The men’s white collared shirt is an iconic garment, an archetype.
But what does this garment actually mean? Diving into the history of the garment itself and the material out of which it is made (cotton), the shirt reveals a complex relation between resource, wearer and maker. On one hand there’s the dominant archetype of the white male knowledge worker that is originated in times when the shirt became a social class divider; its wearer had high social status and did not perform manual labour, which allowed his shirt to be white. On the other hand, the capitalist economy
is based on a history of colonization, exploitation, slave trade and industrialization in which cotton played a central role. As a result, the archetypical cotton worker was initially imported from Africa as slaves, but is nowadays exploited in sweatshops in places where the resource originally comes from. Regarding the men’s white collared shirt as a material and social construct, one can ask: ‘who made who’?