Smart Dressing

Why you need to try a rugby shirt this spring

The sportswear staple is having a moment in menswear. Here’s five that prove it

Once only associated with muddy, freezing school days or, you know, the 20-stone titans who have to face up to the All Blacks on a weekly basis, rugby shirts are being pitched – excuse the pun – across the board this season from the high street to the very highest-end designer labels (see: Hermès, Ralph Lauren and Kent & Curwen). However, before you start to cast your mind back to games class, rest assured that the models you’ll find hanging on the men’s rails for spring are a far cry from the baggy, scratchy nylon ones you wore aged 14. The presence of a designer during the crafting process means this new generation of rugby shirts is cut from a selection of pleasingly soft materials (cotton with a dash of stretch, merino wool and even cashmere) and in slimmer, more tailored fits.

Thanks to this, they are not only more comfortable, but also more versatile. On the catwalk they were shown layered over rollnecks and under overcoats, making them perfect for layering up against the unpredictable British weather right now. When the temperature does warm up, they can be paired with a soft structured blazer as an excellent alternative to a spread collar shirt.

However you want to wear it, the main thing to take away, is to keep the rest of your outfit as sharp as possible – you’re not out for a kick-around on Sunday morning, after all. 

J Crew rugby shirt

American brand J Crew is known for its famously preppy style. What’s great about this rugby shirt is that it embodies that ethos, but can also be dressed up for a sharper man-about-town look. The white and navy palette will look great paired with raw, wide-leg jeans, while the contrasting chambray collar adds an of-the-moment pop of denim under a unstructured blazer.

£75, mrporter.com

Norse Projects rugby shirt

Danish brand Norse Projects isn’t the first you think of when it comes to such a quintessentially British style as a rugby shirt. But its interest in reinterpreting timeless designs has led it straight to the classic style, which its reimagined this season in bold cream and navy stripes. Style the shirt tucked into grey tailored trousers with front pleats, and with a casual unstructured linen blazer.

£110, norseprojects.com

Polo Ralph Lauren rugby shirt

Synonymous with classic varsity style, a Polo Ralph Lauren rugby shirt is a piece you’ll return to again and again over the years. This slim fit shirt with a contrasting white collar is a sharper take on the traditional style, while also being a more low-key choice for someone who doesn’t want to go the full preppy hog. Best worn layered over a dark grey rollneck and straight leg chinos.

£125, matchesfashion.com

Mr P striped rugby shirt

The appearance of a rugby shirt in mrporter.com’s seventh own-brand collection cemented its significance this season. This style embodies Mr P’s ethos of understated simplicity, with its retro stripes in toned-down shades of brick, ecru and navy, and relaxed open collar. Style it over a navy merino rollneck, pleated chinos and lace-up boots, for an easy weekend look.

£165, mrporter.com

Kent & Curwen rugby shirt

Kent & Curwen’s designs have been inspired by the sporting world since Eric Kent and Dorothy Curwen started making ties for Oxford, Cambridge and the country’s top schools in 1926. For the past few seasons especially, it’s made a point of championing retro rugby shirts, which are gently laundered for a vintage feel. Featuring an archive-inspired striped hoop design, this shirt also has the brand’s new embroidered rose patch, a nod to both the brand’s heritage and the England rugby team.

£135, kentandcurwen.com