Last summer I flew the flag for the return of American western style; now the trend has taken an interesting new turn. The traditional western shirt, with its patch or flap-breast pockets, popper fastenings and yoke, has been reinterpreted in a variety of original ways. “Particularly modern are shirts reworked in a two-tone palette,” says Dean Cook, buying manager at Browns. Take those by Raf Simons in his latest collection for Calvin Klein: scarlet with blue shoulders and pockets (£730) or forest green with white (£725), plus a multicoloured pastel and black version (£595), as well as a black and white short-sleeve zip-up shirt (£980) with oversize poppers. They have the feel of western shirts updated with Middle America marching-band vim.
Simons’ colourful, contemporary twist on the genre is in good company. Ami’s vivid two-tone interpretations in either beige and leaf green or sky blue and white (£190) also use clean, bold colours to take the strong masculine impact of western style in a new direction. Cook also spotlights Dries Van Noten’s Calvino shirt (£525) with tone-on‑tone embroidery in mustard. “It’s one of those colours men don’t usually gravitate to, but pops of colour can be a powerful counterpoint to dark trousers,” he says.
Bottega Veneta’s take is to combine graphic stripes and detailing with unexpected colours. Striped shirts (£535) with a slight sheen come in hues such as lilac, chamomile and camel. What they lack in traditional pockets and poppers, they make up for in strong contrasting yoking and metal collar tips, while the slim fit makes them well suited to an evening or cocktail outfit – especially when paired with bold stripe silk ties (£135). This confident look needs a certain swagger to pull it off, but, with the right attitude, delivers in spades.
Balmain’s western shirts also have a cool glamour that works well for eveningwear: clean, stark white and black shirts (£435) have reverse black and white detailing and embroidery. There’s also a version with a mandarin collar (£1,135), while others have art nouveau flourishes and edging (£2,710). Team the monochrome version (or Balenciaga’s sharp yellow cotton western shirt, £285) with Balmain’s bolo-style, medallion-adorned neck tie (£450) to channel either John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, Clint Eastwood in Coogan’s Bluff, Bob Dylan, or Bruce Springsteen on the cover of Tunnel of Love. Granted, they differ stylistically, but somewhere in the mix is the sweet spot.
There are also more playful iterations of the western-shirt trend that make an impact. Paul & Joe’s 1950s approach adds floral and animal patterns, and bowling-shirt cool. The Moskito (£174) contrasts its tiger print (actual images of tigers, not just stripes) with a black yoke, green collar and brown sleeves and placket. The Mozambic (£192) uses two Liberty floral prints – one for the body; another for plackets and yoke – with black sleeves. It’s part hippy, part 1970s rock star. Coach also takes up the ’70s floral/botanical theme: there’s a vintage Hawaiian-print shirt with black placket (£225) and a cool black viscose/silk shirt (£225) with orange embroidery overlaying a shadowy leaf print that evokes Johnny Cash at a Brazilian carnival.
With the genre cast in colourful, graphic or patterned roles, it seems this year is anything but all quiet on the western-shirt front.