The classic white dress shirt is familiar and omnipresent in men’s fashion. As a result, we tend to be unaware that for more than 200 years this singular item of apparel, which is essentially unadulterated in form from the late 19th century, has been able to define and represent status, wealth and fashion norms.
The history underlying this garment is rich and, in the main part, untold.
For men, the influence of the white dress shirt can be best traced back to the Victorian era where it was an important symbol of wealth and class distinction and a powerful emblem of sobriety and uniformity – despite it being for the most part hidden by outer garments.
The pure white colour of the cloth fulfilled masculine ideals of resolute austerity and only a person of substantial prosperity could afford to have their shirts washed frequently and to own enough of them to wear.