The classic white dress shirt becomes the subject of considered discourse.
The classic white shirt is both an object and an ideal. Of the multitude of garments in the male wardrobe, none is as definitive as the white shirt. White comes first, then all others. Shirts of colour tend to be in some way only versions of the singular white. This inverted logic of difference means in order to distinguish a white shirt in any way we require some kind of method by which to do so.
Distinction can begin by considering the shirt as a typology of forms, starting with the collar, which can spread, boned or soft, or buttoned down; the cuffs can be of a single band, turned-back, round or mitred, double or single buttoned; the fit full, narrow or shaped, and so on. Perhaps a more complete assessment might be possible through finely grained, lets say micro, perceptions. Only so much is discernible to the eye when faced with white on white.
The artist Marcel Duchamp, an elegant man against the measure of any fashionable standard, proposed the beguiling term infra-mince. For Duchamp, infra-mince is the distance or interval between two things and is so compelling he is said to have dedicated ten years to its exploration. Despite leaving us to ponder such a notion with little in the way of explanation, he proffered a number of tantalising examples: the sound of corduroy rubbing together; the space between two sheets of paper; and the difference between a shirt, new then washed. I have always imagined this shirt as white.
The architect Le Corbusier compared the white shirt to whitewashed walls, arguing these screens liberate a new, hitherto unseen modern body behind it. Paradoxically, when it comes to the white shirt, Duchamp's somewhat puzzling experiments bring us back to the sensuousness of the perceptible that Le Corbusier was so keen to dispose of. Tactile perception is most suited to bring out out the real promise of the white shirt: a pinch of cloth taken up between two fingers, the friction of the weave against the finger tips almost audible, attests to the sensation felt by the body in wearing.
M.J. BALE cotton shirt.