Before we start, I’d like to go on record saying that I am 100 per cent a shirt man. Some guys prefer t-shirts, some guys (God forbid) prefer vests, but when it comes to my own personal preference, I just don’t feel complete without a shirt on.

If you’re a regular reader of my articles, you will know that I’m a huge fan of simple, classic and versatile pieces of menswear; the type of clothing that forms the foundation of any successful capsule wardrobe and can be mixed and matched together to produce a wide variety of timeless looks. For those just starting out on their journey to becoming a well dressed man, this approach will ensure you look always appear stylish, no matter what the occasion or scenario.

But what happens what you’ve achieved this goal? Where do you move to once you’ve covered all of the basics? Well, it’s time to start developing your own personal style and deciding what items suit you best and fit in with your lifestyle.

This could mean sticking to the casual end of the menswear spectrum and investing in more denim, t-shirts and relaxed jackets in varying colours and fabrics. Alternatively, it could mean picking up pieces that sit at the formal end – expanding your collection of ties, pocket squares, dress shirts and suits. It comes down to finding out what makes you feel most confident and comfortable, then building on it.

For me, shirts do just that. There’s something about a perfectly cut and well constructed shirt that works for my frame and lifestyle, as well as my more refined approach to style. They also happen to come in a huge variety of colours, patterns, fabrics and textures, so there’s a lot of room to experiment with my look on a daily basis without getting bored – a big plus for someone with as short an attention span as I have.

But with great variety comes great responsibility. Owning too many shirts can often be just as bad as owning too few – there’s nothing worse than standing in front of your shirt collection and being crippled by indecision.

With that in mind, I have decided to provide you with a list of shirts that I personally deem ‘essential’ for guys who wear them regularly. Like me, some of these you may already have – others you might not have thought of – but each one deserves a place in your collection…

The Ultimate Streamlined Shirt Collection
1. The Dress Shirt

A white French-cuff placket dress shirt for those occasions when you have to look your best – i.e. you’re wearing a tuxedo (or your nearest equivalent).

  • Slim Fit Non-iron French Cuff Royal OxfordSlim Fit Non-iron French Cuff Royal Oxford
  • Van Laack Tailored Double-cuff ShirtVan Laack Tailored Double-cuff Shirt
  • Canali White Slim-fit Cotton-twill ShirtCanali White Slim-fit Cotton-twill Shirt
2. Solid Formal Shirts

Your work horses of the business world. At the very least pick up a handful of semi-spread collar shirts in white and blue, then expand with a few in other colours such as pink, grey and lavender.

These are the shirts that I often reach for when wearing either a patterned blazer or tie.

Men's Formal Solid Shirt Lookbook

river island aw12banana republic 2013Gieves & Hawkes aw13angelo nardelli aw12-13austin reed x nick hart aw13austin reed x nick hart aw13he by mango aw13drykorn aw13de fursac aw13
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Cotton ShirtHe By Mango Slim-fit Cotton Shirt
  • Reiss Zinc Two Button Poplin Shirt PinkReiss Zinc Two Button Poplin Shirt Pink
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Premium Cotton ShirtHe By Mango Slim-fit Premium Cotton Shirt
  • Emma Willis Blue Woven-cotton ShirtEmma Willis Blue Woven-cotton Shirt
  • Reiss Ivy Shirt With Covered Buttons GreyReiss Ivy Shirt With Covered Buttons Grey
  • Canali Lilac Herringbone Cotton ShirtCanali Lilac Herringbone Cotton Shirt
3. A Collection Of Patterned Shirts

Keep the colours versatile – think blue, grey, green and pink – and opt for patterns that are subtle and small in scale, such as a pencil stripe or a micro check.

I prefer a smaller scale for my shirts because it means that if I want to introduce another pattern into my look, I just increase the scale of the second piece and there won’t be a clash. Pattern mixing 101.

If you already own blazers, suits and ties with smaller scale patterns, perhaps look to pick up a couple of shirts with larger scale patterns, like a butcher’s stripe or window pane check, to complement them.

Men's Formal Patterned Shirt Lookbook

brunello cucinelli aw13Canali aw13pal zileri ss13Ermenegildo Zegna ss13tm lewin aw12Gieves & Hawkes aw13ramsey ss13he by mango aw13he by mango spring 2013
  • He By Mango Straight-fit Bengal Stripe ShirtHe By Mango Straight-fit Bengal Stripe Shirt
  • Austin Reed Classic Fit Blue Stripe ShirtAustin Reed Classic Fit Blue Stripe Shirt
  • Paul Smith London Purple Byard Check Cotton ShirtPaul Smith London Purple Byard Check Cotton Shirt
  • Asos Smart Shirt In GinghamAsos Smart Shirt In Gingham
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Gingham Check ShirtHe By Mango Slim-fit Gingham Check Shirt
  • Asos Smart Shirt With Polka Dot PrintAsos Smart Shirt With Polka Dot Print
4. A Collection Of Casual Shirts

Of course, you are not always on duty. Expand your casual collection with a white, blue and pink Oxford cloth button-down shirt; an indigo and grey chambray shirt; a navy and red flannel plaid shirt for the winter; and neutral madras or linen shirts (short sleeves optional) for the summer.

Men's Casual Shirt Lookbook

primark aw13h&m spring 2013h&m spring 2013minimum winter 2012ami ss13river island holloway road aw13drykorn aw13he by mango aw12j crew fall 2013
  • Hartford Linen ShirtHartford Linen Shirt
  • Topman Light Blue Oxford Smart Long Sleeve ShirtTopman Light Blue Oxford Smart Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Easy Chambray Nep ShirtEasy Chambray Nep Shirt
  • Farah Vintage Oxford Shirt With Button Down CollarFarah Vintage Oxford Shirt With Button Down Collar
  • Asos Oxford ShirtAsos Oxford Shirt
  • Gant Rugger Shirt In ChambrayGant Rugger Shirt In Chambray
  • Gant Rugger Shirt With Madras CheckGant Rugger Shirt With Madras Check
  • Saint Laurent Plaid Cotton-blend Flannel ShirtSaint Laurent Plaid Cotton-blend Flannel Shirt
  • Uniqlo Men Flannel Checked Long Sleeve Shirt RUniqlo Men Flannel Checked Long Sleeve Shirt R
5. Miscellaneous Shirts

Finally, we have some miscellaneous, versatile additions. A black dress shirt for evenings; never wear this during the day. If you really feel the urge to wear a dark coloured shirt during the day (even though your tie or jacket should always be darker than your shirt), opt for navy – it has more depth.

A navy short sleeve linen shirt is a God-send for those truly unbelievably hot days. Believe me, you’ll thank me for it and the darkness of the navy avoids any awkward see-through moments that linen sometimes has.

Last but not least: a neutral short-sleeve ‘fun’ patterned shirt. This could be floral, Hawaiian or, in my case, a white shirt with black fish stencilled on it. This is pretty much my go-to holiday shirt, taking me effortlessly from the beach to the bar to the restaurant.

  • Dolce & Gabbana Black Gold-fit Cotton-blend ShirtDolce & Gabbana Black Gold-fit Cotton-blend Shirt
  • Simon Carter End On End ShirtSimon Carter End On End Shirt
  • Linen Blend Short Sleeve ShirtLinen Blend Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Esprit Shirt With Floral PrintEsprit Shirt With Floral Print
  • River Island Green Jungle Print ShirtRiver Island Green Jungle Print Shirt
  • Libertine Libertine Shirt With Palm Tree StripesLibertine Libertine Shirt With Palm Tree Stripes
Final Word

So there you have it, my ultimate streamlined shirt collection. I tried to provide well-balanced suggestions, but at the end of the day it will always come down to personal preference.

For example, I tend to lean a lot more on the formal side of shirting so I own a larger selection of solid and patterned dress shirts than I do casual pieces in flannel, chambray or linen. It may be different for the rest of you.

But as always, I want to hear what you have to say. Is there something that I’ve criminally missed off the list or have I ticked all the boxes? What type of shirts do you own and what are you looking to buy more of? Does a separate wardrobe for shirts seem like a great or ludicrous idea? (I’m going with great.)

Matt Allinson