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A Gentleman’s Guide

Seven Ways To Style A Blue Shirt

Support Father And Son Day with a fresh take on this summer classic

  • Photograph by Mr YoungJun Koo/Lickerish

“Of course, there are a lot of ways you can treat the blues,” the estimable jazz pianist Mr William James “Count” Basie once said, “but it will still be the blues.” Mr Basie was doubtless thinking of the many moods he could conjure up with his piano keys, but he could equally have been addressing the infinite variety of shades and styles that come under the big-tent category of the blue shirt – the only serious rival to the white shirt in popularity, and in a class of its own when it comes to versatility. Whether patterned or plain, subtle or striking, or buttoned-up or buttoned-down, we’ve gathered together several of our favourite kinds of blue, as showcased by a roll-call of street-style blog stalwarts, to help you put the “ultra” in ultramarine this summer.


  • Photograph by firstVIEW

“Blue on blue,” sang Mr Bobby Vinton, “heartache on heartache”. He obviously wasn’t thinking of the subtle pleasures of the blue-on-blue patterned shirt, of which this foliage-themed iteration is a prime example. There undoubtedly would be heartache on heartache if this gentleman had blunted its impact by making the surrounding pieces too busy or too bland, but he helps it bloom by offsetting it with a pair of darker trousers and an ivory jacket. We also like the sprezzatura touches of yanking the belt buckle off-centre and turning the shirt sleeves back over the jacket cuffs (though any higher up the arms and we’d be getting dangerously close to Miami Vice territory).

Try these

  • Gant Rugger Slim-Fit Printed Button-Down Collar Cotton Shirt

  • Freemans Sporting Club Patterned Cotton Shirt


  • Photograph by Mr George Elder

When is a blue shirt not a blue shirt? When it’s a heavy cotton navy twill overshirt, an emblematic item of utilitarian workwear favoured by the likes of Chairman Mao and Mr Fergus Henderson (chef and founder of St John restaurant) alike. There are many hard and fast rules with blue overshirts – all of which this gentleman observes – namely: they must be worn either buttoned to the neck (for the “full Mao”) or unbuttoned over white T-shirts; they must sport a chunky pocket or two, reflecting their origins in military/mountaineering wear; and they must never, ever, be tucked in. Follow these edicts, and you’ll see why this is the garment that put the “olé!” in proletariat.

Try these

  • Outerknown Slim-Fit Hemp and Cotton-Blend Shirt

  • Officine Generale Vincent Slim-Fit Cotton-Seersucker Overshirt


  • Photograph by Mr YoungJun Koo/Lickerish

“You’re trying to maximise whatever is good and minimise whatever is bad,” says street-style mainstay Mr Nick Wooster of his approach to each outfit, and here he provides a (university?) masterclass in showcasing the protean appeal of the Oxford shirt. Defined by the “Oxford weave,” a basket-weave pattern that combines crosswise and lengthwise yarns, the Oxford’s sleek, clean look and breathable fabric initially made it a favourite of polo players, but Mr Wooster subverts its preppy image by pairing it with military-inspired styles and hues rather than the traditional blazer, chinos and mallets.

Try these

  • J.Crew Button-Down Collar Cotton Oxford Shirt

  • NN07 New Derek Slim-Fit Button-Down Collar Cotton Oxford Shirt


  • Photograph by Mr Stefano Carloni/Mr Tuft

The words “double” and “denim” may summon an unwanted mental image of the stonewash jacket-and-jeans apotheosis known colloquially as “the Canadian tuxedo”, but this gentleman salvages, or, if you will, selvedges its reputation by teaming a winningly austere indigo jacket with a crisp, clean, warm royal-blue denim shirt to create a play of complementary shades and textures that combines timeless chic with contemporary cool. You’ll study this look for a long time before being put in mind of Mr Chuck Norris in a cap-sleeve Western shirt and figure-hugging Wranglers.

Try these

  • Brunello Cucinelli Slim-Fit Grandad-Collar Cotton-Chambray Shirt

  • TOM FORD Slim-Fit Washed Cotton-Chambray Western Shirt


  • Photograph by Mr Lee Olivira/Trunk Archive

When it comes to pairing a tie with a blue shirt, there are certain minefields to negotiate; go for too contrasting a colour – yellow, say – and you sail perilously close to the rocky shores of 1980s yuppie power-dressing; go too tone-on-tone and you’ll invoke not-necessarily-flattering comparisons to Mob hood Sam “Ace” Rothstein, as portrayed by Mr Robert De Niro in the movie Casino. This gentleman not only sidesteps such perils but makes the look fresh by mixing a patterned shirt with a plain tie – thus inverting the usual rules – and making the tie sober enough to accentuate the shirt’s design and the contrasting shades of the blazer and chinos. This is formality leavened by some blue-sky thinking.

Try these

  • Isaia Slim-Fit Herringbone Cotton Shirt

  • Canali Slim-Fit Button-Down Collar Printed Cotton Shirt


  • Photograph by Mr YoungJun Koo/Lickerish

A pale blue chambray shirt is as timelessly iconic as, well, Mr Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. But you don’t have to be on a Florida chain gang to appreciate the merits of a garment crafted from this double-ply cotton with a plain weave, making it lighter than denim but just as rugged. Simply follow the lead of this gentleman by enhancing its lustre with a pair of turned-up chinos, some chunky sneakers, a Croisette-honed tan, and the requisite amount of nonchalance, and you, too, might emulate Mr Newman’s Luke in being “a natural-born world-shaker”.

Try these

  • J.Crew Cotton-Chambray Shirt

  • Officine Generale Cotton-Chambray Shirt


  • Photograph by Ms Ashka Shen/

There are a plethora of things that make creative use of stripes – zebras, barbershop poles, paintings by Ms Bridget Riley – and this block-party number confirms that it’s also a perennial shirting favourite. The faded blue-and-white colour scheme invokes a languidly mellow summer mood, as does the gentleman’s rolled-up, Riviera-ready styling. But he complements his companion’s breezy elegance – while, not incidentally, accentuating the slimming effect of the vertical banding – by tucking the shirt into his white jeans. From poolside lounger to polo lounge, this look earns its stripes.

Try these

  • NN07 Slim-Fit Striped Cotton Shirt

  • Gant Rugger Indigo-Dyed Striped Cotton Oxford Shirt

In support of Father And Son Day on Sunday 19 June, a charity initiative in alignment with the Royal Mardsen and dedicated to inspiring men and raising funds and awareness towards tackling male cancer, shop our curated selection of blue shirts, with proceeds going directly to the cause. Additionally show your support on Father And Son Day by posting a photograph to Instagram of yourself with your father, son, or an inspiring male mentor or friend and include the hashtag #FatherAndSonDay. If based in the UK, you can donate £5 to show your support by texting MARSDEN to 70800. Check @MRPORTERLIVE on Father And Son Day to see our own post.

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