The Ubiquitous White Shirt

shirt

The ubiquitous white shirt.  Every guy (and girl) has one in his wardrobe whether it gets worn every week, every month, or never – it’s always present.  But why? The white shirt is smart and casual, it’s ready for a date or an interview, with jeans or a suit – it’s elegantly simple.

For my birthday last year,  my wife bought be a new white shirt – with a twist.  This particular shirt was from Ministry of Supply and as such, is awesome.  They have managed to reinvent the wheel.  In a world of breakthrough technological advances on a near daily basis, it is surprising to think that clothing has hardly evolved in the last 70 years (ignoring performance sporting apparel), styles have changed, but the materials we use and the methods of garment creation remain the same.  So what makes this particular shirt so special?

Gihan Amarasiriwardena is the co-founder of Ministry of Supply explains that clothing isn’t a device, like a chair, or a form of art, it’s both, and now manufacturers much satisfy both form and function, he aspires to create ‘clothing that is an extension of our body’.  But Gihan isn’t your typical tailor – he met the other founders Kit and Aman at MIT, and in 2011 decided to create a performance dress shirt and launch it on Kickstarter – the Apollo – which smashed the record for the most funded fashion Kickstarter at that time.

But again, what is a performance dress shirt?  It simply a shirt totally designed for use and wear by the modern person, born out of human centred design.  It regulates your temperature, stretches in all the right places is stain resistant and doesn’t crease.  In short, it’s designed to be worn by real people, people who start their commute at 7am on the train and know they are going for drinks straight after work, for people who have a meeting straight after their flight and for people who know they’ll spill mustard down their front at lunch.  In Gihan’s words, they are designed “to solve the problem the person brings to life”.

Human centred design can and should happen in all spheres of our world, whether the product is in the real world, or software.  The final product must integrate itself with the user quickly and naturally, adoption should be easy.  Getting to this point is however quite the opposite – creators must disregard everything they think they know about the topic and spend a huge amount of time talking to people about their actual needs.  The team at Ministry of Supply interview people over beer and pizza to ask questions and most importantly, to listen.  Only by this process of listening can we finding pain points and innovate our products to address them – it was this process that led to the creation of their Atlas Socks (in their words, it’s like a “second skin”).  Listen, create, test, repeat.  Testing should be something just done in controlled conditions, you must get out there in the real world.  Mr. Amarasiriwardena did this in spades – he ran a half marathon wearing one of their performance suits, a feat which not only netted the company some great PR, but also gave an insight into the product that no amount of lab testing could.

We have the technology, the tools have evolved for us to create better, cheaper and quicker, rather than creating quicker and cheaper – a trend followed by the masses, it is possible to create better and to stand out from the crowd.  Rather than addressing the problems that the company faces (the need to drive down costs and produce faster), we can use our technological means to solve the problems that the end user brings to life.

It’s not a simple white shirt, it’s so much more than that.

If you are interested, click here and get $50 off your first purchase.

NOTE – I am in no way affiliated to Ministry of Supply.