Having Fun With Workshirts & Westerners

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I thought I was done after I filled my closet with spearpoints, OCBDS, and sportshirts. “What else could there be that I could wear”, I asked myself.

The answer lies in this long blog post. And yes, these new shirts fit in perfectly with my style.

Introduction

Let me start off by saying that fashion is a constantly evolving journey, even for something as “stagnant” as classic menswear. I’m reminded of that as I’ve come to reflect on how my own style has changed, especially over the course of last year!  There was a lot there in the casual realm, whether it’s how often I’ve worn the turtleneck base layer or the Casual Ethan that dominates the warmer weather.  Hell, we just had an extra-long piece on leather jackets, the ultimate outerwear!  But now it’s time to return to things that work more for tailoring and slightly dressed-up fits.

Now many of you know that I typically wear the same types of shirts depending on context: spearpoints for general tailoring, OCBDs for separates/ivy takes, and sport shirts for casual stuff (especially in summer).  But as my style and inspirations evolve, my choices have changed.  I’ve become much more casual, introducing not only cotton suits and paint splattered clothing, but by introducing elements of workwear and vintage casual attire, both of which seem like a no-brainer form.

So all a sudden my typical shirts weren’t really doing it for me.  My spearpoints are too formal (with some having some stiff interlining) and their 4″ long collars were too too odd to wear undone; the poplin also felt too “smooth” to be simply worn on their own.  OCBDs are the expected casual shirt and give an “ivy dad” vibe which is fine, but I knew I desired a bit more dramatic flair when I wasn’t in tailoring/separates.  And don’t get me wrong, sportshirts are great, but they’re too louche due to their vacation vibes, and more appropriate for summer time.

Eventually I wanted something else to incorporate that fit into my existing wardrobe and was also affordable and available to be found at my typical vintage stores and flea markets that I frequent; I’m not a big fan of “traditional shopping” when expanding my style.  So naturally, that gave way to Workshirts/CPOs and Western shirts, both of which fit my criteria and were filled with enough vintage and Americana to make me happy. They also fit in perfectly with my personal style, without forcing me to lean too far into straight workwear or westernwear.

Workshirts & CPOs

Workshirts have been around since the dawn of time menswear.  Simply put, they were shirts that people wore to do work in.  This meant that they had a few details to make them different than the dress shirts, which you can definitely see here.  They had an attached collar (a contrast to detachable collar dress shirts), big pockets with flaps, lapped seams/swelled edges, and a generous fit.  You could see them back in the day worn with hearty cotton twill trousers or jeans! And by back in the day, I mean from the 1910s-1960s, since the basic design hasn’t really changed, apart from the one or two odd designer choices.

A sport collar.

Obviously one of the most known qualities of the workshirt was their material.   Hearty twills of blue denim and chambray are probably the most common (and desirable), but other variations did exist.  Charcoal, Salt and pepper fleck, plaids/stripes, or even heavy melton wool were among commonly found workshirts.  In fact, a navy wool workshirt is technically referred to as a CPO, worn by Navy officers, but the term is a catch-all phrase by brands to refer to similar pieces that may not be navy or made of wool; again, I use workshirts for the purposes of this article.

While some did have the loop collar that is commonly found on sportshirts and alohas, a majority of these workshirts featured a point collar (or even a spearpoint in some cases).  This gave them the option to be dressed up if needed, which a few guys did, using knit or heavy wool ties.  Other models also had a throat latch that only add to their utilitarian/casual nature. Some are even pull overs rather than a full button-front. In any case, I mainly refer to workshirts as the ones with point collars, just for differentiation.

The appeal for me is just how slouchy, yet smart they appear to be.  Even if you take away the more casual material, the design is an interesting one: they had collars like spearpoints (but not too long), tend to be worn like an OCBD, but yet had the effect of a sportshirt in a sense without looking too “vacation-chic”. That’s how guys wore them back in the day, tucked into trousers of all kinds, with hats, and with or without ties.

It also is quite literally the shirt version of the classic chore coat.  It’s just meant to be thrown on and beat up as needed.  They don’t have side pockets, but they usually have a one or two big breast pockets meant to carry note pads, glasses, or small tools.  The workshirts were also pretty loose fit, with some even being extremely long to prevent it from getting untucked.  You can even see that guys in the past wore it over tees, henleys, or even other button ups! There really wasn’t many rules about them, other than they’re there to wear when doing work.

Vintage photographs and illustrations really show off their effect the best.  Just look at how easy these guys do it.  Again, its not as vacation-y as an aloha or sportshirt, but still not as smart as a spearpoint or an OCBD while still maintaining a bit of vintage chic. I love them for that!

Archaeologists in the 1920s wearing pullover workshirts with wide collars and throat latches.  Look at how wide the placket is!  It’s almost like a rugby or polo shirt.

Typical blue twill workshirt.  Check out the fun pocket!

Worn with a brocade tie for some reason.

Cossack leather jacket and solid tie with collar bar. Check out that long collar!

A typical pull over.

Love the fun left breast pocket.

Spearpoint collars and two chest pockets. A standard model.

Fun pockets on those workpants.

Cool low pocket on the right!

A zip is daring.

Flannel is a good option for days where you want something to be warm in.

Great cloth descriptions here.

Plaid is nice! The breast pockets and point collar make it look smart and even wearable with a tie!

Fun loose fit on a vintage piece, worn by Kenji Cheung.

Seeing it in a modern context wasn’t too hard, especially because most of my inspirations already have a similar mindset.  When your go-to pieces for casual wear are leather jackets, indigio jeans, or chinos, you can be certain that a vintage workshirt will be just fine.

I did like seeing some non-traditional ones worn by the Brycelands boys Kenji and Ethan here. I say non-traditional because these popover, long-length ones are more European and definitely on the rare side, especially with these checked fabrics.  To me, they evoke the pendelton flannel shirts, but a bit more louche or rakish.

Arnold Wong in a blue checked pill over and throat latch.

Works great with a tie!

While these are pretty novel, I think I preferred the typical denim or chambray variations, just for versatility’s sake. Plus checked ones like these are expensive when they’re vintage and hard to find as reproduction, since they aren’t as popular.  Clearly they know that, as The Bryceland’s guys have produced their own version of a naval chambray workshirt that has a point collar and two breast pockets.  Kenji wears that shirt well, both with and without tailoring. And ya’ll know that I’m into both!

Seeing the chambray workshirt with a few different outfits and contexts really showed me that I needed one. Because it really does combine the best qualities of spearpoint dress shirts, OCBDS, and sportshirts.

Works well with a tailored jacket.

Damian Monsivias.

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Garret with red cowboy boots.

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Josh, wearing his with a bandana and a Swedish military jacket made out of waxed cotton.

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Cody in the Bryceland’s Chambray workshirt with point collar.

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Spencer wearing a vintage tennis sweater over a chambray workshirt with throat latch.

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Love the faded reddish-brown on this shirt.

Love that mustard yellow! A change of pace from the denims and dark greys.

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Throat latch chambray is perfect for turtleneck base layer and a mackinaw coat.

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Plaid CPO.

Colorful workshirts!

While Kenji, Ethan, and all my friends were a big proponent of wearing the traditional blue workshirts shirts with workwear or psuedo-tailoring inspired fits, it was actually Drake’s that helped me see the workshirt in a new light.   I mean I knew I definitely needed the traditional blue denim or chambray one, but in typical Drake’s fashion, they provided a fresh take that was loaded with fun!

They utilized their “long point collar” (which is as close as a contemporary brand gets to a spearpoint) and put it on a heavy twilled shirt that featured twin breast pockets with a yoked button flap.  Because of this, it tends to look more like a safari/military shirt rather than the workshirts we’ve seen before, but I still think it’s cool.  If it has a point collar, made of some sort of heavy duty fabric, and has cool button pockets, it’s a workshirt to me!

I’ve never tried the Drake’s shirts (they were also pretty hefty, as the only shirts in similar price points I’ve tried were bespoke), but it was mainly the the pictures that sold me on the style.

The real draw for me was the use of color. Unlike the other workshirts which were blue (or grey) for the most part, Drake’s opted to make them in some fun shades, like the purple above or the reds, greens, and yellows later. Like corduroy and jewel tones, the vibrant color was actually goot match not only for the material (which should break in and fade over time) but for the overall style/details of the shirt.  It also makes the shirt a little less fussy and separated from it’s workwear roots!  It has a bit of an 80s or 90s charm since they are boldly colored button-up shirts, but that’s what was cool about it.  It’s got that fun OCBD vibe, despite it being a workwear or military inspired style.

Drake’s just really knew how to style it. It seems to work well with neutrals, which as you know, I’m a big fan of.  Khaki chinos, indigo denim, brown check jackets, it’s all good.  The shirt provides a bit of interest, similar to how a sportshirt with trad tailoring gives a louche vacation flair.  Here, it’s something that straddles the linen between safari/military and workwear but with color. Suddenly I had a new hankering: boldly colored workshirts.  Kinda matches my sock mentality, right? Call back!

The picture above was also interesting. I’ve avoided going for overt military military vibes with my clothing since it always felt too costume-y, which is why a khaki shirt seemed like too much overkill. Wearing it with brown or olive pants and you’ll look like a WWII solider; wear it with grey or dark pants with a tie and it looks a bit like a cop in a dress uniform. Both of those things might have been just in my head, but it all went out when I saw it worn by Drake’s.

In the picture, it just looked so easy.  Sure it had a tie, but  perhaps through the creative direction of the picture, it didn’t give me military/police vibes.  Even the below picture was intriguing.  An open collar didn’t look too much like a guy cosplaying a 1950’s GI. With the pen and note pad in the pocket (and the side tab trousers) it just looked utilitarian piece, like something an artist or writer would wear that was slightly dressy but still useful. Again, it was different than the straight workwear context that I had grown up seeing.

Love the red!

Using color around khaki prevents it from being too military.

The dark green is fantastic. Looks kinda workwear, but not if you bring in a tweed jacket.

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I want to reiterate that I’ve owned them for a while; just because I just got around to writing them now doesn’t mean it’s exactly “new” for me.  Now all joking a salad, let’s talk about the workshirts that I actually own and wear!

The first one I ever got was actually from RL’s defunct sub-brand, Denim & Supply, and I found it at a random thrift store near where I went to college.  At the time, I wasn’t really into workwear but I felt getting one “casual” shirt (that wasn’t a sportshirt) was needed. I loved the breast pockets and the blue checks, but it lacked the long collar I wanted and the fit was weird (alpha sizing).

Despite all that, it actually became one of my favorite shirts to wear! It was so easy to evoke that tailored-workwear vibe since it was inbetween a lot of the other shirts in my arsenal.  It practically called out to my flannel pants, khaki chinos, and blazers of all kinds.  I especially liked to wear it under swears (or when it rained) since it was something interesting that I could use instead of a spearpoint.

After a while, I knew I had to get rid of it. Yes the fit was a bit too slim for me, but the fact that the collar was too small for a tie just didn’t jive with me. It eventually found its way to MJ, who is a much better fit for it and doesn’t have the predilection for longer collar points like I do.


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My first taste of the traditional chambray workshirt actually came from a fun purchase during my trip to London a few years ago.  I briefly talked about it on the artist essay, but it’s a 1930’s European shirt. So as you probably guess it, it is similar to the vintage French shirts worn by Ethan and Kenji in that it is a pullover style with a very, very long body and blousy fit. The collar points are long but the actual neck measurement was too small, but that was okay; I like keeping it open!

I don’t wear it a lot because the long length is a hassle (especially if the trousers aren’t generously roomy to compensate how much you tuck in), but it remains one of the oldest and coolest things I own. I may not be able to wear it with a tie, so it works for slouchy, blousy workwear/artist looks which I have been delving into a lot lately!

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With vintage army chinos.

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My first “real” workshirt came in the form of this Momotaro chambray I got during my trip to Japan.  I debated on going to Real McCoys or even copping the one from Bryceland’s, but this one fit pretty well and was defintely affordable (under $100), so I got it.  I had actually not heard of Momotaro before but apparently they have a store (or a stockist) in LA!

The shirt started out a bit rough and midweight but has since softened up and gotton considerably lighter as I’ve worn and washed it. Like the Denim & Supply shirt, this is alpha sized; I ended up taking a size M since the body and collar fit me better (I didn’t want anything to be too slim). It still doesn’t fit as loose as I wanted it to, but it’s in line with the Kamakura OCBDs I own, which are in the Tokyo Slim Fit model.  The body is also a bit short in length, as I expect Momotaro wanted their clientele to wear theirs untucked.

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Perfect details. I’d love to find one in a bit better cloth and more generous size though.  But until this falls apart, this will do!

The shirt has been my real go-to for all chambray or workwear needs, mainly because the collar is long enough to be worn with a tie!  It does have a throat latch, which is a fun detail that can be seen when it’s worn open; I simply latch it to the button when this is worn with tailoring. It also retains the traditional double breast pocket, with one having a flap and the other featuring a pen pocket.  And of course, there’s the heavy stitching that makes it a lot more casual, akin to the visible stiching on jeans (when compared to a “clean” garment like a wool trouser).

Because it’s extremely versatile, it goes well with everything, just as you thought it would.  It is a fun choice, as I use it instead as a fun alternative to an OCBD or spearpoint, because as you know, it fits inbetween the two in terms of formality.  I also think that due to the stitching and pocket details, its just much more interesting than my trusty chambray button down collar.   I certainly prefer it over the denim/chambray spreadcollars that always feel just a bit too try hard.  Despite all the stiching and pocket detailing, it still looks sharp, if you decide to dress it up under a suit or sportcoat.

As I continue to get more casual with my attire and approach to tailoring, this chambray spearpoint workshirt fits right in.  If I’m not in a striped spearpoint, I’m in this guy! And you bet your ass I’m wearing it with brown checked sportcoats, but it really does go with nearly any tailored jacket I have in my closet.

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Worn over a subtle mustard yellow turtleneck base and lightwash Levis.

So obviously, while blue chambray shirts were cool, I wanted something akin to the fun bold shirts seen in the countless Drake’s lookbooks! Obviously saturated (or at least non-blue or grey) workshirts did exist back in the day, but of course finding ones in the modern era is difficult, as you could imagine.  Finding any in general is rare and if you did it either wasn’t in great condition, wasn’t your size, or just too expensive.

I toyed with the idea of finding a dark green one (since it’s like a dark blue but more interesting while still in the earthy palette), after seeing a few Boy Scout shirts during some flea market outings.  The most common one was khaki, but there were a few that were in a dark green that I thought looked cool! Unfortunately, I never found it; the sizes were just too small!

While it wasn’t the forest green of a 1940s Boy Scout shirt, the one pictured above was as close as I could get.   I saw it during Please And Thank You’s big moving sale and knew I had to buy it! The 1940’s sanfordized cotton is a very dark green-grey, features a nice spearpoint collar, and two flapped breast pockets.  The fit was big (it was marked a size 16), but I was okay with it!

The shirt was practically deadstock (with the fold lines and fading to prove it), but like the Momotaro chambray before it, it really softened up.  When I first got it, it felt a bit rough and scratchy, but I think each wash helps it get better and better.  There wasn’t any shrinking, but I think I could wear it on it’s own in summer instead of under a striped tee or a turtleneck, which is how I’ve been wearing it ever since I acquired it.

Everything about it feels a bit slouchy, so I lean into it.  It’s perfect with jeans, cords, and I expect it’ll be right at home with gurkha shorts when it gets warmer.  The color is just so lovely, which you can either play with by going with a navy chore coat and brown pants, or you can always contrast it against khakis or light wash denim! For only $20, I’ve been very happy with this shirt and it’s deep charcoal green color.

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Eventually upon looking back at my Drake’s archives,  I was finally hooked on the traditional khaki workshirt. I didn’t care about the overt military vibes, because I knew that if I styled it right, it wouldn’t be too re-enactment.  It was honestly a bit tough to find the right one, since most were just either too distressed, had epaulets (which are a no-no for me), or just didn’t look right; a few older ones were also made of wool, which I could not wear in Los Angeles.

This 1950’s civilian one was actually bought at the tail end of a trip to the Rose Bowl flea market, on a day where I thought I wasn’t going to score anything! I call it a civilian model because it the label doesn’t appear to be a military one (it also lacks military stamping), though it has a label about pushing it’s military connotations (perhaps as a selling point for a regular guy).  The cotton twill is smooth (unlike the scratchy green one) but the weight is considerably heavier, giving this a “shoulder season” vibe.  I don’t really like overshirts, but this shirt certainly seems to be one thanks to it’s loose fit and feel.  However, I still wear it like a normal shirt.

It was only $30 and in pretty much deadstock condition (a wash made it softer but it didn’t shrink much), so it was worth every penny. I love the big chest pockets and have used them quite a bit for sunglasses and note pads. A part of me wishes I held out on finding a shirt from the 1940s or earlier, since they tend to have spearpoint collars; the one I got has a regular point collar which is a sign that this one comes later (like the 1950s or so).  That being said, it’s a good shirt to put on with jeans or odd trousers! I would never put this with chinos, for obvious reasons.

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Khaki and olive are military, but grey pleats and loafers are not!

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Great with a repp tie, brown jacket, and flannels.

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The final workshirt I own is actually one of the first ones I got while I was thrifting a while back.  It was purchased (for like $10) mainly due to it’s cool label (which I recognized as a vintage one) as well as the fact that it had a decent button-down collar. I expected to wear it as an OCBD alternate, but the color was just too vibrant to wear and the collar size was actually a bit too small to fasten up.  It languished in my closet until I realized this was probably meant for workwear!

Now unlike the previous entries, this shirt is made of a worsted wool.  It’s smooth, but not as fine as merino, so it still feels a bit odd to wear, even with an undershirt.  That’s mainly why it’s been perfect for layering with striped tee shirts and turtleneck base layers.

I still hem and haw on how it literally feels on me, like I do with the heavy twill khaki shrit, but it still charms me in other ways. The button-down collar is a superb touch, giving it a ivy-prep feel that the others workshirts (with their spearpoints and point collars) simply don’t have. It’s also the most fun out of the bunch due to its vibrant red color, which again, gives it a fun prep vibe that also evokes what I love from the workshirts by Drake’s.

I certainly love seeing it against dark blue trousers (like chinos and denim), but maybe someday I’ll get to wear it with chinos if the Target employee connotations don’t avert me.

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Festive TBL worn to a holiday party at The Bloke.

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Obviously a chambray looks great with a leather jacket.

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Dark green finds a great partner in cord!

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An grey HBT workshirt from  Banana Republic that I bought in high school. Still good, despite the short collar!

 

The Western Shirt

So naturally, if the first half of this blog post was mainly inspired by Drake’s, you can expect the other part to be inspired by Brycelands.  And that brings us to the western shirt.

At it’s core, it’s a even more of a mashup between existing stuff (at least to me), combining certain similar features between a spearpoint shirt and a chambray/denim workshirt.  The collar is almost always a spearpoint (or regular point) and there are usually two chest pockets with pointed flaps; if it has two flaps, it’s referred to as a “sawtooth” since they look like teeth.  Pearl snaps are pretty much standard, though regular buttons did exist. And of course, they existed across all fabrics: denim, gabardine, poplin, and poly. In varying colors too!

Bold western shirts. Kinda cool, but not exactly what I’m into.

I actually have had a hard time getting into western wear, mainly since classic menswear tends to abhor it.  My first introduction to the look was seeing a few vintage enthusiasts who were deadset on collecting westernwear, but it was a bit different; think more so multicolored western clothing akin to what Marty McFly wore when he traveled from 1955 back to 1885.  Fun outfits like that were period accurate…for the 1940s-1950s interpretation of fun westernwear, which is probably why those vintage enthusiasts liked it.  It wasn’t until I started getting into the world of Brycelands and Inspiration that I was able to see a more rugged and versatile version of the look, including the more wearable western shirt.

It was almost how Marty got to wear actual 1880s clothes once he got into Hill Valley proper.

While I did appreciate all the cooler western/workwear amalgamations from slowly expanding my menswear network, it really was Brycelands that started to really sell me on it.  It’s probably because they share my same penchant of combining aspects of vintage to contemporary tailoring sensibilities, so it didn’t feel too much in the cosplay arena.  They might be responsible for the current reappearance of western wear in the lexicon, but to be quite honest, RL has done it for a while.

A few years ago, they developed their Sawtooth Westerner which really looks like a straight reproduction of the old denim 1930s sawtooths I’d briefly seen in photographs or on lucky collectors. I believe in an interview, Ethan Newton said as much, as they simply sourced a true vintage sawtooth and recreated it with their maker.  I rather like it, since it’s just a standard denim shirt, free from wild details.

It’s also just simply a more fun version of the workshirt, swapping out the work pockets for those fun flaps with snaps.

I think it was simply the extra hardwear (the pearl snaps, yolks, and button flap chest pockets) that deterred me from wearing the shirt. But all these things help casualize the shirt, which I didn’t get, since I was initially coming from a “shirts should be minimal since they’re worn with suits” mindset.  After getting into my own with sportshirts, OCBDs, and later with workshirts, the interest was finally piqued.

Again, it also helps that Ethan, Kenji, and the other Brycelands partners/clients wore it ways that didn’t necessitate leaning into the “full look” with cowboy boots.  Sure, they may have done it with silverbelly fedoras or jeans, but it was always subverted with other choices to take it out of cosplay territory.  This means things like adding in loafers (or slippers!) or pairing the shirt with a jacket and chinos.  Bryceland’s really put in great effort to make it as versatile as possible.  Perhaps they wanted to be pragmatic against the menswear haters who will no doubt question the wearability of a “loud” denim shirt, as most denim shirts in the market are spread collars or button-down collars, which quite frankly I’m tired of.

They later developed more variations on the same models, like a slick one in black, a light brown gabardine, and a few different checks, still pairable with everything from grey pleated trousers to your favorite pair of faded jeans.  The westerners are best done as casual wear, but thanks to the Bryceland’s guys, they appear to be entirely and almost analagous to the one piece collar polos and popovers that the rest of the menswear world loves, just with a bit more personality. As a guy who tends to wear button-ups constantly, these were perfect for me to consider as I developed more of my casual wardrobe.

I especially loved the black denim shirt, since it seemed to be the “main” way to wear black in a classic menswear setting.  The material and hardwear gives it an edgy (or punk/rockstar) reading, which is a far cry from the plain black dress shirts that highschoolers wear to prom.  I also love them done as darker checks (but light is good too), as all the extra details make it much more than the “blue plaid dress shirt” that normies most guys default to.  With their long collar, it still retains the ability to be dressed up with a tie if you so desire, which is always a plus for me; being able to wear it open and slouchy or dressed up are literal checkboxes on my list for shirts I buy.

Sportshirts don’t count.

Sawtooth with tailoring; just the way I like it.

Gab westerners are a bit less intense and are as slouchy as a sportshirt (since its a similar material), just with extra fun details!

Checks are fun.

See, they’re perfectly fine with a pair of pleated trousers.  For you bizcaz nuts.

Leaning into the full denim look is cool, but using a fedora or a cap doesn’t look too cowboy!

Do I need to talk about grey and black and how cool they are together?

White denim and suede boots help give it an everyday contemporary look.

Simon Crompton dresses up the sawtooth his way.

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See, a sawtooth is fine with a tie and jacket! And it doesn’t look too contrived as a denim spread collar.

Still gotta show some love to novelty print western shirts.  Definitely a lot of fun!

Black western shirt with rather subdued details, from Berg & Berg.

White Berg western shirt, done preppy with a turtleneck base layer.

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Earthy plaids are a good choice if you’re too scared of a denim shirt.  Or it’s a great second choice.

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This picture looks old because it is old.  It’s like 2015 or something!  But I dug through the archives to show you my initial foray into wearing a “western shirt”.  I actually saw this diamond print poplin fabric from an old MTM shirtmaker (that made my old spearpoints before Ascot Chang) and opted to make it as a nod to the novelty western shirts. There wasn’t any snaps, but I made sure to put on twin-breast pockets with button flaps.  It was honestly probably an unholy mix of workshirt and westerner inspiration, but it got me thinking about expanding.

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It was my go-to casual shirt before I got an actual chambray shirt. The diamond print gave it visual texture despite it being straight poplin.

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Funnily enough, my first western shirt wasn’t made of denim at all, but made of gabardine! Don’t act surprised; as I said earlier, western shirts were made of a variety of cloth, though denim is the most common.

I found this “H Bar C” (a good label for western clothing if you find vintage) black gab sawtooth in a vintage store in Koenji and it remains one of the coolest things I own.  It was costly at around $120, but thats probably due to the condition, material, and color.  But one look at it and I knew I had to have it!  I was tired of seeing Kenji wear his black denim shirt and me not being able to replicate it on my own terms.

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The shirt is again fairly standard in design, with button snap placket (and on the wrists), and a good point collar (not a true spearpoint).  I especially like that it lacks any other detailing, as most color focused westerners tend to have extra details like contrasting yokes or embroidery.  Again, the fact that this is plain black may be why the shirt was so pricey.

The cloth is fantastic, as it fits and drapes like any of my gabardine sportshirts I’ve worn before.  Because of that, it is infinitely more comfortable to wear, whether on it’s own in warm weather or layered in the colder LA months.  It’s become my favorite dark colored shirt, since it’s planted firmly in casual land, but it’s not as informal as a polo shirt, a sportshirt, or say a dark indigo linen shirt.  It goes to show that you can have a full button-up shirt with long sleeves that can be casual without defaulting to a long sleeve polo!

And man did this thing look fucking cool. I felt like a rockstar or an emo cowboy for wearing it. It just gave everything an edge, whether I leaned into it with black jeans or put it with some trad caramel corduroys.

Now that I knew I could achieve the western look without resorting to denim (gabardine is great guys, trust me), I was hooked!

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It really is my most punky/edgy shirt.

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Love the use of the happi coat here! Might have to delve deeper on that in a future piece…

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Green western shirt with a band tee, Levis Sta-Prests, and canvas sneaks! A preppy take using a western shirt.

I think its kinda funny that despite wanting to find saturated workshirts, I found that I was able to quench the shirt with westerners.  It’s probably because fun workshirts are a modern thing (thanks to Drake’s in a sense) while vintage or heritage ones stay firmly in the blues/greys of true workwear.  Western wear definitely has a history of being fun, so it’s reflected in the pieces I find! And hey, I love both, so I’m not complaining.

This green westerner is also made of gab and has an old McGregor label (or so I’m told), being a lucky find during a my last visit to Inspiration LA.  You may notice that it’s a bit less wild than the black one, as it only has one “tooth” on the pocket flap instead of the double treatment of a sawtooth.  The dark shade of green is just lovely which satiates the need for a green workshirt (or boyscout shirt) that I mentioned earlier in the article! I may not be able to wear a tie with it (the size is rather on the trim side and my neck does not fit when buttoned), but it’s still a great shirt that I like to wear.

Despite it being originally made for western wear, I typically decide to not wear my westerners as a cool urban cowboy or as a louche rockstar. Instead, I do it as an alternative OCBD or workshirt, doing preppy things with it like wearing it with a tee shirt or turtleneck base layer. I mean, they both have chest pockets and point collars; the only difference might just be the presence of snaps.

Obviously it’s nice to be worn open with jeans and boots or loafers, but subverting expectations is always fun to me.  The lack of overt western yokes or embroideries helps me achieve that subversion.  It’s irreverent, but that’s just who I am!

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Now while I said I did like gabardine most of all, I still am at the mercy of “eh, it’s cool I want it”. That was certainly the case when I copped this Levi’s western shirt! It’s made of worsted wool which is soft, but certainly a bit rough if you really think about it.  It isn’t as fine as the vibrant red sport shirt, so I think this is firmly a fall-winter shirt!  Because it’s a bit rough, I like to wear it with some layer underneath.

I’m not sure what the age is, as it has the full Levi Strauss name on the label, as well as a “de luxe” moniker; according to some other ebay listings, it’s put in the 1940s-1950s category.  I bought it mainly because I loved the deep red-burgundy color and the rather understated western pockets.  I do like that it has wooden buttons rather than the snaps, which has a bit more of a refined feel compared to the more casual (and stereotypical) pearl snaps.

It’s a great shirt to break out every once in a while when you want a dark color but don’t feel like wearing a sportshirt. I’ve actually been pretty surprised with these finds, considering they’re all “alternatives” to the typical western shirt.

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Non-gab or denim western shirts can be found, but they’re almost always a polyester blend. That’s especially true if you thrift those 1970s Levi’s ones that hippie cosplayer tend to wear.  I’ve wanted a cotton one for a little while, especially if it was checked, just to change it up, since most of my casual shirts are plain; I don’t even think I own any checked spearpoints or OCBDs for that matter!

At the Rose Bowl Flea some times ago, I ran into my friend Garret of Western Gifts.  He had a rack of $20 pieces and among them were a few western shirts! Some were poly blend but there was one that wasn’t: this epic pink check sawtooth. The fit was nice (might be a bit big in the body) so I got it!

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Like I said, the sawtooth is a great way to get checks or fun patterns into your shirt without sacrificing the tradness of an OCBD or the sleekness of a spearpoint. The hardware also gives it an edge, which is great as a pink checked shirt can be a bit too “soft” compared to other shirts; it really provides you with more options. As you can see, it looks fine with denims and a leather jacket but also as a dress shirt alternative for suited looks. The collar is long enough for a solid knit tie (as all my shirts have to be) and I like pinning it to give it a bit of an extra flair.

It’s great to have something that fulfills your need for patterns in your sartorial wardrobe but can also be worn for workwear.

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Eventually I made my way  to the classic full denim sawtooth westerner.  This is Levis and while it doesn’t have an LVC label, it still is cut and designed like a classic 1940s sawtooth! There’s a decent spearpoint collar, long tails (so it stays tucked in), and the pockets and snaps you’ve come to expect; it also doesn’t appear to be much different than the Bryceland’s one.  It was also purchased at the Rose Bowl Flea for a great price of $65! Great for a shirt that I still wasn’t sure that I’d wear all too often.

It was already pretty well worn when I got it (with a few fades here and there) but after I washed and dried it myself, it was perfect! It’s definitely not as a soft as a broken in gab, but it wasn’t as rough as I was expecting.  It felt like wearing a great pair of jeans, just on your body instead of your legs.  Because of that, the denim sawtooth isn’t exactly a year-round wearable piece, but it’s nice to put on when you can take the extra layer!

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I haven’t been bold enough to lean into the menswear cowboy look like the Bryceland’s guys, but I definitely love wearing this denim westerner when it comes up in my rotations.  It’s fun yet understated piece, which lends it to be perfect with layering, with casual jackets and sportcoats, hiding the snaps and yoke on days when I want to be a secret cowboy. The shade is also perfect for a variety of pieces, as I find that most denim shirts never really look right to me.

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The silk foulard echoes the bandanas that most western guys wear with their sawtooths! Gotta do it the Ethan way.

Instead of going full westernwear or workwear, I (again) like to subvert the expectations by just wearing it with mostly tailoring.  I’m obsessed with the idea of bringing in casual shirts into a sartorial environment, which is probably my way of wearing a tee shirt with a suit.  The spearpoint collar helps the most here, as it, like my other sawtooths, are able to hold a tie and be pinned a la Ethan.  Like I keep saying, I find that denim spread collars (or even spearpoints) to be a bit contrived since they’re overly dressy; the double pockets and stitching give it a more natural feel!

Because of this desire to be edgy, I actually haven’t worn it too much as a casual piece. But perhaps that will change and be added in post once the article is finished!

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Spencer in presumably the same shirt but in a lighter wash (or just sun faded).

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Sawtooth with tweed and olive OG-107s.

Conclusion

For a long time, my shirts have consisted of three things with three distinct purposes: spearpoints for formal, OCBDs for casual/ivy looks, and sportshirts (and the odd polo) when you’re gonna be casual, but not in a tee shirt.  It’s been fine for a few years and while I love all my shirts, I wanted to shake it up! There had to be things with personality that fit in between these arbitrary categories right?  That’s when workshirts and westerners entered the game.

The workshirt just seems like a fun take on the spearpoint shirt, adding in the casual slouche of a sportshirt with the ivy-trad background of an OCBD. It’s not really meant for being dressed up due to it’s workwear roots (being made of chambray and having that heavy contrast stitching) but because of it’s long sleeves and usually decent collar, it gives you the option, which I rightfully take when I can.  It’s fine for chinos, fine for trousers, fine for sportcoats, and fine for chore coats.  I mean other than a a few minor details that regular guys will seldom notice, it’s really no different than any other button up you can wear!  I think it’s like the cotton suit, in that it’s a button-up shirt for guys who hate wearing button-ups!

Then we have the westerner, which is basically just a workshirt, but with more fun added in the form of pearl snaps and “tooth” flapped pockets.  It’s the button-up of choice for cowboys that is inherently casual (do I need to remind you of the yokes?), but bringing it into a classic menswear environment is subversive and fun.  With its metal hardware, it definitely brings an edgy/rock aesthetic to the table.

Obviously I had known about these for a long time (they aren’t exactly novel fashion inventions), but I never got the lust to wear them until I was properly inspired by the usual suspects: Drake’s and Bryceland’s. Though in my personal style, I’ve taken it in different ways than they have.  I wear them as my true casual button up that still looks rather smart! It helps for turtleneck base layers and even over a regular tee; it’s also a fun way to break out a knit tie that isn’t too expected.  While the shirts may have been different than what I’ve worn before, I never found that it forced me too far into the workwear or westernwear camp. I was still free to bring these new shirts in my personal take on vintage/contemporary ivy-trad tailoring attire!

Sure, the pockets and stitching keep it casual in the bigger picture, but the real power of a workshirt and westerner comes in the collar. The presence of this spearpoint plants it firmly in a versatile camp, which means it can hold a tie or simply look smart open; you don’t get that same versatility from a sportshirt (which lacks a collar band, so the points lay flat). It’s literally done for days where I want to wear a nice shirt that isn’t dressy, that isn’t just an OCBD, and that isn’t as louche as a sportshirt. And of course, it helps that most of the ones I own have been found in great colorways, from solid black and hunter green to a vibrant pink check.

There’s a lot of fun to be had from shirts, so don’t feel like you have to be stuck with spearpoint dress shirts, soft ocbds, or rakish sportshirts.  Break out something different, like a workshirt or westerner and create a new vibe when you wear them, whether it’s casually or with your favorite tailored pieces.

I just hope you guys don’t snipe them from me when I’m out at flea markets, now that I’ve told you about them…

Always a pleasure,

@EthanMWong

10 comments

  1. Sam · March 16

    Great writeup Ethan, . I’ve been slowly gravitating to wearing workshirts in casualwear and have just recently bought my first western shirt too. The pickings here in Australia are much slimmer than the amount of awesome stuff you find over there in LA, but the occasional gem still pops up. Will be saving this post to return to for some styling inspiration

    Like

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  8. Robbie Allan · August 29

    Western shirts are some of my favorites, I have several from RRL and a few raw denim brands. I really enjoyed reading this, I actually came back to it a few times over the months for inspiration. I don’t mean to advertise on your post, but I thought you might be interested in a denim sawtooth Brycelands shirt that I am selling on Grailed.

    https://www.grailed.com/listings/16554445-levi-s-vintage-clothing-bryceland-s-sawtooth-denim-shirt

    Like

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