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Monday, April 11, 2011

Wearing a White Shirt - Formal Wear or lack of Choice !!

Do you know what is ‘Supima’  ?  As the busy week starts, and when it is a few minutes to start for the Office to go – you tend to think of what to wear to Office ?  [not for the gender who readies their wear for the whole of the coming week and keeps debating and changing their choices everyday morning !]

For those unable to decide [colour combination is always bemusing !] – wearing a white shirt is the easiest.  People tend to wear white shirts for Interviews, marriages and to more places whenever they want to be very presentable  - it would simply go with everything else – blue pants, black ones, khaki and the other indescribable colours.  A perfect white shirt is more elusive than a perfect job !!  

I am intentionally keeping away from the white ones that most of our Netas prefer to wear.  TN politicians wear white dhoti and white shirt [some preferring khadi cotton]

Office goers – a White collar job – how come collar decodes the type of work a man does.  Blue is almost totally associated with manual labour and white collar with administrative work.   For decades, the term ‘white collar’ has been associated with professional man.  May be in earlier days,  office goers were required to wear a dress with a white collar.  

The classic white shirt comes in every brand of fashion apparel like Versace, Armani, Dunhill, Raymond, Reid & Taylor, Van Huesen, Louis Phillippe, Arrow and more.  In fact, Ramraj Cottons set up in 1983 specialises in white garments – dhoties, shirtings, vests, and inner wear also.  The white shirts comes in various hues and price tags.  At Ramraj showroom, they cost from Rs.490/- to rich looking ones priced at Rs.4490/-  ; then can be costlier also and Versace collection intended for CEOs cost between  Rs 18,000 and Rs 40,000.  Read that high end French shirt maker Charvet has 400 shades of white.

To the marketing gurus, white has the shortest of shelf life and sells throughout the year – rain or shine.   White is a colour, the perception of which is evoked by light that stimulates all the 3 types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in nearly equal amounts and with high brightness compared to the surroundings. White light can be generated in many ways. The sun is such a source, electric incandescence is another. Modern light sources are fluorescent lamps and light-emitting diodes. An object whose surface reflects back most of the light it receives and does not alter its color will appear white, unless it has very high specular reflection.  For long it was believed to be the fundamental colour of light but Newton demonstrated that this was not true.  

White is the  extreme end of the visual spectrum in hue and share and symbolises purity and cleanness.  White is also identified with other traits such as bravery,  nobility, softness, emptiness, knowledge, peace,  surrender, milk, cream, cotton, angels, weakness, innocence & more.  Further white would easily qualify for any norms of formal dress codes prescribed.  Of course when not worn with care, it could present oneself pretty shabbily.  

A white shirt as a choice needs to be impeccable – collar should not be too stiff or too sharp to rub one’s neck.  One should button the shirt and length should be right covering the sleeves.  The cuffs should not fall beyond the wrist bone.  Ideally a part of the wrist watch should be visible when you stretch your arms.  The thread count matters in terms of richness – it simple is the number of individual fibers found in a square inch of fabric.   Rich shirts are smooth and comfortable when worn.  A 200 count Egyptian cotton shirt is considered a connoisseur’s marvel.  

Egyptian cotton comes from pima cotton (Gossypium barbadense), also known as extra long staple.  It is a tropical, frost-sensitive perennial plant that produces yellow flowers and has black seeds. It grows as a small, bushy tree and yields cotton with unusually long, silky fibers. To grow, it requires full sun and high humidity and rainfall. This plant contains the chemical gossypol, which reduces its susceptibility to insect and fungal damage.   Just as Kangaroo story, the word pima has a legend.  The Pima are a group of American Indians living in an area consisting of what is now central and southern Arizona (USA) and Sonora (Mexico). The long name, "Akimel O'odham", means "river people". The short name, "Pima" is believed to have come from the phrase pi 'añi mac or pi mac, meaning "I don't know," used repeatedly in their initial meeting with Europeans.

Supima, founded in 1954,  is a non-profit organization in the United States whose main objective is to promote the use of American Pima cotton around the world and is involved in quality assurance and research programs.  Supima licenses over 300 selected high-quality mills, textile and clothing manufacturers, and retailers to use the Supima trademark.

So next time, you wear a white shirt – remember that it has a rich tradition and can so much to many people – though to some of us, it was the obvious lack of choice that made us wear a white shirt.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. White shirt is known for its coolness. Many people preferred to wear white shirt on blue jeans.

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  2. Nice article. I think a grey formal shirt also looks great on occasions especially that are corporate or office type ones. Otherwise, white always blends well with any situation.