The overshirt had humble beginnings as rugged workwear within a military or hunting context; worn untucked, it functioned as a light jacket or a layer under a coat. These origins give it a pleasing practicality and robust, unfussy qualities that chime with the current trend for menswear with a looser, less formal silhouette, whether worn over jogging bottoms or pleated casual trousers, or under a less structured jacket.
Nigel Cabourn has made a speciality of revisiting uniform and workwear-inspired menswear, and overshirts are a forte: “I wear this kind of shirt pretty much every day as it looks so cool worn as a jacket over a T-shirt.” His new line Lybro has a heavy, dark navy wool overshirt (£299) with red tack details, cotton twill pocket flaps and metal buttons inspired partly by 1930s uniforms of US Navy chief petty officers and partly by American hunting shirts.
More military-influenced style can be found at Garbstore, where a navy Flight Jacket (£320) in woven cotton from Vancet Mills in Japan comes with snap-fastened patch pockets. And Parisian brand Maison Kitsuné’s wool/viscose check quilted overshirt (£435) with velvet trim is inspired by 1930s pilots’ base layers.
Stone Island has always majored in overshirts. This season’s military-style Old Effect design (£215) in brushed cotton canvas is garment-dyed for an aged look, while its zipped mustard-green overshirt (£265) in a nylon jersey-backed fabric with an iridescent metallic sheen demonstrates the label’s impressive fabric technology.
More first-class kit can be found at Milan-based Sealup, where the hunting-inspired Mac Sestac overshirt (€1,290), named after one of the company’s particularly charismatic sales agents, comes in water-repellent baby camel hair with goosedown-filled padding and suede piping. But for cool-looking back-to-basics overshirts, you can’t beat Albam’s chunky corduroy version (£159) or APC’s deep indigo-dyed denim overshirt (£180) pared right back to jean-style metal poppers and with a pocket top-stitched in orange thread. Albam also does a crisp indigo sailcloth shirt (£179) with a slightly nautical drawstring bottom.
Classic workwear style is equally impressive at the Private White VC label. The Workshop overshirt (£250) in cotton twill has no visible buttons as it originates from a design worn by car mechanics who needed clothes that wouldn’t scratch car bodywork. The Manchester brand also makes the Piccadilly Shacket (£295) – as the name suggests, a shirt/jacket hybrid in a variety of colours in cotton with a lovely wool flannel half-lining. There’s also an unlined version (£239) in mélange charcoal wool with French seams and removable British-made butcher’s buttons.
Other designers channel American Western-style workwear. Brunello Cucinelli, for example, has a thick, grey cashmere overshirt (£1,540) with an angular yoke at the front and back, patch pockets and popper fastenings, perfect for relaxed weekend layering. Paul & Joe’s Oxford cotton chambray overshirt (£220), with handmade beaded Native American Indian motifs such as running horses and eagles, has taken direct inspiration from 19th-century embroidered ceremonial vests. And the patched cinnamon suede Criss overshirt (£375) from Nudie Jeans has a distinctive 1970s style that looks super with worn blue denim. The suede is soft and supple, while the seaming gives it substance.
For a relaxed weekend-away feel, I love the seductively earthy clothing made by Inis Meáin. The label takes its name from one of the three Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, where its small factory creates the brand’s yarns and textiles. Overshirts are thick, tactile affairs in natural hues such as peaty multicheck wool flannel shirts (£200), as well as in olive, grey and purple. A slubby textured version (£186) comes in grey and deep-blue Donegal tweed.