(Bloomberg) -- The plain white shirt is a wardrobe staple, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be plain, as in boring. Just because it is the most basic of all shirts—the one must-have dress shirt of Western culture and global business—doesn’t mean that it must be basic in the derogatory sense.
This can be a hard lesson to learn. Some men find it difficult to break the habit of reordering, say, the same tissue-like Van Heusen item that their mothers used to cop at the mall. Maybe you’re stuck in the Brooks Brothers rut. Others are perhaps unfamiliar with options that might provide superior fits for their particular frames, shapes, suit collections, social contexts, and sensibilities.
At a bare minimum, the best white dress shirts enable a guy to conform to written and unwritten dress codes without feeling like a drone. And at their very best, triumphing over vanilla anonymity, they can even help an individual express his individuality. Examine the nine fine specimens below and choose which best suit you.
For the Best French Cuffs
When you want a shirt with the best French cuffs, you head straight to the best French shirtmaker. At Charvet—maison fondée en 1838—the company’s characteristically precise stitching comes to bear on this chemise. $495
The Upscale Chambray Option
The details that made Gant button-downs a hit in the 1950s—the box pleat, the locker loop, the rear-collar button—are here. And the suavity of all of them is elevated by the chambray fabric and mother-of-petal buttons. $185
To Wear With a Slick Suit
Ermenegildo Zegna refers to some its its very best suiting fabrics as “Trofeo wools,” after the Italian word for trophy. By the same token, they call this classic, with its French collar, squared cuffs, and silky finish, a “Trofeo shirt,” and as such it arguably deserves an Oscar for how it covers your torso. $375
The Platonic Ideal
Balancing the business-dressiness of poplin weave with the more casual pleasures of a button-down collar, this Boglioli version is the contemporary ideal of a white shirt. The back darts clinch its modern fit. $275
For Shorter Guys
Peter Manning, the biggest name in outfitting the under-6-foot male, smartly cuts its dress shirts, with their modest spread collars, from pinpoint oxford. Sizes range from 1 (with a 15-inch neck and 31-inch sleeve) to 4x (17-inch neck, 33-inch sleeve). $108
For Crease-Resistant Types
Because the Stockholm-based shirtmaker Eton gives a crease-resistant finish to this linen-blend fabric, the shirtfront stays as sharp as the angles of its dashing, high, cutaway collar. $275
The Band-Collar Option
In seersucker, with a band collar, the Paris-based Officine Générale gets the win with this summery option. $280
An Ivy-League-Appropriate Design
Doubling down on old-school details, this limited-edition oxford-cloth from Japanese shirt maker Kamakura combines a club collar worthy of an Eton schoolboy with a tab collar radiating Ivy League vibes. The mellowness of the oxford-cloth whole balances the daintiness of the details. $99
The Short-Sleeved Option
Is it possible to wear a white short-sleeved button-down without looking like a Book of Mormon extra? Perhaps not. But this one from Gitman Vintage, with its high armhole and tailored fit, is on a mission to reimagine a historically square garment with some out-the-box thinking. $170