Casual apparel is a peril because one must attain non-chalance but maintain the elegance that a setting suggests. In a dressed-down working situation, one is asked to affect insouciance but still do serious business. Style casualties occur at the shirt level when casual Friday drifts into Saturday with rough-hewn duds that are better suited for yard work or a tennis match than for matching with a suit. Cashmere is the fabric solution that lets you achieve informality even while you show them you still mean business.
A varied fleet of cashmere shirts in a spectrum of colors provides a solid anchor to any wardrobe. The unquestioned luxury of cashmere makes it suitable with business jackets or by itself, even as it is a dress-down alternative to a shirt and tie. Polo-necks offer the versatility of buttoning up to a more buttoned-down look or leaving the collar open after the whistle blows at the end of the day. Turtlenecks convey a clean and classic look. While a V-neck can double as a pullover sweater with a business shirt and tie, it can show a little too much chest when worn with nothing under it, and a tight-necked T shirt peeking out from under marks you as the office buffoon.
A wide selection of colors adds versatility to a wardrobe that includes few suit jackets. For instance, lay the coral shirt from Avon Celli (shown) under a black jacket and the look is completely different than when the same coat is paired with the Zegna's chocolate shirt.
Merino wool, also soft, can be a less expensive substitute, but cashmere's unrivaled lushness and warmth make it the perfect fitting for wearing tight to the body. The authentic article is spun from hairs on the underbelly of goats of the Himalaya mountains and provides ultimate insulation in a fabric thin enough to be worn under a jacket. Experts like Davide Cenci (left, $435, www.davidecenci.com), Zegna (center, $495, www.zegna. com or 888-880-3462) and Avon Celli (right, $297, www.avoncelli.com),as well as Loro Piana and Brioni make shirts that become a testament to your easy style and good taste.