The Best Rugby Shirts to buy in 2019
The Rugby Shirt As Fashion
People didn’t cotton onto the rugby shirt as a fashion piece until over a century later. It was the 1950s where the now-timeless preppy wardrobe was first formulated. A thicker alternative to the polo shirt, American teens began wearing rugby shirts as a way of showing off their athleticism while still keeping their look tidy (we are about 40 years off sweatpants as fashion here).
Since then the shirt has dipped in and out of fashion along with other preppy staples like the sweatshirt, peaking in the 1980s and 1990s as a symbol of old money yuppiness (which was then hijacked by subversive hip-hop stars) before returning big time over the last couple of seasons.
How To Style Them Today
“Rugby shirts first piqued my interest when I saw Gucci revisit them for their SS18 pre-collection,” says Chris Hobbs, men’s fashion editor at Matchesfashion.com. “In thick bold stripes, they had an easy, David Hockney vibe about them. I paired it with baggy rolled up vintage Levi’s and loafers in a louche artist-in-his-studio manner but equally, I think they look great with a pair of tailored trousers and sneakers. I’m also not averse to a turned up collar.”
You can also try wearing them under a blazer as an easy alternative to a normal button down shirt (see Mick Jagger above). And side-stepping away from its traditional, buttoned-up origins, the rugby shirt has also been greeted with open arms by the streetwear world, with the loose and relaxed shape suiting oversized fits, although we would stay away from wearing one with joggers – the skiving lectures until the next rugby social look was never en vogue.
The Best Brands For Rugby Shirts
Tommy has been taking a lot from its early 1990s archive recently. It was a period when both the rugby shirt and the preppy American brand were riding a massive wave, with Snoop Dogg making his performance debut on the star-making Saturday Night Live in a Tommy rugby shirt. With its bold logo and colour blocking pattern it’s a version that didn’t really need to be messed with and although Tommy Hilfiger does more traditional hooped shirts, it’s this ’90s style that still rules its rugby shirt roost.
In a weird sort of mirroring to Snoop Dogg’s rugby shirt wearing SNL performance in 1994, one of the hottest hip-hop stars the last few years Chance the Rapper wore the style for his SNL hosting appearance in 2017. Only this time it wasn’t Tommy, it was Ralph Lauren. Both brands chase that ’90s style but Ralph Lauren is more vibrant with its colours and patterns while holding off on the obvious branding.
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Not one to miss a trend, the Italian fashion house was the main torchbearer for the rugby shirt’s ascent into high fashion. Surprisingly for Gucci, its rugby shirt offering is quite conservative – there are no baroque swirls here. Instead, we see traditional hoops and contrast collars in thick cotton, although it does do versions that feature bold logos and patterns over the chest (a style more often associated with rugby league shirts). This being Gucci, the brand can’t resist little flourishes here and there.
American founded, now headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Gant is recognised as the brand that brought the button down shirt to the mass market back in the 1950s. Aimed at a slightly older customer than its other preppy American rivals, the Gant rugby shirt is a sensible and hard wearing choice for the man who is less bothered about popping out on Instagram and more about enjoying a good Sunday roast down the pub.
Created by Brendon Babenzien, ex-creative director of Supreme, Noah successfully merges the worlds of surf, skate and music into a brand now at the crux of streetwear. But, crucially, it’s the quality of the clothes that shines through – the brand only works with factories that practice safe working conditions and place craftsmanship above all else. As a result, its rugby shirts of some of the best around, if you can manage to get hold of one that is.
The oldest of the big four US preppy brands, J Crew might not have the same cool cache of Ralph or Tommy, but for someone more concerned with style than showing off their logos, it can more than hold its own. The brand was one of the torchbearers of the rugby look in the 1980s and while it does offer those throwback wide striped and block-coloured jerseys, it also has newer designs that keep the feeling classic while subtly playing around with those verticals.