A blue-and-white striped cotton shirt is as potent as the smell of black coffee. Crisp cotton in sky blue striped with fluffy cloud white has a can-do, today-is-a-new-day energy which is just what you need to power up your morning.
But this spring’s shirts take this to the next level. That’s why they call them elevated shirts. These season’s shirts are supershirts. They take that morning coffee freshness and spritz it with a little Tom Ford Black Orchid va-va-voom. Frankly, if your work shirt isn’t raising a few eyebrows, it isn’t working hard enough.
The beauty of the elevated shirt is that you can make it work for you. It can emphasise your waist or reveal your collarbones. Or both, or neither. It can be operatically dramatic, or a simple shirt with a subtle twist.
The principle is to take the mannish collared shirt and feminise it. You don’t, however, want to turn your shirt into a blouse. This is not about turning sharp collars into soft Peter Pan shapes, or switching starched cotton for slippy satin, or blue-and-white for cream or blush. You want to hang on to all those signifiers of the traditional work shirt – the squared-off collar, the washing-line cotton crispness, the professional colours. You just want to add a few flourishes.
The ballerina wrap shape of the shirt I’m wearing here is a case in point. It hasn’t been in fashion for a long while, the ballerina wrap, which gives it a certain look-at-me factor. But it’s on the way back, mark my words. And while it is soft and feminine, it has a quiet determination. No one matches ballet dancers for work ethic, after all. But a bow-tied waist isn’t to everyone’s taste, and there are endless variations on the supershirt. Sleeves have special significance on a shirt – think of a rolled-to-the-elbow sleeve, versus gold cufflinks – and so a fluted cuff, or a full sleeve cinched at the cuff or above the elbow, delivers a fashion punch while keeping the body of the shirt on the straight and narrow. This is a shirt with superpowers. But it still gets the day job done.