On the front row of the international fashion show circuit this month, in which houses across London, Milan and Paris showcased their proposals for what men should be wearing come spring/summer 2019 (for that is how far in advance fashion works), a veteran of the industry took stock of the migrating flock of journalists, buyers and industry types who bounced from show to show, party to party (it’s a tough gig, this looking at clothes lark).
He was astonished, he said, that in his 30 years on the job, his particular quirk for vibrant, patterned, unusual shirts had suddenly found itself stylish, with young upstarts walking in his sartorial wake. Because, whether you are front row at a fashion show or front in line at the artisanal burger van at Bestival this summer, you’ll notice that the shirt has evolved somewhat.
Printed shirt, £82.50, sandro-paris.com
There was a time when all you needed shirt wise for summer was a good white cotton shirt, with a button-down collar to symbolise informality, with sleeves rolled up. Perhaps a sky blue iteration. And while a casual white shirt for summer is always going to be a perennial, an inoffensive item that fits easily with laid back warm weather attire, he’s been somewhat relegated in recent years.
This is in part because men are more adventurous in how they dress, more confident in merrily embracing prints, patterns and colour. And it’s also because a shirt can act as a statement while the rest of your outfit is relatively standard – it can pep up nondescript chinos and add a touch of personality to a navy blazer.
Prada camp collar shirt, £545, mrporter.com
So what options are out there? The Hawaiian shirt has had a renaissance, but the vibrant shirt MKII is a touch more nuanced than his Honolulu-based brother. Los Angeles brand Cobra S.C. was founded last year by two designers two provide just that sort of punch in the shirting market, with vividly patterned numbers and interesting soft-structure cuts.
French brand Sandro have also made printed shirts something of a calling card, with painterly effects across short sleeve, camp collar shirts, while Prada have added splashy, rainbow-hued shirts to their roster in a permanent collection. The effect doesn’t have to be full on Timmy Mallett, or worse, lairy dad abroad, just a surface that’s a tad more interesting – particularly to lighten the mood in warmer climes – than no-comment white. Our fashion veteran friend on the front row has finally been vindicated.