The Rugby World Cup has kicked off in Japan. However, whatever your level of investment in the tournament itself, there’s a reason for even the most sports-averse menswear fans to cheer: it has re-awakened the rugby shirt trend after its high-summer hiatus.
Usually made from a medium to heavy weight cotton-jersey, this preppy shirt’s hallmarks are a contrast collar, hidden placket with rubber buttons, ribbed cuffs, a boxy fit and generally a bold use of colour. In recent years, they’ve become something of a modern staple in a man’s wardrobe: they’re multi-functional, incredibly varied and allow you to explore new ways of layering. This season, you’ll find examples in collections from designer labels such as Ralph Lauren (as pictured below) to streetwear brands like Palace.
Rest assumed, these new models are far removed from the ones you were forced to wear for sports class at school. You can wear them with tailoring (trust us, it works) for a dressed-down, mid-week vibe. Or, at the other end of the formality scale you can wear them with wide-legged, cropped khaki chinos (we don’t like slim-fit) and a pair of running sneakers for something that’s a bit more street-savvy. In terms of layering, thanks to their boxy fit, they can accommodate rollnecks or shirts beneath – however sometimes it’s best to let it do all the talking.
The possibilities and options are of course endless, so here are our picks for the season which should hopefully convert you.
Palace ‘Pronto’ rugby
London’s very own streetwear brand Palace has a reputation for producing retro-inspired sportswear pieces, and has in the past collaborated with the likes of Adidas, Umbro, Reebok and Ralph Lauren. With its logo vertically emblazoned on the chest, this style of colour blocking is modern yet there’s the classic contrast collar to keep it rooted.
Noah alternating stripe rugby
Noah is a men’s label based in New York that ticks all the right boxes for us. Firstly, it’s heroically mindful about the environment and speaks out against the damaging practices of the fashion industry. Secondly, it makes awesome clothes, including this rugby shirt that brings a dark, Eighties remix to the genre.
Noon Goons ‘Fielders’ striped fleece and cotton jersey rugby
Noon Goons is a streetwear label hailing from South California with a knack for playing off colour blocks while taking design cues from surfing, skating and punk rock in various ways. This season, it’s offering a rugby shirt made from a cotton-jersey that’s has a fleece lining for added warmth which means you can wear one less layer and still be toasty.
£185, at mrporter.com
Polo Ralph Lauren ‘The Iconic Rugby Shirt’
Ralph Lauren has long been a leading purveyor of the rugby shirt, which is understandable as it’s a preppy staple. While this rugby shirt might not be the most adventurous in terms of colour and pattern, or lack thereof, what makes it a great choice is its versatility, coming in an easy-to-wear shade of grey. Wear it with khaki chinos and white sneakers for a dressed-down vibe, or beneath a charcoal flannel suit for a winter-conquering tonal look.
Rowing Blazers 1970s authentic heavyweight rugby
Rowing Blazers is another brand you need to put on your radar. Founded by Jack Carlson, who was an accomplished rower and was on the US national rowing team, his brand is inspired by 20th century university sports teams and the retro-designed kit they wore. The rugby shirt offering is vast (there’s also tailoring, T-shirts and accessories to consider, too), so it’s worth checking the website out – and they’re all made in Europe and as close to the originals as possible.
Gant heavy rugger
Gant is another label that champions American collegiate style and has, for years, offered its customers rugby shirts in a wide-range of designs. For this season, it’s introduced this bright red version that’s certainly a bit of a statement and as the name suggests is made from a heavy duty cotton jersey which should keep you warm even on the coldest of days.