Cotton terry towelling, or ‘terry cloth’ as its sometimes known, is proof (if any were needed) that we men are finally getting our heads around unconventional fabrics.
Time was, only a few years ago in fact, I’d suggest to a friend in search of something new to wear that they try a flannel suit instead of a worsted, or a pair of brushed cotton trousers instead of jeans, and they’d baulk at the thought of wearing something textured, let alone soft to the touch.
Now though, things are changing. First, the catwalks went mad for corduroy and velvet at the start of the year (and it seems they’ll be coming back in again this coming autumn, too) and now it’s warmed up, the fashion world’s craving for soft fabrics is being satiated with pieces cut in cotton towelling.
It might sound bizarre at first glance, but it does make sense. First off, towelling is super-lightweight, and the cloth’s loose ‘terret’ weave (which, incidentally, is where the name ‘terry’ comes from) makes it surprisingly breathable in the heat. Next up, towelling polos and short-sleeve shirts absolutely scream ‘riviera chic’ – in fact, wear them on holiday and you really can treat them like towels; wear them to the poolside bar, dive in for a swim and pull your polo straight on again when you get out of the pool.
In other words, towelling, though distinctive, is a practical and easy-to-wear trend to dip into right now. And, if you’d like to experiment, we’ve found five smooth options to work into your summer wardrobe – just don’t wear them all at once.
Orlebar Brown Travis resort shirt
A new design from that most effortlessly summery of British brands, the ‘Travis’ shirt from Orlebar Brown is the perfect way to channel some towelling-based resort chic in your summer wardrobe. Cut in a slim fit (to flatter your beach bod), with trim sleeves, a camp collar and two cosy front patch pockets, this shirt has more than a touch of mid ‘50s West Coast cool about it. The dark navy and white horizontal stripes are easy to wear, too. Cut as a button-through shirt, this piece also offers a refreshing point of difference to all the cotton polos out there this season.
£195, shop now
Converse All Star Chuck Terry sneakers
Now you really have seen it all. Yes, these are towelling sneakers – final proof that this really is a wide-ranging summer trend. A fun, seasonal take on Converse’s iconic All Star Chucks, these low-tops feature everything you’d expect from the sneaker behemoth sneaker; a solid rubber base, in-set gum soles, supporting ortholite insoles and a vintage-inspired lacing system. With pistachio green towelling uppers, they feel distinctly retro – and although not the most practical sneakers you’ll own, they’ll feel great on and be fun to wear, too.
£70, shop now
Massimo Alba unstructured blazer
Massimo Alba’s designs scream ‘sprezzatura’ (read: easy Italian elegance), and this distinctive towelling blazer is true to form. Think of it as a summer take on a winter knitted blazer; it’s completely unstructured, soft and a touch stretchy for added warm weather comfort factor. Again, it’s a great poolside menswear hybrid – throw it over a soft sky blue linen shirt and tan cotton tailored shorts when you’re chilling in your hotel for an effortless resort-worthy look.
£350, shop now
Tom Ford polo shirt
Want to make a statement? Tom Ford’s championing hot pink this season, and if a velvet jacket’s a little too much, then this towelling polo might just do the job. In plush towelling, with a regular fit and wide ‘70s inspired collar, this is a piece that feels sharp but fun – ideal for wearing to a beach bar, or a sun-drenched weekend barbecue. If you do go for this, keep the rest of your look simple and light in colour. Try it with a pair of sand coloured linen drawstring trousers, statement tortoiseshell sunnies and dark leather sandals – easy breezy.
£295, shop now
Acne camp collar shirt
I love this thing, in fact I’m sorely tempted to take my own advice and snaffle it up while it’s still online. Acne’s designs are always on the money, and tap subtly into the style zeitgeist. This shirt’s camp collar, straight hem and boxy cut mark it out as one of this season’s most fashionable summer shirts, and in fine, fluffy terry towelling, its rich texture lends it an interesting point of difference from other camp collar shirts out there this summer. In navy, it’s as easy to wear as can be; layer over a striped crewneck t-shirt and tapered cotton chinos (with rolled-up hems, of course).
£220, shop now