Early in the first season of Mad Men there’s a moment when we realize that even Don Draper’s most reckless, questionable actions will be undertaken with an unusually high degree of precision and style. Don arrives at the office in yesterday’s crumpled clothes, having spent the night with a woman who is not his wife. He removes his jacket and slides open a desk drawer to reveal a stack of identical crisp, perfectly folded, freshly laundered white dress shirts. He snaps the cardboard band off of one and slips it on. It fits perfectly, and Don is instantly transformed from a man doing the walk of shame into a one-man creative juggernaut ready to slay those hacks over at McCann, or at least make it through the morning till he can respectably start hitting the whiskey.
If you’re the kind of guy who usually wakes up in his own bed, or at least next to a woman with whom you can safely be seen in public, you may wonder why you need five of the same shirt. For one thing, there is the simple yet profound pleasure of the perfect basic. Like jeans or a plain tee, a white dress shirt can be elevated to supreme sartorial status when it’s exactly the right one—when the sleeves hit exactly where they should on the wrist, the arm holes are high enough to allow the shirt’s body to perfectly follow the lines of your torso, and the cotton—crisp yet soft—is just the right weight. Finding that special something is like finding that special someone: it takes time, money, and plenty of trial and error. And unlike with that special someone, once you’ve got one, it’s best to get several (note: the analogy breaks down at this point).
Which brings us to the other key attribute of the Perfect White Shirt—it goes with everything. Whether you dress it down with a pair of artfully broken in jeans or dress it up with a handmade suit, it’s never the wrong time to wear a great white shirt. There are times when you roll out of bed and you don’t want to (or just can’t) think about dressing, but you still need to look good. In those moments, reach into your closet, slip on a shirt that it took you months to find, but takes only seconds to button, and you’ll be ready for anything. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be able to wait till 5 p.m. to start hitting the sauce.