Identifying the perfect resort shirt is the sort of labour that might justly be described as Sisyphean were it not so pleasurable. Perfection is, of course, a chimera. But although one never exactly finds perfection, one tends to come across interesting things along the way – among them the Bel lido-collared linen button-down shirt.
I try not to get too worked up about things, but one of the few sights that really brings out the rage-blinded, hate-filled axe murderer lurking behind my otherwise mild-mannered and reticent exterior is that of men wearing untucked business shirts on the beaches, esplanades, paseos, croisettes, promenades, quaysides and what have you of warm-weather destinations. As if we did not have enough to cope with in life (Brexit, climate change, a currency that is dropping more rapidly than a spanner down a lift shaft), the ocular nerve has to be afflicted by a man who thinks that dressing for summer simply means wearing the same white shirt that he wears (tieless or otherwise) in the city, just untucked over a pair of shorts or linen trousers.
A city shirt should fit its wearer (without visible button strain) and have tails long enough not to work their way out of the control of the waistband, a neckband to enable a tie to be worn, and double cuffs to accommodate links. Pockets are, of course, out of place.
A resort shirt should be the exact opposite. It should fit, but in a diaphanous way, occasionally brushing against the wearer’s skin rather than clinging to it in a manner that makes the most of the decorative qualities of perspiration. A neckband without a tie is the definition of superfluity, and the lido construction permits the collar points to lie flat along the aptly named collar bone. And as for cuffs, even I do not wear cufflinks to the beach (well, not often anyway). Perhaps most importantly, shirt tails need to be made to be worn outside the waistband – ie, straight bottomed with a vent at the bottom of the side seam to permit movement and prevent unsightly creasing. And given that I will be unlikely to be wearing a suit or even a sports coat, a breast pocket is handy for cigars, sunglasses, etc.
The Bel resort shirt accomplishes all this and more. The true stroke of genius of this garment is the collar: eschewing the neckband, it combines the properties of the lido and the button-down collar to frame the neck and give the option of wearing an ascot. Just to make the point that this is a shirt designed and built expressly for resort use, the collar cannot be fastened, as there is no top button.
Reading the above paragraph, I find it hard to fault this garment and yet I still believe perfection to be unachievable in our sublunary lives. The inescapable conclusion therefore is that this piece of clothing is powerful proof of the existence of a god of some sort – at least one who knows how to dress informally in warm weather.