Summer Uniform: Sport Shirts, Alohas, and the Runaway Collar

Call it the vacation look, the vintage throwback, or whatever you like. It’s something that we’re doing to keep stylish and cool as LA gets into the July heat!

I don’t want to assume that the greater menswear world reads my blog (specifically the articles on the runaway collar and the vintage sport shirt), but it seems that the trend is catching on, almost becoming a summer uniform of sorts.

Overall, Classic Menswear is just like regular fashion, with certain trends coming in and out, some of which are actually vintage affectations.  If you think hard, you’ll remember that wide lapels are a fairly “recent” trend (the past 5-6 years) while more subdued, ivy-esque styling is starting to be more and more apparent. The fact is that the use of a runaway collar and sportshirt (cuban collar) isn’t really new.  It’s clearly a 1940s-50s look that has made it back into the modern world; it probably was inspired by the runaway collar trend, when men found that the sport shirts worked better than regular point/spread ones.  Back then, gabardine and rayon were used since they were a bit heartier/drapier than normal cotton, making them the casual fabric then.

Like with all trends, it started with a few influential guys.  I remember someone bringing this up during my pitti post on MFA, to which I said that the menswear world is pretty small and many of these guys hang out with/follow each other so dressing inspired by a friend isn’t uncommon.  At first it was only guys like Chad Park who were doing it; now it was pretty much the new uniform, destined to be added to the ranks of Pitti Trends like sockless shoes and uneven ties. It got so popular that  reddit had a community post on cuban collar (sport shirts) recommendations and even Styleforum asked me to write about the Aloha shirt for their journal!  Thanks to this popularity, you can find sport shirts in more  “accessible” fabrics like linen and cotton, though I will always prefer gab and rayon due to their unique texture and drape.

The fact remains that a sport shirt is a great summer staple that can be worn a variety of ways, including tailoring.  Just look at these fantastic Pitti pictures taken by Sebastian McFox for Styleforum.  So much inspiration.  I think the main theme you can take away is to keep the non-aloha/sportshirt pieces somber, aka: your suit or jacket+trouser combo. Deep earth tones usually get the job done.  Hell, you don’t always need to do it with tailoring or even keep it tucked in!  While we tend to mainly talk about tailoring, I think an aloha/sportshirt looks great with chinos, denim, and shorts.  We can’t always be in a suit!

The vintage/vacation/1970s-esque look is perfect for keeping stylish in the hot weather.

Like I said, this trend really isn’t new and has been favored by guys who lean a bit more on the vintage side of classic menswear.  The ones that follow aren’t exactly aloha shirts (aka not traditional floral prints), but they’re still great! Thanks to the lightweight rayon/gabardine and the tell-tale loop collar, it makes a great case for an updated version of 1940s-1950s casual style.   It also provides some slight 1970’s vibes, even though the seventies had much more dramatic/wider collars.

Brycelands shows us some great non-Pitti inspiration on how to wear them.  Patterned or solid, these sport shirts do well with pleated trousers, but I’m always intrigued when they wear them with tailoring.  It’s a bit edgier (not necessarily more vintage) than how you’d normally see them worn (ie, at Pitti).  .

As far as I know, they currently work with Groovin High (a Japanese repro brand) to create their printed shirts, but they also have a few solid ones made of linen, manufactured by Ascot Chang.   I actually really like their printed shirts since the designs have a vintage-yet-contemporary look that is almost always geometric.  These are hard to find in true vintage.

Vintage Rayon on linen Ambrosi.

A baller look that I want to replicate.

Solid black sport shirt.

One of their new, fun shirts.

Of course we can’t forget about Arnold Wong, another one of the contemporary guys who likes a vintage silhouette.  He doesn’t do loop collars too much, but I’ve seen him wear this same vibrant aloha shirt a few times. The first instance I saw it, he made the daring move of wearing it with a pinstripe DB suit which has enticed me ever since.  The most recent outfit is the one below, where Arnold makes another daring move by wearing red trousers.  It’s like 1940’s meets prep and I love it.

On Us

I’ve talked about aloha shirts a few times (here and here)  and covered the general sport shirt (loop/cuban collar) in this lengthy article, but I’ve realized that I haven’t really worn them a bunch this year. I’ve even come to wearing them sans undershirt for the full summer effect.  Naturally, I was inspired by all this imagery (and actually felt like I was left out of the “cool menswear gang”) so I went a few days where I only wore sportshirts and aloha shirts.    Hopefully it’ll give you some inspiration on how to wear it for yourself!

Now obviously these looks aren’t business appropriate or formal at all. They’re pretty relaxed in their vibe, offering up that louche vacation look that hasn’t really been seen in classic menswear since the 1950s-1960s.  Changing up the details is one way to make it more contemporary and less “cosplay”.  Things like soft tailoring and sockless loafers/espadrilles give it that extra edge and separates it from the heavily padded period wear.

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This first outfit is something in the vein of Ethan Newton, contrasting the vibrance of a sportshirt (an aloha in my case) with the deep navy of a conservative suit.  It has a bit of that minimal, SLP vibe just done with tailoring rather than denim and chelseas.  This use of dark trousers and jacket help give it a sleek, 70s vibe instead of looking too 1940s and removes any Magnum PI connotations.  I also love it when it’s worn with an unbuttoned DB, as the peak lapels help add some “power” vibes and the overlapping closure helps ground in the wild print.

It’s outfit like these that allow you to wear tailoring outside of the office and makes you more “fashionable” than simply traditional.

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This next one is another fun one that’s a bit different than the typical aloha/sport shirt faire.  I bought this Uniqlo U loop collar shirt when it was first launched earlier this season since I wanted something that would be a good workhorse (and would allow me to have more life from my 1940s-1950s shirts).  It came in this faded blue, which works really well for minimal outfits.

It’s inspired by the pinstripe DB look on Arnold Wong, just swapping the vibrant aloha shirt for a solid one.  It also has some vibes similar to my friend Dom over on MFA.  Whle the solid shirt works with the pinstripe suit, I think if I were to wear it out, I would just settle with just the trousers; the full suit seems like overkill.

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In addition to plain sportshirts and alohas, you guys should also look for shirts with more geometric patterns. They offer a bit of variety that makes them more interesting and vintage-inspired than a simple aloha/floral print.  Unfortunately, these are pretty rare to find true vintage (because they’re so damn cool) so you’re mainly relegated to the Groovin’ High ones (from Brycelands) or finding some similar ones at the mall.  As the “cuban collar” trend goes on, I’m sure that we’re going to find them more and more at places like H&M or J. Crew.

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Since the pattern is so retro, I decided to “modernize” it with a navy hopsack jacket and white trousers.  I think this removes the whole rockabilly aesthetic (which isn’t my vibe) and brings it to a more sartorial place.  By going with high contrast, it’s also different than the dark color scheme that Brycelands goes for.  It’s a little bit 1930’s with some 1980s/2010s flair!

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Something else that I’ve been experimenting with is to keep the collars tucked under the jacket lapels.  It’s not my preferred thing to do, but its useful if you want to wear the aloha shirt without doing the runaway collar; basically do this if you don’t want to look too vintage.  I know that Bryceland’s does it every once in a while, with the wide collar sometimes rolled like a make-shift OCBD.

The variation is done here with a very bold “painted scene” aloha shirt, under a 1960’s unstructured suit. Even though the lapels are tiny, it’s the perfect summer suit, all wrinkly and lightweight. I didn’t think the runaway collar would have worked well with this suit, so I tucked the collar.  Plus the shirt is pretty  “dadcore” as that tends to happen with less vibrant/more white, painted-scene aloha shirts; I think it was a good move.

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Rocking the 1950’s shirt with a jacket and some selvedge, a la Brycelands. Worn with the Gooch Brothers. 

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Summer attire with the Bucket Hat.

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Vintage Reyn Spooner in a button-down collar Aloha, worn to the Bloke x Drake’s trunk show.

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Plain loop collar with some summer tailoring.

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Garret with a plaid linen sport shirt.

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Cody’s linen summer “suit”, consisting of matching loop collar + trouser set.

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Untucked is good too!

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Shorts!  Perfect pairing.

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A fun inter-season variation for “colder” summer days.

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For tailored outfits, you really can’t go wrong with this combo.  A plain jacket and cream/white trouser in summer fabrics work really well with an aloha shirt (or fun loop collar).  It’s a no brainer that automatically works and still looks sharp.

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Less Trouser, More Casual

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Of course we can’t leave out denim! I normally don’t do loop collars with denim since it gives me too much rockabilly vibes; thankfully Spencer knows how to make it a bit more contemporary. The use of killshots its a good move here, which makes it more Americana and less 1950’s cosplay.  His alohas are actually from J. Crew, if you can believe it! The collars aren’t as wide as I’d like, but I’m sure they’d be perfect for you readers who haven’t committed to the old school sport shirt.

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HBT trousers make a more casual alternative than regular dress fabrics.

Of course if you prefer trousers due to their drape and more interesting combinations (sometimes I feel denim is too boring), there are always casual trousers.  It helps if you pick casual stuff like chino cotton and use a rolled cuff instead of a tailored turn up; this is how you make them decidedly less formal than the trousers we saw earlier in the article.  Then the job is on you to dress it down!  Casual jackets and hats (like the bucket hat) can give it a slouchier vibe.

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Not a denim look, but still casual when compared to the sartorial looks.

A “suit” but made with a linen chore-blazer, rolled chinos, and wallabees.

Conclusion

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I’m really glad that loop collar sport shirts and alohas are coming back, because I’ve always liked them ever since I started collecting vintage.  At first I felt like it was hard to wear since it looked so vintage, but thats all apart of the charm!  It definitely helps that it’s a current trend within classic menswear, with plain and patterned variants being worn with tailoring and with the runaway collar no less.   While cotton and linen variations exist, I always prefer gabardine and rayon versions since they drape better, hold their shape, and are a fabric you don’t normally see.  Plus that’s what vintage ones were made out of!

It’s basically a great summer uniform for all you classic menswear enthusiasts. It’s something different than simply wearing a spread collar or OCBD unbuttoned, which I always felt a little too “businessman off work”.  The dedicated loop collar on sport shirts and alohas lack that collar band, so they lay flat, providing an inherently casual look.  It solves my vintage obsession and my desire to be just a bit different than the grain.  Obviously I tend to like alohas and fun prints to wear under solid jackets and trousers, but plain ones are just as good.   Bringing that vintage vacation look to the modern day is what I’ve been waiting for!

I hope you’ve understood a little bit more about this menswear trend and that you’ve gotten some inspiration on how to wear yours!  Personally I like vintage for their unique collars and prints, but I’m sure that there are plenty of contemporary variations. Again, you can read this post on reddit or my Styleforum Journal article for more info!

Stay cool baby,

Ethan W.

@ethanmwong 

Street x Sprezza

 

 

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2 comments

  1. JJ Katz · August 1

    Very nicely done

    Like

  2. Thomas L Jung · August 1

    Sick. I wish i could wear a bucket hat without looking like a sterotype. But I’m SO with the printed shirt and tailoring.

    Like

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