The city boys in blue

In an effort to stand out at work, men have adopted brighter shirts. Only trouble is, everyone's at it, says Hannah Hunter

City dandies once turned to the blue oxford as a dapper alternative to the standard white shirt but nowa a new sartorial orthodoxy reigns in the office: the deep blue shirt.

No longer happy with the more traditional light blue and white shirts, today's young businessmen want to look a little sharper. The only problem is, everyone's gettin in on the act. Though white is still the winner, deep blue, according Austin Reed, has been outselling the more traditional shades of blue for the past two years, . It's the same story at Thomas Pink, where the "end-on-end deep blue" is giving the white shirt a run for its money. In fact, Next, Gap, and Marks & Spencer all cite the deep blue shirt as a new classic in menswear. The evidence is on a back near you. Quite a few of the boys in blue admitted owning at least a couple more of an identical hue.

More interesting still, despite the ubiquity of the deep blue shirt, its wearers still see themselves as fashion pioneers. In reality, the popularity of the deep blue shirt is as much an attempt to break the mould of men's office fashion.

And a pretty feeble attempt, at that. Many of those questioned blamed the uniformity of their appearance on corporate dress codes, but only the bankers reported having to dress to a formal code. The rest, it seemed, were hiding a lack of imagination and a desire, above all, to not stand out. While not a particularly daring innovation, the deep blue shirt does at least suggest that office man wants to `casualize' what he wears to work. A lot of offices now also have "dress down" days every Friday and as these become even more common we can expect to see the more popular casual items making an appearance earlier in the week. What colour is likely to succeed the deep blue this summer? Nothing too earth-shattering, I'm afraid: purple.

Clockwise from near right, Darren Williams, 28; Martin Cook, 27; Stephen Whiteread, 34; Tom Millar, 26; Aaron Sinfield, 21; all work for ITC Network Services. `I guess it's blue shirt day... are you trying to chat us up?'

Stockists

Austin Reed, enq. 0800 585 479, prices from pounds 35

Marks and Spencer, enq. 0171 935 4422, from pounds 16

Next, enq. 0116 284 9424, from pounds 14.99

Thomas Pink, enq. 0171 498 2202, from pounds 52.50

YSL , enq. 0171 637 9891, from pounds 35

Photographs by Emma Boam

Ben Snelling, 23, banker; shirt from Thomas Pink, approximately pounds 45. `I've only got one other the same colour.'

Mark Mansfield (right), 30. `It's the only one I had clean.' Mark Nagle, 23. `I've got three or four.' Both shirts from Thomas Pink, pounds 52.50.

Zico Judge, 19, banker; shirt from small French company, pounds 35. `I like the way De Niro wears his shirts in "Casino", with a self-coloured tie.'

Andrew Sutcliffe, 27, banker; shirt from Next, pounds 35. `I like this colour and it looks good with black.'

Paul Bellamy, 23, telesales rep; YSL shirt, pounds 40. `White's old hat. Blue's a bit different.'

Andy O' Brien, 34, (right), Austin Reed shirt, pounds 35. `I've got 10.' Christian Cobley, 30, M&S shirt, pounds 20. `This colour suits a professional image'.

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