Overshirts, once an acquired taste, are steadily gaining traction as a menswear staple, transcending the workwear revival of a few years ago. Many of this season’s styles have evolved from their utilitarian roots, often with a nod to tailoring.
So what differentiates these refined overshirts – or shirt jackets, as they’re also known – from traditional jackets? Well, they’ve got no canvassing or shoulder padding, they include traditional work shirt details, such as patch pockets on the chest or a back yoke, and they are designed to be worn loose rather than fitted to the body. Although they aren’t intended to be tucked, some overshirts do have gathered waists or hems, such as Cmmn Swdn’s fluorescent-green drawstring shirt jacket (£380). One of my favourites is the Homme Plissé Issey Miyake version (£390) in army green, with snap buttons and a drawstring waist. Created with the brand’s signature pleating technique from material that’s both wrinkle-proof and quick-drying, it’s the perfect fusion of sporty elements and tailoring. Louis Vuitton’s red silk drawstring overshirt (£1,030) also contrasts fine fabric with utility, as does the house’s white calfskin Coach overshirt (£4,200).
Camoshita’s gathered hem overshirts are made from rare vintage cloths from the 1950s. The brand’s tan check shirt jacket (£245), available from Trunk, has a camp collar and knife pleats. “The pieces are perfect for trans-seasonal dressing,” says Trunk founder Mats Klingberg. Drake’s is also taking cues from the 1950s with a gutsy Indian Madras check overshirt (£265) with four patch pockets.
Private White VC, which majors in handsome utility gear, has always been big on shirt jackets. The British brand’s Mayfair version (£295) has internal draw cords, allowing for a more tailored shape. There are also two modern adaptations from Studio Nicholson: the technical cotton poplin Morales shirt (£320) with rubberised zips and kangaroo-pouch pockets and the polyamide, linen and Lyocell-mix Hillman overshirt (£335) with a sporty hood. Elsewhere, Ermenegildo Zegna has a sleek brown leather shirt jacket (£4,760) with two front chest pockets and barrel cuffs.
“Overshirts are super-versatile pieces,” says Dean Cook, head of menswear buying at Browns. “My current favourite styles are from Sacai and By Walid – I love their use of upcycled fabrics.” By Walid’s Mathias jacket (£1,180) has a crafty feel, with hand-stitched patches and mended details. The roster of Browns’ options also includes Moncler’s Grenoble style (£765), a hybrid between a shirt and a puffa jacket, and Dries Van Noten’s vibrant blue wave style (£695) with two large bellows pockets.
Overshirt traditionalists aren’t being left out, however. P Johnson’s shirt jackets, in lobster orange $495, or yellow linen (custom-made, £420), red cotton ($495), and grey or navy merino/cashmere ($595) are sharply cut yet classic in style. “Our merino/cashmere flannel shirt jackets are a beautiful alternative to the classic blazer,” says Patrick Johnson. The Gigi’s Bell style (£175) is made from blue chambray, with generous patch pockets and a relaxed cut, while the Gemma (£160) has an even more laidback look, crafted from linen and garment-dyed for a vintage feel. Similarly purist fare comes from Nigel Cabourn, in navy or light-blue denim chambray styles (£175) with shirt-tails, while Prada’s deep-blue cotton-twill overshirt (£825) and Loro Piana’s navy cashmere overshirt (£2,115) are ultra-sleek versions of the light jackets traditionally worn by railroad workers. This new generation of overshirts may have smartened up – but they’re still rooted in practicality.