Basic White versus Basic Black

James Cox Knits White Dess Shirt Sweater Pattern

We’ve all heard about the basic black dress that every well-heeled woman has hanging in her closet. What about the basic white shirt in every gentleman’s wardrobe?

After many years of traveling to New York on business, I moved to Manhattan in 2005. Over the next couple of years my wardrobe began to transform. The clothes in my closet became darker and I began to frequently dress like so many New Yorkers in basic black. The next thing I knew I had a black shirt that generally took the place of my formerly essential white dress shirt.

Recently I came upon a very informative article in the New York Times entitled How the white dress shirt became ubiquitous in men’s fashion. It traces the garment’s influence back to the Victorian era. At that time it was a symbol of wealth and class distinction, from which the terms “white collar” and “blue collar” evolved. To learn more about the white shirt’s history including the roles played by the Prince of Wales, the Arrow man with the eye patch and the founder of IBM read the full article by Dean Brough.

Over the past ten years my personal fashion statements have become more diverse from urban black to bright tropical hues, but I can’t let go of the classic white dress shirt. I still have a collection that currently includes a Ralph Lauren oxford cloth with a button down collar, a Prada tuxedo shirt of a modern cotton and Lycra blend sporting cloth covered buttons and even a Jussara Lee seersucker dress shirt in pure white.

This must be why I was inspired to create a white linen sweater that looks like a dress shirt. It took me 2 years to create a satisfactory pattern, but the reward was worth it. And now, after writing this blog I’m thinking I should also offer it in basic black.