Polo Alternatives

The man who first took Rene Lacoste’s brilliantly simple sport shirt and replaced the original logo with his business’s name and phone number should spend eternity pursued and bitten by embroidered crocodiles. Because that first corporate swag shirt was the nail in the coffin of the pique polo as a respectable summer shirt. Arnold Palmer looks like he’s about to cry over it.

Fortunately, the pique polo is not the only worthwhile summer shirt.

Guayaberas and Guayaber-ish

The guayabera—button front, woven fabric, usually short sleeved, with decorative pleats and four pockets—is a staple in tropical climates and with American anthropology professors (anecdotally). Traditional guayaberas are relatively loose, as is most clothing worn where it’s always hot. Check out Jesse’s experience with Miami guayabera makers Ramon Puig. If a real-deal ‘bera is too much for you, there are a decent number of similarly styled shirts available that omit traditional details for a subtler take. My favorite is probably the Engineered Garments Chauncey shirt. Like with any short sleeved, woven summer shirt, a trimmer fit will look cleaner and less Guy Fieri, but will also be less functional in the heat.

Aloha Shirts

Hawaiian/Aloha shirts have been pigeonholed in the past but island patterns add some welcome brightness to the hot weather uniform of simple cotton pants and shirts. Aloha shirts have a long history in Hawaii, but entered the American consciousness largely in the 1950s, as tourists from the continental U.S. brought them home. Bold prints and colors are the standard; subtler takes will use only two colors, and some use reverse printed fabric, a Reyn Spooner standard that’s less loud. The vintage market for Aloha shirts is very competitive; old versions in rayon or silk blends fetch crazy prices. Personally, I prefer newer versions in cotton or cotton-linen blends—the multicolor print above is an overdyed shirt from surf brand Lightning Bolt.

Popovers

Popovers are essentially just normal button front shirts with a placket that doesn’t reach the bottom of the shirt, which is the way all dress shirts used to be made (some makers will still do this for you). The popover as summer shirt is often short sleeved and made in oxford cloth, so a summer version of the unimpeachable OCBD. Does a popover really “wear” that much cooler than a simple button front shirt? No. But it’s traditional warm season wear and looks more “dressed” under a sportcoat than a polo. We’ve highlighted a number of solid popovers before; Jack Spade has a short sleeved poplin version right now and I know Winn Perry is expecting some Individualized-made popovers soon. One thing to remember: most pullover clothing is knit and has some give; a very trim, woven fabric popover will be a pain to get on and off.

Better Polos

Another option is just avoiding the polo shirt as practiced by Lacoste and Ralph Lauren—so, fewer logos, different collar styles, and different fabrics. The cult of James Bond is a little silly in my opinion, but Daniel Craig’s Bond has brought due attention to Sunspel’s Riviera pocket polo, which has a mesh, self-fabric collar and close fit, even if you aren’t packing Craig-caliber guns. UK knit specialists John Smedley make a number of polo style shirts in knit sea island cotton, with slightly longer sleeves and bigger collars than most slim, modern takes. Banlon-style polos, with a waistband rather than tails, are arguably neater than a standard polo, but they’re a rare beast these days. I haven’t tried one, but I’m intrigued by Land’s End’s similar banded hem polo.

-Pete

Real People: Dressing Down a Suit

Open any men’s fashion magazine nowadays and you can read about the 101 ways to dress down a suit. The problem is, the suit is more often than not a sober looking garment, so when you try to “dress it down,” it can be like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. A safer way to dress down a suit is to simply get a more casual suit. Instead of one made from a smooth, worsted wool, try something in cotton, linen, corduroy, or even tweed. That way, your suit is inherently more casual, and you won’t have to awkwardly try to pull back its formality with some unusual accessory.

That does require buying a separate suit for casual occasions, however, which can get expensive (especially once you factor in seasonal fabrics). If you want to try to dress down a standard business suit, try pairing one with a softly colored pastel shirt, perhaps something in pink, lavender, or sea green. Any of those will be more casual than your standard solid whites or light blues, and can help both soften the edge of a suit while also enlivening its look. If need be, you can dress it down further with some casual footwear, such as tassel loafers or something made from suede. Our friend Niyi in New York City shows how well can look above.

You can get pastel colored shirts at any number of places these days. Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers are good starts, so long as you stay away from the ones with embroidered logos. Our advertiser Ledbury has a lime green one in their “short run shirts” section until the end of today. If you want something custom made, I can recommend Ascot Chang. They have offices in New York City and Los Angeles, although they also tour throughout the United States to meet clients (I meet them in San Francisco twice a year). They do great work, but being bespoke, they are a bit pricey. For something more affordable, but custom, there’s Cottonwork and our advertiser Proper Cloth. For something affordable, but ready to wear, there’s TM Lewin and Thin Red Line.

“HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW WHAT SIZE SHIRT YOU ARE? PEOPLE COME TO THE STORE LIKE ” SHOULD I GET M OR L?” YOU IDIOT WHY WOULD I KNOW YOU’RE GROWN” Tyler the Creator
Thick Flannel Shirts
Over the weekend, Jesse listed this Spring’s Seven “Must Have Or You’ll Die” Essentials. Do you know why? Because he lives in Los Angeles, and in Southern California, the four seasons are: spring, summer, summer with slightly chillier nights (but not by much), and spring with slightly chillier nights (but again, not by much). Dear readers: know that I - as your correspondent in the Bay Area - understand that we’re still solidly in winter. Here in the Bay, it’s still cold enough to need chunky sweaters, heavy coats, and the occasional pair of gloves. 
It’s also useful to have a few thick flannel shirts around. I’ve been wearing mine every once in a while with jeans and a leather jacket, and prefer ones made from heavy, coarse fabrics. My favorite sources so far include:
John Lofgren: A highly underrated and underappreciated workwear label. Really nice, thick fabrics made into shirts with slightly short, vintage-y cuts. Available at John Lofgren’s site directly, but also Self Edge and Bench & Loom (although the last two don’t have woven shirts right now).
Flat Head: A Japanese workwear label that draws a lot of inspiration from American motorcycle and hot rod subcultures. They have two lines of shirts – the mainline, which is slim and shorter fitting, and Glory Park, which is just a touch bigger. Of all my flannels, these are easily my favorite, but they’re expensive. If you don’t mind the price, they’re available at Self Edge and Rivet & Hide.
Five Brother: A genuine workwear label that recently started making slim fitting shirts for the fashion crowd. These are made from vividly colored fabrics with coarse weaves and a dry hand. Of all the companies on this list, Five Brother probably offers the best price to value ratio. You can find them now at Bench & Loom, but in the past, Context and Hickoree’s has also carried them (they will again this fall).
Nigel Cabourn: Always a favorite, but his prices are stratospherically high. If it matters, his flannel shirts are sometimes reversible, although the other side of the one I bought is perhaps too “fuzzy” to realistically use. Still, he has some nice subtle detailing that the other brands don’t offer (unique pocket designs, smoke mother-of-pearl buttons, and extra, extra thick fabrics). Available at Nigel Cabourn’s own website or any of his stockists. If you’re not able to afford those retail prices, you’ll have to trawl Yoox and eBay like me.
RRL: Ralph Lauren’s ranch inspired sub-label. The fabrics on RRL shirts really run the gamut, but in general, they’re typically a bit flimsier than the aforementioned brands (at least when it comes to fall/ winter shirts). On the upside, they can often be found on deep discount (I bought mine for about $75). These are available at Ralph Lauren’s website, and certain niche stockists such as Unionmade and Frans Boone.
The best part about wearing thick flannel shirts? With designers such as Daiki Suzuki and Heidi Slimane incorporating them into last year’s looks, you can simultaneously feel very “aritansal heritage workwear” and “high fashion au courant.” Plus, Rick Owens wears them! The dream of the 90s is alive in menswear. At least until spring comes for the rest of us. 

Thick Flannel Shirts

Over the weekend, Jesse listed this Spring’s Seven “Must Have Or You’ll Die” Essentials. Do you know why? Because he lives in Los Angeles, and in Southern California, the four seasons are: spring, summer, summer with slightly chillier nights (but not by much), and spring with slightly chillier nights (but again, not by much). Dear readers: know that I - as your correspondent in the Bay Area - understand that we’re still solidly in winter. Here in the Bay, it’s still cold enough to need chunky sweaters, heavy coats, and the occasional pair of gloves. 

It’s also useful to have a few thick flannel shirts around. I’ve been wearing mine every once in a while with jeans and a leather jacket, and prefer ones made from heavy, coarse fabrics. My favorite sources so far include:

  • John Lofgren: A highly underrated and underappreciated workwear label. Really nice, thick fabrics made into shirts with slightly short, vintage-y cuts. Available at John Lofgren’s site directly, but also Self Edge and Bench & Loom (although the last two don’t have woven shirts right now).
  • Flat Head: A Japanese workwear label that draws a lot of inspiration from American motorcycle and hot rod subcultures. They have two lines of shirts – the mainline, which is slim and shorter fitting, and Glory Park, which is just a touch bigger. Of all my flannels, these are easily my favorite, but they’re expensive. If you don’t mind the price, they’re available at Self Edge and Rivet & Hide.
  • Five Brother: A genuine workwear label that recently started making slim fitting shirts for the fashion crowd. These are made from vividly colored fabrics with coarse weaves and a dry hand. Of all the companies on this list, Five Brother probably offers the best price to value ratio. You can find them now at Bench & Loom, but in the past, Context and Hickoree’s has also carried them (they will again this fall).
  • Nigel Cabourn: Always a favorite, but his prices are stratospherically high. If it matters, his flannel shirts are sometimes reversible, although the other side of the one I bought is perhaps too “fuzzy” to realistically use. Still, he has some nice subtle detailing that the other brands don’t offer (unique pocket designs, smoke mother-of-pearl buttons, and extra, extra thick fabrics). Available at Nigel Cabourn’s own website or any of his stockists. If you’re not able to afford those retail prices, you’ll have to trawl Yoox and eBay like me.
  • RRL: Ralph Lauren’s ranch inspired sub-label. The fabrics on RRL shirts really run the gamut, but in general, they’re typically a bit flimsier than the aforementioned brands (at least when it comes to fall/ winter shirts). On the upside, they can often be found on deep discount (I bought mine for about $75). These are available at Ralph Lauren’s website, and certain niche stockists such as Unionmade and Frans Boone.

The best part about wearing thick flannel shirts? With designers such as Daiki Suzuki and Heidi Slimane incorporating them into last year’s looks, you can simultaneously feel very “aritansal heritage workwear” and “high fashion au courant.” Plus, Rick Owens wears them! The dream of the 90s is alive in menswear. At least until spring comes for the rest of us. 

Collars Just For Tie-Wearing
As I’ve expanded my wardrobe over the years, I’ve come to find that I sometimes favor things that are a bit more specialized, rather than versatile. About a year and a half ago, I had my shirt maker cut me a new collar style with longer points. It’s still a semi-spread design, like I usually take, but with extended points, the fuller collar gives a nicer counterbalance to my face and necktie. The extended points also ensure that my collar tips always stay neatly tucked underneath my sport coat, thus giving a nice uninterrupted line moving from my tie’s knot to my jacket’s lapels.
The only problem is that the collar a bit unwieldy when worn without a tie, which is why I think most today are made in one of two styles. The first are short collars, which is what you’ll find on many casual shirts sold in malls and fashion-y boutiques. Just step into a J. Crew or Barney’s to see what I mean. These are too short to be worn with a tie (unless you’re going for a more fashion-forward look), but to be fair, they’re not really meant to be worn with one anyway.
Then there’s the fuller collar style you’ll find at places such as Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren (at least on their more traditional lines, and on shirts that are sized by collar and sleeve length). These are designed to be worn in professional settings, so the points are long enough to support a necktie without lifting up too far off your body.
Still, even the fullest of these collars rarely approach the kind of style you see on Simone Righi above. I assume this is because short collars – like slim fitting clothes – have been trendy for over ten years, and trends are important, even in “classic” clothing. I assume it’s also because most men want to be able to wear their professional shirts without a tie, so they can make double use of it in casual environments. With a truly full collar, you risk looking like a 1970s disco dancer if you wear it open.
Medium length points are great for casual and formal settings, so if you don’t wear a tie often, or don’t want an excessively large wardrobe, they’re a great style to stick to. If you do wear ties often, however, or don’t mind spending a bit extra on clothes, try a fuller collar. They can admittedly look a bit too aggressive on first sight, but once you throw on a tailored jacket and put on some neckwear, you’ll notice they can give much more appealing proportions. Just see Simone Righi above as an example. 
(Photo via The Sartorialist)

Collars Just For Tie-Wearing

As I’ve expanded my wardrobe over the years, I’ve come to find that I sometimes favor things that are a bit more specialized, rather than versatile. About a year and a half ago, I had my shirt maker cut me a new collar style with longer points. It’s still a semi-spread design, like I usually take, but with extended points, the fuller collar gives a nicer counterbalance to my face and necktie. The extended points also ensure that my collar tips always stay neatly tucked underneath my sport coat, thus giving a nice uninterrupted line moving from my tie’s knot to my jacket’s lapels.

The only problem is that the collar a bit unwieldy when worn without a tie, which is why I think most today are made in one of two styles. The first are short collars, which is what you’ll find on many casual shirts sold in malls and fashion-y boutiques. Just step into a J. Crew or Barney’s to see what I mean. These are too short to be worn with a tie (unless you’re going for a more fashion-forward look), but to be fair, they’re not really meant to be worn with one anyway.

Then there’s the fuller collar style you’ll find at places such as Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren (at least on their more traditional lines, and on shirts that are sized by collar and sleeve length). These are designed to be worn in professional settings, so the points are long enough to support a necktie without lifting up too far off your body.

Still, even the fullest of these collars rarely approach the kind of style you see on Simone Righi above. I assume this is because short collars – like slim fitting clothes – have been trendy for over ten years, and trends are important, even in “classic” clothing. I assume it’s also because most men want to be able to wear their professional shirts without a tie, so they can make double use of it in casual environments. With a truly full collar, you risk looking like a 1970s disco dancer if you wear it open.

Medium length points are great for casual and formal settings, so if you don’t wear a tie often, or don’t want an excessively large wardrobe, they’re a great style to stick to. If you do wear ties often, however, or don’t mind spending a bit extra on clothes, try a fuller collar. They can admittedly look a bit too aggressive on first sight, but once you throw on a tailored jacket and put on some neckwear, you’ll notice they can give much more appealing proportions. Just see Simone Righi above as an example. 

(Photo via The Sartorialist)

It’s on Sale: Barba shirts at Farfetch

Barba makes Italian-style shirts—dressy fabrics, plain “French” placket, darted body, straight or spread collar—that are usually priced between $200 and $300. They’re great shirts with shapely collars that work well with neckties or without (they’re rarely button down collars, though, so best to keep them tucked inside a jacket or sweater). Fortunately, they are often available at a discount. Right now, Farfetch, which aggregates stock of dozens of stores, mostly European, has a lot of Barba shirts marked down, and an additional 20% off code valid through Friday at 8:59am GMT (3:59 EST, 12:59 PST): x20jan14. Farfetch also includes duties in its shipping, at about $20, so you won’t get an additional bill, which sometimes happens with European stores shipping to the United States. That puts most of these shirts under $150 shipped. Other good sources for Barba: Yoox and Shopthefinest.

-Pete

It’s On Sale: Thin Red Line Shirts
Thin Red Line is a British shirt company who make traditionally-styled dress shirts. A couple of times a year, they drop their prices to £19, which is about $30. Subtract VAT and they end up at $26 each. Along with T.M. Lewin’s occasional sales at that price, they’re one of the best dress shirt values under fifty bucks, even if you’re in the States and have to pay international shipping. The brand’s slim fit isn’t fashion slim, so if you’re very skinny, it might not suit, but if you’re of modest build, it’s a solid cut. Shirts are here, use the code “SANTA13” for the discount.

It’s On Sale: Thin Red Line Shirts

Thin Red Line is a British shirt company who make traditionally-styled dress shirts. A couple of times a year, they drop their prices to £19, which is about $30. Subtract VAT and they end up at $26 each. Along with T.M. Lewin’s occasional sales at that price, they’re one of the best dress shirt values under fifty bucks, even if you’re in the States and have to pay international shipping. The brand’s slim fit isn’t fashion slim, so if you’re very skinny, it might not suit, but if you’re of modest build, it’s a solid cut. Shirts are here, use the code “SANTA13” for the discount.

Skin Tight Shirts
This image has been making the rounds on various menswear blogs as an example of a well-fitting business shirt. Far be it from me to criticize Matteo Marzotto, arguably one of the best-dressed men in the world right now, or the man behind Italian Industrialists and Intellectuals Style (one of my favorite style blogs, and the person who originally posted the picture) - but this is not a well-fitting shirt. 
If your shirt fits like this, you probably can’t sit down. Or eat a snack. Or possibly even exhale. 
In traditional men’s clothing anyway, clothes need not be skin tight to be well-fitting. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Our friend GW here is wearing something that I think sets a good example. There’s enough room in the waist to allow him to sit down and have a full meal, but not so much that excess fabric is bunching above his waistband. If a shirt is truly well-tailored, you can get the fabric to fall cleanly without vacuum sealing it against your body. 
To be sure, it’s hard to get something as nice as GW’s shirt off-the-rack (his was custom made for him), but it’s a good ideal to shoot for. One test you can use when trying on a new shirt is to simply sit down in it and see if the buttons strain at the mid-section. This will tell you if it’s too tight or not.
But hey, what do I know. I’m certainly no Matteo Marzotto. 
(Image via Italian Industrialists and Intellectuals Style)

Skin Tight Shirts

This image has been making the rounds on various menswear blogs as an example of a well-fitting business shirt. Far be it from me to criticize Matteo Marzotto, arguably one of the best-dressed men in the world right now, or the man behind Italian Industrialists and Intellectuals Style (one of my favorite style blogs, and the person who originally posted the picture) - but this is not a well-fitting shirt. 

If your shirt fits like this, you probably can’t sit down. Or eat a snack. Or possibly even exhale. 

In traditional men’s clothing anyway, clothes need not be skin tight to be well-fitting. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Our friend GW here is wearing something that I think sets a good example. There’s enough room in the waist to allow him to sit down and have a full meal, but not so much that excess fabric is bunching above his waistband. If a shirt is truly well-tailored, you can get the fabric to fall cleanly without vacuum sealing it against your body. 

To be sure, it’s hard to get something as nice as GW’s shirt off-the-rack (his was custom made for him), but it’s a good ideal to shoot for. One test you can use when trying on a new shirt is to simply sit down in it and see if the buttons strain at the mid-section. This will tell you if it’s too tight or not.

But hey, what do I know. I’m certainly no Matteo Marzotto

(Image via Italian Industrialists and Intellectuals Style)

Actor Jason Mantzoukas is one of the funniest guys I know, and he’s also a big Put This On supporter - he even appeared in one of our episodes. That’s only part of why I so enjoy the Tumblr Jason Mantzoukas Wearing A White Oxford Shirt And Blue Jeans.

Actor Jason Mantzoukas is one of the funniest guys I know, and he’s also a big Put This On supporter - he even appeared in one of our episodes. That’s only part of why I so enjoy the Tumblr Jason Mantzoukas Wearing A White Oxford Shirt And Blue Jeans.

Tartan Shirts for Fall
These old tartan shirts by Brooks Brothers are great examples of the kind of fall shirts that pair well with tweed jackets and corduroy sport coats. They have an autumnal sensibility where a smooth, light blue shirt might be lacking, and their bold patterns can help dress down the look of a tailored jacket. 
When you first delve into the world of tartans, you may come across some unfamiliar terminology that, at first glance, can be a bit misleading. For example, “ancient” and “modern” don’t refer to the age of a pattern. Instead, “modern” just means the pattern was made in its “standard” colors, while “ancient” refers to something made in lighter tones (e.g. this Lindsay tartan in both modern and ancient variations). As you can see, the idea for “ancient” is to create something with an aged or weathered look, not too unlike how denim producers sometimes create pre-distressed jeans. For tartans, that means making the blues and greens a bit more muted, and scaling back the intensity of the yellows and reds. The effect is a plaid that looks like it has been worn for years. 
It’s also common to see tartans described as either “hunting” or “dress,” but again, these don’t mean what you think they mean. Instead, hunting tartans are simply tartans that are based more in greens and blues, while dress tartans make more use of white. Despite the name, dress tartans are just as casual as hunting variations. See, for example, Hunting Stewart versus Dress Stewart.
This is all just background, of course. The most important thing is to find a pattern that you like. The first one you see above, set at the front, is blackwatch shirt, and can be bought this season through O’Connell’s, J. Press, and our advertiser Ledbury. The one behind that looks to be either a MacKenzie or Hunting Stewart, and can be had through Ralph Lauren in modern and ancient variations. The dress tartan furthest back is a bit harder to find, but you get similar designs through Gant (in two varieties), Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers. Lastly, readers who have custom shirts made might want to enquire with their tailors. They should have lots of tartan fabrics to choose from, but if not, you can acquire some through Acorn. I’m having this Hunting Stewart made up for me now through Ascot Chang, and plan to wear it this fall with brown corduroys and suede shoes.  
(Photo via Glengarry Sporting Club)

Tartan Shirts for Fall

These old tartan shirts by Brooks Brothers are great examples of the kind of fall shirts that pair well with tweed jackets and corduroy sport coats. They have an autumnal sensibility where a smooth, light blue shirt might be lacking, and their bold patterns can help dress down the look of a tailored jacket. 

When you first delve into the world of tartans, you may come across some unfamiliar terminology that, at first glance, can be a bit misleading. For example, “ancient” and “modern” don’t refer to the age of a pattern. Instead, “modern” just means the pattern was made in its “standard” colors, while “ancient” refers to something made in lighter tones (e.g. this Lindsay tartan in both modern and ancient variations). As you can see, the idea for “ancient” is to create something with an aged or weathered look, not too unlike how denim producers sometimes create pre-distressed jeans. For tartans, that means making the blues and greens a bit more muted, and scaling back the intensity of the yellows and reds. The effect is a plaid that looks like it has been worn for years. 

It’s also common to see tartans described as either “hunting” or “dress,” but again, these don’t mean what you think they mean. Instead, hunting tartans are simply tartans that are based more in greens and blues, while dress tartans make more use of white. Despite the name, dress tartans are just as casual as hunting variations. See, for example, Hunting Stewart versus Dress Stewart.

This is all just background, of course. The most important thing is to find a pattern that you like. The first one you see above, set at the front, is blackwatch shirt, and can be bought this season through O’Connell’s, J. Press, and our advertiser Ledbury. The one behind that looks to be either a MacKenzie or Hunting Stewart, and can be had through Ralph Lauren in modern and ancient variations. The dress tartan furthest back is a bit harder to find, but you get similar designs through Gant (in two varieties), Ralph Lauren, and Brooks Brothers. Lastly, readers who have custom shirts made might want to enquire with their tailors. They should have lots of tartan fabrics to choose from, but if not, you can acquire some through Acorn. I’m having this Hunting Stewart made up for me now through Ascot Chang, and plan to wear it this fall with brown corduroys and suede shoes.  

(Photo via Glengarry Sporting Club)