A Shirt Cannot, and Should Not, Stretch

October 03, 2013 BY PERMANENT STYLE

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Written by Simon Crompton

One of the problems with modern, casual dress is that the shirt has acquired added importance. With jackets rarely worn, the shirt is the dominant garment, and all sorts of bells and whistle have been added over the years to make it interesting (coloured collar bands, double collars, extra-high collars). To me, these are quirks in the worst sense. But a bigger problem is the expectations men have of a shirt’s fit.

A jacket hangs from the shoulders and is suppressed at the waist. It has plenty of room to move and can be sculpted about the figure. A shirt has no such freedom. It is anchored at the waist, shoulder and cuff. Its ability to move is severely limited and as such it has to have fullness in the body to avoid overly restricting its wearer. If you want to be able to move, a shirt cannot be skin tight.

Jackets are also made of wool, which has natural stretch. Shirts are made of cotton, which does not. We won’t even touch on the horrors of stretch fabrics. For all these reasons, a shirt can never be quite as flattering as a jacket. I recommend covering it up. Thin knitwear these days is so fine as to be almost unnoticeable; even fine cashmere is affordable. If you want the minimum of coverage, try a sleeveless cardigan – it works particularly well when you wander outside, and slip a jacket over the top.

Simon Crompton is a London based, freelance menswear journalist. His personal blog, Permanent Style, can be found here.