Morning Dress Shirts’ Brief history and colors

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Published: 01st November 2012
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In previous times there were lots of norms and rules regarding wearing dress shirts. However, these days men can wear almost any kind of dress shirt. Below we will discuss brief history of morning dress shirts and the color choices available nowadays.

While there are now many options for a correct morning dress shirt today, back in the day, there were certain shirt rules, which we will expound upon below. A morning dress shirt was always a plain white and made of cotton or linen. It was topped off with an obligatory white, polished, detachable standing collar. The shirtfront was starched and the detachable cuffs were originally called surgeon’s cuffs, because a doctor before surgery could easily take them off. Shortly after the morning coat had evolved, the detachable wing collar became acceptable as well. Later, the turndown collar became more and more popular, and by the 1930s, most men wore the detachable white turndown collar. The wing collar was only seen when a cravat was worn. The cuffs became softer as well and were now folded over, hence the term double cuff. Moreover, the shirts now came in various colors ranging from salmon, blue, light blue, pink, and yellow, and were paired with white collars. By the 1950s, the tailor made shirt front was only worn with formal court dress and the turndown collar was now often soft and attached to the shirt.

Morning Dress Shirt Colors & Styles

A great alternative to plain white shirts is colored or patterned shirts with a white contrasting collar. Most commonly, you will see plain colors or vertical stripes. If you are interested in a unique style, I am sure a horizontally striped shirt with a white collar can look quite dapper, too. In any case, you will not be able to see much of the shirt under the tie, ascot and waistcoat. In theory, there is no restriction on color, although naturally most shirts come in some shade of blue.


A light blue shirt is an absolute classic. Prince Charles is obviously a fan of blue shirts for formal morning wear, and overall you cannot go wrong if you choose blue. Fortunately, it works very well with light grey or dark gray, and although it is not an original color choice, chances are your outfit look classic and elegant if you choose blue. Of course, matching the shirt color with the tie is equally as important as the color choice, and I think blue is once again very versatile. Black or white patterns will look just as fine, as will pastel tones of yellow, pink, lavender or green. As a rule of thumb, the darker the blue, the stronger the color of the neckwear should be. A darker blue shirt would look splendid with a strong burgundy or yellow, while a pale blue usually works well with a pale colored tie.


Most men have strong opinions about wearing pink tailor made dress shirts, and most either wear them often or abstain from the color entirely. Many assume that pink is exclusively a feminine color that has no place in a man’s wardrobe. However, it can look quite nice on a person with a little bit of tan and some self-confidence. On the other hand, if you have very pale skin, I would advise against light pink shirts. Stronger pinks may work for any complexion, but again, it depends on the harmony with the necktie or ascot.


Another color that works particularly well with a little bit of a tan is peach or buff. These two colors are excellent, surprisingly versatile alternatives to pink. In the past, I have strongly encouraged the use of peach-colored shirts especially with brown suits, but it works just as well with a traditional morning coat. Since the collar should be white, you should make sure to choose a shade that is not too light, otherwise it may look oddly flesh toned.


A yellow tailor made shirt– no matter whether it is pale yellow or corn yellow, will look great with a grey or light blue linen waistcoat and a harmonizing tie. Consider this color if you want something different.


Not many people own green shirts. I do not know if this is because there is no demand or because few shirt makers carry a nice range of green fabrics. In any case, a pale granny smith green shirt with a white club collar looks simply superb with a charcoal morning coat and a dove grey waistcoat. I have worn this ensemble before with a stroller and I got nothing but compliments.

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