The power of the white shirt
Have you noticed that in current fashion there is more and more attention for iconic classics?
If you haven’t, read on and we'll explain it as best as we can. And if you have, you can still keep on reading, because our blog is hilariously fun as usual.
CLASSIC & ICONIC
While the majority of fashion enthusiasts are usually all about the latest of the latest, we at PLEIN PUBLIQUE have always been charmed by the iconic classics.
Because what you don't have in your closet yet generates the greatest attraction: the newer the more interesting, the more colorful the better. That trend however, is slowly but surely changing. If we are to believe Google (nothing wrong with a critical attitude, but for the sake of convenience we assume that stats don't lie) the search terms "classic" and "iconic" are on the rise.
Why is that? Perhaps the market is becoming saturated, maybe the fashion lovers don't automatically pull out their wallets when the new collections appear in the stores anymore, or we simply cannot see the forest for the trees. We can only guess.
Either way: back to basics is a trend. You won't hear us complain, we love our classics. If you now feel a top-10 list coming up: nope (you can call us anything, but we are not predictable). We have personally selected the white classic that we are going to take a closer look at for you.
First something about the color white. (yes yes, smartass language purists, white is not a color, we know) What does the color theory say? The 'color' white has traditionally stood for purity and cleanliness.
And when we speak of white, mainly the positive associations that take the upper hand;
- You get married as a respected lady in white. Because you are an unspoiled virgin(sure you are). It is the norm and you can see that, because even Madonna marries in white.
• A real Prince Charming comes riding on a white horse. Because the good guys don't drive a black Beamer.
- Babies are baptized in a white dress. Because mothers are tainted for life, the lost innocence is passed on to the newborn baby.
All good and well, but we sadly also found a few less fun associations with the color white:
• Telling a white lie means that you are lying about a small or less important matter to for example not hurt someone. Now this doesn't sound so bad but it's still a lie, and you are also being a kiss ass.
• White collar criminal. This one needs no explanation, it is common knowledge because it is widely represented. Until recently there was even one living in the White House.
Known, loved, maligned
We explained the 'why white' part pretty clearly now, right? Then we'll move on to clothing, that is after all what we are all about. Like the white shirt, for one.
The white shirt is a great example when it comes to fame. Because fame can easily be centered on three pillars; KNOWN; is obvious. LOVED; which is also pretty self explanatory, and MALIGNED. We like that one the best!
- KNOWN: The white shirt is a stereotypical piece of clothing, the go-to & fool-proof choice if you want to appear professional, something we all want to from time to time.
• LOVED: Absolutely! We are all familiar with the portraits from antiquity, in which grumpy types and not so happy children are depicted with crisp white pleated collars. The white shirt was already a hit then, and still is today. Or take, for example, the famous model photo with white shirts by Peter Lindbergh. That is surely one of the most loved photos in fashion photography.
• MALIGNED: Yes, this too. The white shirt is often associated with oppressive bourgeoisie and / or lack of imagination. Or to fraud, by white collar criminals. Have you seen the new Netflix film LAUNDROMAT? The film is based entirely on the fraud surrounding the well-known Panama Papers leak. Could it really be a coincidence that there are many characters with white shirts in it?
So much for the intro: What we want to make clear with this is that the white shirt is a phenomenon. Let's get on with the facts, and a bit of fun too.
Bottom good, top good
The shirt is a self-made (wo-) man, what started as an undershirt for men has grown into an iconic piece of clothing that should not be missing in your wardrobe.
In the past, outerwear was never washed, so if you didn't want to scare of everyone with the smell from your armpit as a guy, you wore an undershirt. You could wash it easily.
Over time, the nobility naturally wanted to make it clear that they were nobles and way above the common folk, and thus look different. Slowly but surely they started to show their white undershirts, in the form of collars and cuffs. In this way they showed their fresh appearance and status. Because if you were well-off, you didn't have to work on land or in ports, and clean white collars and cuffs sent a status-enhancing signal. Just like white skin did: tanned skin was reserved for farmers and outdoor people. Ironically, a tan these days indicates that you have enough money to go on vacation.
The poor plebs couldn't afford to wear bright white undershirts all the time, so they couldn't show off their trims and collars.
Slowly the white cuffs and collars became bigger and more visible, because the bigger they were, the richer a person was. They were no longer part of the undershirt and were starched to stay upright.
The most famous white collars and cuffs are the 'Medici' collars; named after the Medici family from Italy. They are fan-like collars with lots of lace. In the Netherlands we were more familiar with the millstone collar, which appear a lot in the paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn.
Then the common folk decided they wanted in on the trend. The large collars were not an option for the underprivileged, but they came up with an easy variant. A simple "front", a collar with only a small piece of the front. They were easy to maintain and yet white.
However, nobility did not like that very much (which isn't so surprising). There had to be a difference, they thought. In the end, these privileged people thought it a necessity to show that the little peek of white was indeed part of a whole piece of clothing, so they started wearing the undershirt in full view, with which it evolved into the shirt we know now.
The first real shirts were mainly intended for men, although you would not suspect that at first glance. For example, the 19th century dandy made quite a show of his little shirt with lots of lace, ruffles and loose fitting cuffs.
The ladies also got wind of the flow of events and made it their own. Shopping in your guy's closet has always been around. Sometime in the 17th century, the unisex character disappeared, not only figuratively but also literally. For the mistress of the house did not dress herself: Madame had a maid for that. And anyone who has ever (un)dressed their guy knows: that button closure is a bitch. Hence, a men's clasp closes "left over right", and a women's clasp closes "right over left". The more you know, right?
A little later, loose cuffs also appeared on the market for the same reason. But then, at the beginning of the 20th century the washing machine also became a viable option for private households, and the separate elements disappeared from the picture again.
By the way, the loose collar made a comeback at the beginning of the 19th century: an American housewife was tired of having to wash her husband's shirt every time if only the collar was a little dingy: she came up with a detachable collar. The loose collar was attached to the upright with buttons, and was available in a variety of designs.
How do you become an icon in the 21st century while being a simple white shirt? Easy! Just make sure you are supported by someone famous! The shirt, as we so passionately covet it today, has been spotted on the bodies of the most influential style icons in recent decades. For example old-school Hollywood icon Katherine Hepburn, rock icon Patti Smith and the first generation of supermodels - portrayed legendary by the late Peter Lindberg.
History repeats itself
That white shirt that you see so much now, has actually been back-from-never-really-gone. It is an indispensable element of layering. And not only in combination with a chunky cardigan or classic blazer: We also wear the white blouse under a sweater! Or we opt for a sweater with a detachable collar and / or cuffs, because they are completely trending again. In other words: with a huge detour we have actually returned to the origin. Funny, right?
Ps: Don't work in the garden whilst wearing a white shirt if you are a bit fond of your status ;-).
Last but not least
You might wonder why we at PLEIN PUBLIQUE wrote this blog about the power of white?
• We love the iconic classics and the classic details, such as the white cuffs. The latter can be found, for example, in the turtleneck LE MERLE.
- And of course we also have beautiful white blouses in the collection!
Love, Nicole & Ilse
Do you want to know what fashion the newcomers are? First things first; we will philosophize about meaning, nonsense and the cause of the need for ugliness, then we will go through the "new uglies on the blog" with you.
We are happy to explain where all our merino wool items come from, and we are very transparent about the animal-friendliness of the sheep during the process from frizzy hair to your favorite sweater.So read on and enjoy!