Is the dress shirt dead?

AT RISK to trigger horrible gingham-tinged flashbacks, let’s revisit the Zoom shirt. For at least a year, starting in March 2020, these innocuous, often gingham or plaid shirts were what housebound men and women wore on video call after video call. The costumes have been mothballed. Connections? Forget that. But the Zoom button-down shirt, despite being wrinkled, mustard-stained, and moldy, helped you maintain a modicum of formality while working in full view of your bed. (The patterns helped hide food stains and distract your co-workers from your creases.)

The Zoom shirt was a unique solution for pandemic dressing. It was also, to the dismay of many clothing retailers, unlikely to be a freshly purchased shirt. At the start of the pandemic, “we really saw the casualness of this silhouette happen and the dress shirt industry was under a lot of pressure,” said Ken Ohashi, CEO of Brooks Brothers. Shirt manufacturers are pointing to 2020 as the nadir for the collared shirt industry. (For Brooks, things were particularly dire — she filed for bankruptcy in July of that year.) As Zoom men turned to shirts and sweaters that were already hanging in their closets, sales of new dress shirts have withered.

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