"When I put on a white shirt, it's the same feeling as getting in to crisp, fresh sheets at night. I just feel good," explained Tom Ford on his love of the freshly starched and gleaming component of his familiar uniform. Whether you wear your daily pick from a wardrobe full, rediscover a neglected old favourite lurking behind a blue Bengal striped number or unearth the sartorial holy grail that is the perfect blend of weight, size, cut and fabric, there's no denying the transformative, medicinal even, qualities of the white shirt. Dressed up or down, personalised or homogeneous, masterfully minimal or captivating complex, there's no denying that a clean white shirt has the ability to make you feel good. Few understand this better, explore its virtues as virtuously or push the medium further than palmer//harding.
There are countless incarnations of double act, but in all cases the sum is markedly different from its parts. Since its accomplished debut in September 2011, palmer//harding have created men's and women's collections that encompass the combined aesthetic, passion, skill and international experience of the design duo. It is a double act that revels and excels in the realms of duality. Simple yet complex. Restrained yet free. Traditional yet innovative. It is all to easy to encounter semantic opposition when discussing this dynamic duo. The clashing yet complimentary design dynamic and the pair's continuous questioning of the other that pushes palmer//harding forward and elevates the humble shirt in the process. "We're geeks when it comes to shirts and construction," admitted Matthew Harding on my last visit to their Rickmansworth based studio. "The shirt itself is grounded in menswear, there's so much tailoring heritage in there. Every facet of the shirt has slowly evolved from sleeve heads to gauntlets and we want to be part of that. With our menswear especially it is all about finding the right balance between something that feels new and innovative whilst feeling familiar and able to slot in to a wardrobe and be enjoyed for some time."
For spring/summer13, palmer//harding offer ten shirts for men and flexing their muscles of expertise while printing their menswear manifesto using their alphabet of sharp stitches, considered collars and stirring shapes. "We wanted to keep the definition of what our menswear is," added Levi Palmer before a united declaration of "we're not interested in saying something in one hundred looks when it can be said in just ten." There's a succinct balance in the edit but each piece flows to the next and continues the thread of the the label's narrative. Each quietly drunk on detail. As their Cotton USA sponsored blank canvas comes alive with the label's enthralling tale, I couldn't resist the urge to add one of their shirts to my library. Throwing my arms in to the crisp cotton, enveloping myself in the bright light, I am reborn. I had found my holy grail.
My piece of palmer//harding spring/summer 13
When did you last take a hit from the feel good sartorial stalwart that is the white shirt?