford, or darker end-on-end cottons. Fair-haired men with muted complexions can balance their lighter tones with soft-hued blues such as end-on-ends, oxford, and mini-checks, whose weaves use white to reduce the blue’s intensity. With a summer tan, the depth of blue can be increased to play up the heightened color contrast between skin and hair.

Cream or tan can be complimentary, though these low-intensity shades do more for the muted than the contrasting complexion. Pink is sometimes viewed as too feminine a shade for men; however, the pink oxford button-down has been a linchpin of Madison Avenue lore for fifty years. Pink also flatters the rosy-cheeked visage. When bedecked with a contrasting white collar, and paired with a dark gray or navy striped worsted, the pink end-on-end dress shirt or broadcloth dress shirt continues as a perennial favorite of the Jermyn Street set.

 Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men wearing a classic white shirt

Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men wearing a classic white shirt

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Yellow or gold tones are highly desirable but similarly undervalued dress shirt colors. Unlike blue, they don’t have a drawback. Men with sallow skin need to steer clear of these shades. But their champagne sparkle can impart an élan and vitality to any suit from the browns ties, so if a man has flecks of blond hair, echoing it under the chin is an opportune way to illuminate the face. In fact, the bold yellow or gold striped dress shirt and blue blazer with gilded buttons has been known to add spring to any man’s gait.