British Formal Shirts: Flourishing Through the Decades

Some might say that Britain is synonymous with tradition. Strong ties to the culture and dress of earlier centuries certainly still exist, though it has been difficult for many UK citizens to resist the changes that have taken place in clothing and other outward expressions over the past few decades.

Some companies, however, have maintained a strong reputation for offering the finest in quality clothing through the vicissitudes of the 20th century.  Hawes and Curtis is renowned for its quintessentially British formal shirts, while expanding its locations and presenting internationally recognised brands through multiple websites.

The Beginning

Perhaps the most widely recognised of the formal shirts popular in the UK is the full cutaway collar that was created nearly 100 years ago to accommodate the Duke of Windsor, his ties, and the staple of tie knots – the Windsor. This collar presents a straight line that follows the top of the knot, which distinctly separates it from the semi-cutaway collar.

That style shows a bit more downward point yet maintains an appearance of neatness that the more formal occasions require. Either of these collar styles is available in select colours and designs, though the tie is generally expected to make the bolder statement where colour is concerned.

The cut is meant to present a generally straight silhouette, while the double cuffs help maintain the formal look. These two collar styles differ significantly from the point collar and the once-popular button-down look.

Still World Class

In the early decades of the 20th century, these quality items were the shirt of choice not only for nobility such as the Duke of Windsor, but also for the most famous names in Hollywood including Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and others. The estimable Lord Mountbatten, British statesman and naval officer, was also a customer of the better outfitters of the day.

Today, the British style in formal shirts continues to be preferred around the globe, due to the quality fabrics and construction, of course, but also because the providers of these fine garments have extended their marketing efforts to all parts of the world.

Some of the leading brands and outfitters have retained their original names, but have changed ownership. Fortunately, this has not had a negative effect on the unique appearance or quality of the products. To the contrary, new owners have endeavoured to maintain the standards set by the original owners and designers.

One of the first steps for many of the shops was to grow beyond one location in London in order to make their quality wares available to residents of other cities. Some of these early stores now have multiple locations in the UK, in addition to an active online presence.

As the years pass in the 21st century, those who follow the men’s clothing field closely will be quite pleased to know that the styles created by men once recognised as authorities in evening dress will survive for future generations to enjoy. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same.